Thursday, January 26, 2012


Never a dull moment around here--“Sciopero” is Italian for “strike”.  The first strike since we moved that could affect us.  Monday started a 7-day strike by the truckers across the Republic of Italy.  It’s all about the higher fuel costs and increasing road taxes for all of us--a government austerity measure intended to help the financial crisis. The papers are giving the strike coverage, but television is still focused on the cruise ship debacle.  Diesel now is around €1,77/L   Benzina(gas) is about €1,82/L

What can such a strike do?  Well, if you are building something, you cannot get fill material or concrete because all those big trucks are stopped.  Around the country it means no fuel deliveries to fueling stations. It means no deliveries of groceries to the markets.

I topped-off my fuel the day before this started, so will survive if all ends this weekend.

As I started writing this on Thursday we were into the 4th day. In our village, there was a run on diesel Monday night and by midday Tuesday it was gone.  Today there is no diesel remaining between San Nicola Arcello and Santa Maria del Cedro.  About 25 miles along the coastal highway. In the larger cities, they were running out sooner.  Remember the majority of vehicles here are diesel.

Thursday the supermarkets really didn’t look all that bad and if the strike ends this weekend, there will be plenty of food.  I found empty shelves with some popular pasta, but some involved goods that had been on sale!   If Sicily has a 2-week strike, they are in trouble. People will likely get upset there.

At school Thursday, we learned that the provincial buses have cut their runs in half because of the fuel shortage, and starting this evening, the national trains are on-strike for 24 hours to show solidarity with the truckers. At least there is a little warning before a strike begins and they end on a schedule. A lot of people use those buses back and forth to Cosenza each day so there is an impact that will be felt. Our teacher said she can drive from Belvedere if she has to.

We don’t think this whole thing will have enough of an effect on the public to get the government to budge. Premier Monti wants to go after tax evaders, which is a serious problem here, but those types of change take time.  More than one Italian has mentioned that Italians “don’t like to follow rules (related to taxes)”. Eh!


Strikers stopped this guy who was not playing the game and escorted him off the highway

Friday, January 20, 2012

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

A chilly exploration of Buonvicino, a hilltown above Diamante--everyone was hiding from the windy weather 
I noticed that we don't even have a special category for food so I started one (rather belatedly as I know we have delved into the subject before). First and foremost of the several traits that make us more strange to Calabrians than we would prefer is that I don't like to cook and eating as an art form isn't very high on my list either!  I'm not blessed with a metabolism prepared to take that. I'm not oblivious to the fact that our eating life has greatly improved in quality since we moved to Italy--we actively try to keep improving our palates but it's still eat to live rather than live to eat--for me anyway.

Calabrians, however, love nothing more than to talk about food if they aren't actually eating. I have seen nothing brighten our Italian teacher's face more than hearing that we were going to try a recipe we read in class--for Spaghetti alla Carbonara.  She told us the whole history of the dish explaining (I think) that it is a simple meal developed by poor folk--maybe coal miners. It is considered Roman, not Calabrian. We liked it because it looked like it could be made simply and quickly.  I use the "we" here loosely for all I provided the chef was encouragement and a little help with reading the recipe--Except for special events where my planning skills are required, Guido รจ il cuoco della famiglia.
Slowly cook the pancetta in olive oil and a bit of added water for 10 min.

Ingredients for 4 people:

320 grams Spaghetti
4 eggs
200 gr. Pancetta
80 gr. Parmegiano Cheese
Olive oil, salt, pepper
Doug added oregano, garlic

Mix grated parmegiano cheese with beaten eggs, add spices

Cook spaghetti very al dente and add egg/cheese mixture while spaghetti is hot

Serve with your favorite wine--shown here is Doug's new fave, but it's not in stores, only restaurants--we might be able to continue buying it, though. 
It's a combination of merlot and magliocco which is outstanding.

Our house is in this picture--can you find it? We are the ones eating Spaghetti Carbonara

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ah Italiano!

The Night of the Incomprehensible Speeches
There's a new blogger who contacted me recently and made me feel err--unmotivated--about my Italian lessons.  Sure, in the winter we more or less go to school every night, but we have no organized plan beyond that. I've learned just enough beyond tourist Italian to realize how painfully moronic I must sound. I so well remember those heady days when we were transitioning from tourist to resident when I felt more confident. Now I realize that sure, I can make my needs clear enough but I haven't adequately learned how Italians say things. Expressions, (moda di dire) are very important in any language. You can't look up these up in the dictionary very well. For example, I can translate "Happy New Year" into Italian but Italians here say "Good Year" instead. I can look up the verb "to flirt", but then there's fare un filo (make a wire, really?) that is actually used. Italians would be lost without the verb fare. They make shopping, make a walk, and (what do you know?) make breakfast to name just a tiny few. Tiny few is the operative moda di dire when it comes to my vocabulary. 

The folks here in town are scaldingly honest when it comes to ranking our abilities. I have a comeback that I never remember to use (mostly because I get balled up in the Italian way of using double negatives): "Hey nobody here speaks Italian either." It's Santa Domenican dialect. Literally I would be saying something like " Eh, nobody here doesn't speak Italian neither".  I'll never forget the night we heard the mayor speak a year ago.  We understood nothing, nothing...then we realized he must have been speaking dialect. We hope he was anyway.

All of you dear readers who are already fluent in Italian can (I have no doubt) find mistakes in what I have just explained...a little knowledge is a dangerous thing so don't bother with such an easy target, ok? 

I guess I'm inspired enough by Sarah's new blog to go back to my little book of phrases that are probably meant for northerners only for all I know...maybe memorize a phrase a week...see ya in the piazza. Ci vediamo

Brits... (we do love them) give us too much of a respite from Italian

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Winter Wonders--the Spice of Differences

We were surprised to see all the Aeolian islands visible New Years Day--from the terrace. 
Clear, fresh air (Stromboli is the active volcano)
We are deep in the heart of winter here and must report that it's not bad, not bad at all! If you, like us, are from winter wonderland-type country, it's not like that.  It's different and we can definitely get used to the difference. It's also different from busy summertime.  We can learn to love that too. Here's a list of the main differences from our old Oregon winter home and from summer here:
We watch the sea from our favorite bar by the Sea--Bar da Pietro
  • We will be able to sit on the terrace and eat lunch all through the winter--not everyday (need the sun to shine) and not in the evening, but often enough to never feel the sun deficit we used to suffer so badly from in Oregon.
  • The haze is gone and views become clearer
  • There's always gonna be a day when we don't need a coat
  • The sea goes wild (as wild as the Med here gets) and is fun to watch from the few bars that remain open by the sea--our fave also treats us to WiFi.
  • We get to know the winter people, the bar owners, we feel like permanent residents.
  • The rain usually goes when it comes, not always, but usually we can enjoy a storm and then a clear sky afterwards.
  • People around the towns here learn we are residents, not tourists.
  • We can enjoy snow in the mountains--at a comfy distance.

Carmello's semi-busy off-season, but OPEN and with a sea view!

The little strip near Dino Island between San Nicola and Praia a Mare.  Looks quiet this time of year!!

One of our favorite summer beaches with serious surf.


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