Saturday, February 18, 2012

Porto Torre Talao?

Torre Talao on the beach with Scalea and mountains in the background
We found a publication in our favorite bar "Porto a Torre Talao?" We knew this as a controversy over whether or not a port should be built in Scalea at the historic Torre Talao. Time passes and apparently it's now a funded done deal to begin construction this spring. So the question mark in this post's title refers to our surprise! There is no doubt that plenty of people, probably most around these parts think it will be a good thing--especially for tourism in Scalea. There is, however, vocal opposition based on historic, environmental, and aesthetic concerns. I will do my best to lead you (concisely) through the proposal as I know it and will leave it up to you to decide what you think about it.  I have a question at the top of this blog to record your opinion. Give it a vote.
Close-up of the Torre and Port site
Cultural: Pictured above is the ancient tower as it appears today on a peninsula that historically was an island as shown below. The group Italia Nostra is against the port development saying that a park would best preserve the site as well as the building. They believe the landscape is an important feature of the historic site. The project proponents assert that the landscape around the tower will not be changed--except of course, it will be an island again. I can't help but also wonder whether the project will actually finish--there is a hospital in Scalea that was built and never opened, there are unfinished projects everywhere. How would that affect the landscape around Torre Talao?
Historic photo showing an island, rather than a peninsula--from a pub by
Scalea 2020
Natural: The objections concerning natural resources are complex but can be summarized as the environmental effects of more development along an already over-developed coast. The opponents also say there would likely be changes caused by introducing an area of quiet water interrupting the littoral environment and causing unwanted silting and deposition. The proponents mostly say that it will all be carefully studied and just the right design picked for construction. I assume that this must have been done if it's to start this spring--however, I haven't found anything on the web other than conceptual drawings.
This photo shows the linear nature of the beach near the Torre Talao
Aesthetic: This introduces my aesthetic objection--it's a beach area, not a natural cove or harbor. This means you have to create a quiet place with constructed sea walls and breakwaters with the poor tower trapped in the middle. This could be mitigated by an exceptional design with natural stone and careful placements of features--probably not considered in the cost estimates.
Italia Nostra included this depiction of the Port proposal on their website about it

The leap from conceptual drawings to finished product is very risky both for the health of the environment and the fine line between a beautiful addition to the built environment and an unfortunate eyesore.  Naturally, the landscape architect part of me finds the latter happens more often and is most likely in this particular political climate (insufficient budgets and general desperation about the economy). Architectual masterpieces are difficult, rarely designed by committee, and usually a surprise. I’m hoping but not expecting to be surprised. We also hope that it will be a success for the community and that it all turns out the way the proponents describe and the opponents doubt. 
Check out the following photos of existing ports--the captions explain why I chose to include them:

Port in the nearby town of Maratea--even with a natural cove to take advantage of, it has a very closed-in feel
due to the seawalls. Note the artificial rocks (concrete rip-rap) and bare concrete sea walls--an industrial look.

The port in Tropea takes good advantage of a natural cove, uses wooden docks. It has an appealing aspect.
Port at Trani. Good materials, textured wall, wooden docks--some things Maratea didn't use

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Taste of Winter

Dreaded February had to come--and we are doing much better overall than the whole rest of Italy--we see the poor northerners on the news digging out (with tiny shovels) from under what looks like a Michigan snowfall. The late arrival of winter for us so far just brought cold and a dusting of snow. The cold got us thinking of nice warming soups which led to searching for recipes. This, in turn, got me looking at what is available in the shops this time of year which, in turn, got me thinking the origin of all the fresh produce during the winter. We try to buy as much as possible in the village, but end up in Scalea a good bit looking for things we can't find at home. The shops here sell mostly local produce with some trucked-in items. This time of year while they have less, at least it stays fresh a little longer since the shops are not heated and probably average 10C. 

In summer we are forced to buy greens in packages in Scalea because no one refrigerates their greens.  Unless you happen to be there early when a shipment arrives, it wilts quickly in the heat.

When we raised and sold organic produce in Oregon, we pre-bagged most things and displayed it sitting on ice blocks each day in our little roadside gazebo. We are a little picky about fresh, crisp greens!

A Frutta-Verdura shop in Scalea that I use a lot has quite a bit available in the winter.  In the American north, fresh vegetables and fruit come from California, Mexico and Chile.  The owner of this shop labels many of the boxes with their place of origin. Everything he sells comes from Italy.  A little is still local, with the rest coming from elsewhere in Calabria or Sicilia. Like nice big strawberries from Pizzo (about 2 hours south).

If you travel from Roma through Southern Italy, you’ll see acres and acres of land under plastic hoop houses. This is how they manage to have so many varieties of fresh produce year-round.

Yes, of course there are some foreign imports like avocados from Israel and bananas from Central America.  I’ve even seen tiny packages of 12 raspberries shipped to the supermercato from Mexico. I couldn’t tell you where the pineapples come from, but maybe Sicilia.

That's snow on the windshield and the roof in the background.  Not bad.

Have we ever mentioned home refrigeration? A typical Italian frigo is half the size (or less) of the monsters sold in the US. Small freezers and cooler space means more frequent shopping.  I think Di likes this because it gets Guido out of her hair for a few hours many days.

Oh yes, the soup. This week we are doing leek soup, spinach soup, a bean/spinach soup, and mushroom.  We know people here eat zuppa or minestrone at home as they sell plenty of soup mixes and broth in the stores, but unless you go to the mountain towns, you do not see it on restaurant menus. If it stays cold, we might have to whip-up some good ole’ Tex-Mex chile.

Stay warm and buon appetito.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Finalmente Finito

Guido with his fellow students. Titsiana in red is a teacher.
I (Guido) finally have my Italian/European driving license “Patente di Guida”. This odyssey has gone on for nearly a year and it has been, at times, frustrating. After the initial theory exam in Cosenza that I failed, I worked hard on computer simulations of the exam hoping that repetition would carry me.  It did not.  There are nearly 1500 potential computer-generated questions possible and I kept running up against new questions and/or new Italian words that stumped me. I had a 1996 textbook that helped only a little.  There are references to things on the exam that didn’t exist in 1996 – e.g., mobile phones. I failed the second exam in October.

Finally in November, “my” scuola guida called to say the long-ordered book had arrived and I was then studying a 2011 text with great photos and explanations.  What a difference that made.  Yes, they still use language that is generally not used every day – like calling trucks autocarrie or autotreni where in life, they use the word camion.  Last week’s strikes were by camionisti – truck drivers.

Three days before Christmas I headed back to Cosenza with my teenage collegues to try the exam again.  We took the train in the morning because of snow on the mountain pass (returned in a Pullman later).  There were a couple new people giving the exam that questioned giving a test to a foreigner who barely spoke the language, but it happened.  I passed the bloody thing on the third try. Nicolo, a quiet intelligent boy, was there on his third attempt too, so even native Italians have trouble with these tests.

This past week was spent practicing for the actual driving on the streets of Scalea (never on the highway for some reason) with the school owner, Massimo. The first two times was just the two of us and went ok after I requested he speak slower.  Next, I got a real life test with two noisy young women in the back seat of the tiny Panda and the radio blaring.  It struck me that I have been driving 3 years longer than the teacher has been alive!!  Once we were passed twice on a narrow street and I asked can I drive like an Italian now? – “dopo patente”. After you get a patente you can drive like an Italian again. The Fiat Pandas and 500’s that are used by driving schools are perfect for the tight streets where you have to make u-turns or 3-point turns. Also for parallel parking.

I got thru the 5 drive-arounds. Friday afternoon, l’engenere  from Cosenza arrived to give the final inspection and by dark I was holding my patente.  This is good for just 5 years because I am over 50, but renewing only means getting an eye exam.

I cannot say that hanging-out with 18 year-olds is relaxing. Between the rapid non-stop talking (that I usually cannot understand) and the second-hand smoke, it was tiring.  Nicolo and the two girls Flavia and Debora were with me in December.  We finished together Friday. They have been kind to me and fun.  I wonder if they call me Nonno Americano when I am gone?!

Ragazzi with owner/teacher Massimo

Nicolo, Debora, Flavia
Some for what-it’s-worth advice to anyone planning to move to Italy: Do anything, anything you can do to retain your Driver’s License from your native country (don’t let it expire). Even if you speak good Italian, you will find the experience here a challenge at worst and annoying at best—and according to the laws here, if you are a resident, you should try and get this done within a year—or so... I forgot to mention that all the fees, bollo stamps and other things cost about €450.
With that, I’m off in our comfy French car ready to drive like an Italian again.  When I get stopped at another random police blockade, I’ll proudly present the new patente instead of the worn out card from Oregon.  Ciao a presto


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