Monday, August 20, 2012

Carless in Calabria

We wanted to put our car into a local body shop to repair some damage that I did against a rock wall. We thought August would be good because we like to hibernate at home away from the crowds at seaside. The body man at the carrozzeria said he could work last week except for August 15th, Ferragosto – the biggest holiday of the summer.

As we have reported before, Italians are known for their late nights to 2:00 AM, then they arrive at the beach around 10:00. We take advantage of that and arrive at opening of a Scalea store to find 40 people already in queue!

Lots of people never leave our village or rely on the bus if they do. We know a young British couple here that have no car and have done fine with local shopping and/or bus/bicycle to Scalea. This is a journal of the experience of Americans attached to their car. 

Monday – Dropped the car off and was told it would be done the following Monday or Tuesday.  We decided to try the bus into Scalea to get a few items and see how the system worked.  We waited 20 minutes for the bus in the piazza, and then the mayor told us that this bus was cancelled until 15 September.  

Tuesday – I went to Scalea on the 7:00 bus with friend Colman so we could book a beach lido sometime in the week. We found one for Thursday, then he went to a beach and I did some shopping before waiting for the 9:25 bus returning to Santa Domenica. It never arrived. I walked about a km. to the edge of Scalea where I might hitch a ride. Our postal carrier spotted me and took me along on his route ending at home. Duhhhh--had we known that critical bus was cancelled, we would have waited for a more opportune time to fix the car!

Wednesday – Quiet day at home on Ferragosto. A fire 10 km north near Praia a Mare sent ashes our way most of the day. Lots of fireworks late into the night.

Thursday - Di, Colman and I took that dreadfully early 7:00 AM bus to Scalea and walked to the beach. Nice water, a few too many people for us.  After a light lunch, Di and I grabbed the 1:15 bus home without incident other than nearly getting heat stroke without air con in the bus (did I mention it has been quite hot lately?)  Ok, we now know those two buses work and the 5:30 bus that Colman used also is reliable.

Friday - More ashes on the terrace, this time from a fire on the edge of town that had obviously been burning all night.  We later got a video news clip about the Carabinieri arresting the arsonist that started this so they are trying to crack down. A Bell 206 helicopter worked our fire with a bucket all day long without incident. The Canadair tankers assisted later. The planes no longer bother our dog Vince as they fly 300 feet over the house. 

Just before lunch I noticed an ambulance pull up to the carrozzeria (body shop) where the car is being worked on– the shop is about 450 meters below us. They hauled someone away. This can't be a good thing.

OMG. Friday night I went to see who was entertaining in the piazza (nightly shows all week) and discovered the band Infinity which is made up of our electrician, plumber, aluminio shutter man, a drummer from a local bar and female singer from Scalea.  I had no idea they all played together in a band.  Pretty good tunes.

Saturday – The air tankers are back at 7:00 working our fire, which ended up burning around 1500-2000 acres.

Di and I walked to the carrozzeria to see if the car was being worked on thinking that if the man was taken ill, we’d get the car back.  He was there and the ambulance had been for his papa who was back home digging in the garden. The car won't be done until Tuesday or Wednesday due to the medical emergency. 

Prices in the little mom and pop stores will always be higher because they don’t get volume discount like the large stores. Yet, I was surprised when a kilo of ground veal cost €10 here vs. the €5 I normally pay in Scalea.  The irony that struck me about living completely within the village is that the senior citizens who are on meager pensions and often cannot leave town, are stuck with these higher prices. I suppose meat is still just an occasional luxury for some.

Sunday - Quiet day at home watering plants, reading and relaxing.  The weather is forecast to reach 36C by Thursday, so more watering will be needed for sure.  We did feel the second earth tremor of the summer that  evening.  I need to start recording these on the weather data sheet. We both felt it and it shook the plants on the terrace where I was reading.

Monday  - Took the early bus to town to hit the farmer’s market as Di is out of dried figs.  We spent time at a couple bars, but both were having WiFi trouble so we had to use our wireless modem which often won’t work in August with all the additional wireless traffic.  

Lessons Learned - Sure, we can live here without a car, but it is an inconvenience to spoiled Americans. When the bus is running normal routes, it would be much better. However, it is not fun to schlep around all the shopping bags in Scalea and then here where the bus drops you off 100  vertical meters below the house. On the other hand, physical challenges lead to better fitness and strength. We'll always have the stairs! Cordiali, Guido. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hot August Night

Sunrise on a thunderhead Saturday 
Do you remember the Hot August Night album by Neil Diamond around 1972? Some of my favorite music.  Well, we have had plenty of hot nights this August and also in July. We can't compete with the USA that has set all-time heat records, nor with Israel that has had the hottest summer in the 60-year history of the state, nor with India---BUT, Southern Europe has been very hot since late June.

Clouds have been a rare sight this summer and we enjoy when they arrive!
The forecast was for thunderstorms Saturday. Nothing here, but nice, pretty cloud build-ups to the south, and the air has cleared. Our great 15 mph breeze returned, so maybe things are going back to “normal”. An Irish friend just arrived and he’s sooo thankful to get away from the relentless, record-setting rain that Ireland and the UK have had this summer. Is it climate change or a nasty cycle?!!

This is the month we generally avoid the crowds in the beach towns where there is a tripling of the population during the August holiday. Wednesday we decided to get away from the crowds and go to the mountains for lunch while taking an air conditioned drive where we have not been before. Silly us, the higher we got, the hotter it got – up to 36C/96.8F vs. a high of 30 here at the house!

Di wisely suggested that we should not re-visit a previous find--a restaurant with marginal food and blaring TV near the A3 highway near Mormanno just 45 minutes east of us. We stopped instead at the Agriturismo Aria Fino .  It is a nicely done place, clean--friendly horses and friendly staff that spoke clear Italian. The staff, not the horses :)  

Water in a pitcher vs. plastic bottle was a nice touch
Di enjoys the shade with a nice breeze

We were the only dining customers and apparently there were no guests in the rooms--for the peak of the August holiday. Maybe they do better in the cooler shoulder seasons – we did not question the family.  They served a typical mountain menu heavy on pasta and meat, but no fish.  Such a place is likely to have soup in the winter, so we’ll call to see if they are open come January.

Driving north to make a loop home, we followed a very curvy road from Mormanno to Castelluccio which is a town of about 3-4,000 in the mountains.  In the photo you see there is the old town (superiore) and the newer additions below (inferiore).  They actually had TWO FUNCTIONING STOP LIGHTS!! 

Just 15 minutes further, avoiding the A3 Autostrade, we reached Lauria. It is an attractive mountain town with some good shopping and good views! I still cannot believe how rugged, beautiful and undeveloped the mountains of Calabria and Basilicata are. A worthwhile jaunt.
Lauria (Lor-EE-ya)

Ciao, Guido

Di admired this farm house near Lauria 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Trouble in Lido Land

We look down admiring the view not realizing that trouble is brewing along Italian beaches

August 6 has always been an important date--world-wise and personally for me. Aside from the yearly memorial to Hiroshima, my parents got married on that date, my father's birthday. Now I can add the Mars landing today. I'm a space nerd and loved watching the happy people in the NASA control room this morning. Congrats NASA!

August is also the big month for Italy's beaches. If you search for "lido" on the search feature of this blog, you will note many posts about these beach developments. They play an important part in the economic scene here. Now, apparently, the European Union wants to have a say on how they are run and Italy is not happy about it. According to Yahoo News, the European Union says it wants licenses for the private beaches auctioned off in a transparent way starting in 2016, but operators say that could stop investment and force many of the 600,000 workers in the sector out of a job.

We learned about this from friends who discussed the issue with one of our favorite lido "owners". What it comes down to is that many of the current operators would not be able to bid on their own business or could lose due to limited funds. This means that many long term family businesses wouldn't be able to count on a continuous lease for the confidence needed to invest in improvements. 

This may have been a well-intentioned attempt to make the system more fair and to get some revenue for the government, but we fear it can have serious effects on families that have been in business at the same beach for 20 - 30 years.  I hope that the folks we know end up OK as it plays out.


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