Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas festivities

We have had many Christmas events this season.

Our first Christmas event was at the little theater here in Umbertide the Teatro di Riuniti.
There were 3 plays presented in English (!) by the three fifth grade classes. The performances were very sweet, with music, dancing and singing.  I understood most of the English which was quite a feat for 9 and 10 year olds.  The plot of all 3 skits was that money can't buy happiness, so it is a good thing to appreciate friends, family and good food!  I loved it!!!

Next we had a Christmas party at our school Lingua in Corso.  Our teachers are so much fun.  We were supposed to invite family, so we invited Joseph and Paul to join us. This is me and my sweet teacher Eleanora.

We played Trombolone.  A game that is the brother of Bingo according to our teacher. In this game, everyone wins.

This is Illaria holding up the prize.  I think she looks like an elf!

We had Christmas dinner at Joseph and Paul's new home.  It is so very beautiful.  

Here is the dining room set up for all of us.  The room was as beautiful as the food was delicious.  All in all it was a memorable first Italian Christmas.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas in Italy

I asked the women in my English class what they thought was the difference between an American and an Umbrian Christmas. (In respect to my friend, Simone, from Milan, I will now try to strike Italian and use Umbrian when I am describing my experiences here.) The class was stumped, probably because they had never experienced an American Christmas.  I said, from what you see you your TV programs, what do you think is the difference? They decided that the main thing was probably that Christmas is more religious in Umbria. That pretty much sums it up. I asked if they had Santa Claus deliver presents at Christmas.  They said now they do, but when they were kids they didn't have Santa Claus, it is not an Italian tradition.  Did they have presents on Christmas day? Yes.  Who delivered them?  The baby Jesus.  For some reason the image of this cracked me up.  No more silly than flying reindeers but the thought of the baby Jesus whizzing around...

Here are some things that I have noticed about Christmas in Umbria:
1.  People don't have live Christmas trees…unless they are  wrapped in a big linen ball and ready to be planted. The tradition of tromping off to a Christmas tree farm, taking the tree out of the lot into the car, finding that it is too high for the ceiling, having to whack away at it so it will fit in the Christmas stand, doesn't seem to be an Umbrian tradition.  We have one huge live Christmas in our main piazza.It is beautiful with bright blue lights.   Watching them bring that tree in through the arch, stand it up with one of the cranes, and putting its base in place is one of my December joys.

2.  Not too many Christmas wreaths on the doors.  I brought my wreath hanger from Oakland, anxious to put up my Christmas wreath.  Several problems.  First the outside door, is everyone's door and is about 5,000 years old.  Second, my own personal door is heavy enough to withstand a medieval battering ram.  The wreath hanger is way too small.  I could put a nail in my door and hang it, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. No Christmas wreath. Maybe next year I will figure a way to hang in in the window.

 I joined the crowd and got an artificial Christmas tree. The Stoic One calls it a Christmas twig.

3. There are not a lot of Christmas cards for sale, and the ones I found are all really tacky and in English.  Hmmm. I started making my own cards, using iPhoto and pictures we had taken.

4.  Christmas does not feel like a frenzy here.  There are Christmas concerts, the stores are open longer but it feels pretty calm and easy. The big thing about Christmas in Umbria is FOOD!

What a surprise.  So when I was a kid, we used to get boxes of Panettone sent to us in Michigan.  By the time it arrived, it redefined dry.  Even with ice cream and whipped cream, we pretty much couldn't eat it.  So I viewed the Panettone here with a bit of suspicion. The woman at the rosticerie gave me a taste, and it was delicious.  Can't wait for Adelle to get here tomorrow so we can open it!

I did get another little tree for the family room. It looks like it is growning out of the urn.

The big festivity here is making a presepio (nativity scene).  There are major competitions for who has the best ones.  They even have living nativity scenes with the baby Jesus put in on Christmas Day. Manuele said they have animals and everything.  I asked if they had camels, and he looked at me as if I were daft.  No, he said, they have Umbrian animals.  Right.
Here is my presepio that I got in Santa Fe New Mexico.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Language mistakes

If you try to speak a foreign language, you will make mistakes. Something happens in the distance between the cognitive part of the brain, and the mouth.  I know my basic verb conjugations, at least in the present tense, but as I begin to have a conversation, I find myself automatically speaking in either first or third person singular.  Yikes. Forget about "we" or "they" as subjects.

So my first major mistake in Italian happened at a small furniture store in the next town.  I had practiced asking to see a sofa by the brand name of Berlonni.  (Vorrei vedere un divano di Berlonni.) I practiced and practiced this sentence.  When I got to the store, I said, "Vorrei vedere il divino Berlusconi." Which translates to I would like to see the divine Berlusconi.  The poor shop keeper had no idea what to say.  I was the first American he had met, and he didn't want to disappoint me, but….Producing Berluscsoni would be more than difficult. I saw the stricken look on his face, retraced my words, trying to figure out my mistake.  I realized I had mixed up the words divino and divano, and so I next asked for a Berlusconi sofa.  I must say this didn't help much. Eventually we came to terms and he understood me.  (His daughter who speaks some English had her back to me and I could see her little shoulders heaving up and down, I presume in laughter not disgust.)  Anyway I got the sofa ordered and we call it the divino divano Berlusconi.

Manuele is an expert at interpreting my mistakes, changing my verb tenses and filling in vocabulary that I don't know. This is both a help and a hinderance to me.  One time I screeched at him telling him to wait until I found the right pronoun.  ugh.

Anyway our friends have finally gotten an approval on their mortgage.  This is a major deal in Italy, and took the intervention of Manuele and prayers from the priest across the street.  Our friends went to the notaio to have all of their documents certified before they went to the bank to sign final papers.

The next morning, my friend called me and said he had to pay 300E to the mafia in order to get the loan.  What?  Who said that?  All of them said it, he responded.  We had no choice.  Were they speaking English or Italian?  They were speaking Italian but they used the word protection and mafia, and being from New Jersey,  I know what that means.

Good grief.  I went immediately to Manuele and asked if I had paid the same payment that my friends had made.  He said yes. I said I paid 300 E to the mafia and you didn't tell me?  He stared at me blankly with that Manuele look and said, what are you talking about?  I went through the entire thing again about the 300e and the mafia.  He shook his head and said it was a "TAX" for the ANTI Mafia laws.  They wanted to make sure my friends were not themselves in the mafia.  Oh, I said.  Can I put this in my blog? Yes, this you can put in the blog.

So, be careful to hear the entire phrase.  It is so easy just to pick out the words we understand.   
  • In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into Schweppes Toilet Water.1
  • Instructions on a packet of convenience food from Italy: "Besmear a backing pan, previously buttered with a good tomato sauce, and, after, dispose the cannelloni, lightly distanced between them in a only couch.".3
  • In a Rome laundry: Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Italian: friends and language

Living in a small town in Umbria has its delights as well as challenges. One of the delights is the making of Italian friends.  I know many Americans have struggled with this, but I think it is a language problem more than Italians being closed off to Americans.  In my small town, the people here are very curious about the United States.  I will talk about something, like Thanksgiving, and they will get a far away look in their eyes and say, oh, yes, I saw that on t.v.  It is strange to have one's life reduced to a TV show, kind of like that movie with Peter Sellers, "Being There." The America that the Italians know is in the same idealized world that exists for Americans who come to Italy as tourists. As we say constantly these days, "strano" srtange.

What is not strange is the make up of the character of people I have met in Umbertide.  They are generous with everything but money and I think they would be generous with that if they had more of it. One of the store owners in town asked us to a party last night.  She said that there would be snacks and things to drink.  As in many things here, we had no idea what was going on.  The apartment was in our old building on the first floor.  I had never been inside.  It was amazing once I stepped through the doors.  Much bigger than I had expected.  At one time it had been a club for gambling I think.  Anyway, the new owner (who had been in litigation over the ownership of the apartment for 35 years(!) was celebrating the fact that he now owned the place.  The food, such a wide assortment, was wonderful.  People were friendly, happy, dancing. The music was so loud, we couldn't stay.  It was impossible to hear anything.

Before the party I had the English class that Joseph and I teach for anyone who shows up.  He took the beginning group and I took the more advanced group. One of the exercises was to put in order a paragraph about going through a fast food drive through.  They struggled a bit, which I thought was strange since they had easily done more complicated work.  It suddenly occurred to me to ask, "Have any of you ever gone through a drive through for food?"  No, they shyly answered.  There is a McDonals's in Perugia but that is the only one in our region of Umbria.  Never having gone through a drive through for food, they really didn't know the sequence of ordering.  Oh, my.  Cultural differences.

On the way out of the lesson, my good friend Manuele stopped me to tell me he had a surprise for me.  While I was in class, he had his workers paint the top floor of the building of our old apartment.  I was so happy!  It had been bothering me for 3 years, but I didn't know how to get it done.  It seemed so complicated.  I don't own the space.  There is a skylight that is way up at the top and filthy.  Everytime I came into the apartment I would get mad just looking at it. I asked Manuele about it in the morning, and by the evening it was done!  Painted and cleaned up. He didn't ask any one about it, he just did it. Having Italian friends is vital to the existence here.  Making them may be difficult but it is more than worth the effort.

So now about the language.  There are some very funny things about the Italian language.  One is there no special verb for "owe". They use "I ought" to pay you which really is quite different than the English understanding of the word to owe.  Next results is a verb as well as a noun in Italian.  The significance of this goes without saying.  For me I am very happy with the "results" of the corridor being painted. Hurray.  A Christmas Miracle. I said this to Manuele, and he said, yes, like the movie Miracle on 34th street….right…..

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanksgiving in Italy 2013

We delayed celebrating Thanksgiving until Sunday so that we could all gather together without stress and enjoy one another's company.  We had 8 people at dinner.  Two Italians who had never experienced Thanksgiving before and 6 Californians who have transferred to Italy.

I was awakened to this sky in the morning. The skies in Umbria are like the "girl with the kaleidoscope eyes." Always changing. The sky seems so much wider than California. Because of the lack of pollution the colors are vivid and constantly changing.  The sky made me stop and admire it  and give thanks for being alive.  It was an auspicious beginning!

We had a wonderful time.  Anna and John came over from Lucca.  I met them because of this blog. We have been living parallel lives for years but did not know it.  They also sold their home in Oakland this year and have transferred here. We met them once in California and once in Italy.  They came for the week end and It was as if we had known them forever.

Anna made Martha Stewart's Mile High Pie. It was as delicious as it looks.

Although there are no fresh cranberries in Italy that we could find, Anna found red currants and cooked them and they were excellent.

Joseph and Paul ordered the turkey at the market and brought it over.  Paul is a vet and his stitches were very neat!

This Italian turkey was very tasty.  It's legs were thin but most people eat only white meat so that was not a problem. The two Italians at the table had two comments.  We had the dinner at 3:00 as we do in the US.  This totally flummoxed the Italians, who said 1'clock would have been better.  We smiled and agreed. The second comment was they loved the food.  I think they were as surprised as we were that they thought the food was good.  This is saying a lot because they are really picky about what they eat!

I set the table using all the fancy stuff.  I have used the china, crystal and silver more in Italy in the last month than I did in the US for the last 10 years!  Really.

I fixed a pumpkin pie and took over pieces to the Babucci's.  It caused quite a stir as the Italians have never eaten pumpkin as a dessert.  I think it passed the test although it would have been better with whipped cream. We have green beans, roasted cauliflower, apple chutney and dressing.  It felt like a normal Thanksgiving and yet different, like all of Italy for me now.

So some notes on gratefulness.  We went around the table and everyone expressed a gratitude for friends, old and new.  In addition I acknowledged that I am grateful that my health has been good and I feel strong and able.  I am also very grateful for the ability to have this Italian adventure.  I am grateful for the vision of it, the planning of it and the ability to pull it all off.  I am grateful for all of my good fortune and most of all my good friends, including the Stoic One who even at this moment is working on his Italian!

Living in Umbria makes me aware of the importance of relationships.  People here don't have much money and so they must rely on one another to help in times of need.  It is again as if I have dropped into another era when life was slower, money was less and the world revolved around building and keeping friendly alliances.  At this point, I couldn't feel more at home.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Italy the good and the bad

We had our first snow of the season this morning.  I woke up to a gray world with white feathered accents.  Usually I like that color combination, but I this morning it did not look chic only cold!

You are probably thinking I am a California girl complaining about the cold. However, I spent the first 18 years of my life in Michigan, so I am used (or at least used to be used to) snow and cold, ma (but) this cold is really bitter. The wind, particularly in Perugia, whips right through your skin.  As we walk through the old stone buildings, I can imagine how many people have shivered their way up the hill.

So Italy the good and the bad.  Let's talk about the good.  No it isn't the snow.  Italy the good goes like this.  I was out of my cholesterol medicine.  I thought I had another bottle secreted away but I didn't.  I have a doctor assigned to me, but I haven't been to him yet because the hours always seem to be in conflict with my school hours.  So I ask my Italian friend Barbara if she thinks the pharmacist would take my American prescription and fill it.  Who knows she says, and off we go to see if if will work. When we get to the pharmacy, her friend isn't there, but another kind woman is.  Barbara asks if they could fill my prescription.  The pharmacist says yes we have this medicine.  She asks me who my doctor is in Umbertide. I give her the name, she hands over 85 pills, no charge, and tells me to come back later and tell me where I fit on the "Fasccio di reditto".  Ok, I say. I find out later that this Fasccio di Reditto is a hierarchy of income and depending where you fit, is what you pay.  She said since I didn't know the answer, I could tell her later when I found out.

Now several things.  Picture yourself in any major city in the United States.  You have a foreign prescription but you are a legal resident.  You ask if the prescription can be filled without an American doctors prescription?  Right! Could they fill it for no money until you figure out what you may owe, since you have no insurance? Double right. I imagine there are some people out there thinking, and this is WHY Italy is in so much financial trouble.  Maybe….maybe not. There are many ways to spend money.

Italy the bad on the other hand is a bureaucracy that is insane.  We have been trying to get the Stoic One all of the documents that he needs to get a more permanent visa so he can stay and not have to go off to Russia for 10 days..(his and Manuele's fantasy.)  So since I am an Italian citizen, the documents should be easier….one of the documents we needed was our original marriage certificate translated into Italian, which we had!!!!  So we take said document and translation to the office and they say, this document was completed in 1987…correct the year we were married.  It is too old they say.  "Como?" I say.  What do you mean too old.  Well, how do we know you have not gotten divorced since this document?  You're kidding right? The look on his face told me he was not kidding. The problem is I could prove it if I were divorced but I can't prove that I am still married. You may trip down the logical path of if I were divorced would I be in Italy, selling all my things, buying an apartment, but then you would be thinking like an American.  Oh, mamma mia.  Ok, what to do?  Well, they answer,  you need to write to Vigo di Cadore where your family is from and where you were registered and ask them to verify you are married.  I agree.  However, I have never even been to Vigo di Cadore.  They wouldn't know me from a jack rabbit, but so it goes. We call Vigo di Cadore, they do remember all of the paper work of my citizenship and they agree to send said document to us.

The word for the day is fuggi…RUN!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Festa di Santa Cecilia

Today is November 22nd.  At 3:15 this am, I heard some unusual sounds coming from the back of the apartment. You know that feeling when you are sleeping and have to make the decision whether you should wake up and investigate or go back to sleep?  So I decided to go back to sleep when I heard a trombone playing a warm up scale…What?  Am in the twilight zone?

I rouse myself and go into the living room to look out the window. There underneath our window is a brass band, in a circle playing a song that was vaguely familiar, but I don't know the name.  I look around to see if other neighbors are checking out this serenade, but nothing. It is totally quiet in the piazza. A young boy who was with the band, saw my face in the window and waved to me.  I waved back. The band then broke into the song "Tanti Auguri" which is the same melody as "Happy Birthday".  We heard them leave the piazza and continue tooting their music as they went marching along.  The Stoic One was up by this time and said, What the ????was that?  I had no clue.

So I met up with Manuele, and said did you hear the music last night….oh yes, he answers.  I say, what was that?  He said it happens every year on Nov. 22nd everywhere in Italy. (This was news to my Italian teachers in Perugia who had no such sleep interruption.)  Anyway here in Umbertide, it is the way that St. Cecelia is celebrated.  She is the patron saint of music so the community bands honor her by waking everybody up….ok….

So this is remarkable for 2 reasons.  1.  Who was the wise guy who thought the saint would be pleased to have every one awakened in her honor?  2.  This is the first Italian celebration I have seen where there was no…..Food!!!

Italian lessons are going well.  The Stoic One still hates reflexive verbs.  I am continuing to improve, slowly, in my use of the correct tense when I speak.  I am trying to learn two new words a day.  Not doing so well at that.  Do you think we are too old to learn to speak Italian fluently?  Probably….but what the heck.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


As a child, I loved the story of Pinocchio.  He did something, lying, that the adults said was terrible, but he seemed like a sweet boy and all that happened was his nose grew long…That was my child rationalization of the story. A sweet child, who told lies, but survived.

I also loved Marionettes.  Like many of my generation, Howdy Doody was my favorite after school show. For Christmas one year I received a Howdy Doody set.  I had Howdy Doody, Mr Buster and Flub a Dub, which looked like a strange dog but was a combination of 8 different animals.  I was ecstatic when I opened the box and saw Howdy.  I wanted to make the marionettes move like the did on TV. I forced my sister to sit in her little red rocking chair while I tried to understand how to work all of the strings, not get them into knots and keep the attention of my baby sister, hopeless! I grew so frustrated, I put them in a box and never really played with them.

So, I have always been intrigued by puppets and marionettes, apparently as are the Italians.

Our lovely teacher Eleanora took us to the puppet theater in Perugia.  The Teatro di Figura; tieffeu.
It was astonishing.  The puppets inside are remarkable.

The man who created the puppets is also the puppet master.  It is astonishing to watch him transform this lifeless creatures into movements of life filled with emotions. Look at the intensity and love on his face.

Here he is with his gallery of friends.  He is so tiny he could be a puppet himself!

He created all of these creatures, and said he had tons more at home.

Italian children learn fables and stories through the use of puppets. Do our children know the Greek myths from puppet shows?

The school we are going to is so cool.  It is very personal and we learn about Italian culture both directly and indirectly.  Even the Stoic One is liking it but he hates reflexive verbs!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Italian Health Care

With so much discussion, anger and frustration about Health Insurance and Health Care in the US, I thought I would share my personal experiences with Italy's health care system.

As an Italian citizen, I am covered for health care at no cost under the public system, called, the national health service, SSN Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, it is administered regionally.Family doctors are paid by the SSN, must offer visiting hours 5 days a week and are limited to 1500 patients. The Italian system is a combination of public services and private services.  Any where along the line you can switch from public to private or vise versa.  The difference is not in the quality of care, but in how long you have to wait for appointments or tests or surgeries, etc. One can get private insurance, which we have not decided if we should get this or not.  Once the Stoic One becomes a "resident" he also will be covered by SSN.  You do not have to be a citizen for this coverage, as a matter of fact the system also covers "illegal aliens".

My experience. I had some vision issues, and was told by my doctors in the US to get to an ophthalmologist immediately.  I got an appointment that day at 8:00 at night.  I had a 2 hour exam, my eyes and retina are fine, and I paid 65E.  Another time, I had a terrible sore throat and Antonietta's doctor came to the house to see me, prescribed antibiotics and would not accept payment.

I have found the doctors in Italy to be attentive, patient, and kind.  I also respect their professionalism. I know that many Italians complain about the system here, but it all depends on your expectations.  In the states I had Kaiser Permanente as my health care provider.  I loved them and I loved my doctors.  I had major trepidation about the health care in Italy as I had had some health issues.  I now have no concerns and believe that if I have a health care problem here, I will be taken care of and I will not go bankrupt and I will continue to be covered even if I am sick.  What a concept!

Socialized medicine in the US is the pejorative term for Universal Health Care.  This is my second experience with this system.  My first experience was as a dependent of someone who was in the military.  Again, I had very good experience and I heard very few complaints.  It is strange what creates fear in us.  The unknown is certainly scary.  When I was going through my own personal health care crisis the Stoic One kept saying to me, what are the facts?  What do you know for sure?  In this current health care debate, I would advise my friends in the US to ask themselves these questions.  What are the facts and what do you personally know for sure.

Anyway, enough about that.  I am happy that I am healthy, the sun is out and it is a beautiful November day in Umbertide.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Italian gym

Ok.  The Stoic One dragged my ever enlarging you know what out into the rain, wind and cold.  Can you tell I was thrilled to go?   I can now report on our first Italian gym experience.  The gym was small, like most things in Italy.  It had a variety of things, but only one piece of equipment per type.  Like only one treadmill, one elypitcal machine etc and no TV!!!
It is located in the new part of town above a rosticerria that we love. I can't imagine the smells wafting up in the afternoon.

The name of the place is Inn Forma….ok…

So Mauro, the sweet owner, puts me on a treadmill, I get to 5 and say "basta."  I think, wow, I'm doing great at this speed.  It hardly feels like 5 miles per hour….I look down, oh about those kilometers…I was doing about 3.0  now wonder it was so easy!

The Stoic One of course was the star.  He was working through the weights and machines like Mr. Universe. I was working with a rubber thing to improve my ankle strength and somehow I broke it.  Don't ask me how.  The Italian dude next to me almost choked laughing as the rubber handle went flying across the room. Sigh..

So this gold machine was the hot ticket.  This is the third woman that came in, got zipped into some foam rubber skirt, then got strapped in.  Since Mauro's explanation of this machine was all in Italian, bear with me, you pick: it was either a machine that would allow you to climb mountains at higher altitude, allow you to swim under water for a long time, or eliminate cellulite.  I have a sneaking suspicion it was number 3.  Note the clock.  We started at 9;00, at 10:10 we were still there!  Hello, 10 minutes past my expiration date. The Stoic One was thrilled.

Luca in the mean time, has taken to rearranging slippers while we are gone.  This is his latest artistic arrangement.

Do you think Italy is wearing off on him?  Note our new carpet.

Now about some art work...

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Recipe for Tiramisu

Our very nice teachers at Lingua in Corso decided it would be good fun if we experienced some Italian things other than grammar! Yeah.

So the first thing we do is make tiramisu.  She had all of the ingredients ready for us and the recipe as well.

There were 4 of us making this.  Each person made a dish for 4-5 people.
Here is the recipe.
3 egg whites
250 gr. of mascarpone
3 egg yolks
4 tables spoons of sugar
"cacao amaro" in powder form
400 gr. of pavesini or savoiardi lady fingers
6 cups of Italian coffee

Mix the marscapone with the egg yolks, add in the sugar, mix and stir very well.
Whip the eggs whites until they form peaks.(We used big glass measuring cups which worked great!)  Fold into the egg yolk and sugar combination.
Dip the lady fingers in coffee..don't soak..shake off any extra liquid.

In an 8X8 pan, put down some of the marscopne cream, just a little.  Then put down a layer of the lady fingers, pressed next to each other. Alternate soaked lady fingers and the cream. End with the cream on the top. Shake the cocoa powder over it. Put in the fridge for 4 hours before serving.

Our teacher said 3 layers is the best. It was delicious and easy! Even I did one.

We had 2 batches, so we gave one batch to the Babucci family.  They ate it all and said it was delicious! Remarkable.  We got them to eat something.

Pastries and Hair

I have been asked what do we do every day?  What is our daily calendar like?  Everyday is so different, it is hard to say.  We do the normal things you would do in the US but it takes twice as long and is in Italian so it is twice as much fun.  We haven't really established a routine yet. I am sure in the months to come we will.

So one thing I had to do was find a hair dresser.  Luckily Joseph met someone who was working at show in London and who lives in a town about 35 minutes from us.  The four of us went off to meet the hair dresser.  The Stoic One went along because he drives, Paul went because Joseph went and Joseph went because he cares about hair and makeup!

It was a fantastic, only in Italy, experience.  First of all, what a surprise, the shop was in constant chaos.  Neighbors stopping, women stopping by to ask hair advise and an 8 year old girl, whose mother lives upstairs, who was bored and wanted to stay in the shop.  Ok, you can kind of picture it.  In the US I take a book or something to read because the shop is quiet, soothing music, a respite from the world…right…ok.  Stefano is the hair dresser and he gave me one of the best cut and colors I have ever had and I have been around a long time!

The shop is in Sansepulcro.  The town is actually in Tuscany.  Another charming medieval town.

So in the US this is the process for a cut and color….shampoo, hair cut with wet hair, hair dry, color put on with foils, weaving your hair with the end of a comb and mixing the colors. Sitting with foil on your head for about 20 minutes, then dry a few more trims, out.  All in all about 2 hours….in Italy.

First of all there is a lot of pushing, pulling your hair this way and that.  Joseph is also there so he adds in that my hair should be layered, enough with the bob look, Stefano agrees, then Stefano talks about the weather, winter is coming, I will be wearing more scarves, high collared sweaters, so all of this effects the length of the back of my hair…then color…many choices, mixes, skin tone…omg. about 40 minutes has gone by and no work has started.  Then the little girl tells Stefano she is bored and wants to comb out a wig, so he goes and gets her a wig to play with.  Joseph decides I am in safe hands so he and Paul and the Stoic One disappear and go to a pastry shop!

There were so many choices, they had a hard time deciding.

Thank god I wasn't with them.  I would have had no resistance.

Ok, back to my hair.  I had a very careful haircut…beautiful…then dry…then grandma comes in and puts the color on…to say I was alarmed understates the situation…then Stefano comes back and twists the colors together, then puts paper wrappers on my hear, then puts me under the heat for 5 minutes except no one pays attention to timers going off, then I was ready…3 hours plus…here are the results..ignore my face which looks like I have been in the sun and eaten too much gelato.

Another day in Umbria.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hazelnuts and Bevagna

We continue to visit the towns in Umbria that have festivals.  Montone's festival was so crowded we couldn't move much less take pictures. Young Italians continue to smoke like maniacs so every time I crossed the piazza, I was sure some fool was going to set me on fire.  Luckily I escaped unsinged.

Bevagna, on the other hand, had few people and not that many hazelnuts.  The word for hazelnuts in Italian is nocciola, if you have ever visited here you may have been subjected to Nutella, which is a combination of chocolate and hazelnuts that most Americans find revolting..So sweet. The company came up with this product in 1964 and it has been a staple in Italian kitchens since.  Although mainly for children, I know of Italian adults who eat it. It sets your teeth on edge it is so sweet.

Maybe we got to Bevagna too late, but we didn't see many hazelnuts.  There was mainly music and people strolling, which was fine with us.  Bevagna is one of my favorite hill towns with a beautiful piazza.  It supposedly was built before Roman times by the Etruscans but was burned down several times. It is a great place just to wander, people watch, listen to music and just hang out.

Italians seem to love American music.  They love jazz, the blues, English rock and roll.  It always surprises me to hear them playing songs I know.

What the band lacked in talent, they made up for in enthusiasm.  They definitely needed a better sound system.

I love looking in store windows and seeing how beautifully they arrange the food.  It looks appetizing on all levels.

Have I mentioned that the Stoic One is a secret romantic?  He captured a young Italian couple having a quiet moment.

Ciao til the next time.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Italian-American dreams

We are one anothers dreams, we Americans and Italians. Not all of us of course, but those that dream of another life, those who in their hearts are travelers not tourists, we have fantasies of foreign places that will satify our restlessness, our search for a life style that would match our dreams. This longing for a difference creates dreams of a place where we are happy, where our restlessness is calmed and our aggitation is settled. Our life in a new place would be more satisfying, more suited to our indivudal make up if only.....

Many young Italians dream of the life style of the U.S. If only they could find a way to work and live in the US, then... For these young people, the US continues to be  the land of opportunity, a place where merit rises above background, heritage, nepotism and stifling bureaucracy. One young Italian woman told me in amazement that she heard that in the U.S. it was possible to have an idea, and people would pay you money to develop it and implement it. It was astonishing to her that such a thing was possible. These young people dream of the freedom of the US, the lifestyle, the ease of technology, the ability to get meaningful work. They wonder what it would be like to live independently, finally, from their parents, to have a home of their own. Their eyes widen at the dream of unfettered freedom,  the ability to make as much money as they could possibly want or need.  They are Midas before the gift.

Many Americans dream of the life style of Italy.  A country of wonderful food, and wine, music, art and culture. It is our Elysium Fields, a place where everything in life is sensual, delicious, and dolce. Italy is the land of perpetual vacation, where the music makes us happy, the people are satisfied with small things, and "mamma" has the answer for everything and can fix everything.  The laws here don't apply to us.  Stop lights can be ignored. If we miss our exit on the autostrada we can back up and not be killed. Life in Italy is the oyster and we are living our own personal pearl.  Such is the American dream about Italy.

How did we come to have such dreams about one another?  Why don't Italians dream about Canada? Why don't Americans dream about Switzerland? What is it about our own lack of meaning that makes the other life style so seductive in our dreams? Italy and the US; the Yin and the Yang. Complementary, not opposing forces of life, desire, and dreams. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Italian School; Lingua in Corso

The Stoic One and I have just completed our first week of Italian classes.  I am finally beginning to remember which direct and indirect pronoun to use and the Stoic One is facing the reality of conjugating verbs.  If this sounds too dreadful, we have had a lot of fun.

First the school is in Perugia, which is a beautiful city where there is always something going on.

Next there is a fantastic cafe on the way to our school that has great cappuccino and treats!

But the BEST thing about our school is our teachers!  They are so fun, and patient and focused.  I love working with them. If ever you have a chance you should stop by and meet them.

I have taken a lot of Italian classes and these three women are the best.  They are energetic, and very dedicated.  It is fun to learn with them.

I can hardly wait to jump into the subjunctive tense!

Lingua in Corso

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Monte S. Maria Tiberina Festa D'Autunno 2013

For those of you visiting Umbria, Sagre (singular sagra or food festival) are an interesting experience for the visitor.  This time of year, in our part of Umbria, there are many that celebrate a particular type of food, such as chestnuts or mushrooms and then there are others that celebrate medieval times.

The town of Monte S. Maria Tiberina is not too far from Umbertide, and we took a Sunday to go explore one of the hill towns having a celebration. The basket is of chestnuts picked by Lippiano and are for sale for 5 Euros a Kg.

Italians of all ages seem to love to dress up.  Not having a word for self conscious, they don't seen to experience this emotion.  I just love how easy in their skin and their costumes they appear. They start young.

So handsome....

We ate on the terrace with a panoramic view of the valley below the hill town.  The food was of course excellent.

The fall colors are just starting to change.  We have had very warm weather for this time of year, and although it is great to have warm, sunny days, it concerns the Italians that the climate is so messed up.

All the the town people attend these fairs, including the carabiniere.

Italians have the best uniforms in the world.

Not everyone in town was allowed to enjoy the festivities.

It was not all fun and games in medieval times.  There brought out the old instruments of torture to show us how they dealt with the evil doers.
The little girl is laughing so hard that it must be her brother on the wrack!

The torture stuff creeps me out, so I didn't ask any questions about it.  You can use your imagination.

Paul demonstrated the idea in case you didn't get it.

There were also people demonstrating crafts and instructing their children about the old ways.

The results of all this hard work. The intricacy of the carving is amazing.

All in all it was visit back in time, on a beautiful Sunday in October, with our very dear friends.