Dreaming In Italian

Beppe Severgnini says it better

Saturday, May 16th, 2020

On March 12th I wrote a post describing my thoughts about how the Italians have reacted to the shutdown that started here on March 10th entitled “I’m proud of you Italy“. Recently I saw an op-ed by an Italian journalist, Beppe Severgnini,  who writes for Corriere della Sera, the newspaper of Milano. He has lived in London and Washington, D.C. as correspondent for Italian newspapers and has written several books. His description of he comportment of the Italians in the face of the pandemic was exactly what I believe seeing how people are behaving themselves here. I recommend that you read it too. Here is the link to “How Italy Coped, and Will Keep Coping“. All of restrictions have produced a good result. Of course here in Italy the government has relied on experts and after the initially severe restrictions have taken measured steps on relaxing the rules all the while keeping an eye on the statistics before taking the next step. Certainly a contrast with how the U.S. is dealing with the pandemic – at least on the national level.

On the 18th of May, two days from this writing the restrictions will be significantly relaxed here. The stores are getting ready for it. I see them restocking the shelves and updating the window displays. There is a feeling of real optimism for all of us that have been severely restricted for 10 weeks. Due to the restrictions the rate of increase of new infections in the country now is at 0.4% and I expect that in the next couple of days it will be a bit lower. There will still be social distancing requirements in stores, restaurants and bars. We will be able to freely travel within our region, mine for example is Emilia-Romagna. There will still be prohibitions until June 3rd except for work, health reasons or urgency. I’m a little worried about being able to go to Torino on my planned date of the 23rd unless I can make the case for urgency. I’ll go to the office of the Carabinieri early next week to plead my case. Wish me luck.

I am moving to the new apartment next Thursday, the 21st. Since I have no furniture to move it will be pretty easy. I have a commitment from a guy with a van who was highly recommended by a good friend and two other friends who can help a bit. It shouldn’t take more than a little over 2 hours to transport everything. I’ll explain all of the logistical issues in a future post. Laura is planning to move here in June, hopefully the second week. Hers is a lot more complicated because she’s bringing a bunch of furniture which introduces major complications. That should make a really interesting post.

Getting away from the virus subject, I have been seeing swallows here in Bologna. I’ve really never noticed them here before but now I’ve been spending more time looking out windows where I have a limited view. I never remember seeing swallows in Oakland but maybe I wasn’t looking for them. I’ve seem them a lot here; in Torino, in Sardegna and now in Bologna.  That will be one thing that I will miss about Torino. Laura lives on the 3rd and top floor (that would be the 4th in the U.S.) with a balcony that overlooks a large cortile (courtyard) surrounded  by other similar apartment buildings but with gaps between them. I remember sitting out on her balcony and watching the swallows come in like a squadron of fighter planes, make a trip around the cortile and exit from the way that they came in. Once they came so close to the balcony that I could almost have reached out and touched them. They are really magnificent!

This is my view. Not very exciting but at least I can see outside and breath a bit of fresh air
Laura’s view – a big cortile with lawn area, trees and parking

I’ve decided to include some photos for a little while of what I’ve been cooking and eating while restrictions have been in place. I’m glad that I’m a reasonably good cook. Since there’s always a lot of good seafood at the supermarket I indulge myself and buy one or two things when I go. Usually I buy enough to have leftovers so I can eat fish 2 or 3 days. Since I only go shopping once a week then I go to other options. So today – 2 fish dishes.

Swordfish with salad and chardonnay – the swordfish is sliced much thinner here so it’s not as much as it seems.
Monkfish with tomatoes and olives – love that monkfish!

And the Baci saying for the day:

To live is the rarest of thing in the world. Most people just exist.

Vivere e’ la cosa pu’ rara al mondo. La maggior parte della gene esste e nulla piu’.

Oscar Wilde

Stay tuned for an update in 3 or 4 days.

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Milano Mayor Goes Berserk

Sunday, May 10th, 2020

There was video on the front page of the La Stampa newspaper, the newspaper of Torino, showing a crowd shortly after a slight relaxation of the rules after entering phase 2. It shows a crowd gathered in a neighborhood of Milano who were DEFINITELY flaunting the rules. The mayor of Milano went berserk and the next day there was a photo of policemen on patrol in the same neighborhood and probably any others that were popular gathering spots.

Of course the point of the rules is not only to protect yourself but also to protect others. If everyone plays by the rules for a while longer the infection rate will continue to drop (today at only 0.5%) and the rules will ease further. If it starts going up we could return to the even more strict rules.

On a more personal note – I sold the house in California!


The sale closed on May 6th and the money appeared in my account two days later. Without property in the U.S. I am officially no longer a resident of the U.S., though I’m a citizen for life. The next day as I was leaving to go to the new house (I now have the keys) I noticed something in the mailbox. That is pretty unusual to start with since I opt for email communications for everything. So I was delighted to find this:

Of course the Donald wants to take credit for anything good and avoid it for anything bad.

I had heard that this would also go to citizens living overseas but thought that since I have my Social Security monthly pension direct deposited that it would show up there and I was wondering when that would happen. This was probably mailed 3 weeks ago since international mail is notoriously slow. In any case I’m going to buy a new refrigerator to replace the old one at the new house with a better one once Laura and I have moved in. I’ve already lined up a guy with a van through a strong recommendation from a good friend here and plan to move my stuff there on May 21st. Since I don’t have any furniture it shouldn’t be too expensive and there are elevators in each building although in the new one the elevator is pretty small as is typical of 4 centuries old building that have been modernized over the years. It will be a lot harder for Laura’s move since she’s bringing a lot of furniture and most of it will have to be carried up two flights of stairs.

Here’s today’s Baci quote.

A heart that loves is always young.
Un cuore che ama e’ sempre giovane.

Greek Proverb

I’ll be back soon so if you like what I’m writing leave a comment and even subscribe (and maybe tell a friend).

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Italy Phase 2

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

Phase 2 is the long awaited relaxation of restrictions in Italy started on May 3rd. In Phase 1, which was the initial lockdown that started on March 10th, the stay at home rules were VERY strict. Stay at home other to go to buy groceries or to a pharmacy and little else. Parks were closed and travel more than a modest distance from your home was banned. All stores, restaurants and bars (the name for cafes here) were totally closed. You could visit aging parents that needed care but only if they lived nearby. You couldn’t go to a nearby town or even to a different neighborhood in the same city without a valid reason and needed a filled out form ready to show to a policeman if questioned. The fines for violations were very steep. Later they moderated it just a tiny bit. I could go to the hardware store near me to buy a replacement for a burned out light bulb. Then a couple of weeks ago they allowed bookstores to open with some restrictions. You could walk or run for exercise outside if you stayed within 200 meters from your house (about 200 yards). Whoopee.

So what relief does phase 2 provide? Well, now you can you can go much further from your house and the park gates are no longer locked so you can go to the parks to get a taste of nature but only for exercise and social distancing rules must be rigorously observed. If you want to go to a different neighborhood you still need to fill out a form saying that you are going from point A to point B and why in case you are stopped by a policeman (or woman) to check the validity of your trip but the valid reasons are significantly expanded. You are permitted to visit relatives, even distant ones as long as you stay in the same region, the equivalent of a state in the U.S. but generally significantly smaller than most states. For example all of Italy is a little bit smaller than California but has 20 regions. So you get the picture. There is ambiguous language about going to see a girlfriend or boyfriend, which we’re all waiting to have clarified, but only within the same region but going to visit friends is still forbidden. So my hopes of going to see Laura in Torino are still on hold as well as seeing friends here in Bologna. Restaurants and bars are open for take-out only. You can’t enter the establishment and of course you need to wear a mask anytime that you are in any form of enclosed space.

I took the bus for the first time since March 10th. I went to the new apartment to meet the realtor and get a copy of the lease registered with the city and take some pictures and measurement to further prepare for the planned move. To limit the time in the bus I walked about half a mile to a bus stop so that I wouldn’t need to change buses and would be in the bus for only 7 minutes. I returned by a similar route. The buses have about half of their seats blocked off to assure that social distancing is reasonably maintained and are less than half full instead of standing room only just over 2 months ago. Still I walked about 2 miles for the trip. That’s a good bit of exercise in addition to the exercise that I’m doing at home; push-ups and other weight exercises as well as stretching.

The expected release of phase 3 rules are expected at about May 18th but it will depend on infection rates which is the measure of progress in combating the virus. Of late that rate is under about 0.6% and the goal is to have it at around 0.2% to have significantly more freedom of movement with a continuing requirement of social distancing. it seems hopeful that I will be to go to Torino before the end of the month to see Laura and help her with packing for her move to Bologna. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Of course Italians are totally aghast to see the actions in the U.S. including photos of crowds demonstrating or going to the beach and the huge recent relaxations of rules in many states. I am absolutely stunned and think that this is going to result in really hard times there. By the way I saw a very good editorial in the New York Times by Beppe Severgnini, a well known Italian journalist, which sums up very well the comportment of Italians during this very difficult period.

Changing subjects, I have collected a bunch of interesting quotes from Baci (kisses). These are chocolates made in Italy by the Perugina company. I think that they are widely available in California but I’m not sure if the dark chocolate ones are there. The chocolates are both light and dark chocolate with hazel nut inside – I vastly prefer the dark chocolate. They are very tasty and each one has a little paper inside with a quote written in four languages; italian, english, german and spanish. I’ve collected some of the best quotes and will start ending each post for awhile with one of them. I’ll include both the english and the italian – a tiny italian lesson. Let me know if you like it.

Here is a picture of a Bacio (kiss singular).

And todays quote is:

The rules for happiness: have something to do, someone to love and something to hope for.

Le regole per la felicita’: qualcosa da fare, qualcuno da amare, qualcosa in cui sperare.

Emanuel Kant

Quite appropriate for this period, don’t you think.

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I’m still here

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

I mean that title in two senses. First I’m alive and well in these times when that means more than it usually does and second I’m still in Bologna and in general unable to go very far from my house. You need to fill out a form to go to another town or city. So that means that I can’t go to Torino where Laura is and she can’t come here. Bummer. It is now 44 days since I last saw her other than during a phone conversation with WhatsApp (thank god for WhatsApp).

Here is a blank copy of the form to fill out

In short it asks you where and when you were born, your identification (in my case I used the number of my Italian Identity Card), my phone number, where I live, where I am going and most importantly why I am making this trip. Ah, the Italian penchant for bureaucratese never fails to astound me.

I am currently selling my house in California and ran into a little, well BIG, problem. To sell the house I need to notarize documents. There are 23 states in the U.S. that recognize on-line notarizations but unfortunately California is not one of them. After pursuing various possibilities I concluded that the only option was to go to an American consolate or embassy here in Italy. The closest one is Firenze (Florence) and I was concerned that I would not be allowed to go there. So I went to the nearest office of the Carabinieri, a type of police force here in Italy and somewhat to my surprise they said that, yes, a need to go to the consulate was considered a matter of urgency so I could go. I corresponded by email with the consulate and they gave me a date of the morning of 28th of April. During this period of the coronavirus I certainly didn’t want to be on any form of public transportation so I rented a car for one day. I got it on the afternoon of the 27th, found a parking spot near my house and left the next morning at about 8:00.

I arrived after about 1 1/2 hours. And parked in a lot near the consulate. After a bunch of checks by the guards to verify my appointment and my passport I was allowed inside. Now I know what it must be like to work in a fortress. It is VERY secure. The doors to enter the front and then after the scanners very much like at an airport are so heavy that they must be blast proof or almost so. You cannot go inside with absolutely anything with electronic content so I of course that meant no cell phone. I knew this ahead of time so I locked a lot of my stuff in the trunk of the car before entering.

Next I went to a room where there were several windows, the kind that you see in a bank except more secure. You can pass documents back and forth under the window and communicate mostly with speaker and microphone.

After waiting a few minutes a woman came to the window and I passed the 6 documents (not all for the house sale) that needed to be notarized. She then spent some time preparing the documents for the person who would do the notarization. Finally “the guy appeared”. He was a vice consul who appeared to be all of 25 years old and was about as friendly as a cobra. I really thought that being and american citizen I’d at least get a friendly hello but he was cold as ice. In any case he signed and applied the appropriate seal to all of the documents and then the woman who was a little friendlier stapled the documents together with a brass grommet, something that I have never seen before but it was pretty cool. By the way, the woman whose name I don’t know and probably shouldn’t was much nicer. All business but pleasant both in our email exchanges and in person. Maybe she should have the vice-consul job.

Then I wasted no time in returning to Bologna and arrived back at home at about 1 PM. One interesting thing about this trip is that I fully expected to be stopped at least a couple of times by police of one type or another to check my documents but it never happened. Probably a good thing but it was a little disappointing since it would have added a bit more to the story.

The documents are now in the hands of Federal Express and as of this writing have already left their massive depot in Memphis on the way to California and possible delivery today but surely tomorrow. The house sale should close next week and that will be a huge relief. My thanks to unknown consular woman. Perhaps I will see her again when I register for an absentee ballot.

As a sort of P.S. The car rental was only 27 euros. However gas here is much more expensive than in the U.S. For the 130 mile round trip the gas cost 30 euros and the autostrada tolls were 16.60 euros. That brings the total to over 73 euros or about $80 at the current exchange rate. Much more expensive than the train but certainly much safer right now.

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