You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2010.


I’m really living the life this summer.  The boys and I have been on vacation since we arrived on 15 July.  You would think that I’d be full of energy but I actually seem to be getting lazy.  We’d better get back to real life soon!    We have found an apartment that we like and we’re waiting for the paperwork to be completed before getting too excited about it.   It is taking even longer than usual to get squared away since E-V-E-R-Y-O-NE is on vacation in August.   We’re not talking about one week here.  We’re talking one month. In any case, the apartment won’t be available at the earliest 15 September and the latest 1 October.  We have about a month left of the gypsy life.   We hope to spend the remaining time at Agricola Villa Lupara, an agriturismo halfway between Salerno and Cava de’ Tirreni.  It’s nestled into the mountains but you can still see Salerno and the sea.  They grow grapes for their own sulfate-free wine.  In fact, everything they grow is biologic (organic). 

I’m even driving my little “half a car” as my friend, Mary, called it.  When we first arrived in Salerno, I was nervous about driving in this region.  Everything in the south of Italy is slow except for the drivers!   I don’t understand what their rush is.  Although they are reckless, they must be skilled drivers or there would be a lot more accidents.  Anyway, on our nightly excursions, I’ve been driving and getting accustomed to roads and driving style.  I think I’m probably frustrating a lot of Italian drivers in the process (ha, ha).  I only made one wee mistake.  We were driving up a steep, crazy, windy one lane (but used for two) road and I stopped because we were unsure of where we were going.  It was too steep to start going up again with a stick shift; no traction on cobblestone with those little wheels.  I had to back down to the last turn.  Fortunately, there wasn’t anyone behind us.   Lesson learned.   I can’t understand why Luca wanted to drive home that night!

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View of the main house

For Luca’s second week of vacation, we stayed in Foggia at Luca’s parents.   We stayed in the belotta which means party house.     A couple years ago, they painted and cleaned it up.   It serves as a comfortable, separate guest house.   

The Chicken House

Luca’s father has a penchant for building projects.    During our six years of marriage, I’ve seen another guest house started (underway), chicken houses suitable for Donald Trump’s chickens (completed), a road through the property to the back gate (underway).   I refer to the road as the municipal project.  

The municipal project - the road will extend from here along the back of the property

In you live in a country villa in Italy, it is normal to have high walls around the entire property for privacy and security.   Luca found it very strange when he first moved to the U.S. how open all our property is.  In Italy, you can drive down these roads that look like nothing but when you go through a gate, it is a different world inside. 

We spent a few more days at the beaches in Mattinata and Vieste on the Gargano coast.  One day, Luca and I set off on our own to Trani.  Trani is a beautiful seaside city about one hour from Foggia.   We spent the day strolling around the historic buildings and castle.  Of course, we had a delicious seafood lunch overlooking the harbor and enjoyed being able to have a conversation.

Fishing boats in Trani Harbor

Man repairing fishing net

Cathedral-I'm the lady with the big hat & fabulous tan

Castello di Trani

 

You may have noticed that I don’t write about the city of Foggia much.   Foggia was heavily bombed during WWII which destroyed its historic character.  Only a small historic center survived.  The city was rebuilt with what appears to be little civic planning with unattractive buildings.   Garbage is a problem that really bothers me.   Instead of putting your garbage out once a week for pick up, people are supposed to take their garbage to dumpsters at particular collection points.   However, the dumpsters are not emptied often enough.  The dumpsters overflow and then people continue to throw garbage on the side of the road.     In many places along side of the road, the garbage is burned to get rid of it.  It’s a real problem.    I tried running one particularly windy morning, got covered with ash from some genius burning stuff on a windy day and barked at by feral dogs.   (You have to carry a stick or rock when you run.)   Arrghhhh!  Ok, so it’s not my favorite area.    That’s alright; it’s back to Salerno anyway and the agriturismo we’re staying at looks awesome.


View of the castle walls

 

Last week we were officially on vacation.    Through the website http://www.agriturismo.it/IlCastellodiMigliano/enindex.asp , Luca found an agriturismo in the Umbria region.  Umbria is rightly known as the “green heart of Italy”.  The castle is perched on the top of hill.   There are lovely views of the surrounding green valleys and hills and other castles.   

We stayed in a small apartment owned by a charming couple, Elisabetta and Francesco.   They were gracious hosts suggesting the places to see including a tour of a nearby cantina (winery).   They joined us that evening which made the experience even more special.  

There are two vacation apartments and several other apartments with permanent residents.  The wing in which we stayed was restored well with careful attention to historic details.   The apartment made you feel like you were stepping back in time.    Portions of the original towers survive.  Elisabetta said they will continue to restore other portions of the castle.   You can also see where they have excavated and found further sections of the castle in what was previously a garden.   Elisabetta also mentioned a legend about a treasure somewhere in the castle.  They suspect in the parking lot.  She hopes they won’t dig that whole thing up, too!

Francesco & Elisabetta with Russell and Duilio

Francesco & Elisabetta with Russell and Duilio

The castle is really like a small village.  In the late afternoon, the ladies sit knitting or working on other crafts in the courtyard.    As the week went on, we discovered more details about the residents.   While I thought they were knitting or crafting for pleasure, they were actually working on cashmere for a well known designer.  I had remarked to a young woman that the sweater she was working on was “molto bella”.  She replied in Italian that it cost un mille euro.  I thought I misunderstood or my extremely limited Italian was failing me but later on I was able to confirm the figure.  Wow! 

View of Castle from below

There was also a restaurant in the castle which had simple, typical dishes.   Of course, the young woman I mentioned above also worked as a waitress at the restaurant.  We were lucky because the restaurant had activities planned for San Lorenzo’s night (night of the shooting stars) and a concert on our last night there.  It was a tribute band to the famous Italian singer who died tragically as a result of a car accident, Rino Gaetano, http://www.rinogaetano.it/.  The concert was right outside our door.   We really enjoyed it!

Nearby Cities

The castle has great access (all within 1 hour) to many cities in Umbria.  We were able to visit a few in our week there including Assisi, Bevagna, Deruta, Spello and Perugia.  There are others we didn’t have time to visit.  The vineyard we visited was at Monte Vibiano…excellent wine. 

Activities

We’d also like to return to take advantage of the outdoor activities.  There is excellent cycling and hiking in the region. 

For a definition of an Agriturismo, see:

http://goitaly.about.com/od/italytravelglossary/g/agriturismo.htm.  We also learned of a new classification called “country houses”.  From what I understand, they are more luxurious than agriturismo and do not have to produce anything.

Mystical Evening Sunset


The Boys and I near the beach

On Friday, Luca surprised us by coming back to the hotel early and taking us for lunch in a town on the Amalfi Coast called Cetara.    Luca had asked a colleague for recommendations.  The guy proceeded to call the restaurant to make sure the direttore received the right type of attention.   Luca has been amused by the deferential treatment he gets at his new company.   Things like being offered coffee or people making copies for him would never happen voluntarily in the US.  You’re lucky if the administrative assistant will answer your phone.   Personally, I think he kind of likes it. 

Luca looking like the Italian hottie that he is

Cetara is about 5 km from Salerno following the winding coastal road.    It’s so beautiful that I wanted to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.   The sun is bright but the constant breeze keeps you comfortable.    (Not the place for a tidy hairstyle.)   We sat on the lovely terrace of the Ristorante San Pietro.    

Ristorante San Pietro

We had several seafood antipasti; each little tidbit presented and served on different plates and wisked away when finished.  On to the primi of seafood risotto.  

The Chosen Fish

Finally, the secondi of a fish that met our approval before getting cooked up in the kitchen.    Of course, this was accompanied by a lovely glass of chilled white wine.  Life was definitely good that afternoon!   The boys were even relaxed and enjoyed the restaurant.  Those of you that know me well know that taking my boys out to eat is not among my favorite things to do.    I look forward to exploring more of the Amalfi Coast.

Building in Cetara


View from our hotel room

 We spent last week at the Grand Hotel Salerno (http://www.grandhotelsalerno.com/).  Luca was working and we needed to spend some time in our new city to find an apartment.  We like Salerno so far.  I no longer find it necessary to check weather.com each day to determine the day’s activities or dress.  It simply sunny and mid-80’s.  We spent most evenings at the large historic “centro” with its many restaurants and shops.  

Duilio Eating Octopus

 Duilio was willing to try new types of food; Russell not so much!  

Taverna Santa Maria de Domno

One restaurant was especially enjoyable.   The Taverna Santa Maria di Domno is housed in part of an old church.  It has a cozy atmosphere and delicious food.  Many of the dishes offered in Salerno’s restaurants include seafood for obvious reasons.  

Another feature of Salerno that we really enjoy is the Lungomare.  It is 2.5 mile long promenade along the sea.  It is used for running, walking, eating gelato or, the favorite pastime of Italians, talking on your mobile phone.

Lungomare

 

Russell playing with a water fountain on the lungomare

 


My new car arrived!  It’s a Fiat Panda.  Isn’t she cute? 

My New Car

 We’re pleased that Luca will have a company car.  

Luca's Company Car

The only problem is that the economy isn’t so great in Europe either.   (Luca has agreed to deliver propane on his lunch break to help defray the cost of the car.)