Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas alla Primavera

We have had a remarkable dry and warm December. On Christmas Day, it was 18C/62F. Di was busy roasting peperone (chiles) and making tortillas. She discovered that it is easy to roast them right on the stove top. We had very good quiet village Natale that seemed to be taking place in the spring!

A Kitchen Aid machine kneaded the dough in less than two minutes and a tortilla press also made it a lot easier.  

The recipe calls for kneading the dough for 7 minutes but because the machine is from the USA, it doesn't work quite right even with a transformer and skips the slow speeds. 
It's a little scary to watch! Boom boom, there you go...dough!


I stepped on the terrace to look at something and heard a woman singing “White Christmas” in English. So I followed the sounds up to the piazza where a lot of kids and parents were waiting for Babbo Natale (santa) to arrive. The funny thing was the recorded music playing was all American Christmas tunes in English. Not a single Italian tune.

Babbo arrived leading a donkey carrying gifts. As he and the donkey made it to the piazza in front of the church, the recorded music got louder and the church bells were peeling. The amazing donkey didn’t flinch at all the noise.

It was a nice event that the children loved. Babbo and his “elf” handed simple gifts to the kids.

Auguri e buone feste. Best wishes and happy holidays.

Guido and Diana

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Rembrandt Lighting

So, we were coming home from Scalea as the sun was setting and Diana tells me we must “go collect the Rembrandt Light"--I am thinking about Jimmy Rembrandt that I played racquetball with in college.  No, it is about the lighting that the Dutch artist Rembrandt used in his paintings.  I tried to joke about smoking a Dutchmasters cigar when I was young, but that didn’t work.

Of course, when I took my good camera out to “collect the light" the clouds came in and screwed it up for that day and we had to wait for another sunny day. See if you like it too. Di helped me read up about how most landscape photographers wait for this light in the early morning or afternoon to light up the landscape the way Rembrandt lit up people's faces using golden light and shadow. 

Our village is beautiful any day, but I think Di’s lighting is bello.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Cosenza in the Hills

This is a late comment from Guido on things in Cosenza, our provincial capital where we spent so much time this summer with immigration issues, medical appointments, and even trying to renew our health system cards to pay for medical appointments. These pursuits can put you in a bad mood.

I was negative about this city of 70,000 people in past posts. I was telling the truth about the noise and diesel emissions that I experienced, but I should share some positive things. I walked many miles around the downtown area this year tracking down government offices, specialty shops, etc. I know this city! Remember we live in a town of 1,200. 

Classic building across from the Questura
I like the architecture of the centro area. Very nicely kept places with a lot of character. If you lived in one of these buildings, you would have grocery and other shopping within walking distance, so no fighting the heavy traffic. There are very modern high rises scattered throughout where I can imagine homes on the top floors have great views of the Sila mountain area to the east. The prices of homes here are much more than along the western coast where we live. The flyer shown has a fairly large home (Italian-wise) for €380,000. In Scalea a 60 holiday home might cost about €50,000 where the listings I saw in Cosenza for similar were about €115,00. If you need to stay in town, the small 4-room Sempione Bed & Breakfast is close to the central downtown area. It is spartan, but very clean. The B&B is €30-40 plus €5 for a locked parking area. It's on Facebook or the Airbnb website. Parking is extremely lacking in this city, so Francesco’s B&B is a “keeper”!

There are a lot of shops here, especially the pedestrian area along Corso Manzzini. The funny thing is, there are (again, my opinion) very few restaurants for a city this size. The Questura, the police station where the provincial immigration office is located, is probably 15 blocks north of the B&B and there is a Chinese restaurant nearby. It is a funny place that serves pasta.

Pedestrian shopping on Corso Mazzini
Like most Italian apartment buildings, the ground floor is usually some business or retail space. 

I like this funky building near the hospital with the large spider on the wall. I envision a sign by the door: “Black Widow Apartments – Always Rooms for Single Men”

The historic district of Cosenza (centro storico), in my opinion, is not as interesting as our own hill town or Scalea. In the Cosenza district, there are more roads open to vehicles, so not as quaint.  There is a stream that divides the centro area from the storico area and on the north side on Fridays, there is a large market with vendors selling the typical “market clothing”, meats and cheeses in a nice neighbourhood. There is also fruit and vegetable shop below the B&B does an incredible daily business. There you have it, Cosenza from a more mellow point of view! Be well, Guido

Friday market

Fresh olives for the table

Saturday, August 15, 2015

La Folla

We are getting this kind of rain in August!
Last year we reported on the ferie of August, certo that every year, we comment on the (to Americans) peculiar habit of Europeans, particularly Italians to leave the cities in droves as if chased by a hurricane and head for the closest shore. In Italy, Ferragosto, which we reported on last year falls in the middle of August and is as important as Christmas and Thanksgiving to Americans. It’s the time to return home, see the folks.  These two powerful forces join forces in Calabria to cause many people (oh just about 20,000) to pour into our little area----fortunately, down the hill from us, Scalea, takes the brunt of it. There people rush to their little apartments either rented or owned and whoop it up for a week to a month, depending. The good news is it brings in revenue to the area and is over in one month. The bad news is that it can be hard on us locals. This year was particularly hard on me, Guido, who hates the heat more than Di…but it was a bit much for both of us since it is the hottest we have ever seen it here. 


We are into August and we are also into the hottest summer ever for us in Italy. This article states that the heat wave breaks Italian records back 200 years, but I sorta question that many had instruments in those days.I guess we are lucky here not to have the 40 degree (104F) temps that Firenze, Roma, Milano and other cities have experienced.

We love watching the Canadair tankers and their talented pilots. This year, we have hardly seen them. That is probably good news for the taxpayers…we have had rain this summer which is also weird for us. Climate change or just Mother Nature? Our problem for 10 weeks has been humidity added to more constant heat than we are used to. It has been around 45-55% relative humidity all that time which, for wimps like me, is not comfortable. Di said she remembers her days in Illinois too well to be scared of 55%!

Sunday the humidity dropped under 30% and there was a nice breeze even with temps has high as 34C. It brought in afternoon thunderstorms with a little rain which was welcome as the temps dropped to 22 rapidly. I also love storms! Today another storm dropped temps to 19. The coolest day or night temp since May. The second storm in the afternoon dropped 23mm of rain in 15 minutes! Just like a winter squall.  The other strange thing this summer is the number of times we’ve had east winds. It does appear we are headed back to normal weather after that storm to finish the summer off well. 

Cassa 9 has an air con duct overhead that I love, but some Italians fear.
This time of year, I try to visit the supermarket in Scalea after siesta when it reopens at 16,00.  The store is usually quiet. It worked Monday. Wednesday, when storms were threatening and keeping people away from the beach, it was total chaos at 9,15. I found the last parking space and went inside to capture some cheese and a few images. Rest of the year, they only have 3-4 registers. Now it is 12 registers and 10-15 people in queue at each.  

Alas, it is August and no way to totally avoid the 20,000 people that arrive in the towns around us. The good news is that Scalea and the other towns have gotten their waste management under control much better to deal with the summer crowds..actual progress!

Ah, driving in August. Imagine your worst rush hour traffic, but with Italians at the wheel. On this street, I normally smack my outside mirror against someone else’s 2-3 times a summer. 
I have been saying bad things all summer about the city of Cosenza, but Monday, when there, we found it like a Sunday afternoon – no traffic, no noise. Things come to a near halt in August and all those people have headed to a beach somewhere.

We did visit the sea on Friday- – north toward Maratea, away from the crowds.  Il Mirto is a very peaceful place. We are a bit behind in our tans, summer from hell and all...

Talk to you in September, Guido

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Hot Town, Summer in Calabria

Early Monday morning I was on the terrace and noticed that the swifts have left. It is to-the-day that they disappeared last year. They come in the spring, they breed and raise their youngsters to fly, then they get out of here when it gets hot. Amazing.

It’s been around 45% relative humidity here for a month.
I am too old to get hot and sweaty just for wildlife photos, so I’ll take what I can at home. Well then I stepped into the computer room and spotted this owl about 5 meters away outside.  They are not seen in the light often and the camera was there. We learned from a book of birds of Europe that they are called “little owls”. How imaginative!  Italian for owl is “gufo”. Genus and species: athene noctua. They are just about 6-8 inches tall (15-20cm) and they call to each other all night. Very cute. This one saw an old man pointing a Canon at him and flew away after just one click of the shutter. 

Di caught this lizard on the terrace.  

We learned that the lucertole (lizards) like grapes as well as insects, so I occasionally put some grapes in the plant outside the kitchen window. They are very spooky around people, so it’s tough to get snapshots of them just ½ meter away. 

I waited for days to get a photo of one eating grapes. Finally this juvenile showed and allowed a few images. You can see it licking his chops on the second one! 

I think this is the famous Italian honey bee known to be docile with beekeepers. 

An American friend spoke of our old home which reminded me of what we used to do a lot of there on the Deschutes River to cool off in the summer!  The things you give up when you move to a new neighborhood.

Auguri, Guido

Friday, June 19, 2015

Home from Cosenza Again

We applied for a permanent permit to stay in Italy last winter. It was denied because we applied 6 weeks before we had actually been here 5 years. I was able to talk to higher-level immigration people this time in Cosenza and they are issuing us a regular permesso di soggiorno around 1 July, but we can almost immediately re-apply for the Carta di Soggiorno. Yeah, we’ll have to have our criminal background check re-done, but that is only about €75 each. It has taken 6 months.

We have learned the hard way to never try to update any official document, permit, or license until it has expired. They will turn you away. The road tax for the car was due on a Friday and they would not take my money Thursday.

I tried to renew our health cards, the Tessera Sanitaria, while in Cosenza, our provincial capital and center for our health organization. They would not do it because we are not residents there. 

I was not as comfortable in Cosenza this time. Maybe it was the dog that kept me civil last time?  The city itself is noisy, stressful, and smelly with car exhaust. It’s only a half step behind Napoli, secondo me, for chaos.

It still amazes me that properties are so expensive in this unattractive city of 70.000 inhabitants. The high-rise apartments on the hill above the hotel are in the €2-500,000 range because they have a view of the Sila mountains to the east. The west coast, where we live, draws thousands of tourists and holiday home people each July and August but the properties are much, much less as a rule.

So, we’re happy to be home in our little village. Di has included her annual beautiful flower pics on the terrace and around the house, can you tell why we like it here better? We were rural Americans and love living in rural Italy! Places like Milan, Paris, London, New York will never be on our list of must-see places. Ok, maybe Paris because they have such a nice language and lovely art!

Guido, the country bumpkin

Saturday, May 23, 2015

May Day!

We had a lovely May Day walk to a nice restaurant near Diamante, Il Vecchio Frantoio
When you live in Italy (or Europe for that matter) May Day means Labor Day. In America, this is not so. May Day (May 1st) in the past was a celebration of the coming of spring.  In Europe the maypole and may baskets gave way to parades for workers everywhere, and in America, it just faded away.  That's too bad because I remember the quaint custom of leaving a surprise basket of flowers on your neighbors' doorstep. I remember creating baskets as a child, wilted dandelions and lilacs I think. The neighbors (I'm sure) appreciated at least the thought.

In Italy, the old day is known mostly in the north I gather and is called Calendimaggio. 

One of my favorite things about May Day is that some of our best plants show off and raise our hopes for a great summer.

Here is the path through a park by the river running through Diamante. It's about a mile to the restaurant.

We celebrated with a nice walk to a restaurant called the "Old Oil Mill" 
(Il Vecchio Frantoio).

There's a big old mill here in Santa Domenica Talao. It is still a ruin. Everyone brings their olives to a new mill nearby. It would make a great restaurant too if the town could figure out how to attract more tourists to it, etc.

Our good friends. Some walked with us, others drove...

What's left of the mill works


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