Saturday, August 23, 2014


The Stoic One and I just spent a week in northern Italy at a villa outside of Bolzano.  We rented the house thinking my sister and her husband would be with us, but unfortunately, they were unable to come.  So we decided to check out this town that has often been voted the most "liveable" city in Italy.

Some basic background about the town. Before World War I Bolzano was part of the Austrian Hungarian Empire. After the war, (1929) it was annexed by Italy. At the time of the annexation, out of 29,000 people, only 1300 were Italian speaking. During WWII, Mussolini got the bright idea of creating an intensive "Italianization program". The purpose of the program was to outnumber the local German speaking population by trippling the Italian speaking population.  Italians from other provinces were imported, and German speaking people were exported to the Third Reich under the Option Agreement of 1939-1940. As you can imagine, this created hard feelings that exist today.

After the end of that war, Bolzano became the capital of the South Tyrol province. This SudTirol province, known in Italian as Alto Addigio, has a great deal of independence and is admired for how it has integrated the three cultures of Austrian, German and Italian.

An owner of a wine shop told us that the three nationalities live in harmony and each bring specific gifts to the population. The Austrian element bring a love of flowers, and sense of beauty and order into their lives.  The German element provides the drive, ambition and push to get things down.  The Italian element brings the love of good wine, good food, and a culture that encourages the enjoyment of these things.

Our experience is that even though this is located in Italy, it is a very Germanic town.  We missed our friend Luther, who is fluent in both German and wine! Because of the way we look, everyone thought we were German. They would address us in German, and when we answered in Italian, they switched to English rather than speaking Italian with us.  It was very odd for us.  The city and surroundings are absolutely beautiful, clean, prosperous. Below is a picture of one of the buildings in the old part of town.

We found a restaurtant that we really liked, what a surprise.

It is called Kaiserkron, and we highly recommend it.Kaiserkron Restaurant

The villa we stayed at "Villa Missian" Villa Missian is in the commune of Appiano  on the Strada del Vino, or wine road.  One of the towns we visited was St. Pauls. They had a charming cemetary that originated in the 1500's.

The thing that was remarkable about this cemetery were flowers that were placed on the graves.  Each family plot had an individualized little garden that was beautifully maintained.  We were later told that each family member was assigned one week during the summer months that they were to tend the grave and the flowers, making sure nothing was amiss!

It was fantastic to walk through and see the symetry of all of the gardens.

If you wanted to buy an electrice candle for your plot, those were for sale in a vending maching outside of the cemetery. So organised!

The house we stayed at was not in the middle of the cemetary, but rather in the middle of the vineyards.  It had fantastic hiking trails behind it, and there were many happy hikers moving throught the fields.

The following are views from our bedroom.

The water up in the mountains is pure, and there is no need to buy bottled water. People still do so out of habit, probably, but it isn't necessary.

Hikers would stop by and drink directly from the fountain.  This is something I have not seen in Italy, except in Rome!

Another characteristic of this region are the castels on the hilltops. They are very different architecturally from our Umbrian castles.  They are more fortress like and severe.  This is a picture of the castle behind our house.

I am standing in the back yard of the house, looking at the castle up above us.  There is a trail that goes through the woods to reach it.  The last day we went for it.

The path, like life, started out nice and easy.

It got steeper as we went on.

If you think it was tough to walk up, try biking up.  These two made it to the top without stopping.

It was a steep path and we made it!

The views were great and worth the climb.

Inside the castle was a restaurant, of course.  We skipped it and headed back down the path.

Later we ate at a fantastic restaurant called Schwarz Adler Schwarz Adler

The Stoic One had to have one of the special desserts. Good thing we made the climb in the morning.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Our town has produced a new brochure that is now available in the Tourist Office.

The brochure is available in English as well as Italian! Yeah!  You are looking at a picture of the Rocca, a medieval fortress that was completed in 1389.  Today the facility is used as an exhibition venue for Contemporary art.

Wednesday is our big market day. Even though we have had a cold and rainy summer here, there are wonderful fruit and vegetables in the market.

You can also buy cheeses, prosciutto, salame, etc.

Even though the market is here all year round on Wednesdays, it has a special energy and vibration in the summer.

When you cross over the main road, there is a flea market that is hard to describe.  Think of a jumble of everything that you could find at a Target.  The prices are excellent, the quality is something that you must be careful about.

We have a large Muslim population in Umbertide, mainly Moroccans.  They also shop in the markets.

I love this picture.  It is such a good example of us all living together in harmony.

We had lunch today, (yes I know, another boring 2 hour lunch) at the Villa Doninno.  It is a gorgeous place up in the hills outside of Citta" di Castello.

We ate outside with our friends Nancy and Luther.  The food is excellent and innovative.

Hotel Villa San Donino

If you are in the area, I highly recommend it.  The service is friendly and although they speak English, they are very gracious with our attempts at Italian.

We received some happy news this week.  We will be spending Christmas in London with some good friends.  I have wanted to do this for a long time, so we are both very excited.

We leave tomorrow for Bolzano up in the Dolomites.  We have never been so we are looking forward to it.  Hope you all are having a very happy week end.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Living well

is the best revenge. I think about that expression a lot here in Italy. I wonder though, what does it really mean? Revenge against what or against whom? Is living well the best that we can do for ourselves and for our community? Is living well the best we can do for ourselves?

Gary and I are so lucky to be living the life we have dreamed about here in Italy, and we are living well, but I don't know that I consider it revenge. We are both grateful for the time that we have had together and for the experiences that we have shared for the last 30 years.  Although each of us believes that the other is the true "love of our life" the over arching belief is that we have been on a journey together. We have been very good companions to one another on this strange journey we call life.  Together we have faced the death of our parents. The death of my sister. The death of my sweet Marisa. We have faced together the triumphs and failues in our work life. We have faced huge financial success and near financial ruin.  We have faced my cancer and ongoing treatment together. Now we are facing this transitional move to Italy and our retirement together, as a team.

To suddenly find ourselves in our 60's and retired in Italy, it is interesting to look back at our life in an introspective way.  What type of life have we created for ourselves? Individually and as a couple? What are we most proud of? What do we wish we could "do over." There was an article recently in the NYTimes that proposed that people that have a happy life have deep and abiding relationships with others, and they understand the limited utility of 'things' be it fame, success, physical appearance, sex, etc. in their life. Love People Not Pleasure

The point of the article is that we should love people not things or pleasure. We are to love people and use things. Too often in the US we love things and use people.  Always looking for the next new toy or the next fantasy relationship does not bring about abiding happiness.  It is only necessary to do a quick review of the gossip rags to see how clearly people who pursue pleasure or fun are always striving but never really getting anywhere.

 Coming from California, it is so easy to pursue a life that is built only on physical looks, having fun, and always looking for that next diversion. The problem is that it never lasts.  The new love becomes that old love.  The woman of 60 can never compete with a woman of 30 no matter how thin she remains or how much surgery she has. This never ending American chase is something that can not be won. In Italy, there seems to be a deeper understanding that relationships always trump inanimate objects, including work! It is something to get used to.  The Italian life style that so many Americans adore is based on this simple principle, love people not things or pleasure. Things are to be used. Pleasure is to be enjoyed certainly, but it is never a replacement for that which we love.

The question for Gary and me now is how do we enjoy pleasure in Italy and keep it in a proper perspective. In retirement how does one stay grounded in long term enduring relationships when so many of our dearest friends are away from us.  It takes effort, and work and planning.  Having just returned from Philadelphia I can say that our efforts at loving one another are their own deep reward.

The Stoic One wanted to add in that he had another "boring 2 hour lunch" on Sunday and enjoyed the dessert very much.