Thursday, July 26, 2012

Festa di San Guiseppe--Santa Domenica Talao

Every Italian town sponsors multiple festas each year, some connected with the church and others to celebrate something secular, like our Sagra di Cinghiale (wild boar) day in August. We are finally getting organized and writing them down on the computer calendar so we can better know when each recurring event is expected.  We do not want to look stupid forever--although to be kind to us, we were much more aware this year. This festival is especially important to the village in 2012 as it is the 350th anniversary of the diocese.

A couple events were new to us here, although common in many other towns – street art and flag throwing. You may have seen flag throwers (sbandieratori) elsewhere or in videos.  We found the talented flag throwers and musicians especially entertaining in person. I was also proud because I found out this is what I gave a donation for--wasn't clear at the time.

The designs for the street art are drawn in chalk, then different colors of materials fill in the spaces. Most of the materials used here were food items (rock salt, cracked corn, pasta, etc) and some colored stones. The dark brown is ground coffee. It took a family several hours to create these three designs Sunday morning.  

That night, a strong series of thunderstorms passed and wiped-out much of the art except where rice or pasta stuck together once wet!!  Some of it found its way to our front step.

Of course there was a procession. About 300 people participated in the long walk from the bottom of the village, to the top, then down to the church.  The Carabinieri (state police) supplied - what seems to be - the obligatory 2 officers to walk in the procession and they were a little sweaty on that warm muggy evening.

A jazz band was setup to play around 10 PM but we never heard them just 58 steps away. Our guess is they saw the lightning approaching from the sea and packed-up to protect the equipment.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Angels and the White Dove

We took these pictures before the guests and visitors began to arrive this summer. It was early July and it wasn't hot yet. I knew I'd get a chance to use them on a quiet week. This weekend ends with the festa for our town's patron saint Joseph (San Giuseppe) so it won't be quiet for long. The weekend started with a birthday party at our new neighbor's house--very lively.  

We'll listen to music in the piazza and enjoy the fireworks while Doug takes some pictures for you. Meanwhile, enjoy the peace of the angels and the dove. (i.e. plants called Angel's Trumpet and the white dove who landed on our terrace and hasn't been seen since). 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

In Sardegna--La Costa Smeralda

A couple private yachts anchored offshore

Living in Calabria is surprisingly inexpensive, so we save our pennies for trips which we plan on the luxury side of affordable. The Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast of Sardinia) was reported to be a good place to enjoy the sea (scuba, snorkeling, etc.) so we headed via car ferry to enjoy our anniversary there. Our thinking was that we live in the "real" Italy so could enjoy the Italian Disneyland for the rich without missing traditional ways too much. That turned out cosi, cosi
as you will see if you read on:

If you want a boat from Civitavecchia near Rome, DO NOT TRAVEL on a Friday when Romans head for the beaches to the north and south.  It took 2 hr, 20 min to go 40 km from Fiumicino airport to Civitavecchia. We missed the ferry and had to take one from another company over night for a higher cost.


Traveling with a mid-size dog is a challenge.  Plan to ignore the rules about where dogs can go (with muzzles) just like you ignore most traffic rules. MOBY ferries have seating on the top deck with pool, etc, Tirrenea ships have no seating up there and nasty cages in the kennel area, but we took Vincenzo into a room with reclining chairs where we all slept fine and no one bothered us. While Doug took Vince's picture on both ends of the journey tied up and looking uncomfortable--on the way out, he ended up with up in air-conditioned comfort lying on a carpet and on the way back ended up sleeping in the shade with a stiff wind blowing.
Ahh, the final ferry problem was they changed our boat to a Livorno destination on the return, AND it was 1.5 hr late.  We had a 7.5 hr ferry trip followed by 9 hrs of driving to get home at 0300.  The final cost was a day of recovery.

We stayed at the Hotel Le Ginestre which is quite nice.  They are used to international visitors using English, but were kind to stay in Italian for us. There were cars there from Switzerland, France, and Germany and guests from the UK and USA.  There was a Swiss Maserati parked next to us for awhile.   The food was just wonderful.  We’ve never experienced such great food at a hotel.  We tried the pool for the first time in a pool in many years, but it was too warm. Yes, the Costa Smeralda is an expensive area.  Our hotel had rooms ranging between €235 and €635.

Bellisima Cena at the hotel, note the Pane Musica (Musical Bread) which is a traditional crispy bread in Sardinia
Doug's new favorite beer

Our hotel's beach was nice to look at, horrible for swimming due to shallow water, rocky bottom
We ate lunch at this beach but didn't want to spend a day there.
We easily spent €50 for a simple lunch at Orange Beach. We spent one day reviewing beaches which are interspersed between rocky shorelines. Some, like at our hotel, are quite rocky in the water making for painful walking to reach deep water. The beach we actually used was called Spiaggia Liscia Ruja and was controlled by a comune. The Lido Long Beach was very comfortable, (as it should have been), for beds/lettini on the front row were €50 and €40 for the second row.  But hey – they have padded beds and they supply a towel.  Just a little more than the €12 we pay around here.  We have to try some things at least once if we want to report on them. Can we get reimbursed from a magazine or some blog editor? No, you don't have to feel sorry for us, there was a public section of this beach, we could have passed the day for only the cost of our parking ticket (another story).
The Winner: Spiaggia Luscia Ruja
We got there early--to get our money's worth? It did not stay this peaceful.

The people provide scale to this boat and this is just a medium sized one compared to others!!

As we had heard, the Emerald Coast is a vacation spot for the wealthy of the world.  We didn’t see him (fortunately), but Silvio Berlusconi has a villa there somewhere. We think the area gets its name from the green vegetation which is kept green by a lot of fog and marine humidity. The vegetation is brushy and would be a flashy fuel anywhere else, but given the fog and humidity, it goes unburned. We arrived in fog, but winds blew-out the humidity on the second day and it was very nice.

The area reminded us of another opulent area in the US--Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Very similar with multi million euro homes amidst handsome rock formations.

Look close at the top of the grassy area of this resort -- a private helicopter.

Yes Costa Smeraldo is scenic, but with the travels in Italy we have done so far, we still think the Riviera dei Cedro here in our front yard has the best beaches with the best views of mountains, etc.  Our towns are here for the working class and not the elite. We like having something that is better than the famous areas and we don’t pay as much for it!  We have a Despar store here,  but it's not as fancy.


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