Dreaming In Italian


Cicadas and swallows

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

I don’t think that I’ve heard cicadas since I was a boy in Oklahoma. I never recall hearing them when I lived on the East Coast and certainly not in California. Here in Italy I’m told that they are present every year. This is only my third summer and I don’t remember ever hearing them here even though the previous 2 summers I was certainly around trees here and in Torino. In any case it’s really pleasant although if I lived somewhere where there were a lot of trees the sound could become pretty annoying.

Regarding the swallows, it’s a similar story. I think that I saw a few of them when I was growing up in Oklahoma but never remember seeing them after that. It’s a real pleasure to watch their flight. Often they go around like little fighter plane squadrons catching little insects on the fly.

The first year I never saw them here in Bologna but saw them almost every day in the late spring and summer when I was in Torino. When I changed houses last year in late May I was stunned to see lots of swallows around via Santo Stefano. By now I don’t see them near where I live but a couple of days ago when I was in the very center of Bologna I saw a lot of them near the “Due Torre”. One of the most recognized symbols of Bologna (the others are the fountain of Neptune and the Sanctuary of San Luca).

Le Due Torri 2
The Two Towers (Due Torre)
The Neptune Fountain (Fontana Nettuno)
San Luca

Most of Italy is a bit more relaxed here pandemic wise but I’m getting a bit concerned to see the numbers of infections going up a little bit every day. It’s feeling a lot like October of last year when they were edging up and then formed a huge second wave that locked everything down. There are fewer vaccine hesitant people here and anyone over the age of 12 is eligible to be vaccinated BUT the supply of vaccines is still limited so the wait for a vaccination appointment can be pretty long. All of my friends are now fully vaccinated including Gianluca who was infected and now after having been vaccinated he’s probably super-immune. The overall fully vaccinated percentage of Italians as of this writing is almost the same as for Americans, 45%, and the goal is to have 80% by the end of September. That would be great and it seems that the U.S. may never achieve that goal due to the politicizing of the vaccine and the huge amount of disinformation. Still when I go back to California for a visit in September it should be pretty calm there.

Speaking of travel I now have a “Green Pass”. In my case it indicated that I’ve been fully vaccinated. I have a copy in my cell phone and I will take a paper copy with me just in case.

The Green Pass

It’s a typical Bologna summer, hot and humid. Unfortunately the house doesn’t have a practical air conditioning system so we are relying on fans which makes it at least tolerable. When I say a “practical” system I must explain. Like most residences in Italy the heat for the house is supplied by the water heater (they are all tank-less and called “caldaie”) that goes through radiators.

Our caldaia

When they restructured this apartment they used a specific type of radiator (for most of them anyway) which has a built in fan to heat up the space faster. Great idea. Then they decided that since they had that structure in place that could install one MONSTER air conditioner that can run cold water through the same pipes to supply the air conditioning.

The MONSTER

The problem is (and we were warned by the realtor) that it is terribly inefficient and takes the better part of a day to cool the house and costs a fortune to use on a regular basis. So effectively the house is just not air conditioned. After the first month of summer we kind of get acclimated.

Just to change the subject I look often for other Italian musicians and I think that you might like Zucchero. He sings in both Italian and English and I like the way he sings. I had a hard time finding a good video. I really like “Diamante” (Diamond) and “Senza Una Donna” (Without a Woman). Which are both about half English and half Italian but couldn’t find them. So “She’s My Baby” will have to do.

And of course a bacci, quote or in this case 2:

Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass but learning to dance in the rain.
La vita non è aspettare che passi la tempesta ma imparare a ballare sotto la pioggia.

Mahatma Gandhi

The secret of happiness is not doing what one likes, but in liking what one does.
Il secreto della felicità non è di fare sempre che si vuole, ma di voler ciò
che si fa.

Lev Tolstoi

Speaking of doing things. I have acquired a hobby during the lock down of doing a little urban gardening. If interested in finding out more you can leave a comment and I’ll let you know more.😉

Trip to Faenza and Brisighella

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

It’s been about 6 weeks since I did a blog post. I guess that during all of the Covid restrictions I didn’t have much to write about that seemed particularly interesting. But with lifting of a lot of restrictions (we can quit wearing masks when we are not in an enclosed space – yipee!) it was time to take a little trip.

After months of lockdowns of various severity we have been looking forward to making a little trip – just for a change of scenery. Like the trip that we made in February before another lockdown was in place. Laura suggested Faenza and also a little town, Brisighella in the hills not far away from there. It turns out that I had been to Brisighella before with my friend Liu’ but I never knew the name. There are photos of the upper town on that post. So on the last day of June we headed east for a day of diversion. Faenza is known for ceramics and we wanted to go to a major ceramics museum there. Brisighella is one of the lists of the 10 most beautiful little towns in Italy.

The google maps GPS has a serious flaw, at least in the Italian version – the instructions (as in turn here, etc.) are often truncated and/or unintelligible which makes them relatively useless unless you also can look at the map. This leads to a significant amount of frustration. Still after about 1 1/2 hours we did find ourselves in Brisighella and fortunately a part of the town that I had not seen at all on my other stop there. There’s kind of a lower town (where we were) and an upper town where the Rocca (a fortress) is. So we had a pleasant time wandering around and had a very good lunch before heading off to Faenza.

The little street where we arrived. You can see the fortress (la rocca) that’s in the upper part of the town. Also note that half moon shaped windows on the right.
These strange windows are for a little (very little) street called the via Degli Asini (street of the donkeys).
And here is the street of the donkeys. And yes, there were stables for donkeys here and their owners had living quarters above the stables. It’s still a mystery to me how the donkeys came and went.
There are garden paths that lead from the street below to the upper part of the town – a lot of steps involved.

We didn’t see much of Faenza since our objective was to see the museum and then go back to Bologna before rush hour and hopefully find a parking space not too far from our house. Found the museum with little difficulty because there are a lot of signs showing the directions to take to arrive there. I must say that I was quite disappointed. It’s the way I feel in some museums of modern art. I like modern art in moderation but often find myself asking myself “What the hell is that?” and “Why is it thought to be very special?”. Still it was interesting. The next trip I’d like to go to Forli which is not much further and is said to have a great museum for Art Nouveau.

Contemporary from Japan
Also Japanese
Japanese again
I don’t recall the origin but liked the whimsy
Sometimes just a pleasing form is enough
Interesting construction

And before I leave – a couple of Baci quotes:

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the rest of the world calls a butterfly
Quello che il bruco chiama fine del mondo, il resto del mondo chiama farfalla.

Lao Tze

Love is a friendship that is on fire.
L’amore e’ un’amicizia infuocata.

Jeremy Taylor

What are you up to as the the world starts to open up as the pandemic subsides?

I’m Still Here

Sunday, May 16th, 2021

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a post. I guess that’s because there hasn’t been too much to do here during the long lockdown and frankly I’ve become a little lazy. However that has changed a lot in the past month. First of all I’ve been vaccinated with two shots of Pfizer and the second one just under two weeks ago so I’m as immune as I’ll ever be. Even after the first shot I had a huge feeling of relief and now I’m almost giddy. I go out of the house almost every day for some errand or another. I do most of the grocery shopping since I really like doing it and I do it in the morning when the supermarkets and specialty stores (baked goods, butcher shop) are open. The first shot had almost no ill effect but the second laid me low but only for a day. Laura had her first shot of AstraZeneca about 2 weeks ago and had a reaction to it that lasted a couple of days. Her second shot is in July since they’ve found that a longer interval between shots works best for that vaccine. Still she is reasonably protected against serious illness during the interval between shots.

I’ve been cooking a lot since I’ve always liked to cook and when you stay at home most of the time there’s a lot of free time. Lately I’ve been cooking American stuff, especially chocolate chunk cookies and chili. Chocolate chunk because while they have chocolate chips here there’s pretty small and also because I like more dense chocolate. I use 90% which I find really too bitter to eat alone but in the cookies which have a lot of sugar it works out well. I’ve settled on a recipe that’s a hybrid between Italian and American ones. For chili I wind up using an Italian one with minor variations. As you might imagine “chili powder” doesn’t exist here but the Italian recipe has an equivalent with available spices which works well. I’ve never seen hot chili peppers like jalapeno either. In any case I also make cornbread with my cast iron skillet to go along with it.

Taralli and chocolate chunk cookies

Cornbread and chili

As the lockown is finally easing here I can restart my volunteer work at the library – (Scioglilingua) . My first day for that is next Tuesday. We’ll be outside and wearing masks but if my conversation partner is vaccinated we’ll probably go unmasked for our 45 minutes together. I’m really looking forward to seeing some of my regulars. I’m also going to start inviting people out for lunch, possibly at our house. Of course we’ll need to tidy things up a bit.

Ah yes, sometime this summer, hopefully in June or July I will be having a much more serious encounter with the national health service (SSN – Servizio Sanitario Nazionale). I will be having a hip replacement. I’ve had to use a cane if I walk more than a short distance and should be able to be back to “normal”. The date is not yet fixed but my orthopedist says that surely by July at the latest I can get it done.

I’ve done some other things that I’ve been putting off for months; a haircut and a dental appointment. I’m keeping my hair long and want it a bit longer but it’s definitely in better shape now. Sometimes I put in a ponytail and other time just let it go wild.

Plans for the relatively near future include a day trip to the beach. I’m not a huge beach fan but Laura is so I’ll take a book to read and maybe even rent a beach chair.

I’ve been envious of all of the people that I know in the U.S. that have been fully vaccinated for a couple of months or more and the situation in the U.S. is getting a lot better but it’s really hard for me to understand why so many people are refusing the vaccine. If you compare the risk of the vaccine (which is so low there are a lot of zeros after the decimal point of a percentage number) to that of getting infected with Covid; well to me it’s inconceivable that people refuse a shot.

And now two little saying from Baci. Both seem appropriate for nearing the end of the pandemic.

Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn.
Ogni tramonte porta la promessa di una nuova alba.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.
Quello che il bruco chiama fine del mondo, il resto del mondo chiama farfalla.

Lao Tze

What color is your state?

Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

That seems like an odd question – at least in the U.S. it would be strange unless related to politics, i.e. red state or blue state. Here it refers to the state of Covid in the various regions (equivalent of states) and sometimes the zones can include not the entire region but the province (like a county in most of the U.S.) or even a city. There are 20 regions in Italy and I live in Emilia-Romagna in the city and province of Bologna.

So the colors are white, yellow, orange and red. As they progress from white to red they indicate the level of Covid risk and consequently the restrictions on daily life that are in place. The risk is the measure of the infection rate a number called the Rt index. If it is over 1 it indicates that each infected person is on average infecting more than one other person. Obviously if that number is high then you have a rapid spread of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. The only way to combat that spread of infections (until we’re all vaccinated) is to limit the exposure from one person to another. For example if you are in a red zone (and Bologna right now is red) there is no restaurant dining indoors in any form. You can get take-out food up until 10 in the evening. The same goes for bars (the name for coffee shops here). You basically cannot go anywhere far from your home and visits with friends and family are severely limited both in number and frequency. Schools are closed as well as any non-essential business are closed. Obviously there are some exceptions but they are few. On the other end of the spectrum, white, just about everything is open. Only Sardinia is a white region. Of course masks are still obligatory just about everywhere. Unlike what seems to be the case in the U.S. there are penalties for not following the rules. “Freedom” does not mean that you can act irresponsibly and be a menace to your fellow citizens. You can get a pretty hefty ticket here for violating the rules.

So we are all bored but we eat well here at the house of Joe and Laura (I’m making some great chocolate chip cookies). Cooking is a good answer to boredom and thank goodness for the internet and especially streaming video. I only go out for food shopping. Even though the number of people allowed in a supermarket and other stores is limited I always go as soon as the stores open to avoid crowds. I take the garbage and recycling out on early Sunday morning when there is rarely anyone else moving about.

There is always a risk any time that you are near someone else. My good friend Gianluca has been careful but found last week that he was infected. Fortunately his symptoms are relatively mild but he cannot leave his apartment for (I think) 3 weeks. He has doctors that check in with him every 2 or 3 days and fortunately he has family members who don’t live very far away that have brought him food and other essentials.

The vaccine rollout is relatively slow here. I don’t know why we are so far behind the U.S. in getting people vaccinated but it seems to be a supply issue. Right now they are vaccinating essential workers, those at high risk and those over 80 and I’m hoping for my first vaccine shot in early April but don’t really know when that will be. I’m SO envious when I hear from friends in the U.S. that have already been vaccinated.

So I can just dream about a relatively normal life and have enough confidence in the state of things that I have already bought a plane ticket to make a fairly brief trip back to California in September.

And a pair of Baci quotes:

True happiness comes from the zest of creating new things.
La vera felicita’ deriva dall’entusiasmo di creare cose nuove.

Antoinde de Sainet-Exupery

Magic is believing in yourself.
La magia e’ credere in se stesso. (it was “noi stessi”)

Wofgang Goethe

Stay safe – it’s not a long wait now.