Dreaming In Italian


Saturday, August 27th, 2022

In August it seems like everyone goes away for vacation. Obviously not everyone but lots of stores are closed and there are lots of parking spaces available in our the city which is a rarity in our neighborhood. It all seems a little bit strange, perhaps like a movie by a quirky director. Today even the coffee bar where I always meet my friend Renata on Saturday mornings was closed but of course the employees and owners also deserve a break. Along with the bar, the butcher shop (macelleria) and by favorite bread bakery (panificio) are closed for the month. So we decided to leave this semi-ghost town and go outside the city for a lunch – after all it’s at least easy to find a parking space when we return.

We went to a place that we’ve been to twice before that’s about 20 kilometers away. It’s the “Antica Hostaria della Rocca di Badolo”. An “hosteria” usually written without the “h” was originally just a pub where you could get wine and maybe beer. There is one in the very center of Bologna that still carries on that tradition, the Osteria del Sole. You can only buy something to drink but are free to bring your own food. They claim that it’s the oldest osteria in the world and has been there since 1465. But I digress.

We have been to the Antica Hosteria 2 times before. I’m always a bit hesitant to drive outside of the city since I often get lost and frankly Google maps sometimes is not very useful. The last time that we went, sometime in the spring I took a wrong turn when returning to Bologna and instead of a normal 35 minutes to return wandered around following the directions of Google maps and it took about an hour and half. This time I found a much better route both to go and return. It has few turns and is easy going in both directions. Should you ever drive a car in Bologna you really have to be careful because at some point the most direct route will get you a traffic ticket because it is a lane reserved for buses and taxis. This route doesn’t have that complication. It’s the blue route below. I used Porta San Mamolo as the starting point to force Google maps to provide this more direct route.

The food at this place has always been exceptional, the view from it’s position on the hill is sublime and the costs are beyond reasonable. We split two generous plates of food, which we shared and they split the portions into two plates in the kitchen. In addition we had a bottle of water, a half liter of wine, two deserts and for coffee for a total bill of 56 euros.

Laura and a hint of the view
Spaghetti with black truffles
Venison stew with grilled polenta

I forgot to take pictures of the deserts before they were half consumed. Mine below had figs and I told the waitress that I love anything with figs. I don’t remember what Laura’s was but it was beautiful and good.

My desert
Laura’s desert

The website for the Antic Hosteria is pretty bare but here is a link for the page in Trip adviser with lots of photos. I was shocked to see the website (here) for the Osteria del Sole. I smell the hand of a marketing consultant.

Death of Peppino

Thursday, May 19th, 2022

Peppino is a name, a diminutive of Giuseppe, just like Joe is a diminutive of Joseph. Peppino was 16 years old which would be a short life for a person but a fairly long life for a cat.

Peppino when he was a kitten
Peppino as adolescent

Laura has had him since he was a kitten and of course my relationship with Peppino has been much more brief, about 3 1/2 years. He was kind of emotionally needy I would say. If I would let him he would spend almost every waking hour on my lap but obviously that wouldn’t work for me. At least he did finally learn that he could stay on my lap longer if he didn’t use his claws to adjust his position. He was doing damage to my jeans.

Peppino as an adult – in Torino still

So while I’d say he was not the smartest cat that I’ve known, he was capable of learning. He had been pretty healthy until recently. At about 6 weeks ago he no longer could jump up enough to get on my lap when I was sitting down so I would give him an assist.

Then about 3 weeks ago things changed radically. He could barely walk and when he did he didn’t seem to be able to see obstacles. He would bump into walls and get stuck in narrow spaces. Laura took him to the vet a couple of times and there was no clear reason for his decline but in the end it was something obviously neurological. So reluctantly about 2 weeks ago Laura asked the vet to come to the house to provide euthanasia for Peppino. Laura has been very sad but is recovering.

That Was The Week That Was (and not a good one)

Saturday, April 30th, 2022

Starting from the beginning: on Sunday April 17 Laura drove to Torino. Her daughter who lives in India was due to arrive with her family a few days later and she had some work to do in the house before they arrived. She planned to then spend another couple of weeks with them before returning. Since that was Easter (Pasqua) day it was ideal for the trip since the traffic should be pretty light – which it was. Of course I knew that I would miss her but that would also give me an opportunity to get together with friends who I hadn’t seen for two years due to the pandemic. On the following Tuesday I went to the main library to do my regular volunteer work. To get some exercise I usually walk the kilometer to arrive there. As I was almost there I tripped and fell down. It seemed that there was no harm done. I got up and went in and found that nobody had made a reservation for the English conversation for the first 45 minute period. To kill time I then found a book that seemed interesting and went to the bar inside the library for a coffee and pastry and read the book for about 45 minutes – still no problem. I liked the book and decided to check it out so I did that and found that I had a big problem with my right ankle. Since I expected that there would be the second person who would come for conversation I hobbled to the place where I would have said conversation, took off my right shoe and elevated that foot to try to recover a bit. Nobody came and the foot did not get any better. Fortunately I had made an appointment with my friend Rita for lunch at someplace near the library and I was really in need of some help. I called her and described the situation and she came to my aid. Like about any person I have sprained my ankle various times during my life but it was never anything as serious as this. I decided that I really had to get medical assistance right away and so I wanted to take a taxi to an emergency room but given that I could barely walk, the taxi needed to come as close as possible to the exit door from the library. With my still somewhat limited Italian that would be hard to describe to the taxi dispatcher. So my friend called for the taxi and in fact she struggled a bit to get the message across. I finally received a message that the taxi was on the way and would be on the side of the street nearest the library. So I then hobbled to the taxi just as it arrived and was off to the emergency room.

Emergency room visits always involve a significant wait time unless you’re seriously bleeding or otherwise in bad shape. I hobbled in, went through the triage process,was put on a bed on wheels and waited for my number to be called. Then a doctor gave me a cursory exam and I was then in the queue for the x-rays. After the X-rays I was then in the queue for treatment. Fortunately nothing was broken and I was given a choice between a cast to support the ankle or a brace. I opted for the brace which would allow more flexibility, I could take it off when needed rather than having to return to have it removed. I still was unable to walk without crutches and I had crutches at home from when I had a hip replacement last fall. Nobody at the hospital had a solution so I called a good friend and described the situation and asked for help. Then I took a taxi home and only had to wait for a few minutes before Renata and her husband arrived to help me. They helped me physically to arrive at my apartment and retrieved the crutches for me. I will be forever grateful for such good friends.

The brace – I hate it but it did it’s job

Of course I immediately called Laura and described the situation. She had planned to stay in Torino for a couple of weeks but quickly revised her plans to return to Bologna after another week. Fortunately there was plenty of food in the house for that period and with the crutches I was pretty mobile. So the emergency room visit was on a Tuesday and on Friday I had a sore throat. I had no fever but with some research I found that one of the symptoms with Omicron version of Covid was a sore throat. Renata had planned to come to the house on Saturday morning for our usual coffee and chat meeting and I asked if she could bring a couple of items (strawberries and milk) and also to buy an at home Covid test. She brought everything but was pressed for time and didn’t stay and I didn’t want to be with her if it turned out that the test was positive. The test was negative and I breathed a sigh of relief. A different friend, Leonardo, came by for lunch and we ordered pizzas from the pizzeria across the street and ate outside on the terrace. So far so good.

The next week my ankle improved a lot but also my sore throat got worse and I also had a runny nose (another symptom of Omicron). So when Laura arrived on the following Wednesday I asked her to stop by the pharmacy and buy another at home Covid test. Also just to be on the safe side I insisted that we stay apart and both wear masks until I took the test, fully expecting that it would be negative. Eeek it was positive! I called my primary care physician and he said that he would call whatever part of the health care organization that deals with Covid and a nurse would come to my house the next day to do a molecular test. She did and I received the results the next day – positive again. Even as the symptoms were already starting to wane Laura and I clearly had to be very careful in the house. We ate apart and slept in separate bedrooms and if in the same room we both wore masks and only stayed briefly in such proximity. By the way I let Leonardo know that I had tested positive and he said that he had no symptoms and wished me well.

Now I have to stay always at home for 7 days. If at the end of 7 days I have been asymptomatic for at least 3 days I can go to a pharmacy for a rapid Covid test which hopefully will be negative and then I can resume a reasonably normal life. So for a review:

  1. Alone in Bologna since Laura went to Torino. – Sunday
  2. Sprained my ankle badly 2 days later and went to the emergency room. – Tuesday
  3. Probably was infected while at the hospital.
  4. Learned that I was infected when Laura returned a week later on Wednesday

So that was my week from hell (well, more like 10 days).

On the bright side, the symptoms are pretty much gone and my ankle seems to be almost completely healed.

A trip to the country (the boonies!)

Monday, April 11th, 2022

One of Laura’s daughters who lives in Torino is a real horse person. She has two, I think that she competes in dressage and gives lessons in horsey stuff. Given that background she is considering moving to the Bologna area and of course she would have to have a place for her horses. She found a place on-line and after having talked to the owner (actually there are two partners that own the place) she asked Laura to take a look at it and give an opinion. Oh, no. That means that we have to move the car! Parking on the street in the center of Bologna is not easy, part of the reason that we rarely use the car and we had a prime sparking space. We take a trip of some sort every two months to keep the battery charged. Well, this time 2 months turned out to be too long. The battery wasn’t completely dead but definitely would not start the car. So Laura called a nearby mechanic who came had used jumper cables to get it started and then she drove it to his shop for further charging as well as adding air to one of the tires. So 2 days after our first attempt we went wandering through the countryside. I always hate going outside of the city since I inevitably get lost since intersections are well marked and even with Google maps I always miss a turn or make a wrong one. This time was no exception.

We had planned to eat lunch at a little trattoria that seemed at least OK not far from where we were to turn onto a tiny gravel road that led to the horse place. Well, after mistakes on the way we settled for eating a “good enough” lunch at the little town of Budrie. The road is about 1 1/2 cars wide with a ditch on each side. Meeting another car was tricky but since it’s a dead end there weren’t many cars and I guess if you live on a road like that you know not to have an SUV. Anyway we found the place and met the owner (I’ll refer to him as the guy) who was most involved with the sale. Unfortunately I didn’t have the presence of mind to take photos so you don’t get to see all of the geese, chickens, ducks and guinea hens roaming around. Nor you get to see the 8 horses in residence including a shetland pony – cute and just the right size for Laura. There were also kennels for dogs with 2 of the kennels having 2 dogs each in residence. I do have photos from the real estate add for the property.

Beyond the line of trees you can see the road – did I mention that it was tiny? In front of that line of trees and to the right is a house (as shown below), fully equipped about 100 square meters and to it’s right a large open space which is a space for people to practice riding and doing whatever they want to do and feel capable of doing with a horse. Also note the oval building. More details to follow.

Below is the entrance to the place. You pass through a sturdy gate that opens when you turn a key. Directly ahead you see the stables.

On the other side of the fence to the right is a shallow pond. There were a bunch of ducks enjoying the water and looking for stuff to eat.

A clearer view of the house.

Here’s more detail of the oval building. Something (since I’m not a horsey kind of guy) that I had never imagined. It’s an motorized exercise area for the horse. There are dividers between spaces for each horse and they are connected to a rail system that moves continuously so that the horses are required to walk. To avoid that they are always turning in one direction during their exercise time it reverses so they will need to turn in the other direction. It make sense to keep them balanced.

Below are the stables. Room for 11 horses and on the right you can note a shower area for the horses and also for riding gear.

The round structures were for showing off horses of maybe some kind of horsey competitions. I was unclear since the discussion was all in Italian.

All in all it was an interesting outing. When we were leaving we saw a car that had gone slightly off the narrow road and was at almost a 45 degree angle because of the ditch close to the road. I said ” Something’s wrong with this picture” and then saw a man crawling out of the passenger side door. He was an older guy, I’d say at least 80 but was unharmed. Laura walked back to the horse place to ask the guy there for help while I found a place to turn around and also returned and found a place off the road where I could park the car. The guy called someone who could come and tow the car out of the ditch so we were assured that all would be taken care of and drove back to Bologna where we found a parking space about 1/2 a kilometer away (600 yards).

Laura asked me what I thought of the place. I thought it seemed a really good place for horses but it’s in the middle of nowhere (even though only about 14 miles from our building in Bologna) and would be REALLY a lot of work. In fact the guy said as much. A lot of grass and weeds to mow, trees to prune, fences to maintain and horses to care for. A really big commitment.