Saturday, May 26, 2012

Keeping the Wild at Bay

A Clean Village Takes Work!

Santa Domenica Talao is on the edge of the Pollino National Park. Keeping the wild at bay is the job of the Comune which once a year hires a small seasonal crew to clean the streets of our village. This amounts to clearing roadside weeds which we can see would quickly engulf civilization if left unchecked. The fulltime two-person trash crew cleans up after festas and parties that leave a lot of trash behind, but the summer crew gets what is left behind. This is part of the excitement of village life that you get to share today. It would be an interesting job due to the (I’m sure) diverse interactions with villagers along the way.  In our neighborhood, we witnessed two caffe offerings (one in-house, the other brought outdoors) along with advice on how to proceed.

This year’s seasonal crew is Pasquale and Silvio. These two guys have been working their way around the village for a month and they are very sensitive to what residents, like to have preserved.  So, they do not mow down rosemary bushes or other important herbs and flowering plants.

We love the ancient wall across the street and the plants that now live there so we are glad that it remains pretty much the same after cleaning.  The lichen rocks remind us of the old barns on our Central Oregon farm in the USA.

Across from us the alley can get ugly with weeds and pigeon droppings. Although Di is somewhat partial to the weeds here as they hide an I-beam left or stored by the owner of the building. She now knows it will all grow back pretty fast.

The crew managed to get their small truck close for hauling the debris away.  The truck lost its outside mirrors years ago, so that explains how they got it to this point!  I can’t even tell what brand it is given the body damage!! 

While we appreciate the effort made by the Comune, our feeling is that more needs to be done in the way of campaigning for the prevention of littering and graffiti.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Lidos are Blooming in Calabria

If you do not know, a lido is a commercial beach development where you can rent an ombrello, sun beds and have access to toilets, showers, some food, rent paddle boats, etc. When we first came to Calabria, we thought there were just a lot of words for the beach. It turns out it's more like all the Alaskan words for snow. Beach is spiaggia, sand is sabbia, seaside is lungomare, and lido means a developed beach where you pay to enjoy it. You can look from the bar for the price of a caffe, plop your own umbrella on the public portion of the beaches (which all are required to provide),or you can enjoy all the comforts for a price.

Most of these lidos are temporary structures. They have permanent hookups to water and sewer, but much of the above-beach infrastructure is erected in May and June, and taken down again in late September. The lidi (plural) cover the beaches for about 60 miles along the coast from mid-July thru August with some staying open later. 
They cater mostly to Italian tourists from Naples and further north for about three months and take two months to erect and de-erect!!!   Such labour.  They are mostly families we think, so wages may not be an issue.  But how do they survive with 2-3 months of revenue??

This is the beach at Praia a Mare and Dino Island in the winter.

This spot is very busy in the summer and the build-up starts this month including a place with a temporary water slide (first pic of the post). 

There are public beaches interspersed with the lidos everywhere where you just bring a towel, umbrella and chair of your own. You are at the mercy of the lidos if you want a toilet as there are no “public” ones--although we have not had any trouble about "borrowing" them or using them with a token purchase.
We prefer using a lido given creature comforts, and my spine needs the sunbed support.  The lidos also have private shaded parking which is quite nice.  Our most-used lido is Paradiso on the south end of Praia a Mare.

This place has semi-permanent infrastructure.  Annually they bring palms for roofs, establish volley ball courts,  fencing, etc. They do simple Panini food and beverage and are open late at night when the youngsters come out for music, beach parties, etc.  

We are not out on beaches at night very often, but managed one time to listen to rock music and watch kids dance in the sunset.
Here are some shots of different smaller lidos being erected (most of them from scratch) including the pavers right now:

There are just a few permanent facilities.  Our favorite is Lido da Pietro in Scalea. Carmello and Antonella have created a year-round bar with retractable roof and doors to keep you warm in winter or open to the world in summer. 

Carmello has operated this lido for 20 years, but this new investment in year-round service has created one of the most popular beach-side businesses in the Riviera del Cedro.  They are located across the street from Ristorante Vigri which we have featured in the past. We love da Pietro this time of year--it is relaxing and they have WiFi.  Great place to watch the sea.  

Oh, did I mention Carmello speaks some English?  That and his personality draw a lot of UK folks!  We practice Italian on him and he does English to us.   

Their lido prices are similar to others. There are people with holiday apartments here that return to the same lido year after year and sometimes pay for a beach site for all of August.  On weekends in August, it’s nearly impossible to find an opening. We avoid weekends and go much further south to less touristy towns. 

After all that, where is the sun and heat??  Sun is back--heat won't be far behind.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Calabrian Fire Ecology--Update

Remember our fires last summer? After it was all over, in our September 10 post, Calabrian Fire Ecology, we promised to get back to you about how the land comes back after these fires.  Do the trees die? If so, which ones? Does the fire help or hurt? Look for our comments after each pair of pictures, one taken in September, 2011 and one just taken in May, 2012. 
We hope you enjoy our dedication to this task. Our new car paid the price. Guido was backing up to take one of the pics along the highway, forgot about the curve in the wall, and we now have a nastly scrape on the rear fender. Eh....! Okay, back to the results!
The photo pair above were taken from the window of our study (a safer photo point although I suppose we could have fallen out the window...)

Light from the flames of this fire woke us up last summer. You can see that the land certainly greened up quickly and that the trees were thinned--in clumps--adding to the mosiac of sizes and ages. The rest of the shots were taken from closer up, so you can see how it looks in more detail:   
The oak tree on the left (on the bank) that was burnt up into the crown has leafed out fine, while the tree (the most intense red in the first pic) in the middle of the foreground is now dead. Are we surprised? Not at all, the oak trees (the bigger the better) win out in this struggle for survival. Pity the small and the non-oak if you like, but this is why there are huge oak trees in the world. Fire-prone in this area means it's dry and when a fire starts, it goes. They are mostly human caused fires. Not much in the way of summer lightning storms as seen in the American West. Like all burns, these have pioneer species growing now--herbaceous weeds and thistle which will be crowded out by permanent shrubs in a couple years. They won't be crowded out in a fire-prone landscape. You see the same result in the picture after picture:

The next photo duo is a little bit different. We have several Eucalyptus tree farms in the area.  You can see that those on the right were "crowned out" in the fire while those on the left of the road retained green crowns. The crowned out trees are now sprouting along the trunk: 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Guy Post of the Year

Every construction project in the world has an overseer
April showers bring May construction here in the south of Italy. It was wet and cool here and a lot of outdoor projects were postponed. Now, it is dry and everyone is starting up again. Remember my posts about how labor-intensive construction is in a hill-town? Almost everything is moved via a wheel barrow like our young neighbor Alessandro who works on restoring his own house on weekends. 

Today at the bottom of the hill,  in the "suburbs" of Santa Domenica, I watched a large concrete pumper working to pour a floor of a new building. You have all seen similar construction sites in your countries. 

Even in the middle of our historic district, where there is a street, they take advantage of equipment. I love these concrete trucks that have their own pumping capabilities. Very clever.

I used to work with concrete pours at ski areas which were interesting too, but way too expensive for a little job in a little town.  The Italians use helicopters for telecommunications sites and in the mountains.  

If you still have trouble telling whether a post was written by Di or me, this one should be a piece of...concrete.



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