Thursday, January 31, 2013

Buona Giornata for a Calabrian Hike

Does this look like the worst day of the year?
We haven't heard this locally, but according to columnists on the net, the last days of January in Italy are i giorni della meria--the days of the blackbird--the worst weather of the winter. It also contains the day of my birthday which all my life meant to celebrate by ice skating, skiing or holing up in a bowling alley or bar. This year, as luck would have it, we got to take a lovely hike in the sun.
Gotta love Calabria. We do think that February is the worst month. It just rains a lot--usually with sunny interludes but it's a great month to escape to even more sunny climes. From here that means the Canary Islands, Egypt, Morocco, or more tropical places like Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka. Sunday we leave for Sri Lanka. Our Italian language teacher says many Italians vacation there. If you don't know where it is, it used to be called Ceylon and it's a big island just off the shore of India in the Indian Ocean--anyway back to our hike.
Our favorite beaches in the area are in San Nicola Arcella and Praia a Mare. This particular hike is from the San Nicola side of a large rock outcrop.

This tour boat owner uses his driveway for drydock!

We parked at what in the summer is a lively lido where all the teenagers in the town love to meet each other and have fun on the beach. Aside from us this day, there were four other people there enjoying the day. It was very, very nice. 

Someone (probably the owner of the lido) spent a lot of time and money creating a lovely stone-staired walk to a hidden grotto only to have it closed because of rock fall danger. We don't usually worry about such things coming from a rocky place in Oregon, but for the Italians to put up a closure sign meant to us that something bad happened. We did see giant fallen rocks along the path and didn't feel like lingering near the overhangs any too long. The closure was violated years ago and the trail is used by many in the summer. Didn't spot any "ships" on the trail!

We avoided this steep trail last summer when it was so hot. Perfect this winter day.

Our daily exercise on the steps of Santa Domenica Talao certainly help for taking hikes like these. Makes it kinda routine. 
I assume the same pose while going uphill in the village which prompts the locals to ask me if something is wrong with my back. Maybe a little, but mostly it's my answer to where to put my hands.
This beach is covered by thousands of people in July and August. Four other people near top of photo.

The entrance to the grotto with trail on top

Doug got his picture taken this time.
He likes those pictures of nice days in the winter--for looking forward to the next one? All in all, it was a great new way to spend my winter birthday.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Permesso Time-A Lieta Fine?

There is no reason for this picture other than avoiding putting our mug shots up front.
I take this route on my daily walk--how's that?
A Lieta Fine means "happy ending" in Italian. We learned this in Italian class reading a little story about twelve year old boys playing hooky from school and taking a trip on the train to Rome. It was a happy ending because nothing bad happened except getting in trouble with their parents. I felt good about learning this phrase--unaccountably mostly--but I do realize lately that learning turns of phrase in Italian is very important if you don't want to sound like a bumbling foreigner forever. I wish we knew more of them for our trip to Cosenza this year--yes it's Permesso di Soggiorno season and we have set ourselves up for a painful one this time. By the way, find all the turns of phrase in this paragraph--hint: there are 5 (including "turns of phrase").

The good news is that our pictures are ready. We felt guilty about our eight year old passport pictures that we took ourselves in the guest bedroom at Rainshadow Farm so we took new ones in our guest bedroom here. I then spent a whole day getting them printed with the right specifications and dimensions for Italian bureacracy and American passport bureaucracy. America likes shoulders, Italy likes heads--we may have to take Doug's picture over for his passport as we zoomed in too much to retrieve his's all done for Italy except the scissors part. To my surprise, nobody likes smiles, but that's just too bad. 

Speaking of bad, the following sums up the bad Permesso news so far this year. Those of you who read this to prepare to move to Italy should check out this link to older posts where we list more helpful information. 

This will merely provide you with what not to do:

First, when I logged on the site that tracks our Permessos' progress through the system, we found that Doug's is bogged down in pre-analysis phase because he filled out his application "incorrectly". We dug out the copy and sure enough, he skipped a couple of boxes. We know enough about the system to show up for our appointment anyway, despite this, with the correction in hand--at least we hope we know enough. 

Second, we already know we didn't pay enough at the post office when we mailed in the application because a new pay scale had been introduced and neither we nor the post office knew what to pay--so we kicked that can down the road. Sound familiar? Should be a very fun time in Cosenza on January 28. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Our Christmas in Calabria

Italian Christmas Eve Cenone
Twas the night before Christmas and Doug and Di had no plans except for taking a passegiatta around the village. While on that walk, our neighbors invited us to Christmas Eve Cenone at their house. With a fire crackling, Angela prepared a gorgeous meal while the children entertained us as only they can. Gifts were exchanged and all was just as Christmas Eve should be...including the very good grappa Giovianni served after dinner. We can drink, apparently, very good grappa (which also may have helped us keep up non-stop Italian for the evening).  Low-grade grappa is similar to acetone!

English Christmas
On Christmas day, we awoke to a lovely clear sky. We got dressed up for our Christmas dinner at 3 PM. We had plenty of time to take a nice Christmas photo. Note that in deference to our English friends, we will not use the word “Holiday” here because that word means a vacation, or a trip.  Also note that Doug is not the greatest indoor photographer and found it hard to take photos while stuffing his face.

We had a "brilliant" Christmas dinner with 3 English couples in nearby Scalea.   We were hosted by Clive and Kathryn who have a lovely home in the historic district. They also operate Casa Cielo, a B&B 

Clive is a great cook and prepares special meals for B&B guests and others at different times of the year. Kathryn is a classmate in our Italian language class where she must tolerate Italian conversations with the Americans each Friday! Note their home has numerous wall and ceiling paintings done by Clive, and he also built the Presepe (crèche) in the front hall.  Lots of talent there.

We learned about a typical English Christmas. We learned about “crackers” which are little noise-makers with gifts inside that you pull apart with your adjacent diners. In the past, the English would hide a few silver sixpence coins in the Christmas pudding and everyone had to be careful how they chewed and swallowed! What a great afternoon.  

Their terrace is magnificent with great views of Old Scalea and beyond to the sea:

Italian-English Family Dinner
We were fortunate to be invited to the vacation home of an Italian-English family with many of their Italian relatives.  The host couple is an Italian husband and English wife.  They met when they were around 19.  Enzo and his family grew up on the island of Capri, the famous tourist destination near Naples.

Years ago, Enzo and Gill married and went to England where they, over time, built a number of restaurants and pubs with an Italian food theme.  Recently, they bought and remodeled a large villa on a hillside overlooking the sea near us.  The house is lovely and large on purpose – when all the family takes a holiday there, they can pack up to 17 people into the place including lots of grandchildren!

The buffet dinner was really enjoyable despite some confusion on our part as to whether it was supposed to be a pot-luck. Everyone spoke very clear Italian and/or English. This family really knows how to have fun and we felt right at-home. It's also the largest and most modern kitchen we have seen in Calabria. We’re sure that Chef Enzo picked most of the appliances. They even had a garbage disposal! 

We learned that Capri is similar to Aspen, Colorado; i.e., very lovely, and ultra expensive.  Their story is that they sold a 60 sq m apartment in Capri and the proceeds bought this 6 bedroom villa in Calabria including the remodel cost.  Amazing.  Again, we feel lucky to have found one of the most lovely (and affordable) places in Italy. One of the daughters and her husband run a little clothing shop on Capri, so we’ll have people to visit when we get a chance to go ourselves.


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