Dreaming In Italian

Free at last, free at last….

Monday, June 1st, 2020

…. thank God almighty, free at last. That is the ending of the famous “I Have a Dream Speech” by Martin Luther King at the Washington Memorial in Washington D.C. in 1963. Well, free – sort of free.  Like black people in the U.S. the dream was not completely realized. That phrase came to mind with the new decree arrived two weeks ago on May 18th. Restaurants could serve seated customers with restrictions of social distancing, mask requirements and periodic sanitation of the premises. Stores are open everywhere with similar rules. You can travel freely in your region without a form declaring where you are going and why. Many more people will be going back to work, to see friends or relatives in other cities. The next big date is June 3 when the borders both within Italy and for travel between Italy and the EU countries (but only the Schengen ones which is most of the EU) become open.  I’m writing this two days before I can (and will) go to Torino. There was some debate as recently as a week ago that some regions might still have closed borders. In particular, regions with few virus cases have been fearful of a flood of people coming from the north, especially Lombardia which is the worse hit region. I’m sure that was the compromise deal for phase 2, i.e. more freedom of movement but only within the region. Still I am an optimist and several days ago bought my ticket on the first high speed train from Bologna to Torino on the morning of 3 June. So now it is clear that I can go see my sweetie and help her with the remaining preparations for her move to Bologna.

In a certain sense it is probably a good thing that I couldn’t go to Torino earlier. I made the move from my former apartment to the new one on May 21 and had planned to go to Torino on the 23. That really could have been a near disaster. In my zeal to see Laura I didn’t really consider that it would take awhile to organize things here enough to make her move go more slowly when she moves herself and her stuff to Bologna in June. I fixed some minor problems and discovered some new ones that need to be addressed. I organized the kitchen so that I could cook and bought 2 or 3 things from Amazon to help with the endeavor.

I also had to engage with the Italian bureaucracy a bit. I was able to change my address online rather than go to the anagrafa office – kind of a records office. I was able (I think) to change the address for the garbage service to my new address online as well but that office has not yet responded in any way. When I return to Bologna I can go to the department of city government for a revised identity card since I don’t think that I can do that online.

But, ah yes, there was another problem that still lingers. During the day of the move I did something that caused a pulled muscle in my groin area. It’s the kind of thing that’s slow to heal and makes it difficult to walk. If I walk very much I know that it will just make it worse. So I’m physically idle most of the time and taking anti-inflammatory pills in hopes that I will be well enough to be much help when I arrive at Laura’s house.

Now some other observations. My living room has 3 big windows overlooking via Santo Stefano. It’s officially the first floor but in effect it’s really the second since there is a level of my house below the principle one. Keep in mind that in Italy what would be called the first floor in the US is the ground floor. So if it weren’t for the small old elevator it would be a 3rd floor walkup in US lingo. From that vantage point I have a pretty decent view and that leads to the subject of swallows. First I was absolutely delighted to see that there were lots, LOTS, of swallows in the new neighborhood (quartiere) where I am now living.  Even more than I saw at Laura’s place in Torino. Late one afternoon I was watching the performance of squadrons of swallows and noticed a older guy on his terrace across the street from me enjoying the same show. We waved to each other and tried to express our enjoyment of the spectacle with gestures since we’d never be able to talk to each other from that distance, especially with the street noise. Double pane windows tame the street noise when the windows are closed.

A view of via Santo Stefano looking toward the very center of town.

After eating pre-prepared junk from the supermarket for a couple of days I was able to cook again. So that has been satisfying. I can’t yet resume exercising due to the groin injury but hope that I can do so before too long. I feel so much healthier when I stress my  body a bit through exercise. A couple of things that I’ve been eating:

Spaghetti aglio e olio (garlic & oil) jacked up with anchovies and peperoncino (red pepper flakes) and topped with pecorino romano – with a sicilian red wine and cherries for desert
Chick thigh with potatoes, cherry tomatoes and zucchini – kind of using whatever I found in the fridge before it goes to waste. The wine is a Veneto region chardonnay

Since I haven’t had a haircut since February 5 I’m starting to look like an old hippy (certainly the old part is unmistakable). I also decided to let my beard grow since I wasn’t really going anywhere for awhile. I kind of like the beard and Laura’s OK with it so I’m going to keep it and regarding the hair, I’ll maybe have a ponytail for awhile to complete the hippy image. Maybe I’ll even start wearing my hawaiian shirts around town occasionally. 

Not a great picture but you get the idea.

The next update will come from Torino.

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.

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).

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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