Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Our final drive to the Dolomiti region 10-28-2006

The Duomo in Treviso

Centro of Belluno

Near Trento on our drive home we saw this castle in beautiful light

One last trip around Verona 10-30-2006

Grafitti on the wall near Juliet's Balcony

A troupe of young (7 - 17 years old) Russian dancers. Here in Verona as part of a cultural exchange program

The Adige River

Piazza Bra

Rosemary saying good-bye from our terrace in borgo Roma

One last quick trip to Milano 10-30-06

The Duomo is even more beautiful than we remembered. It has been under reconstruction fot two years and will be finished in one more year. We'd love to see it when finished. It is one of our favorite churches in Europe.

This is Rosemary taking three spins on the bulls balls. It is said to be a tradition that brings good fortune. I don't know if we could handle any more good fortune. Some more money would be nice then we could buy a home in Italy and keep one in the States.

Chevy in Italy?

I have been seeing this Chevy since we arrived in Verona. I always hoped I'd see the owner of the car one day but, alas, we are leaving here tomorrow so I'll never know why it is here.

Ciao Borgo Roma and Verona 10.31.06

Today is literally our last day in Borgo Roma. Tomorrow we head south, stopping in Perugia to see some friends and pause in our journey south. It's about an 8 or 9 hour drive and we didn't want to do it all in one day. We will spend a couple of nights there and plan to arrive Friday or Saturday in Vietri. We are filled with expectation and excitement at what we will find there and all the places we want to visit. We spent a few hours yesterday morning packing and now only have the computer stuff and all the last minute things to throw together. I cooked lunch in the apartment, finishing off the last of the eggs and the onions, mixing in some broccoli and cleaning out the cupboards. We're just about ready to go. Bob wants to spend some time today organizing his photos and I will probably take the bus into Verona for one last spin around and give him a few hours to himself, without me interrupting every ten minutes!

Last night we went out with Laura and Giorgio to a concerto. This was the first time we had been in the Teatro Filarmonico and it is a gorgeous old theatre with fancy gold detailing on the tiered balconies and elaborate burgundy and gold trimmed curtain. The group was from Russia, and included young kids dancing the typical Russian folk dances, some similar to the ones we had seen at the festival in Agrigento, during the Blooming Almond Tree festival last February. Some of these dancers could not have been older than 7 or 8 and they were incredible. The speed at which these Russians move is truly remarkable. They also did that dance where the women seem to be floating on air, they move so smoothly and their dresses are so long you cannot see their feet. It is really something.

Afterwards we went out for a pizza with them and two of their friends and drank wine and beer and the conversation was lively. One of their friends spoke English so we were able to converse in both languages and it was really fun.

We will really miss Laura and Giorgio. The way they opened up their hearts to us is something we will never forget and we do hope they will visit us in the states (or even in Vietri!) in the future. We hope they will enjoy the watercolor of Piazza Bra I made just for them and that it will serve to remind them of us.

Giorgio took us on another outing yesterday afternoon to visit an aviary (I don't think that is quite the right word but it's the best I can do). A friend of his is a landscape architect for the city of Verona but has this passion for birds. He is constructing a habitat and bird sanctuary - he raises rare and endangered birds, cranes and flamingos, in Italian, these are called gru (cranes) and fenicotteri (flamingos). He said that some countries, particularly Holland and the United States are doing much to prevent these birds from going extinct but that in Italy this is not the case. He raises these birds from the egg and sells them to zoos and other nature reserves. They were absolutely gorgeous, many different varieties, in shades of white and black, soft grays and browns, with interesting markings and broad wingspans. They are shy and timid but made a big racket after we passed. Tough guys when we were no longer nearby! It's incredible the work of this one person, to create this habitat and nursery really for these delicate, threatened birds and we wish him well in his endeavor to keep this species alive.

This week we also took a trip to Milano for an evening spin around the city. The Duomo there is on our list of favorites. This must be one of the most spectacular cathedrals in the world. Or at least among those we have seen and at this point we have seen a lot of churches! It was fun just to go to Milan at the spur of the moment and we were glad we made the trip - only an hour and a half from here. Since we had been to Milan before it was not urgent to do a lot of sightseeing and we just wandered around Piazza Duomo, ate gelato and looked in the elegant shops in the Galleria and the elegant shopping street nearby.

On Sunday we drove up to Treviso, north of Venice and then on to Belluno, in the Dolomites. It was a gorgeous day and the views of the mountains were truly breathtaking, with some clouds and a brilliant blue sky.

We have seen and done so much here. We have come to the end of our 3rd quarter and on to the final one now. Vietri awaits. The Amalfi Coast is calling our names. We long to be by the sea again and cannot wait to put our toes in the water.

We'll let you know when we arrive and send photos of our new home for the next five months. Wish us luck!

Arrivederci Borgo Roma e Verona!
Ciao Laura e Giorgio! Vi mancheremo (Not sure I spelled this Italian phrase right, but what I mean to say is: We will miss you!)
Rosemary e Robert

Helpful Numbers

The following names and addresses are for places we found in Verona that were helpful and occasionally essential.

For your car
Via Flavio Gioia 9
37135 Verona
tel 045 504217

For things photographic

A very large camera store

Via 24 Maggio 12/B
37126 Verona
tel 8342347

For Camera repair

Marco Castelli
Vialle Della Repubblica 36
37126 Verona
tel 045 8350088
they are open only in the morning until noon.

For your printing needs

Techno Graphica
Massaro G. Carlo
Via Centro 40/B
37135 Verona
tel 045 585901
cell 347. 1526282

Apple Computer needs

Apple Center infotron
Piazza Santo Spirito 2
37122 Verona
045 8013851

Alessia Marruso
Via S. Teresa 45
Tel 045 8202887

Saturday, October 28, 2006

An apartment in Vietri - finally! 10.28.06

It's five in the morning and I couldn't sleep so I decided to get up and catch up on some of my writing. I got back from my quickie trip to Richmond last week and since then I have been biting my nails and losing sleep over the fact that we still did not have an apartment on the Amalfi Coast. Nigel has been working trying to find one for us and a few that we thought we had fell through at the last minute and we were getting closer to our date of departure and still didn't know where we were going to live! I know I should be more adventurous. We talked about just going down there and finding something. Surely at this time of year that would be possible. In Marina di Ragusa, we saw once we were there that there were probably many choices for places that were not rented all winter but I just felt uncomfortable leaving this home and not having one lined up for us. I have had many sleepless nights and anxiety over it but at last we are settled!

Nigel found us an apartment in Vietri sul Mare, on the Amalfi Coast!

Nigel called to say that he was going to look at this apartment and had been told that it was great. We hope it will be so. It has a view of the sea and it is just a short walk down to the marina or up to the centro and the majolica-decorated Duomo and bell tower. It is on the ground floor with a large terrace, a little table, chairs and an umbrella for sitting outside. It doesn't look fancy, but bright and comfortable with plenty of room for my sister and her daughters when they come to visit over Christmas and importantly, a place for our car.

Vietri is a seaside resort famous for its ceramics. We expect it to be quiet during the winter months but Nigel assures us enough people live there all year that the essentials will still be open and available to us, much as it was in Marina di Ragusa. We like these lively seaside places in the off-season and enjoy having things more or less to ourselves, even if that means some of the restaurants and shops will be closed. Vietri is the first town on the Amalfi Coast, nearest to Salerno and therefore easy to go in any direction, inland towards the mountains, north to Napoli or west to the tip of the peninsula towards Amalfi, Sorrento and Capri. We can't wait! There are so many places in this area we want to explore, we really can't wait to get started.

Ci vediamo!
Rosemary e Robert

Farewell to Friends 10.27.06

Last night we went to Ai Glicini (Via Centro n. 235, in Borgo Roma) our favorite restaurant near our apartment and shared a tearful goodbye with Vanessa and Sarah, two of the sweetest young women you could ever meet. They welcomed us with curiosity and warmth when we first arrived here in Verona and have been just delightful each time we showed up there. They promised to keep in touch and we had the warmest send off, with hugs, kisses and tears! OK, the tears were mine. We will miss them very much.

The lovely Vanessa (from Croatia) and Sarah at Ai Glicini, Pizzeria Trattoria

The talented (and adorable!) pizza making guys at Ai Glicini

Their delicious pizzas!

This week I went back to Annalisa and Fabio's, my "parrucchiere" (hairdresser) to get a last haircut before leaving. Annalisa was incredibly helpful to me in getting me all fixed up for the wedding in Koln this summer (you may remember the fiasco with the red dress and the backwards darts - see my post from July!) and I will be forever grateful. They have been wonderful, warm and friendly. They speak absolutely not a word of English so I consider it a triumph to have been able to get my hair done and communicate with each other as well as we did. I will miss them too!

Annalisa and Fabio, my hairdressers (parrucchiere) in Borgo Roma (Via Legnago n. 69)

I wish I could say the same for the people who live right around us. Fausto and his wife Rosa upstairs have been delightful and Paula from next door, who sadly lost her mother recently. But most of the neighbors really could not have cared less that we were here and didn't seem at all interested in meeting us or getting to know us. I know we should have made more of an effort ourselves and perhaps that would have made a difference. Truthfully, we traveled a lot this summer and were gone a lot but no one showed any interest in even being friendly and even if we met them in the hallway or outside the building we would barely get a hello. One woman even shut her blind as we walked past which probably was just coincidental but she just looked right past us. The people we have met and gotten to know have been incredibly warm and generous so I cannot generalize and say that they are just not as friendly up here as they were in Sicily, which would be unfair. If they were curious about us, they sure didn't show it. I suppose they are just more reserved and perhaps didn’t want to impose themselves on us. I know it takes time to get to know people and our time here has admittedly been brief. I blame ourselves mostly for not trying harder.

We have enjoyed exploring this area. There are so many incredible places to visit, we could never visit them all if we stayed here a lifetime! Our visits to Venice have been wonderful. We have come to really love Verona and our walks along the river and through Piazza Bra and Piazza Erbe and all the wonderful streets and the architecture. Mantua, Padua, Modena, Marostica for the chess game, Soave and its castle, Bolzano, the Dolomites, all the pretty little towns on Lago di Garda, Trento, the Po Delta, the vineyards of the Valpolicella, tiny Borghetto, Rovereto and the art museum MART (www.mart.trento.it/) we visited recently (a terrific show on the artists Schiele, Klimt, Kokoschka and others from Vienna of the same period), and most recent, the lovely city of Bergamo. Not to mention the fact that we were able to go to Koln and visit our friends in Germany, Switzerland and France so easily. Laura and Giorgio have been incredible and meeting their family a real highlight of our time here. We'll miss them all very much.

Piazza Bra, the Liston, one of my favorite places in Verona

We're ready to go now. This area is rich in places to see and things to do. Unfortunately, the air quality is something we haven't enjoyed. They definitely have a problem with air pollution and Bob's asthma has been worse here. I ended up with an upper respiratory infection, my first illness since we've been in Italy. Probably just a result of overdoing it and catching what Bob had. But we're still glad we came here. It has been overall a wonderful experience we will never forget.

I will probably try to post a few more things before we leave but this week will be a busy one. We have been packing already and our apartment is kind of turned upside down at the moment. Having brought so much stuff home will help and the car should not be as packed to the gills as it was coming here in June.

We have plans to do some things with Giorgio and Laura this week, plus maybe squeeze in one or two other day trips. We'll see. We have already had to cross off a few things we thought we were going to do, like a trip to Prague and Slovakia or Croatia. It just didn't fit. But it's OK. We hardly feel deprived! On the contrary, our minds are hearts are full of all the things we have seen and experienced.

Now we are ready for an entirely different experience on the Amalfi Coast. We'll keep writing and posting, so if you are interested, come along. We welcome your comments and would love to know what you think, so feel free.

Rosemary e Robert

Flavio Fossato's models

The Natural History Museum in Verona is located in a 16th centurty palazzo built by Sanmichele and is famous throughout Italy and Europe for its collection. There are over 20 rooms with impressive collections of fossils (some as tall as 6 ft or more!), minerals, plant and animal species, insects, butterflies and beetles that are really remarkable. We visited this museum at the urging of Giorgio who told us that his friend Flavio (the guy who makes the antique weaponry I wrote about recently) had built some scale models for the museum and suggested we might enjoy seeing them. We did. We hope to also post some photos of the various exhibits but for now just wanted you to see the work of Flavio who is truly a maestro.

These rooms in miniature are scale models of what the museum collections looked like in the 1600s and were built using prints made at the time. The level of detail and craftsmanship are quite impressive.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Castagne: Gathering Chestnuts 10.22.06

Before coming to Italy, my only experience with chestnuts was seeing them at Christmas time on the streets of New York, literally "roasting on an open fire" to borrow the words of the old song. I never much cared for them, my culinary tastes in those days being very much influenced by appearances and they always looked like blackened little morsels too hot to touch and not very appetizing looking. I do remember enjoying seeing the vendors on the streets and the smells that filled the air were a very pleasant part of the festive holiday season, along with the arrival of wreaths on people's doors and the strings of colored lights on the houses in my neighborhood.

In Italy, chestnut trees are everywhere. We first encountered them in Perugia, in the garden next to our apartment. Giant, mature trees, the leaves long and slender, in clusters, the fruit first appeared towards the end of summer as fuzzy, chartreuse-colored balls, like decorations on the Christmas tree. As the days grew cooler, the light green leaves turned brown, rusty, curled and dried and the castagne, the chestnuts grew big and full. Eventually the chartreuse color also turned brown and the spiky, fuzzy balls fell from the trees, the ground littered with them, and they split open, revealing the dark honey-colored nugget that is the fruit, the chestnut, inside. Bob and I, not knowing any better, gathered a bunch of them, found a recipe on the internet and tried roasting them in our oven. But yuck! They didn't taste very good and all my previous suspicions were confirmed. Then we found out that these were "horse chestnuts" and not the edible kind! How were we to know! Later, in the streets of Perugia vendors appeared, selling roasted chestnuts, the same smell filling the air, the same dark bits roasting before our eyes. We bought a small bag, tasted the fruit and it was a whole different experience! I can't actually say I fell in love with the taste, but I suspect it might be something that you develop a liking for. But I did enjoy them more than I thought I would.

Mostly I love the trees! I love the way the colors change through the season, the really rough and prickly outer shell and the way it cracks open to reveal the fruit inside, all shiny, golden brown like a little hunk of wood that has been carved into a ball and polished to a fine sheen, like tiny pieces of art!

Chestnuts on the ground

Today we were invited by Mirella and her husband Adriano to gather chestnuts with them in the mountains near Lago di Garda. Always eager to go along with our Italian friends when they invite us, we dressed warmly and wore our hiking shoes, as Mirella suggested. Adriano's cousin has a working farm in the mountains where they raise cows and make cheeses. Nestled on the hills around Monte Baldo, they pointed out a stone house high on the ridge above where they take the cows to be milked and where they make the cheese we later sampled. In the photos it looks like a little fortress, complete with rounded tower and window slits.

We left their car at the house and continued further up the mountain in a 4-wheel drive jeep and stopped at a clearing where the floor of the forest was densely covered with the fuzzy castagne we were hunting. Mirella instructed us as to which ones to gather and which to leave behind, looking for little holes that signaled the presence of "guests" (ospiti, in Italian) - meaning pests that had bored their way into the fruit. It was kind of hard on my back to keep bending over to pick them and up and not always easy to tell if there was a "guest" inside. I was sure that many of the ones I gathered would probably have to be rejected later and I wasn't altogether wrong.

Here's Mirella, gathering chestnuts (castagne)

It was fun though and afterwards we walked along a forest path and came upon some guys who were hang gliding over the edge of this mountain towards the lake below. Yesterday it had rained and today it was still a bit cloudy and a layer of fog hung over the lake, the tops of the mountain on the other side poking up through it, wearing this layer of white like a fluffy scarf wrapped around its neck.

Monte Baldo, engulfed in fog

When they had gathered enough, Adriano and their daughter Lisa drove back to the house and Mirella, Bob and I walked the short distance enjoying being in the woods, the tall pine trees above us and the changing colors of fall all around, autumn leaves underfoot, sidestepping the muddy patches and cow pies. We talked about different foods of the area, she asked what we liked, what we ate in the U.S., what the specialties of the Veneto and also just walked along in silence partly just enjoying the day and partly just taking a break from the effort of communicating and trying to understand each other. I have to admit by the end of a day like this we are pretty wiped out from thinking in another language and working hard to understand. Mirella is very patient with us and tries very hard to make sure we get what she is saying and encourages us to ask her to clarify if we do not. We have learned a lot from her patience and eagerness to share her knowledge of the secrets of this particular area she was born in and knows so well.

Autumn leaves in the forest

Back at the house we ate a little sandwich of fresh, homemade porchetta (yummm) on a nice crispy roll and a glass of wine and were given two hunks of the fresh cheese Adriano's cousins' cows produce. Not to mention munching on fresh apples that grew on the trees scattered all throughout their property. Mirella and Adriano put a large helping of the castagne we had gathered into a bag for us to take home along with instructions on how to reject the bad ones (put them in water and the bad ones will rise to the top! The ones that sink are good); how to slit the tops and roast them in the oven and how to spread them out and let them dry a bit. We hope we remember everything they told us!

They dropped us off at our apartment well after dark and we were quite exhausted! We didn't even have dinner, just a glass of wine and a piece of my "cockeyed" chocolate cake. I fell asleep on the sofa and then poured myself into bed. Once again I have to say, I can't believe we have to say goodbye to these wonderful people who have been so generous of their time and their lives and we will miss them all very much when the times comes - all too soon - to leave!

Apples tree at Adriano’s cousins’ home in the mountains near Verona

Buona notte!
Rosemary e Robert

Salame di Cioccolato

This is a chocolate salami. We had been told about this from Laura and we were skeptical about what it might be like, like would it be sort of a minced meat thing that had chocolate in it? Was it really salami meat mixed with chocolate?? It sounded too strange! Mirella, Giorgio's sister made one and presented it to us on the night we went to Giorgio and Laura's house for dinner. Wrapped in white paper, it looked like a salami, more than 12" long! There is no meat involved, it is all chocolate and bits of cookies, formed in the shape of a salami, just for fun I guess! I have seen other recipes that included dried fruits so I assume everyone has their way of doing it. This one seemed pretty simple and I am going to try to get the recipe from Mirella.

Salami di Cioccolato, wrapped in white paper

The Salami, sliced

Flavio Fossato, Veronese artist and his work

Flavio is a life-long friend of Giorgio, our landlord and friend, here in Verona. Giorgio wanted us to meet him and see his art and his studio. We were incredibly impressed at not only the craftsmanship and knowledge of this maestro, whose replicas of historic and ancient weapons and tools are in many museums in Italy, including the Ice Man exhibit in Bolzano* and the Natural History Museum in Verona, but with his passion and humility. He is a retired mechanic who creates crossbows, longbows, swords, arrows, axes, knives, armour and clothing, historically accurate in materials and workmanship. Not only that, he is a champion archer and teacher of medieval archery and swordsmanship. An amazing guy. He lives simply, doesn't do this for money (which is why he doesn't have a website) but does it for the love of the craft and the traditions he helps to pass on.

Flavio, with one of the tools which would have been used by the Ice Man of Bolzano 5300 years ago.

One of Flavio's knives handmade from bone, leather and natural stone

Trophies in his studio for archery and craftsmanship of his tools and weapons

Replica of the copper headed axe of the Ice Man of Bolzano

Flavio demonstrates the medieval longbow, hitting the target each time

*We visited the Ice Man exhibit at the South Tyrol Museum in Bolzano earlier this summer. A 5300 year-old glacier mummy commonly known as "Otzi" was found in this area in 1991, perfectly preserved with his clothing and equipment. The museum offers visitors a glimpse of what life must have been like in this prehistoric period. To see more, visit their website www.iceman.it

Monday, October 23, 2006

Laura & Giorgio and family

This is Mirella and Adriano, their daughters Anna and Lisa and of course, Laura and Giorgio, on the night they invited for dinner and we ate pumpkin risotto and horse!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dinner with Laura & Giorgio 10.21.06

I got home from Richmond on Thursday morning and spent all that day sleeping and resting up from the long flight home. Laura called later in the day and invited us to their house on Friday night for dinner. They had also invited Giorgio's sister Mirella and her family and it was arranged for them to swing by and pick us up since they have a large vehicle and parking is at a minimum in their neighborhood. We ate light on Friday in preparation, knowing we would be treated to a dinner with several courses and anticipated trying some Veronese specialties, including the mysterious "chocolate salami" we've heard so much about. I decided to bake my "cockeyed cake" – a very simple chocolate cake that has long been a family favorite that dates back to our kids' preschool days, since I know that Laura loves anything chocolate. (recipe to follow)

Right on time, at 8pm, Mirella, her husband Adriano and their two beautiful daughters, Anna and Lisa picked us up and we drove together the short distance to Laura and Giorgio's, where Giorgio was busy stirring his pumpkin risotto and the table was set for 8. Bottles of wine, water and soda were set out on the table and after kisses of greeting all around we were all asked to take our places. The risotto was delicious with bits of pumpkin, sprinkled with freshly grated parmigiano cheese. We made Giorgio promise to give us the recipe. This primi piatti was followed by the secondo of "carne cavallo" - horsemeat! This was the first time Bob and I had tried this although we have seen it in the markets everywhere, from Perugia to Sicily. Giorgio has raved about it and Laura told us that it is really healthy for you, low in fat and cholesterol and more tender and easier to digest than beef, although it is similar in texture. Giorgio is the "chef" in the family and cooked this meat to perfection, slicing it thin and quickly sautéing it with radicchio so that the slices were still pink in the centers and it was served with a flavored oil to be drizzled on and topped with little slivers of fresh parmegiano. They also served the meat ground, raw, with a tasty sauce of garlic and capers and was surprisingly wonderful, if to us Americans, kind of a strange thing, eating horsemeat, and raw at that. The meal was rounded off with fresh green beans, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, and the most delicious roasted red peppers and crusty rolls.

The "chocolate salami" was wonderful and Mirella promised to give me the recipe for it. It consists of a chocolate mixture filled with pieces of biscotti and formed in the shape of a salami and sliced. Yummy. Everyone seemed to like my chocolate cake too.

Coffee and liquors followed and then out came the gifts! We were totally surprised when Giorgio handed a wrapped present to Bob and it turned out to be two shirts from Roberto, the firefighter Bob met on his trip to the fire station last week. He is thrilled to have two shirts that say "Vigile del Fuoco" (basically, "Fire department", in Italian) embroidered on them. These are clearly shirts that belonged to Roberto that he wanted Bob to have. Another visit to the fire station is in order, for Bob to go and thank Roberto for his generosity.

Laura's parents arrived in time for dessert and the gift giving and I was immensely touched when her father presented me with one of his oil paintings of Juliet's balcony as a remembrance of our time in Verona. Bob had made prints of a photo he took of a pretty tower reflected in the water the day we went with them to the Po Delta that he gave to Signore Dal Bianco (Laura's dad) and he seemed equally thrilled to have it. Bob had also made some prints of photos he had taken of the family and so all in all it was a lovely evening of sharing and giving and getting to know each other a little bit better.

Giorgio brought out his map book and we showed them where we lived in America, talked about our earlier journey, from New York to Arizona and where our families lived, scattered across the country. We find that Italians are always surprised to see how far apart our family lives – our son in Richmond, Virginia; daughter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; brother in Florida (but who works in New York and commutes home on weekends – this really is a strange concept for them!) and my sister in Colorado. I have cousins from New York to California and we don’t get to see each other often. Here in Italy, it is mostly as it was when we were growing up. Families live in close proximity to each other and maintain friendships for life. They tell us this is changing now, as kids go away to school in other parts of Italy and remain there. Like Elio and Giovanna in Sicily, whose sons went to school in Milan and Lake Como. They were concerned that they might not want to return to Ragusa after they had been in the north, where there were more opportunities for better jobs, etc.

It is late now as I finish writing this post. I am thinking of all my friends that I have left behind and hoping everything is going well with them and their families. I am hoping we can maintain our friendships as the years come and go, in spite of the distance between us. Being away as we have now for these past 20 months has put that into question, knowing they are busy with their lives and it is not the same as when you are across the street and down the block and it takes more of an effort to keep in touch. I get homesick for them sometimes and miss our conversations. I have enjoyed so much meeting all the people we have met and our Italian gets better all the time. But still, it is challenging to communicate and really get to know someone when you don’t have a good command of the language. I know that we have made some wonderful connections here that I also hope to maintain. We have extended invitations for all of our Italian friends to come and visit us in the United States and really hope they will some day, when their lives permit that kind of vacation. We look forward to showing them our piece of America as they have shown us their individual regions in Italy. It has indeed been our pleasure and we can’t wait to see what comes next!

Rosemary and Bob

Now here’s that recipe:


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9” cake pan

Mix dry ingredients together:
1-1/2 cups flour
3 TBLS cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt

5 TBLS vegetable oil
1 TBLS apple vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

Then add 1 cup cold water

Stir it all together till smooth. Bake for about a half hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Top with chocolate frosting if desired. Here in Italy, I used Nutella!

Welcome visitors from afar!

This week's award for the most exotic visitor to our blog goes to Tamil Nadu, Madras, India! We have now had over 1,000 visitors since we started counting at the end of August 2006! Wow! Thanks to all of you out there reading and following our adventures along with us. We appreciate it very much.

Rosemary & Bob

Rosemary's Trip to Richmond

Clouds shot from the airplane

Leaves are starting to turn beautiful shades of autumn in Richmond

At the park with Kyla

She really loves going to the park with her Daddy. And isn't she just adorable?

Richmond: My trip to the states 10.21.06

After deciding that it would save us money for me to fly home with the things we wanted to send, we bought the tickets and packed our bags. Everything we wanted to ship home fit in the two large black suitcases that have been our traveling companions since we left the states more than 18 months ago. When Bob talked with the airline before we left, they told us the maximum weight for bags was 43 kilos each. We borrowed a scale from Giorgio and Laura and made sure we didn't exceed that limit. We loaded Bob's 4x5 camera and accessories that he hasn't really used since he bought his new digital camera, my easel that didn't see much use either as it turned out to be more clunky to carry around than I realized and in the small apartments we've had, ended up more often folded up in a corner than in use, plus a bunch of summer clothes and souvenirs, including our beautiful mortar and pestle that Esther made for us. Just to be on the safe side, we planned to bring an empty suitcase to the airport, in case our system of weights and measures was inaccurate after all. (Get on the scale, see how much I weighed, then get on again with the bag!) I bought a small duffle bag thing as a carry on and filled it with the journals and paintings I have done up to now and wanted to take home at this point. We had considered sending them home via FedEx or some other secure transport company but was happier to be able to hand carry them myself, knowing they would safely arrive that way.

Racing through the Airport

For some reason, we thought the trip to Milan was shorter than it really is - I guess there was no traffic the day we picked up our daughter and her husband earlier this summer - but what we expected to take only an hour and a half, was more like 3. Fortunately, we always plan to leave enough time for all the security checks and what not, but even at that we were scrambling. The signage at the airport left a lot to be desired. In most large cities there are signs leading to the airport telling you which airlines are in which terminals but here, there were no such signs. And to be running late and have no help whatsoever in finding our way was disconcerting to say the least. Finally we found the right one, Bob dropped me at the door to go and check in while he parked. I was struggling with the suitcases when he came running in and at the same time a representative of the airline was telling me that my bags were too heavy and I couldn't even pay a fee to cover the excess weight, they simply would not accept such heavy bags! Bob ran back to the car (which was illegally parked outside the terminal) to get the third bag and we hurriedly shifted a bunch of stuff from the heavier bags to the spare bag and all was well.

By this time the flight was close to boarding and we raced through the airport to get to the gate, stopping at security where Bob asked if I could bypass the long line since my flight was boarding and getting dirty looks from everyone in line! We said a quick goodbye as I went through the metal detectors, removing my shoes and answering their questions about toothpaste or other liquids I might be carrying and proceeding through to board the bus that took us all to the gate halfway around the airport! I could finally relax since it was obvious that this entire bus was filled with people boarding my flight and I managed to be right on time!

A Long Flight to Richmond

A crazy flight plan never seems so when you are checking fares online and trying to get the best price. This one was no exception. My cheap fight was a non-stop to Philadelphia from Milan, with a stop in New York before arriving in Richmond, Virginia. A direct flight from Philadelphia to Richmond is only about 40 minutes, but routing through New York added at least 3 or 4 hours to the whole itinerary which seems ridiculous but that was what I did. The worst part of it was that I had started to get a cold earlier in the week that I was trying my best to fight with whatever over-the-counter medicines and vitamins I could find, to no avail. By the time I took my seat in the center of the large plane with a man on either side of me, the coughing began. I was a mess. The cold meds were doing very little and I was really miserable. As I am sure they were as they kept trying to look the other way. I felt terrible to be spreading all my germs, plus I just felt miserable. It was a long flight to Philadelphia!

A Surprise at the Airport!

The cool thing was, when I got off the plane in Richmond - and I was literally the last one off, wanting to wait until everyone left so I could drag my sick body slowly out of the plane, there was Chris walking towards me and at his side, her tiny hand wrapped around his large one, was my little granddaughter Kyla! It was so sweet to see the two of them together and she recognized me from the photos Chris and her mom Kim had showed her. She gave me a very sweet hug and said "hi Grandma." I just cried! I tried not to breath on her for fear of spreading my illness to her.

We loaded my heavy bags into his car and headed home to Chris's sweet little townhouse apartment. She chatted the whole way home in her carseat in the back of the car and Chris answered her and talked with her about what she was telling us.

What I did in Richmond

The next day Chris took me to the doctor's office where they diagnosed me with an upper respiratory infection, bronchitis and a sinus infection and prescribed strong antibiotics and cough medicine that started working right away and the horrible cough subsided. It was really frustrating to be sick at this point, since this is the first time I have been sick since we left the states in February 2005 and it had to be right now! Chris was scheduled to have Kyla for the weekend so it was my goal to just rest up, sleep and get better by the weekend and that was what I did. I slept all day, took my drugs, watched all my favorite old movies on TV (including "An Affair to Remember" and "West Side Story") and by Saturday was much better, although still not back to normal, felt well enough to play and talk with Kyla and we had fun going to the park and just hanging out together. She is smart and funny, loves to play in the water in the sink, to go down the slides at the park, to read books and do puzzles and color with crayons and markers. She loves Dora the Explorer and especially Diego and his pal, the monkey Boots. She likes to play hide and seek outside Chris's apartment and is still little enough to think if she can't see you, you can't see her and it was absolutely adorable to watch. It is obvious that she and Chris adore each other and everything seems to be working out well for all of them. We got together with Kim and Shea and Kim's other two kids Brandon and Megan and went out for pizza and that was fun too. All in all I was very glad I had gone and now look forward to the future when Bob and I can see more of our son and granddaughter and be more part of their lives.

Feeling like an Alien

The week went by very quickly. By Tuesday I felt well enough to venture out and as it was raining, I took a cab to one of Richmond’s museums (the Virginia Historical Museum, as the Art Museum was closed). I had lunch in a little local restaurant and had it not be soggy out, I would have walked around more. But just getting over bronchitis, it didn’t seem like a very good idea and I went back to Chris’s house to wait for him to come home with Kyla who would spend some time that evening with us. That was fun and she gave me a big hug and kiss goodbye. That was hard, knowing it would be another five months until I saw her again.

I felt a bit like Mork (the “outer space” character Robin Williams played on TV!) and very much an alien being in a strange land. My brother asked me once when we were living in Perugia if I felt like I was still a tourist or if I really felt like I lived here. At that time I had said more like a tourist since we did more touristy things, didn't work or own a home etc but I have to say that after having been in Italy now over 18 months I do feel like I live here. Like Italy is my home. Even though we have lived in different areas and moved around, not really set down any "roots" it still feels very much like home to me and I don't know how I will feel when the time comes to leave it. It will be difficult. Knowing we will go back to the states and be able to see our children and granddaughter, our friends and family more often will be a great thing but still, I know a part of me will be here in Italy and I wonder how I will feel not being here in this beautiful country we call home.

A domani,
Rosemary e Roberto

p.s. Still nothing final in Amalfi and I'm getting pretty anxious! Keep your fingers crossed we find something this week. We are scheduled to leave Verona on the first of November so it's getting a little crazy.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

16 Oct 2006 The artist and his art

Virginio Ferrari

The former military complex Arsenale

One of the early works of Virginio Ferrari

His studio was quite full of his art.

Rosemary enjoyed talking with him while I wandered around the studio .

Monday, October 16, 2006

16 Oct. 2006 Staying a long time in one place has advantages.

This past Monday, October 9th, Rosemary and I wandered around Verona again. One of the nicest part of staying in an area for months is that we get to explore the backstreets. We have found some of the best parts of Italy away from the tourist areas.
Across Ponte Scaligero in the Borgo Trento Quartiere (one of the neighborhoods) is a former military complex called Arsenale that resembles a fort. In the US I think this is an Armory. The Arsenale is a series of buildings set around three large courtyards most of the buildings are two stories high, some are warehouses, some offices and some are meeting/conference halls. Today many of these are derelict and in desperate need of saving. Fortunately, some have already been renovated and are owned by different clubs, artists or art groups and many are city social agencies’ offices.
As is usual for us we were lucky this day to find an artist in his studio. I think he was waiting for friends from Paris to arrive, which they did while we were there. Peeking in a door I saw many large sculptures and as always I was hesitant to just enter but too intrigued to not do so. Stepping in I saw a man and asked the question “permesso?” to which he replied, “Please come in”. I still don’t know how they know so quickly that we are not natives. He introduced himself and told us that he lived in the US and taught at the University of Chicago. He still maintains a full studio in Chicago as well as this one in Verona his city of birth.
As we walked around the studio I was very moved by the power and expression of his art. I always hate to use this phrase but “it spoke to me”. I felt an energy and vitality that is (for me) usually missing in large metal sculpture. I freely admit to a bias toward metal sculpture but this work would have impressed me regardless of my predisposition to the format. He had works dating back to the 60’s up to today and it was fascinating to see how he responded to changes in society and culture. I am not certain if he was a leader of art movements or influenced by them but they were there to see like my history classes come to life. He had maquettes for large installation projects in American and Europe and pieces sold and unsold covering most of the available space in his studio and office but still had a project in process on his worktable. I would have enjoyed watching him work but it was not a workday for him, next time hopefully. When his friends arrived we said good-bye and left but not before giving him our business card for our blog.

His name is Virginio Ferrari and his work can be seen at: www.virginioferrarisculptor.com

Sunday, October 15, 2006

15 Oct 2006 Visit to the Verona Fire Station

The Verona Fire Station. In Italian Caserma. This is only about one third of the station and it is three stories in some areas. There are about six boats, three ladder trucks, two command vans, a tractor trailor to carry the earth moving vehicles and many other types of apparatus. In addition to what you see here.

This is Roberto.

This is a decontamination trailer pulled by the truck on the right. It contains various chemical agents, neutralizers and tools used to decontaminate people and places. Roberto was telling us that the hardest part of being in Haz Mat is the different mind set necessary to work with chemicals. As a firefighter the training is to hurry to put out the fire but as a Haz Mat Tech it is important to wait and analyze the situation thouroughly. He said that many times when he arrives the first thing he has to do is to decontaminate the firefighters already at the scene. I told him that this was also my experience. Giorgio appreciated that this situation is universal.

Some of the tools used in decontamination.

15 October 2006

These are remote controlled earth moving vehicles. Used for large fires, floods and building collapse.

Thier indoor gymnasium, notice the rock climbing wall and rope climbing wall. It is not just for play.

The station has a fully stocked Italian style coffee bar.

One of the many specializations on the department is to be a dispatcher. They are all firefighters first and ten of the men/women have trained and tested to be a dispatcher. They take turns working the desk and when not doing this they respond to emergency calls. I was surprised to learn that they receive no additional pay for their special skills. Roberto told me that after 15 years and many special skills he gets the same pay as new firefighter hired last year.

Giorgio riding in the back seat of the newest fire truck.