twelfth night

January 6, 2014 christmas, diario/journal, italy

on the twelfth day of christmas, my true lovelast entry – christmas 2013
prologue-1 – italy 2014

MagiThe impetus for this entry is the magical word twelfth. I can’t spell it, because I have no understanding of how you combine a t, a w, an e, an l, an f, another t and an h into a word. What were them Middle Englishers thinking? And yet I love the contortions the tongue has to perform in order to make the sound. It comes out like an incantation.

Not to be outdone by them 14th century peoples, I’ve assembled my own contradictions from highfalutin Shakespeare (the post title), and Giotto (the image), to the low-brow Twelve Days of Christmas (the entry title). While using the Catholic feast of the Epiphany to tie them all together.

The pic is Giotto’s Adoration of the Magi. (Giotto’s frescoes remind me of American primitive paintings.) With camels and gifts the three kings have followed the comet – the brown ball at the top of the image – to the stable at Bethlehem. In the fresco, this stable seem to be the end of the road. The oldest king has taken off his crown and kneels before the child. All present watch except for the camel driver who prefers to attend to his animals. (He’s my favorite character in this Medieval pageant.)

The 2013 Christmas season is done. And good riddance. I am so glad to be nowhere near northern Michigan; to not hear anymore carols, holiday greetings, birthday wishes or questions about retirement.

Yesterday, I went over to Rick-and-Sarah’s and we booked our flights to Italy for August.


January 24, 2014 diario/journal, italy, reflections

moore, barlow, serra, scaife and cathedralprologue-2 – italy 2014

InterN 004A(moore) Reclining Figure, (barlow) Tip, (serra) Carnegie, (left) Scaife Wing, (right) Cathedral of Learning – University of Pittsburgh.

Weather talk is always so cliché, but this has been an incredibly cold month. Frigid temperatures and snowfall have interrupted 25% of our school-days and it looks line next week will get chewed up again by the descent of the Polar Vortex below the 49th parallel.

I used the image on the left more because inside of it is a sense of spring. Barlow’s sculpture suggests growing things. This morning I was thinking about all the snowdrops that I planted in the blueberry beds in the back of the yard. I’m hoping to see some evidence of green in the next 3 or 4 weeks.

The other topic to keep me hopeful through this miserable January is the trip to Italy. This year I’ll be there 3 weeks and for the first time ever, I am not traveling in early August. Three of us are going and we’ll begin in Sicily the first week, travel through Calabria, Basilicata and Campania the second week and then onto Rome for our third week. This will be my first time in Sicily. (I’m not counting the one-day trip to the Aeolian Island of Panarea in 2009.)


January 26, 2014 diario/journal, italy, reflections

copper dragonfly covered in january snowprologue-3 – italy 2014

DSC_7884After my experience with doing a bank transfer for a down-payment on the apartment we are renting in Siracusa, I’ve decided to chronicle the planning of the trip to Italy.

The bank transfer done, means that I can concentrate on housing for the other two weeks. (The third leg of the trip is Rome and because we’re there for a week, lodging will be easier.) I’m now trying to figure out the middle week and how to divide the time. Rick-and-Sarah want to go to Aprigliano, so we’ll be in southern Calabria for at least 3 days.

The first week, we’re staying in south-eastern Sicily on the peninsula of Ortigia – the ancient city-center of Siracusa. Cicero claimed Siracusa was one of the most important and most beautiful cities of the Greek world. Its grandeur rivaled Athens.


March 5, 2014 2014, diario/journal, reflections

the apriglianesi in sault ste marie2nd entry – apriglianesi

tree ringsLately, I’ve been thinking about the group that I grew up in when living in Northern Ontario. For me, the Apriglianese Group of my youth can be best represented by a series of concentric circles. At the core were the Zingas, the Perris and the Mutos. These are my family, my grandparents, my uncle and aunt. In the next ring were the Belsitos, the Sanguinettis and the Mussos. These three families were from Aprigliano and friends of my parents. These are the people in the old black-and-white pictures, the people at the birthday celebrations, the people from the Christmas holidays. (Christmas gifts for me and my siblings came from my parents, my grandparents and my aunt-and-uncle. But the adults of the extended-family also exchanged gifts among themselves. There was a lot of effort to make certain the gifts the adults exchanged were of equal value, of equal prestige. I remember my mom opening up the gifts from her friends before Christmas. Jo’ and I were shocked by this save-face behavior.)

In the cump’armunte journal post, I wrote about Armante Sanguinetti, and that with his death only his wife and my parents remain in that group of friends from Aprigliano. The generation that left Calabria is fading, but they leave behind their children.

There were 14 children in the extended-family. (They are listed vertically – oldest to youngest.)
Three have died.

Zinga Family Muto Family Sanguinetti Family Musso Family Belsito Family
Mario Rose Marisa Lena Angie
Connie Mary Joseph *Renato Mimmo
*Jo’ Frank Gianni

* My sister Jo’ died June 30, 2001; Renato died September 6, 1994; and Antonino died January 22, 1994.

Connie, Marisa, Lena, Frank, Angie and Mimmo still live in Sault Ste Marie. I’m in Pittsburgh; Rose is in Oxford, Michigan; Mary is in Pickering; Joe is in Mississauga; and Gianni is in Michigan’s UP. Surprisingly, I still interact with many of these next generation off-springs. (The only ones I do not see are Lena Musso, but then she was a bit older than the rest of us and once she married Bernardo Fragomeni, we began to travel in very different circles. And I haven’t seen Gianni Belsito in years.)

easter 2014

April 12, 2014 diario/journal, easter

regina caeli laetare – queen of heaven rejoice1st entry – easter 2014

Tues-Aug13 020The last three years, I’ve been in Kaua’i during April break and this year I’m heading back north to Sault Ste Marie. The last time I was there in April was 2010. I had my new Forester with its manual transmission. (I was figuring out how to be comfortable with a stick so that when in Italy I didn’t have to add driving anxiety to my list.)

The Christmas 2013 posts used the O Antiphons as titles. I’m going to try and use the Regina Caeli antiphons for this Easter 2014 set. And to compliment the old Latin title, I’m using the image of the bell-tower of the church in the old section of Piobbico. Through the trees and with its mountain background the setting too is evocative of a long ago time.


April 14, 2014 diario/journal, easter

rejoice and be glad, o virgin mary2nd entry – easter 2014

Sun-13 017aOn my way up to the Sault, I decided to take a different route and stop in at St. Gregory’s Abbey south of Kalamazoo. I knew of the place from my visits to the Episcopal community of monks in Cambridge. (One of the Christian Brothers I’ve been working with, on charter school issues, suggested we meet there to follow-up on our conversation.) The group in Michigan lives in a rural setting in the middle of the farming belt that runs through Ohio and Indiana.

The monastery is very simple, but very well cared for. The community of monks is small and reminded me of what the isolated monasteries in Europe must be like. The community at St. Gregory is even closer to the Catholic Benedictine tradition, using Latin hymns and prayers. My visit was brief, because the weather was turning miserable. This morning was cold, wet and windy and rather than stay the day, I headed north wanting to do the drive in daylight and hitting the UP mid-day rather than after the sun went down. Didn’t want to risk icy roads and blinding snow. (I am not exaggerating, the landscape 30 miles south was a winter wonderland.)

The image is of a ladybug on the wall of the guest house hallway. I couldn’t believe that in early April a ladybug was out and about. And a ladybug indoors meant good luck, so I had to shoot it. The original image was not good, but I knew that by cropping off most of it, I could create an interesting picture.

I had forgotten how variable April can be in the northern climates. The temperature here is in the 20’s and it’s snowing. Down in Pittsburgh it’s almost 70 degrees.


April 15, 2014 diario/journal, easter

the philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation3rd entry – easter 2014

The image is of my parents’ driveway this morning. This will be the last time that I will voluntarily come up here in April. If I come up to visit in the spring, it will be after mid-May. Coming back to winter is depressing.

Today, I finally went up to the Board of Education hoping to find a trove of old photographs of the elementary schools from back in the late 50’s. Found nothing. The Catholic Board is housed in the old convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph. The all-girls high-school – Mount St. Joseph College – next door is the curriculum department. Walking into the door of the old high-school was like going through a time warp. The lobby has had no renovations done to it. It still looks like it did back in the early sixties. Here was a location that I spent many hours in while at St. Mary’s, the all-boys high-school. The Mount was our sister school and we had many dances together. (For one semi-formal, I helped to decorate. I had this idea of hanging streamers from wires strung across the gym. It was lots and lots of yard-long streamers and one of the other guys helping got all pissed at my insistence that they be one yard long. That was the last time I ever volunteered to have anything to do with school dances. To this day, I avoid school dances.)


will be the philosophy of the government in the next generation

In the open/liberal days of the 60’s the separations and restrictions of the previous decades were beginning to fade away. By the time Jo’, Rose and Mary were at the Mount, the boys from St. Mary’s were coming over to take classes at the all girls’ school.

The visit had me thinking about all the generational shifts that I’ve seen. I began as a young man believing that the structures and agencies that I had grown up with were worth joining and embracing. The structures were provided by the Catholic Church, so I went off and joined a group of teaching Brothers. What I found when I got there was a group going through a generational shift and I saw the organization and Catholic education radically change. The structures and agencies fell apart as the modern world exerted itself on the old order. Little by little the world that I had grown up in disappeared. The Church and the immigrant community were radically altered. All the familiar sign-posts fell down and new ones could not stay up in the quicksand that was the late 60’s and early 70’s.

I went from a hill-top village in Calabria, to a steel-mill town in Northern Ontario, the a monastery in Rhode Island, to a college in the center of the world – NYC – all in 13 years.


April 16, 2014 diario/journal, easter

the son you bore is risen, alleluia4th entry – easter 2014

Yesterday, I wrote the first of a set of posts that deal with generational shifts. The idea came when I opened the door to the old Mount and walked in to find the lobby looking just like it did back in the late 60’s. The school is now part of the offices of the Catholic School Board. (In Ontario, the Catholic school system is known as the Separate Schools. It receives almost total government support through an agreement between the Federal Government and a number of influential Church officials back in the 1890’s.)

I keep thinking of how one generation, while it’s still young, accepts the beliefs and cultural norms of its parents’ generation. I believe I accepted the beliefs and cultural norms of my parents’ generation. I grew up in a world created by their parents, my grandparents and I had no true idea of the legacy that I was living in and adopted.

It was many years later that I realized my parents were war refugees. Not in the same way that my grandparents’ generation was. My grandparents left Italy between the wars. My parents left Italy after the war. And yet both groups were motivated by the wars. My grandparents ran from persecution and conscription, my parents ran from economic disaster and great food shortages. But it took me years to see my parents’ departure as connected to the war.

In elementary school in Aprigliano, I remember watching films about undetonated land mines, but it wasn’t until I was in my 50’s that I connected the dots and realized that my parents were children of the war. And that they left their native land and the memories of war behind when they came to Canada. I’ve read about concentration camp survivors who never talked about their experiences when they got out of Europe.

Zinga 130My parents never talked about the war. I was raised to believe that we left Calabria, because of economic reasons; that my dad left Calabria to find work and cash in on the benefits that came from a steady job. And yet my parents grew up in the 40’s. They were teenagers when Hitler marched through Europe; when Mussolini harangued the crowds from the stone balustrade, which overlooks Piazza Venezia. And yet not a word was uttered. Instead I saw pictures of Aprigliano, of their friends in long, elegant coats. (Mafalda is third from the left.) I remember wanting to look like them. And BTW, I have two long elegant coats of my own.

Tues-15 026In 1968 at 17, I left Sault Ste Marie believing that I was joining an organization that would set me on a path that was consistent with the values that I had learned in my parents’ home. I was joining a group of Brothers who dedicated themselves to teaching. I was maintaining both a religious tradition and an educational imperative. However, when I got to the Novitiate in Rhode Island, I discovered a group a men on the cusp of reform. Religious traditions and educational imperatives were old fashion; I was told that I belonged to a new generation. I was told to not trust anyone over 30. And so began the shift. I had permission to walk away from what I had learned while living in my parents’ house; while living within the immigrant community in Sault Ste Marie. Like my parents who forget to tell us about the war; I could forget my Catholic upbringing; forget my immigrant roots. I could grow my hair long; wear bell-bottoms; toke a joint. The moon was in the seventh house and the sun would shine onto the post-war world; there would be no more falsehoods or derision.

The image is the Canadian centennial symbol. Back in the late 60’s they built the library that I am now doing work in as a commemoration of Canada’s 100 birthday. I remember coming down to the library when we were in high-school and pretending to do homework when in reality we were hanging out in the new building.


April 19, 2014 diario/journal, easter

he has risen as he said, alleluia5th entry – easter 2014

This is the last of the Marian antiphons.Sat-19 011

I am back at Rose-and-Derrick’s in Oxford, Michigan.

Thursday morning, I woke up to the sound of the snow-blower. There was Ciccio, at seven in the morning, running the snow-blower; there were 4 inches of snow in the driveway. I went out and helped. It was the wet-snow typical of mid-April and even though it was disconcerting to be plowing the driveway in early spring, by the afternoon the snow had all melted. Friday morning, I left. I had escaped from Sault Ste Marie. Paul claims that I really escaped many years ago, but each time I cross over into Sault, Michigan I feel like I got away, again.

This morning Rose, Derrick and I went walking and there was this huge day-moon in a blue-blue sky. We spend the afternoon on the back deck in the sun. I even got a bit of color. Supper was phenomenal – home-made lasagna, breaded chicken, rapini, grilled potato wedges and a wonderful Barbera red from northern Italy. (The day makes it feel like I’m back in a world I recognize.)


April 20, 2014 diario/journal, easter

easter sunday and the sky is blue6th entry – easter 2014

Sun-20 013We called up to the Sault to wish them Happy Easter and the reply was – too bad we were on our own. What does that mean? Is there a magic number of invitees that suggests you aren’t a social failure when hosting Easter brunch? The coda to the too bad statement was the suggestion that we should have been with the rest of the family. Never mind that the weather in the Sault is rain and grey skies; never mind the 10 hour drive. (It’s at these times that I sit back and admit that with regards to family gatherings I have little in common with my parents.)

Easter brunch was great, there was ham, asparagus and frittata with chives, mushrooms and green onions. We began the meal, after our two hour walk, with Mimosas. We needed something to do while waiting for the ham to heat.

Our walk took us past a tall red-headed heron and a cardinal eating left over winter berries. The heron is in the image on the left; the cardinal is in the slide show. The trail is the old rail line that went through this part of south eastern Michigan. Once off the walking path, we continued through old Oxford with its renovated old houses. The new sub-divisions are on the western side of M24.


April 21, 2014 diario/journal, easter

open water – the north channellast entry – easter 2014

Wed-16 002The image is of the north channel. I’m standing on the St. Joe’s Island side of the bridge facing east and shooting towards the mainland – Northern Ontario. The channel has one of the fastest currents in the Great Lakes system and that’s why you can see open water. The other side of the Island faces Lake Huron; this far north, the Lake is a solid sheet of ice.

Easter Monday officially ends the season. In Canada and among the Italian expatriates in Sault Ste Marie, Easter is still a big to-do. My family, minus Mario, the Thormans, Melchiorres and McCaigs, had their Easter celebration at lunch. (My dad couldn’t understand that here in the U.S. the holiday is exclusively religious and not recognized by any government entity.)

eggs2Calabrian-Easter-Breads2There are two foods that I associate with Easter – the Mylar-wrapped chocolate eggs and the home-made breads with an egg imbedded in the braids. The chocolate eggs were tall, shinny and crinkly; they also had a small toy inside. Ciccio would buy each of his children one of these and give them to us on Easter Sunday. I remember the breads as wonders – because I was too young to understand that the egg cooked while the bread was in the oven, I kept expecting to tap the egg and have it still be raw. My mother still makes the braided Easter bread both the long and the round. However, in post-war Calabria there were no Jimmies to sprinkle on top of the Easter breads. And Mafalda would never blemish her Easter bread with something as American as Jimmies.

I spent most of the today on the road, driving home from Oxford. I left early this morning and was home by noon. Michigan-24 was heavy with commuters heading to their suburban offices, but 75 South and the Ohio and Pennsylvania Turnpikes had little traffic; I was able to maintain a speed above 75mph.


June 16, 2014 diario/journal, italy

autostrada del soleprologue-4 – italy 2014

autostradaLet me put up a tentative itinerary.

We arrive in Palermo on Saturday, August 30 and drive the three hours to Modica on the A18. We’re in Sicily for one week. We’ll go to Agrigento, Siracusa, Ragusa and the amazing Scala dei Turchi beach.

On Saturday, September 6 we’ll find our way onto the A15 and head up to Messina to get the ferry to cross over to Villa San Giovanni on the Reggio Calabria side. Autobahnsymbol2I’m hoping we can spend a couple of hours in Reggio; the lungomare is phenomenal. The second week, we’re in Belmonte Calabro for the first half and Naples for the second. We’re driving the A3 between Reggio and Calabro. We will visit with my relatives in Aprigliano and Pietrafitta and go to Pompeii when in Naples.

The third week we’ll be in Rome. Half-way between Naples and Rome, off the A1, is Cassino. Here the Axis and Allied forces fought the Battle for Rome. I want to see the WWII cemetery at the bottom of the mountain and Monte Cassino – the Benedictine monastery – at the top. (It was the Allies that bombed the monastery.)

Traveling the Autostrada, I don’t hear the electronic jazz Kraftwerk created all those years ago.
Wir fahr’n fahr’n fahr’n auf der Autobahn  (Like the rest of us, the boys have gotten old.)
But let’s not dither, there is no fusion, no syncopation, no elegance to the Italian autostrada. The pastoral lassitude of the German landscape is replaced by the spikes and tunnels of the Aspromonte.


June 29, 2014 diario/journal, italy

making zucchini flowers into frittersprologue-5 – italy 2014

I knew it was summer, because my mom would make pittuli and even though the term in Italian is generic, to me it always meant zucchini flower fritters. Later, I learned that in Calabria they also made puttuli with cauliflower, dandelion and field greens.

pittuliGrowing up, I always associated the pittuli with the contadini traditions that we brought with us from Calabria. Traditions grounded in eating vegetables from my dad’s garden, in making wine in the fall, in making sausage, prosciutto and capicola. Today, the markets in Italy are full of zucchini flowers and trendy restaurants both here and there serve the blossoms dipped in batter. (I’ve never eaten the dipped zucchini flowers. This summer whether in Sicily, Calabria, Naples or Rome, I want to make sure to try them.) Today, the salumi my parents make are high-end items at the organic, up-scale markets across the country.

The batter is simple – flour, grated cheese, a couple of eggs and the zucchini flowers. (I use San Pellegrino instead of tap water; the fizz make for a lighter batter.) As a kid, I was given the job of cleaning the zucchini blossoms that my dad picked. He would pick the flowers in the morning when they first open. They are freshest then, and an open blossom tends to have no cucumber beetle in it. By late afternoon the blossoms close and begin to wither trapping any bug in a yellow-orange cocoon. Also, when it comes to zucchini-flower cooking, you can tell who the johnny-came-late are; these late bloomers do not remove the pointy green things at the bottom of the flower before cooking. My mother just shakes her head. She has no understanding why someone who is supposed to know their way around a vegetable can do such a stupid thing.

Also, I don’t put salt in the batter for the pittuli. The cheese has enough salt for this delicate recipe.


July 3, 2014 diario/journal, italy

      the turkish steps outside of agrigentoprologue-6 – italy 2014

t-stepsDLa Scala dei Turchi literally The Ladder of the Turks is a rocky cliff off the southwestern coast of Sicily. The steps, looking south, face Tripoli. La Scala gets its name from the geographical formations – step-like indentations on the white rock-face – and the historical fact that the Turks conducted many raids on the island from this entry point. It’ll be one of our side-trips while in Modica. I just hope that access to the steps is easy and convenient. Not necessarily a concern at most Italian beaches and landmarks. (I will say that signage on Italian roads is way better than signage on roads in France.)

From online images, in the summer the steps teem with sun-worshipers. Such an Italian approach to sun bathing; no one in America would think of slathering themselves in suntan oil and lying on a mountain side facing the afternoon sun. In 2009, we were in Panarea; the island has no beach, but hundreds of sun-bathers were sitting on the volcanic rocks that make up the island’s cliffs.


July 3, 2014 diario/journal, italy

          the old town – fotografia del 1913prologue-7 – italy 2014

modica1913AI’ve never written this much before a trip and I’m not sure why I’m doing it this time. The only reason I can suggest is that I’ve never been to Sicily and am trying to get my head around the place before I actually set foot on the island. My only other experience with Sicily was Panarea and I was amazed. The cannoli were beyond good.

I wonder if I’m dealing with my prejudices about Sicily. After all, I am from that generation that will forever associate the island with organized crime. (Coppola’s Godfather movies defined the island.) Also as Calabresi, we thought of ourselves as better than them Sicilians; we were better than them Sicilians that had immigrated earlier. My parents had an education; they lived in town; they brought over an intact family; they weren’t fugitives; they didn’t have ties to the Mafia; they weren’t starving; they came to Canada; they believed they were forging a new path not following in the wake of those that had left years earlier.

We ended up in Modica after our first rental in Siracusa became unavailable. And yesterday, I read a great blog posting by Rick Zullo a blogger who write for expats. He wrote about Modica’s two city-centers, its good restaurants, and its Baroque architecture. The two city-centers are quite typical of areas damage by earthquakes. The rebuilding happens away from the earthquake area, but then the devastated area slowly gets rehabbed and a city ends up with a new and an old downtown.


July 17, 2014 diario/journal, italy, reflections

    my uncle in romeprologue-8 – italy 2014

Zinga 127My Zinga grandparents came over from Aprigliano in the early 50’s and settled in Toronto. My grandfather Annunziato married his brother’s widow – Concetta Capisciolto – my dad’s mom. Concetta died three years later and my grandfather remarried. He married Raffaella De Francesca and they had five natural children and one from my grandfather’s first marriage. (Annunziato was his formal name; in dialect, everyone called him Nunziatu.)

I got to know my grandparents in high-school; my dad had a car and we would make the trip south for weddings – my aunts, uncles and cousins were all young. Also, in senior year, I traveled back and forth to Toronto as part of the application process into the Brothers. Later in college, because I had to go through Toronto on my way home to Sault Ste Marie, I always planned the trips with an over-night visit with my grandparents.

The guest-room, was next to my grandparents’ bedroom and every night before they got ready for bed, they would pray the rosary and remember Mario in their prayers. Mario was their oldest child and they had left him behind in an institution in Rome. He is mentally disabled. (The above image is Mario back in the early 50’s.)

Back in the 1950’s, Canadian Immigration would not let children with disabilities into the country. And rather than risk being denied entry, my grandparents left Mario behind in an institution. He is still alive and still institutionalized. I’m hoping to visit with him when I’m in Rome in September.

Zinga 097AI believe that on the Zinga side of the family there is a genetic abnormality that has resulted in number of children with disabilities. My grandfather Nunziatu and my uncle Luigi, his older brother, both had mentally retarded children. My uncle Luigi’s son made it through immigration. He grew up in Canada; was never able to live on his own, but he was an active member of the family attending all Zinga family events. I don’t know enough about my uncle Mario to know how severe his disability is. However, it’s also true that other Zinga parents had very bright children; both ends of the spectrum are represented in the extended family.

Today, I met a family that has two boys – the older boy is very bright and the younger is borderline MR. The younger child was visiting the school; he is a perspective 9th grader. What prompted this post is a wonderful exchange with the young man. He is in our office waiting for a tour and he begins asking all these questions and in one exchange he says, “I heard this school was founded by teachers.” One of the admins in the office – Mrs. Welch – points to me. I raised my hand to acknowledging both the question and the pointing. The young man says, “Wow! and you’re still alive.” It made my day. There’s obviously nothing wrong with his sequencing patterns.


July 24, 2014 diario/journal, italy

  AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-EDprologue-9 – italy 2014

hosta-AThe image on the left is the result of shooting a Hosta flower at close range with a tripod. The soft brown background is the wooded fence. And all I did to the image is crop it into a square; no other Photoshop tweaks. I really like the images from this lens. The stamens are almost impossible to see with the naked eye and yet with the micro lens their black caps center the focus. (Most of the images in the slide-show, in the header, were shot with this same lens.)

This post began because of a photo-shoot with a micro lens, but morphed into an account of a medieval king and southern Italy. I added it to Italy 2014, because it’s another piece that has me thinking differently about Sicily.

I just read that the High Renaissance shift in literature normally attributed to Dante and the other Florentines really began with Frederick II in Sicily. Federico II proved an important patron of the arts throughout his entire reign. A poet himself, he prized southern French poetry and welcomed troubadour poets from the region to his court. Through the influence of these writers, a new poetry began to be composed in the Sicilian vernacular. The poetry that emanated from the group had a significant influence on literature and on what was to become the modern Italian language.

Federico was born in Le Marche, in the small town of Jesi. (The original name was spelled Iesi with an i. Many Italian towns have switched and adopted the J. And yet, the letter J is not in the Italian alphabet.)
Jesi is where I found the  amazing doors  by sculptor Paolo Annibali.

Map-Sicily-CFederico was one of the most powerful Holy Roman Emperors of the Middle Ages. His political and cultural ambitions, based in Sicily, stretched through Italy to Germany and even to Jerusalem. His brilliant court which blended Norman, Arabic and Jewish elements was housed in Palermo. Also, in 1234, Federico founded the University of Naples, the first state university in western Europe.

Historian Donald Detwiler wrote: Federico was a man of extraordinary culture, energy, and ability – called by a contemporary chronicler stupor mundi – the wonder of the world – by Nietzsche the first European, and by many historians the first modern ruler – Federico established in Sicily and southern Italy something very much like a modern, centrally governed kingdom with an efficient bureaucracy.

Federico, in Italy, ruled over the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The kingdom was formed from the union of the Kingdom of Sicily and the Kingdom of Naples. Because of political manoeuvrings, the capital of the unified kingdom fluctuated between Palermo and Naples.

Federico II is buried in the Palermo Cathedral in a sarcophagus of red porphyry mounted on four carved lions.


July 25, 2014 diario/journal, italy

      a window to the soulprologue-10 – italy 2014

windowStained glass windows are not a feature of most of the small churches in southern Italy. In Aprigliano, none of the churches I’ve been in have stained glass. (I associated stained glass with the mausoleums in the cemetery across the valley from Santo Stefano.) The churches have small windows near the ceiling, but these serve to release the heat trapped up high. There are several that have only one window on the wall opposite the altar. I guess with the intense heat the thick stone walls would be compromised if they had large window openings.

In moderate climates, windows were part of the architectural design. They were the eyes lifting to the heavens, they were the pages of Holy Scripture – the Old Testament, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection; they were The Virgin in glory. Think France, Germany and the UK; think Chartres, Cologne, Canterbury. (The Vatican has the magnificent Bernini window of the Holy Spirit over the throne of Peter. But it’s way up there on the altar wall. Is there any other stained glass in the basilica?)

The image on the left is one of the renovated windows of St. Peter’s Church here on the North Side. The building is undergoing a much needed restoration. The stone has been cleaned and the windows brought back to life.

I have two items to dig for during this summer’s trip – evidence of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and examples of stained glass windows in the churches of Calabria. Because of the last post and the research on Federico II, I am determined to understand how Sicily and Calabria are similar. I grew up believing that Sicily was a vast, backward province and now I’m discovering that it was and is a center of culture, art, music, philosophy and learning. I grew up believing that there were few similarities between the Calabresi and the Siciliani. I am suspect of that belief.

Nearly half of the world’s Italians – in Italy and its diaspora – trace their roots to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. I am one of the diaspora; my ancestors lived in the Two Sicilies.


July 29, 2014 diario/journal, italy

il tevereprologue-11 – italy 2014

sun-wallI’ve been listening to Claudio Villa’s  Carozzella romana   and marvel at the lyrical names of the Roman landmarks. (It’s interesting that in Italian the adjective Roman loses its proper noun status and is written with a lower-case  r .)

Tevere rolls off the tongue. Tiber requires a walk through the harsh syllables. The original name for the river resembles the English more than the Italian. Tiber-sculpture(In the image on the left, the face reminds me of the relief of the Tiber god on the Campidoglio steps – above image. According to legend, the god’s hair represents the river.)

TiberThe river begins in the Apennines in Emilia-Romagna, flows south for 252 miles and empties into the Mediterranean south-west of Rome. In the 1930s, Mussolini placed an antique marble column at its source. The inscription reads QUI NASCE IL FIUME SACRO AI DESTINI DI ROMA – Here is born the river sacred to the destinies of Rome. (One sick Italian with illusions of grandeur wrapping himself up in Roman revisionism. And getting hung upside down in a piazza in Milan was a fitting end for this male diva.)

My last two times in Rome were short stays. Dropped the rental at the airport, checked into the Hilton and then got on the bus into town. We’d have about three hours before we had to get back on the bus. The bus stop was at the bottom of the Campidoglio. In 2011, we went walking in Trastevere and on our walk back discovered the development down on the banks of the Tiber –  Lungo il Tevere . The name plays off the Italian word for seashore –  longomare  – which is on directional signs everywhere in the country.


August 1, 2014 diario/journal, italy

il sorriso dei colli, del pincio di villa borgheseprologue-12 – italy 2014

il-pincio1For the longest time, I had no idea what the term del pincio – from the pincio – in the song Carozzella romana referred to. So I hit Wikipedia and found that Il Pincio is the short name for the Pincian Hill in the northeast quadrant of Rome. At the bottom of the hill is Piazza del Popolo and there are steps from the Piazza up to the top of the Pincian Hill to the belvedere and La Villa Borghese. The belvedere serves as a great overlook to the ancient city. The image on the left is of a painting of spectators on the Grand Tour on the belvedere atop the Pincian Hill. (The post title, with its great alliteration, translates to: from the top of the Pincio, which is also the entrance into the Villa Borghese, one can see the Roman hills smiling.)

What is today the Piazza del Popolo was the starting point of the Via Flaminia, the road to Ariminum – modern-day Rimini – and the most important route to the north. The Via Flaminia is the road we followed through Le Marche. I always wanted to know where it ended up in Rome.

With each of these posts that I’ve put into the prologue, I am slowly planning the week in Sicily and the week in Rome. I now have a list of traditional tourists sites and things somewhat-off-the-beaten-track. On the tradition list are things like: the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Pantheon, the Campidoglio, Piazza Venezia. On the somewhat-off-the-beaten-track list are places like: Tivoli, San Pietro in Vincoli (Michelangelo’s statue of Moses, the chains of St. Peter), Piazza del Popolo, Campo di Fiori and the Jewish Ghetto, Il Lungo Tevere, Il Museo dell’Ara Pacis, Trastevere, the Monti neighborhood, the Basilica di S. Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri. (At least now I feel like I’ve over-planned and can pick and choose from my two lists. I have not done this level of planning for our week in Calabria and Naples.)


August 9, 2014 august, diario/journal

susan-and-gord’s 50th wedding anniversary1st entry – august 2014

I drove from Toronto – Dave’s house – to Chesley, Ontario. Chesley is 3 hours north-west of Toronto in farming country. It’s that same geographical swath of Ontario that extends south all the way to Windsor. The housing stock is old Canadian farmhouse and the Chesley area has a large Amish community. It’s a bit hillier than the area around Harrow where Rainer lives, but here in Chesley it’s the Georgian Bluffs and by Harrow the bluffs give way to flat prairie.

Sat-Aug9  102AThe drive was on country roads with bush or farms on either side. Because I wasn’t sure where I was going, I’ve never been through this part of Ontario, I decided to give myself some extra time and found I was the first guest to arrive. Jennifer was putting up the road-sign announcing the reception and I stopped, rolled the window down and said, “You and I look like we’re from the same family.” She was glad to see me and knew that her mom would be extra happy.

The next people to arrive from the Zinga side were Renato and his wife Gina. Renato is my Uncle Michael’s son. We are almost the same age and we’ve always gotten along. (He was 13 when his family came from Aprigliano.) In the above image, left to right, is Jennifer, Renato, me, Susan, and Gina. Gord is sitting.

Renato, Gina and I had a wonderful time getting re-acquainted. It was really the first time that I got to spend time with Gina without a mob of Zingas around and we discovered we could laugh and laugh. We even had a great time ripping on Renato. The Zingas on Uncle Michael’s side are the nice ones and Renato is one of the nicest. So ripping on him is extra fun.

In past family events we were the younger generation, but there were so many other parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts that we never got a chance to just be ourselves. We were always in service to the older group. And today it was just us, and the fact that the other Zingas didn’t show for a while, we got to laugh and have fun.


August 9, 2014 august, diario/journal

after 50 years, renewing vows2nd entry – august 2014

The event was organized around a meet-and-greet, a 1964 trivia competition, Sat-Aug9  109 (Liza and Jennifer hosted.) Susan and Gordon renewing their vows and dinner.
Where was Gordon-and-Sue’s first apartment?
   – Jane Street, a couple of blocks up from my grandparents.
Who was the Prime Minister of Canada in 1964?
   – Lester B. Pearson
Which Canadian company opened its doors in 1964?
   – Tim Horton in Hamilton, Ontario
Where did Sue and Gordon meet?
   – In the elevator of the office building they were working in.
Who won the Stanley Cup in 1964?
   – The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings 4 game to 3.

Sat-Aug9  118Renato knew most of the answers and our team won 3rd place. When Lisa handed out the prizes, we got a bottle of white wine. And as we all know the Calabrese don’t drink white wine, so Renato went over to another team that had also won and swapped the white for a red. (He is such a Zinga.) The only answer I contributed was which famous American general died in 1964.

After the trivia game, Sue and Gordon renewed their vows. (I don’t know if the person officiating was a minister or a Justice of the Peace.) When they got married back in 1964, a Justice of the Peace officiated. I’m sure my extended family in Toronto was scandalized image! – they did not marry in a church; Gordon was not Italian or Catholic – scandal squared.

A second reason I went up was to see some of the relatives on the Zinga side and to get the contact information for Mario in Rome. Sue said she had it and I’ll follow up with her when I get home.


August 9, 2014 august, diario/journal

my zinga relatives – the apriglianesi3rd entry – august 2014

Sat-Aug9  189From left to right – me, Gelsi, Susan, Joe, Rita and Renato. (Gelsi, Sue, Joe and Rita are siblings, children of Nunziatu; Renato is their cousin, child of their uncle Michele.) I believe the birth order is: Gelsi, Rita, Joe, Mario, who is in Rome and Susan. (On Renato’s side the birth order is Salvatore, Maria, Vincenzo, Renato, Raffaella and Gina.)

And in addition to us being all Zingas, the six of us were all born in Aprigliano. They were all born in La Grupa where the Zingas are from. When Ciccio and Mafalda married  they moved to Corte  into the house that my maternal grandfather had paid for with his wages from his job in Canada. I was born there in that house in Corte.

My father kept his connections to his friends from La Grupa, (The Mussos were from La Grupa.) But I never got to know any of the Zingas. Instead I got to know the Capisciolti, my grandmother’s side of the family and my mother’s relatives. (The only Zinga I remember is Zu Rimitri. He had a barber shop on the road that led into La Grupa. But he never gave me a haircut, I always got my haircuts from the barbers on my mother’s side of the family.)

Renato began to talk about La Grupa; he was 13 when he left and has many more memories of his time in Aprigliano than I do. Also, Susan has all the contact information for her brother, Mario, in Rome and she promised to give it to me.


August 10, 2014 august, diario/journal

the zingas from la grupa4th entry – august 2014

The Zingas Birth and Death Off-springs
Salvatore 1899 – Totonno
Francesco 1901 – Ciccio (my father)
Michele 1904 – Salvatore, Maria, Vincenzo, Renato, Raffaella, Gina
Assuntina 1906 – Francino from Sudbury
Annunciato 1908 – 2007 Gelsi, Rita, Joe, Mario, Susan
dimitri 1910 – never married
Luigino 1912 – ___________, Peter, Frank
Angelina 1914 –


August 11, 2014 august, diario/journal

sunset on lake superior5th entry – august 2014

Cottage  029Connie and Dave insisted that we go up to the cottage, because Seane wanted to toast marshmallows. Connie wanted me to see that the winter ice had removed all the stones from the shore in front of the cottage and that the whole Red Rock area now had sandy beaches. (A geological upheaval, a consequence of last winter’s Polar Vortex.)

The above image is my shooting at the setting sun from Connie’s cottage. The dark strip on the horizon is an island.

Seane did get her s’mores, but the bugs were over whelming and we ended up visiting with the neighbors and then headed indoors at Connie’s. The neighbor’s property is clear of trees and it looks huge; Connie kept reminding me that the two lots were the same size, and that her lot was still tree covered. Where the next door neighbor’s cottage looks like summer homes I’ve seen on the Outer Banks, Connie’s is rustic and very Northern Ontario-ish. It’s the kind of cabin I remember from when I lived up here in the early 60’s. A time when cottages were referred to as camps and a time when camps were places with out-houses and no running water.

The natural beauty of this part of Canada is wrapped up in its rugged terrain, its jutting rock-faces and its primitive vegetation. Give me the man-made landscapes of the Italian peninsula. The examples of man transforming the environment to make habitable. The land here in Northern Ontario may achieve that imprint, but it will take another thousand years. And even that may be optimistic; I keep forgetting about the winters, those may forever stop the human race from changing this landscape.


August 11, 2014 august, diario/journal

ciccio’s garden6th entry – august 2014

Ciccio-Gard  031My father’s garden  has spilled over into what was once lawn in the back-yard. Between his greenhouse, the added plot and the pole beans along the fence, he has increased his garden by 30%. Ciccio gardens like he did back in Calabria. He plants in rows with watering troughs on either side of the plant. (As a kid it was my job, when I came home from school, to water the garden. I would put the hose down in the trough and once it filled, move the water to the next trough. I hated the job. All my other friends were out playing, I had to water.)

In the image on the left, I am facing north and shooting across the largest section of the garden. The section is behind the garage. And going from right-to-left, he has: eggplants in the buckets, tomato, dill, zucchini, pole-beans and beyond the zucchini are cucumber plants. Each morning I would go out into his garden and pick a cucumber off the vine to eat with my breakfast. (Peas and cucumbers were the sweet products of the garden and as kids we ate them whenever we could.)

Aug-13 006My father’s favorite plants, the ones he lavishes time and energy on, are the pole-beans. The image on the left is Ciccio first thing in the morning. He has picked zucchini flowers that my mother will make into fritters. He also has beans in the basket and the pole-bean leaves on his jacket. (The leaves are sticky and cling to his clothes as he walks through the patch snapping beans.) There are two things he grows well – pole-beans and the fruit trees. My mother cooks the green-beans, cuts garlic into the shells and loose beans and then drizzles them with olive oil. Seane and I eat the whole bowl. We do not share with any other family member. While visiting with my parents, I lived on cucumbers, green-bean salads, zucchini-flower fritters and minestra made with peas and pasta. (I’m glad Seane doesn’t like fresh cucumbers, because I have to share the other foods with her. And she has a bit more clout with her nonno e nonna than I their only son. Go figure.)

There’s an unclaimed competition between my uncle and my dad. My uncle uses modern methods to produce the bounty in his garden. My dad doesn’t read English and therefore can’t take advantage of the new chemical mixes with their complex directions. He has to rely of a more organic approach. But let’s be clear, he’s not gone green. He has not made a conscious decision to avoid pesticides; he just doesn’t know how to use them. A side-effect that his liberal, gone-American son appreciates. (He would call me a ciuotu americanu.)


August 13, 2014 august, diario/journal

the round-barn in maple ridge7th entry – august 2014

Aug-13 106Derrick’s great-grandfather – Alexander Campbell – built this round barn on his property in Maple Ridge just north of the small town of Thessalon, Ontario on the north shore of Lake Huron. Derrick tells the story that Alexander Campbell, his maternal great-grandfather, designed and planned the barn during the winter of 1927 and built it the following year. This was a working barn used to house livestock and store crops until the late 1960’s. The above image is the roof of the barn with its main post and its octagonal rafters.

Aug-13 017The barn is one of three 12-sided barns in Canada. The oldest of the three was built in 1881 in Mystic, Quebec by Alexander Wallbridge. The second 12-sided barn was built in 1919 by Thomas Cordukes who was born and grew up near Mystic. He left Quebec and settled in the Huron Shores area in 1881, prior to the original barn being built, but returned often to visit family and would have been privy to the progress of the Wallbridge barn. The third barn, built in 1928 by local farmer Alexander Campbell, is located near Maple Ridge. Campbell, a neighbor of Thomas Cordukes, assisted with the building of his barn 9 years earlier.

The barn and the old farm-house next to it, have new owners. The round-barn is a wonderful gift shop with amazing prices. There were some furniture pieces that in any shop here in the US would cost 10 times more than the price listed in the round-barn gift shop. I bought a hand-made scarf for $9.00, Rose and Derrick bought hand-thrown espresso coffee cups for a ridiculously low price. I was thinking of doing my Christmas shopping there, but the owner said that by December the weather and the highway are not always friendly to travelers. (Highway 17 North, part of the trans-Canada system, follows the contours of the lakes in this past of Northern Ontario and where in the summer months the views over the lakes are amazing, with the beginning of November travel can be hazardous. The winds off of Lake Huron and Lake Superior can deposit snow-drifts that make the highway impassable.)


August 13, 2014 august, diario/journal

in a reflections there are generations8th entry – august 2014

Aug-13 032As Rose, Derrick and I travel, I’ve been taking some standard pictures of the three of us and these are always reflections in a window, door, glass wall or mirror. It’s the only way I have of getting us all in the pic when there is no one else around. Today, the opportunity came as we were walking around the round-barn that Derrick’s great-grandfather built. I was able to frame the three of us in one of the low barn windows; the mullions creating a triptych.

Rose and I were dressed for the chill. (On the ferry from Tobermory to South Baymouth, I had bought a sweat shirt. The morning was cool and the facts that I was on a lake and moving added to the chill.) I like that my reflection is in shadow, but spans two window panels. When I got in the car, I commented that it was the same process as when we travel in Italy. And even though we were all staying with our parents and feeling like children again, for the morning we could become adults, we could behave like we do when we are on our own.

Rose and Derrick came to my parents’ to pick me up and then we headed to Starbucks for coffee. Rose brought her mother’s taralli and genetti for breakfast.


August 13, 2014 august, diario/journal

a picnic in the garage9th entry – august 2014

Aug-13 113In Sault Ste Marie, it’s very common to have an outdoor meal in the garage. The weather is not summer enough to eat outside and the outside doesn’t have hot water, a sink, a refrigerator, or a stove to make the meal efficient. Also, it may be a picnic in a garage, but you don’t forgo plates, silverware and glasses – two sizes tall for water and short for wine. (In Calabria, they would have been under an olive tree or a quercia. Dam the conveniences, they had the sun, the shade, the landscape and the family.) Today, the weather was very chilly; we all wore long-sleeves and the garage door stayed closed.

The menu and I’ll start at the bottom of the image – home-made wine in a half-liter carafe capped with tin-foil (my uncle’s wine is very good.), stuffed green peppers, antipasti (green olives from Calabria), home-made tortellini, antipasti (home-made prosciutto and soppressata), dandelion fritters (mary’s favorites), and hard to see are the stuffed eggplant (the eggplants are from the garden. my uncle doesn’t eat eggplant, but he grows them for my aunt.) and a third antipasti plate of various cheeses. Next course were the salads – tomato and basil (the tomatoes and basil are also from my uncle’s garden. there was home-made bread to sop up the tomato and olive oil juices.), dandelion (my favorite), and cucumber (in the muto family not everyone likes the tomatoes and cucumbers mixed, so my aunt make two separate salads.) My dad and Ron must have been hungry; they were the first ones to sit down.

Given the abundance, I had the stuffed peppers which were wonderful (the ration of chopped meat to rice was skewed to the rice side, the meat was only there for flavor.), dandelion salad (my aunt told us that she had send my uncle to pick them back in the spring and that he had gone up to the field that once housed the paper-mill that my grandfather worked at. she froze the greens knowing that mary and i would appreciate them in august. mary likes the fritters best, i like the leaves in salad and it’s the one salad where i like extra vinegar.) and to finish my second course i filled my plate with tomato salad and got my bread ready to sop up the juices.

Coffee and dessert finished the picnic, but they are never served outside. For these, we all went inside. The table in the upstairs-kitchen was laden with pies and home-made cookies. Mary made coffee using the fancy, stove-top espresso makers. (Every Italian in Sault Ste Marie like every Italian in Calabria has two kitchens – a basement kitchen, called a rustic kitchen in Calabria and situated on street level, for family meals and an upstairs-kitchen for company and desserts.) I just had espresso no Sambuca chaser, no five-berry pie and no amaretto cookies.


August 15, 2014 august, diario/journal

against a blue, blue skylast entry – august 2014

Aug-13 068In terms of the drive this was one of the best road-trips. I endured the border crossing at Buffalo once; the drive across the Mackinac once; and I only had to drive I-475 once. (Buffalo desperately needs an additional bridge, but we in America are all about budget cuts and hell with the future. The Mackinac with its low railings is disconcerting. I look straight ahead when I’m on the bridge, because it’s the vast expanse of Lake Michigan on the right and the rugged waters of Lake Huron on the left. And by looking straight ahead, I pretend to not be driving over the Straits. I have this fantasy that the lake-winds will pick up the car and toss it into the water. And 475 South through Flint is a road at the end of its life.)

The drive from Oakville to Chesley was new; I went through some beautifully preserved farm towns – Shelburne was worthy of Architectural Digest; and heading to Owen Sound, after the anniversary event, was also through rolling farmland. (The area has a large Amish/Mennonite community and there were many sighting of men on buggies and farmhouse with no electrical/cable wires running to them.) Because I had to be at the ferry doc for 6:00 am, I drove to Tobermory in the morning dark, but it was amazing to have the super moon off my left shoulder as I drove Highway 6. The ferry ride across Georgian Bay was a great no-drive time; the water was glass-still and the sky was shocking blue. The final leg through Manitoulin Island and Highway 17 North was also fun. (The last time I drove these roads was 40 years ago when Frank and I did this route on our way to the Sault.)

The week was also marked by visits with friends and family. It was good to see Joe Sanguinetti, Frank-and-Norma. It was good to see Susan again after all these years. And in the process I got to visit with my cousin Renato and his wife Gina. In the Sault, my dad’s garden was at its peak. Going out in the morning and picking cucumbers for breakfast was great; having zucchini fritters at lunch was another perk.


August 24, 2014 diario/journal, italy

smiles of a summer nightprologue-13 – italy 2014

late-augThis morning, Rick, Sarah and I sat down for our last planning session before we leave for Italy on Friday. I’m amazed how well we’ve set things up over the last 7 or 8 months. This morning was more of a summation than a decision making breakfast.

I mentioned that the middle week is the time that is not quite set in my mind. We will be three-and-a-half days in Belmonte and two-and-a-half days in Naples. In Calabria we will visit Aprigliano and Cosenza, so I’m thinking we will make the 40 minute trip twice. The other time we can explore the coast and Belmonte. The Naples stay is easier, because it’s shorter and for one day we’re doing to Pompeii. The other time will be taken up with the two museums and the city itself.

We made a decision about how to get to the airport, we decided that we would not buy a tour for Pompeii. (My comment was that with Pompeii all we see are ruins and more ruins. And I don’t know enough Roman history to appreciate the details that a tour-guide would provide.)

On an unrelated topic, today the changes that Dan and I have been talking about are functional on the webpage. There are now buttons for both recent gallery and recent photo-essay. (I need to fix the Photo Essays, the new webpage dimensions have altered the Photo Essay page symmetry. But given that I do photo essays after my trips, this fix will wait until I come back.) And he created a grouping in the gallery listing so that I can organize the various titles into a chronological order.


August 26, 2014 diario/journal, italy

will sicily be brownprologue-14 – italy 2014

brownsI’ve been cleaning up the brick in the back-yard and as I was working, noticed the amazing shadows and all the shades of brown streaking the bricks. I love the gradations of reds and browns. (I am shooting east, the setting sun is behind me. The sun streams through the fence slats. In the center is Wright’s sprite; behind it is the garage wall with its reliefs and ornaments; on the left is the shadow of the California Cyprus; and on the right the Japanese lilac leans over the water-spirit.) Also, between beginning this post and now, I’ve cut off the bottom most branch of the Japanese lilac. I’m going for a wind-swept look and need to remove all the verticals.

The colors remind me of our time in Pellaro and where the accommodations were not very good, but the terrace, Mount Etna in the distance, the sun-dried Calabrian hills, the Straits of Messina in front of us, the Tahiti Cafe, the small grocery store across the street and the frutta e verdura opposite us were amazing. Every evening we would set up on the terrace, by then the heat had died down, and we would eat with Etna on our left, the tankers trolling the Straits and behind us the brown hills silent in twilight.

There are two parts of the upcoming trip that are new to me and I don’t know anything about. One is Sicily and the other is Naples. (I wonder if we can go down to the Naples boat-yards. My family left Italy from Naples back in 1957.)

While in Sicily, we will go to Agrigento, the Turkish Steps, Siracusa, and the Baroque towns of the Val di Noto. Modica, where we’re staying, is a decent size city and we will walk through it looking for the places the tourists avoid.


August 28, 2014 diario/journal, italy

having a mentor is invaluableprologue-15 – italy 2014

stepsThis post ends the Prologue. (I had to do it on an odd number – prologue-15.)

This past week, I’ve been writing to my cousin Rose and talking about all the detail work she does when planning our trips. For the past 10 years, she has managed all the trip planning. I’m good at suggesting places to stay and visit, but she turns those suggestions into actual trips. She researches accommodations, she finds out when the local food markets happen, she even knows the specialty foods of each area we will be in. Last year when we had a horrendous experience with our airline reservations, she went as far as re-routing my ticket so that we could all travel together. This time we are not traveling together and I’ve taken on a lot of the planning she has done. So in our emails, we’ve been about trip details. It amazes me how time consuming the planning process is and I’m glad I had the opportunity to go through it with her as a mentor. This year we are staying in 4 different locations and each house/B&B requires its own set of details and planning steps.

I decided to use the above pic of the steps in my back-yard to both represent the steps of the planning process, but also to write about the work I’ve been doing to clean the bricks. Every 5 years the bricks need cleaned, because they get covered with weeds that grow flat on their surfaces or in the crevices between each. (The bricks behind the gloves show the green plants and the moss.) And removing the lateral plants or the moss in the crevices is really hard; the plants have this amazing root system that grows under the brick making pulling the roots impossible. I can remove the flat, green leaves, but in a week the plant has regenerated. The only solution is to pick up each brick and tear out the root systems.


August 30, 2014 diario/journal, italy

driving through the middle of sicily1st entry – italy 2014

Aug-30 023Our various flights from Pittsburgh to Sicily were very different than any others I’ve been on. In Pittsburgh, we got to ticketing and the agent signed Sarah up for an AE card with 50,000 ai-rmiles. Afterwards, she walked us through the priority line and we had no wait-time. JFK was a bit more work, but we got through the lines and to our gate. The plane was delayed an hour. (The Alitalia agent told that we would still make our connection, because the Palermo flight was also delayed.) When we get to Rome, there was an agent at the gate who collected the Palermo passengers and walked us through the airport and put us on a fast line through immigration. But even with that, we still missed the 7:40 connection. She got us new boarding passes and made sure our luggage also go on the later flight.

We got to Palermo and our luggage was there. The Palermo airport is very nice. There was even someone with a broom and pan, cleaning the debris the travelers were leaving behind. (Fiumicino has gone through a massive renovation and the new space is comfortable and clean.) We got our rental and we left for Modica.

The drive along the northern coast was a visual contrast. One the left was the very blue Mediterranean on the right these tall brown mountains. (We actually drove the section where Giovanni Falcone’s car and the accompanying security cars all got blown up by the mafia. There is a marker on the auto-strada commemorating this event.) We then took a right and headed inland. The majority of the inland highway is a super-structure built on pylons and concrete support pillars. Inland Sicily is all farmland the northern area dedicated to wheat and the central and southern area gives way to vineyards and fruit orchards.

The image on the left is a riverbed under the super-structure and over an ancient road with 5 arches over the riverbed. (The super-structure was a huge post-war, put-everyone-to-work project. And I’m sure no one understood or was aware of the amazing environmental significance of this design. The super-structure leaves the land un-scared.)


August 31, 2014 diario/journal, italy

the amazing house in modica2nd entry – italy 2014

Aug-31 048We are staying in a very old house that has been beautifully restored and renovated. The street floor has vaulted ceilings that have been sandblasted clean Half the area makes up the entrance to the house and the other half at one time probably contained a cellar or an animal holding area. The holding area is now a large bedroom, a kitchen, a dining/living room area and an amazing bathroom carved out of the ancient rock and made modern. The piano nobile is very pretty. A porch, overlooking the western half of the valley, has been carved out of the front part of the floor and a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and living area make up the rest of the floor.

In the image on the left, I am standing on the small living room balcony. The street-light design and placement are standard throughout the old town. Modica is one of the 8 small towns that was totally rebuilt after the 1613 and 1693 earthquakes. And all 8 towns were rebuilt in the Baroque style. (Baroque describes the grand, overstated, dynamic late-European art between 1650 and 1700. St. Peter’s in Rome is grand Baroque.)

The wires show how electrical and cable get to homes in these ancient towns. All outside wires run along the walls of the houses and because all housing is contiguous there is no problem with gaps.

The cactus plants are everywhere in Sicily and their fruit the prickly-pears or as the Italians call them ficodindia are eaten and used to flavor liquors and pasties. The plants were originally used as boundary markers between properties. One farmer got angry with his neighbor and decided to strip the fruit off the plants. The plant re-bloomed and produced even larger fruit the second time around – a new crop yield method was discovered.


September 1, 2014 diario/journal, italy

sicilian landscapes3rd entry – italy 2014

Sept-1 153South-eastern Sicily has been a total surprise. The drive through the middle was through rugged, brown landscapes; through fields planted with citrus, pomegranates and corn; Modica is this wonderful place off-the-beaten-track, it’s full of people at night, the shops are open and the is a great home-base; also there are very few tourists. The roads in the area are limited by the terrain so they’re easier for foreigners like us.

Today we drove north to Caltagirone another of the 8 towns in the Val di Noto that was destroyed in the 1613 earthquake and rebuilt in the Baroque style. Calatgirone is also a ceramic center in Sicily. The drive north took us through some beautiful country. We had to stop and just look at the landscape and I went down into the field to shoot the bridge on the white road. (White roads in Italy are paved with a white gravel; they’re country roads in good condition; but they take you off-the-beaten-track; there are no gas stations, no traffic light and no crazy people trying to pass by pulling into the on-coming lane.) The landscape is nothing like the rest of Italy. (The modern building all look the same regardless of where you are, but the ever-present Baroque is unique, the fields are perimetered by dry-stone walls and many of the roads are all elevated providing amazing vistas.)

Piazza Armerina helped me understand why the people left and went to America. The town was a hovel of small streets and alleys, but the Spanish conquers lived in lavish palaces. The fields around the town still have remnants of the feudal system that the people lived under. It was a great example of Spanish power and the indentured people that they exploited.


September 2, 2014 diario/journal, italy

archimedes, apollo and the gorgon4th entry – italy 2014

Sept-2 082

Siracusa or specifically the island of Ortigia is the home of Archimedes, (The above image is attributed to Archimedes. And tell me it isn’t a quote that’s right up my alley.) the gorgon and Caravaggio’s Santa Lucia al Sepolcro – the Burial of Santa Lucia.

We get there around 10:00 and walk through the food-market full of fruit-and-vegetables and fish. There was tuna, there was sword fish, there were eels, sardines, anchovies and squid. And across the street is the Temple of Apollo. From the market we walked up to the cathedral an amazing structure that retains its Greek, Romanesque, Muslim and Catholic architectural influences.

From the cathedral we went into the Jewish quarter looking for the last remaining ritual bath still in existence here in Sicily. We found the bath, but were not able to take the tour because we were too late. Our next stop was the church and St. Lucy and the famous Caravaggio.

And lunch, OMG! We went to a restaurant recommended by the woman from the agency that I had worked with early in our planning process. (Originally we were going to stay in Ortigia, but that fell through.) We began with antipasti one all vegetable and one all fish and from there we went to the pasta. Let me just say that each year I bring home a food idea, last year it was the caffè shakerato, this year it will be bread-crumbs. The Sicilians put bread-crumbs on fried peppers, on spaghetti. On the fried peppers the bread absorbs the olive oil, on the spaghetti it absorbs some of the tomato sauce. The bread-crumbs give both dishes a texture that I love.


September 2, 2014 diario/journal, italy

the funeral procession on its way out5th entry – italy 2014

Sept-2 121We arrive in Noto, the most famous of the 8 Baroque towns rebuild after the 1613 earthquake and coming down the cathedral steps is a funeral. (Naturally, I had to shoot it.) We found out later that the funeral mass was held at a different church, because the cathedral had been reserved for a late afternoon wedding – death and life and in this instance life had a reservation and decorators waiting in the wings.

I have to say that the Nikon captured the true color of the amazing cathedral. The stone here is more orange than in the other parts of the Val di Noto and with the late afternoon sun bathing the facade the Baroque grandeur glows. Also, the cathedral has been totally restored. In the late 90’s the dome collapsed and in the rebuild, the town also restored the outside of the structure.

Early in the planning, I had wanted for us to stay in Noto, but am glad there was nothing available. The small town was crowded with tourists and outside the main town square and the main street we did not see much commercial development. Instead here in Modica, we can walk down the hill and hit the stores, the gelaterias, the chocolate shops, the cheese shop and all the restaurants.


September 3, 2014 diario/journal, italy

from the other side of the valley6th entry – italy 2014

Sept-3 037Today we decided to not travel, relax and explore the other side of the valley from where we are staying. In the image on the left, I am shooting from the west. In the middle, in the middle row of houses is one with a lower roof and with greenery on the second floor. That is the house we are renting. Above the house and one street behind us is a red car. That is the Fiat QUO that we are driving.

The western slope is probably the oldest part of the town. There are no wide streets, no Baroque churches and no palaces. It’s the medieval city. We walked through narrow alley, and hundreds of steps to get to the top. But the vistas from this side are amazing, because you are looking at the rebuilt, Baroque.
There seems to be a lot of renovation on this side of the valley. We passed many homes being rebuilt and many of the building permits listed British names as the owners. Modica is known to Europeans and not know to American tourists which is fine by me.

At the bottom of the hill, we went looking for the pastry shop that had the cookies that the agency left for us and after that find, we sat and had a granita. He was out of coffee, so we had lemon and almond ones.


September 3, 2014 diario/journal, italy

the duomo at twilight7th entry – italy 2014

Sept-3 058We’re walking back to the house after our trek up the opposite valley and down to the stores for cookies, pasta and granita and I’m looking up from the alley and see the setting sun bathing the spire of the cathedral. The light turns the stone a honey hue. (In Noto, the evening light and the golden stone make for a spectacular backdrop.) Well there was that same golden hue on the Cathedral of San Giorgio.

The churches here have not undergone any cleaning or renovations. St. Peter’s the other large Baroque is slowly falling into disrepair. The statues on its outside steps are deteriorating, the inside walls and plaster are crumbling; the place needs a good vacuuming. I don’t know if there is a conservation society that will keep Modica’s patrimony from being destroyed by modern pollution. Modica is real and alive with people going about their day-to-day lives. Noto was much more touristy and artificial at least the part we saw. Also, I’m glad we’re staying in Modica; Noto is much too small and the rental was in the middle of all the tourists. Modica allows us to rub elbows with the locals, buy locally produced products and the house is amazing.

Let me add that the weather has been great. The mornings and evenings are cool to the point of needing long sleeves. (I’ve never been here this late in the season and it seems the best time to travel.)


September 4, 2014 diario/journal, italy

catacombs, ruins, a mikvah and a parking-ticket8th entry – italy 2014

Sept-4 007Siracusa so much that we decided to go back again today. We drove and parked in Ortigia and went walking.

We began in the Catacombs of San Giovanni an amazing necropolis. The Greeks had carved an aqueduct with cisterns into the rock-base that the city sits on and later the Romans and Christians carved catacombs out of the aqueduct creating a vast network of tunnels. The necropolis is laid out like a Roman army settlement. It’s so large, you take a tour with a guide.

Our next stop was the Greek Archeological Park. (Greeks from the city-state of Corinth established Siracusa around 729 BCE.) At the site, we saw the Greek Theater and Archimedes tomb. The theater is carved into the mountain creating an amazing sound amplifier.

From the top of the hill that was the new city at the time of the Greeks, we walked back to Ortigia and the market where I bought the things needed for supper. I made pasta with a tomato and tuna dressing. (This is Rose’s recipe.) We also bought prickly-pears and Rick-and-Sarah got to try them for the first time. (We bought them because they were already skinned avoiding the dreaded spine-needles.) Done with out shopping, we headed out to get some lunch,

At 3:00, we got back to the Jewish Quarter to take the tour of the Mikvah. The ritual-bath is under a palazzo that has been re-purposed as a hotel. The bath was discovered when the hotel began its renovation of the site. The volume was filled with earth. In the renovation they removed over 200 truck load of dirt before they had they had uncovered the original ritual baths. (In 1492, after an edict from Ferdinand and Isabelle of Spain that demanded all Jews in Siracusa to either convert or leave the city, the majority left. Before the exodus, the owners of the Mikvah filled it in with earth and stone.) The ritual bath is an amazing legacy from ancient time.

We return to the car, tired and ready for the drive back to Modica and there on the windshield was a parking ticked. In Italy, if you pay within 5 days there is a 30% reduction. Tomorrow, we will go to the post office to pay the ticket. (Yes, you pay parking violations at the post office, go figure. And I bet you’re wondering how I know this – let me just say this isn’t the first ticket I ever got here in the land of bureaucracy and sunshine.)


September 4, 2014 diario/journal, italy

ortigia and tuna covered pasta9th entry – italy 2014

Sept-4 035The above image is the lungomare in Ortigia. The original rental for Siracusa was on this street. (It fell through, because the owner of the house sold it and therefore not available to the rental agency.) On Tuesday, we met the rental agent I had been working with at a caffè in the piazza of the Temple of Apollo and she refunded the down-payment.

There is a difference in the colors here and I can’t seem to put my finger on. For example, what makes for the very blue sky; what makes for the golden light in the late afternoon? I keep thinking it’s the near-desert latitude and mountainous terrain, but have no evidence for this conclusion.

Supper was great. I began by sauteing minced garlic and scallions in olive oil; to that I added cut fresh tomato, and after letting that cook for a while, I added small pieces of sun-dried tomato. (The fresh tomatoes are for liquid, the sun-dried are for flavor.) The last ingredient was the tuna in olive oil. (I would have preferred fresh tuna in olive oil, but there was none. The market in Ortigia is more like the Stip District than a farmers’ market. The vendors are permanent, local farmers do not bring their produce to sell.)


September 5, 2014 diario/journal, italy

wanting to talk bad to a nun10th entry – italy 2014

DSC_9395Today we hit two more UNESCO towns – Scicli and Ragusa. One more amazing than the other, but in each we interacted with various guides and one nun. (I’ll have to write more about Scicli, because it wonderful and because we learned so much about the time when the whole of Sicily was under crisis because of the 1693 earthquake.)

The Nun – We’re in Ragusa, the old town with all the palaces, the Duomo and Baroque architecture. We’re almost done and heading back to the car, when at the Church of St. Joseph, I see a sign for a Benedictine Convent museum. I go in to ask and in the small entrance is the receptionist and a little old nun. I say, Bongiourno and if they are open and the cost. The nun answers, Sei Italiano, ma si e vestito come turista. – You’re Italian, but you’re dressed like a tourist. in a condescending, I’m-your-mother tone. The receptionist tells me that it’s an offering – no fixed cost. The nun pipes up again in her I’m-your-mother tone telling me that we better not leave less than 2 euros each, because it takes money to run the museum. I ask if they will give the tour in English, because my friends don’t speak Italian, the nun turns to the receptionists and tells her that she will have to do it. (She spoke Italian with no problem, she berated the turista with the orange hat with no problem, but as soon as I told her we needed an English tour she leaves and goes back into the church to join the other nuns in praying the Rosary. (Why didn’t she do that when I walked in?)


September 6, 2014 diario/journal, italy

the cataniesi need to move11th entry – italy 2014

Sept-6 024We left Modica this morning and headed to the Autostrada. We’re going north towards Catania and then on to Messina to get on the ferry that will take us across the Straits and onto the mainland.

We had driven the Autostrada each time we went to Siracusa, so we knew how to get to the entrance east of Modica. What have amazed me about this long entrance onto the highway are the dry-rock walls. The Sicilian contadini, cleared the fields of rock and used the rock to make walls/fences between the various properties. (In the US, we find the same things in New England. Here in Sicily the contadini used volcanic rock, in New England the farmers used flat shale.

Etna and Catania blew me away. The volcano is gigantic and the modern city of Catania spreads at the foot of mountain. Shouldn’t someone tell the Cataniesi to move? They live in the shadow of an active volcano.

We get to Messina and signage to the ferry is very good. We make it onto the 11:10 ferry and get to Villa San Giovanni on the Calabrian side by noon. My plan was to drive to a suburb of Reggio, have a granita at my favorite café, do some grocery shopping at my favorite little store and then walk the lungomare in Reggio before heading north to Belmonte. (It’s hard to like Reggio. The lungomare is its only asset.)


September 6, 2014 diario/journal, italy

at the top of the mountain12th entry – italy 2014

Sept-6 028If my mother saw the house that we are in and the ancient hilltop town she would be convinced that I had lost my mind. The town is everything they left behind for the modernity, convenience and hope of the new world. (The image on the left is outside our kitchen window.)

We are staying in an Albergo Diffuso. This is an organization and a cooperative throughout Italy that works to renovate medieval house that have been abandoned into a dispersed hotel. In other words, the hotel is throughout the town and each renovated house is like a hotel room. A wonderful idea. The one we are staying in is the only Albergo Diffuso in Calabria. The husband and wife who run it have an interesting history. He was born in Belmonte, in one of the renovated houses, she is Venezuelan from Italian parents. They both moved back to Calabria and are making a go of a new enterprise.

Because we didn’t get a chance to shop, we decided to have dinner at the Albergo Diffuso. The meal was a phenomena. We began with a plate of antipasti – capicollo, prosciutto, olive paste on good Calabrese bread, roasted eggplant, marinated zucchini, olives, and pecorino. The primo piatto was a thick spaghetti in a light tomato sauce flavored with chunks of fresh lamb. The secondo piatto was brazed lamb with oven baked potatoes, rapini flavored with fennel, eggplant and potato and a tomato salad with sweet red onions and capers. We finished with a plate of white figs and prickly-pear, home-made yogurt flavored with lemon rind and salva, and wild fennel liquor. Rick-and-Sarah were teasing me, because I kept making all these wonderful sounds as I was eating my favorite dishes.


September 7, 2014 diario/journal, italy

the setting sun and concrete13th entry – italy 2014

Sept-6 056We went walking through the medieval town and the alleys create a warren carved from the mountain. The houses are all stone, faced with plaster; the small, narrow walk-ways are carved out of the mountain. In modern times, the flat walk-ways have been paved with brick, the verticals steps have been finished with concrete. (The image is me following one of the sets of stairs down the mountain. On the right is the setting sun, in the middle is the WWI memorial and on the left is the Mediterranean.)

Gabriella said that the last residents of medieval Belmonte left in the 60’s when the Italians began rebuilding the country using cement. All new construction uses a cement frame, hollow terra-cotta bricks between the framing and then everything is faced with plaster and painted. The new towns were all built near the medieval footprints. Modern day Belmonte spilled down the mountain to the flat plain in front of the Mediterranean. Gabriella said that the residents wanted the convenience of a garage, a place to park near their house but mostly they wanted out of the medieval warren.

This phenomenon – leaving the old city-centers for the modern suburb – is true throughout modern Italy. (Let’s not forget that post war America began life in Levittown.) It’s the Italy the tourists and foreigners avoid, know nothing about, criticize, and use as proof when they say Italy is going the way of Greece, Portugal and Spain. For tourists and foreigners Italy is the Renaissance – the Vatican, Rome, Florence and Venice. It is a still life. Modern Italy is of no interest. (Suburban America is of no interest.)

As we walked the UNESCO sites of La Val di Noto what we were looking at were the palaces and churches of the Spanish nobility. These are grand. Where the real people lived looked much like the warren that is historical Belmonte. The tour-guide in Scicli explained that the servants didn’t live in the palaces, but in the small houses surrounding the massive structures. Housing that had none of the conveniences – heat, running water, a bathroom – of the palaces they cleaned.

I am sitting in this little piazza outside our albergo diffuso house, in my sleeping clothes, reading email and blogging. There is WIFI throughout the historic center, but the best access is outside, because the house walls are a meter thick.


September 7, 2014 diario/journal, italy

nel commune di belmonte14th entry – italy 2014

Sept-6 053The whole of the medieval center has free WIFI, but the best access is outside. Last night after our amazing dinner, I went up the steps and sat on the stoop of one of the albergo dissuso houses and read email and wrote posts. It was such a contrast that I had to repeat it again this morning. The difference is that this morning, I went out in the clothes I had slept in.

The image is Rick-and-Sarah, yesterday afternoon, sitting on the bench in the small piazza where I’ve been accessing the Internet. (I’m temped to ask Sarah to take a pic of me on the stoop, with my laptop and sleeping clothes, blogging.)

So far, I’ve talked to our next door neighbor who is a local. She’s and older woman, my parent’s age. (What must she think seeing me in my T-shirt, Nike-shorts, Croq slippers and Cartier glasses sitting on an old stoop with my laptop and coffee cup? No, I don’t wear pajamas. (My mother would say, ciuti americani – crazy Americans. Also, I would never do this in Aprigliano, because someone would call her and tell her that her crazy son was sitting outside dressed badly, drinking coffee and carrying around a machine. And then she would call me and ask why I was embarrassing her.)

The second couple, I talked to, was from Rome. She was born here in Belmonte and like us is amazed by what Gabriella and her husband have created. I love talking to the Italians; I tell them I’m American, but somewhere in the conversation they want to know why I speak Italian and if I was born in Italy. And then I get to ask similar personal questions. With the couple from Rome, we traded Internet access info – best outside – and where they live in Rome – the suburbs. Conversation with the Italians is a sparring match and you give and you take, but always done with great trepidation and hesitancy. You never want to appear forward of nosy. Mining for information has to be done slowly and with grace. (Americans are way too direct for Italians and Italians then conclude that all Americans are rude and uncultured.)


September 7, 2014 diario/journal, italy

gulio, gabriele, mario e corrado15th entry – italy 2014

corradoWe went up to Aprigliano and we’re walking towards Santo Stefano and we see a bunch of tourists and it turns out to be Gabriele, Corrado, and Corrado’s brother Gulio. Gabriele, Corrado and I were best friends. We were the group from La Vinella – the little street in Santo Stefano before you hit the fields. It was wonderful to see them. I saw Gabriele in Toronto years ago when he first came to Canada, but it’s been 57 years since I saw Corrado. (I remember Gulio less, because he was younger than us.)

Talk about serendipity, we’re walking towards my family’s house and there they are. Gabriele is visiting with his wife and his wife’s brother and his wife. They met up with Gulio and Corrado who both live in Cosenza. They had just come back from the house that Gabriele had grown up in and we were heading in that direction. Gabriele’s grandfather house and our house were next to each other. As kids all three of us were in and out of each other’s houses.

Now I have to figure out a way of keeping in contact with Corrado.

I’ve put together a gallery of images from the time in Aprigliano.


September 7, 2014 diario/journal, italy

our old house made new16th entry – italy 2014

DSC_9507After all the reminiscence with the old friends, we made our way to the old house. Gabriele said that the people who own it are there and that he had just visited.

Some background – Gabriele’s grandfather and his sister – Za Peppina – lived next to our house. The current owner – Licia, the woman that I’m sitting with, bought both houses and renovated the space into a beautiful modern living area. The space is painted all white and all the cabinetry is built in. We are sitting in what was Gabriele’s grandfather’s kitchen. The entrance behind me leads into what was Ciccio-and-Mafalda’s house. The room that was my parents’ kitchen is now the kitchen in the new house. The outside stairs that led to my parents’ bedroom is gone, so it was difficult to show Rick-and-Sarah where the pig-under-the-porch lived.

An aside – I’m sitting here in the little piazza, and the couple from Rome brought their tablet over, so that I could help them get online.

Licia, the woman that now own Gabriele’s grandfather’s house and Ciccio-and-Mafalda’s house, is related to my father through his mother. My grandmother was a Capisciolto and Licia’s maiden name is a Capisciolto. Also, she and my aunt Egilia went to school together. Aprigliano is a small, but wonderful place to have grown up in.


September 8, 2014 diario/journal, italy

 on the stoop in my pajamas17th entry – italy 2014

pajamasEach morning, I’ve been going out to the little piazza around the corner from the house in my pajamas and reading email, writing posts and putting up images. Rick-and-Sarah tease me about going out in my pajamas. My comment, “I’m in a medieval, hilltop town in the middle of Calabria. And no one here in Belmonte knows my mother. (If I behaved like this in Aprigliano, my 88 year old mother would be getting phone calls.) There have been threats of sending the image on the left to Welch, so I’m preempting the threat and posting it. (Welch, remember we’re friends and go way back.)

I’ve been trying to explain that when you live in medieval warrens, with tiny houses, (our house in Aprigliano had two rooms and there was my mom and dad and me as a child), most of your activities happen outside. My mom would sit with her friends and get supper ready, going back in the house to cook the food. All the food prep was done on the stoop between your house and your neighbor’s or in a communal space. If you were sewing, then you sat in the shade together with your neighbors and you talked and sewed. There was no TV to keep anyone indoors. Also, throughout the day, houses are shut tight against the Southern Italian sun; the house was pitch black inside. Life was lived in the shade, in social groups. (I can just hear all my city-high people going on about Zinga interacting in a social group.)

While the women socialized, my friends and I would run around all day. We’d meet early in the morning and roam the town. We went into the woods around the town; we went to the other parishes/neighborhoods; we went down to the stream at the bottom of our mountain; we went up to the church-yard to kick a soccer ball. The town was our house. Gabriele told Rick that when we were all in Aprigliano, the 4 of us – Gulio, Gabriele, Mario e Corrado, – owned the neighborhood. We must have been obnoxious.)


September 9, 2014 diario/journal, italy

reggio, catanzaro and cosenza18th entry – italy 2014

Sept-8 008I have to admit that I do not like any Calabrian city. Reggio, Catanzaro and Consenza are all dirty, not very well designed and full of ugly, modern concrete apartment buildings. None of the three have elegance of a Noto or the geometry of Modica the largos of Scicli. Yes, the towns of La Val di Noto were all rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake and the Spanish king, the nobility and the Church all cooperated in giving architect Giuseppe Lanza, duca di Camastra carte blanche in the rebuilding. The cities of Calabria grew randomly, municipal leadership, city planning, over-sight were missing ingredients. And the result is a hodgepodge environment.

The Calabrese have fully participated in the migration from their medieval, hilltop towns and settled in the newly built concrete structures sprouting along the perimeters of the ancient towns or in the cities of Southern Ontario. In Italy, they, more than most other Italians, have embraced English as the lingua franca, the lingua of commerce. (Is that because their legacy is more of the soil and the mountains than of cathedrals and frescoes? The image on the left is a Calabrese woman – a simple person in her peasant dress.)

The foods, especially the fruits-and-vegetables, the sopressata and the breads are among the freshest and tastiest of anywhere in Italy. The tomatoes of Belmonte with their tear-drop shapes, the eggplant in olive oil at the co-op at the bottom of the mountain, the pastries from Cosenza are worth every calorie.

The message from Calabria is: avoid the large cities, travel the secondary roads, visit family, and eat as much local food as you can get your hands on. (Last night I made a simple pasta e faggioli, but in the Calabrese style. We bought the Barlotti beans at an open market that was part of a festa – a community celebration of a Marian feast-day. I went up to a street vendor who was selling crates of tomatoes for sauce and asked him for 5 ripe one that I could use for supper and I stole basil from one of the pots around the corner. Sarah and I shelled the beans, I sautéed the tomatoes in olive oil flavored with garlic, cooked the past in the water that I had cooked the beans and then mixed everything. We drizzled olive oil with pepperoncino on top of the pasta. It was wonderful.)


September 9, 2014 diario/journal, italy

a hermit and a good fascist19th entry – italy 2014

bianchiToday was a down day, Sarah and I did laundry, Rick went down to the Mar Tirreno to swim in the Mediterranean.

For an outing we drove the half-hour to Paola and visited the famous pilgrimage site of San Francisco di Paola the patron saint of Calabria. San Francisco was a mendicant friar who lived a very simple life. He and his early followers hollowed out caves in the mountain above Paola and lived in them. (The people of Calabria saw in this man a person most like themselves – simple, honest, hard-working.) He was the founder of the Roman Catholic Order of Minims. (The name Minims comes from the Italian word minimo, meaning the smallest or the least.) Unlike the majority of founders of men’s religious orders, but like Francis of Assisi he was never ordained a priest. The Minims abstinence from all meat and dairy products. And the friars do not wear shoes, only sandals are allowed. (Any wonder the poor people of Calabria saw in this man someone who was most like them.)

Today, the Santuario di San Francesco is a favorite pilgrimage site for all Calabrians. People throughout the province come to Paola and the Santuario to get married. Busloads of pilgrims are driven up to the top of the mountain to visit the site.

The old church, the cloister and the gardens are beautifully preserved. To accommodate the hordes that ascend, there is a new church. This too is a beautiful space and a great example of modern Catholic design.

After leaving Paola, we drove back and stopped to visit the mausoleum of Michele Bianchi a Fascist. The monument is at the bottom of the mountain on a promontory. The pillar is Belmonte’s signature logo. Under Mussolini, he was the minister of Labor and brought to Calabria much needed money for road construction, water treatment plants and railroad development. The monument is a great example of Fascist architecture – imposing verticals that speak to power.


September 10, 2014 diario/journal, italy

driving the coastal-road through basilicata 20th entry – italy 2014

Sept-10 001In planning the best way to get to Naples, we decided to use the beach road or La Strada Superiore – SS18. These were the highways, before the Autostrada. (To reach the Autostrada we would have had to travel south, even though Naples was north and secondly the Autostrada would have shown us nothing new. The SS18 went up the coast and since it was past beach season, we should not hit traffic.)

The SS18 through norther Calabria was one beach-town after another. What was interesting was to see places that had direct access to the beach. In most of Calabria, the railroad prevents direct access. You have to find the tunnels under the railroad in order to reach the beach. Once out of Calabria, we came to Basilicata and the road is on the side of the mountains. It is a ledge and on the side of the mountain drops down to the sea. Basilicata has no coastal plain, but the small towns we went through were well maintained.

In the above image, the view is from a stop on the coastal-road looking back at the landscape we just drove through. (It reminds me of the Napali coast on Kaua’i.)


September 11, 2014 diario/journal, italy

the poor clares and majolica tiles21st entry – italy 2014

Sept-11 025We began the day by walking the street that divides the old center – spaccanapoli. The street has a name – Via Benedetto Croce, but the Neapolitans refer to it as the street that splits Naples. It is a pedestrian thoroughfare and free of the hurlyburly of the old city.

We began at the Gesù Nuovo a Jesuit church built in the late 1500’s. The church was originally a palace and it retains the original facade of rustic ashlar diamond projections. However, with the expulsions of the Jesuits from Naples, the church moved into Franciscan hands. It is a massive structure and an active church. While we were there several people were going to confession and mass was being celebrated in one of the smaller chapels.

Our next stop, in the same square, was the Church of Santa Chiara a Gothic style church-convent built between 1310 and 1328 for the wife of Robert, King of Naples. The complex retains the citadel-like walls setting it apart from the outside world. The walls contained a vast religious community, and today contain the more modest convent of the Poor Clares and a community of the Grey Friars. It was almost entirely destroyed by WW II bombing and was restored to its original Gothic form in 1953.

The above image is of the monastic courtyard which was renovated in the 1730s, for Maria Amalia of Saxony, wife of Charles III of Bourbon, King of Naples. The majolica tile-work is characteristic of Neapolitan ceramics from that time.

There is more on the church of the Poor Clares in an epilogue post.


September 12, 2014 diario/journal, italy

two naples – indoor and outdoor22nd entry – italy 2014

Our three days almost over, and I come away thinking that there are many Naples – the city of the Farnese and the Caravaggios and the city of the graffiti and the beggars.


Yesterday we found the first Caravaggio in a palazzo build by a group of noblemen to house a chapel and the administrative offices of a charitable organization. From that palazzo, I shot the woman picking through the garbage bins. (Notice the camera above her. There are cameras everywhere in the old center.) Afterwards we walked through the palace that houses the Archeological Museum with its treasures from antiquity.

Today we went up to the top of the mountain and made our way through the Capodimonte Museum and the Farnese collection with its Caravaggio. The palace and the art were amazing. (The image on the left is The Flagellation by Caravaggio.) In the afternoon we walked Via Toledo, one of the main arteries of the city, the outside shop-walls are covered in graffiti. All buildings in the historic center are covered in graffiti.


September 12, 2014 diario/journal, italy

funereal naples23rd entry – italy 2014

Sept-12 001All the Baroque building are either built out of a black rock or trimmed out in it. (It’s like black bunting at a dignatary’s funeral.) Also the streets in the old city are all paved in a back rock. After some research, I come to find out that it is a volcanic Piperno stone. It creates a funereal environment. And to top it all off, the main cathedral –Cattedrale di San Gennaro – is all about the worship of the dead – there are over 40 reliquaries in one chapel alone each is a silver bust of some saint and it contains a bone fragment, a piece of cloth or some other object that the saint had handled in his/her life. And let’s not forget the blood of San Gennaro and his bones in the crypt under the altar. (Sarah and I walked down to the crypt in the Cattedrale and 30 some women were kneeling in front of an altar that contained the bones of San Gennario praying the rosary.)

Naples was the only place we saw people go up to coffins and reliquaries and touch them, kiss them, pray in front of them. None of this behavior is seen as strange or in need of corrections.


September 13, 2014 diario/journal, italy

    montecassino – splendor24th entry – italy 2014

Sept-13 026We drove from Naples and stopped at Cassino to see the WWII cemetery and the monastery at the top of the mountain. St. Benedict of Nursia established his first monastery here around 529. He remained the rest of his life here on the mountain. It was at Montecassino that he wrote his Rule, a set of guidelines for laymen wishing to live a spiritual. The Rule of St. Benedict would become the pattern for monastic rules across medieval Europe.

In World War II, the hill of Monte Cassino was part of a German defensive line guarding the approaches to Rome. Montecassino became the target of assault after assault by Allied troops, and was finally destroyed by air bombardment. The hill was captured at dreadful loss of life by the Polish Army and Italian refugees. After the war, the abbey was rebuilt based on the original plans.

The entire monastery complex was rebuilt in all its splendor. (The image on the left is the ceiling in one of the side isles in the basilica. The cupolas are not frescoed.) While southern Italy was being emptied, because of the post war poverty, the Benedictines here on the Roman plain were rebuilding the bombed monastery. Talk about the mess that was Italy. My family and millions of other Calabrians had to leave their homeland and head to foreign shores in order to put food in the mouth of their children and give hope to their families. All the while, the Benedictines at Montecassino were paying for gold-leaf on the ceilings of the rebuilt abbey.

Throughout the trip from Palermo to the Val di Noto to the Naples to Cassino, we saw the wealth of the 1% that owned Italy. (In the museum at Montecassino, there are old maps of the land/territory that the monastery controlled and managed. For miles around the hilltop structure the land and all its environs belonged to the Benedictines.)


September 14, 2014 diario/journal, italy

mussolini, the synagogue, and a church steeple25th entry – italy 2014

DSC_9864Our first full day in Rome. (Yesterday, late afternoon, we walked along the Tevere up to Castel Sant’Angelo and down the grand boulevard that leads into St. Peter’s Square. The square wasn’t as over whelming as it is in full daylight.) I got up this morning and made my way down; I met one of the people who lives in the building and asked about where I could get some dolci for breakfast; he pointed me to a pasticceria around the corner.

After coffee and dolci, we began by again walking along the Tevere, this time going south to a huge bazaar of cheap clothes, cheap jewelry, cheap purses, cheap furs, cheap scarves, cheap this, cheap that. (I remember my mother and grandmother taking me to the bazaar down in Cosenza with all its bancarelle. When the bazaar is full of clothing vendors their stands in dialect are called bancarelle. This is to distinguish the bazaar from a farmers’ market or from an antique market.) We walked through the southern section of Trastevere making our way to the Piazza di Santa Maria in Trestevere. This is a Borghese church. (The noble families of Italy always had one son in the Papal court and he lived in a palace close to the Vatican. The son, by virtue of nobility, was always a cardinal. And these cardinals built churches throughout the city and became patrons for the areas/neighborhods where the commissioned church was built.)

The above image is of the horizon showing, from left to right, the winged angels atop of Mussolini’s famous building in Piazza Venezia, the Jewish Synagogue in the Campo di Fiori district and a steeple of a Catholic church in the next neighborhood down.


September 15, 2014 diario/journal, italy

a turn-of-the-century elevator26th entry – italy 2014

Below Trastevere, the river meanders; it’s not banked by concrete and stone sidings; it’s shores are crowded with vegetation; and the Romans use the paths for jogging and bike-riding.

elevator2I thought I’d write about the great apartment we in. (The image on the left is one of two elevators in the building. An Otis turn-of-the-century treasure that runs perfectly well.) When I made the four reservations for the accommodations, the one I had the least information about was the apartment in Rome. The original reservation was for a wonderful three-floor apartment in the Jewish quarter, but the owner – Rodolfo – had to cancel, because they were going to repair the roof and drain-spouts in his apartment building. I asked him to recommend something and he sent me to his niece who managed an apartment in Trastevere. Transtevere is across the river from Campo di Fiori – the old Jewish Quarter. (The Trastevere/Campo di Fiori districts are the sections of Rome I know best and I wanted to be here. Also, all the other places were either too expensive, too tiny or too far from the main attractions.)

I began an email correspondence with Rodolfo’s niece and after seeing images of the apartment and realizing the price was the best I had seen, I sent her a down-payment. I still wasn’t sure what to expect and I had made up my mind that the accommodations were probably going to be fair-to-poor, but it was our last week and we had stayed in wonderful places in Modica and Belmonte. (The B&B in Naples was in the middle of everything, but like everything else in Naples it was an example of faded glory. It had been a palazzo that had been converted to apartments. The vaulted ceilings were all in tack, but the bathrooms were just added to the room. You walked in, saw the faded glory and then saw a cube that had been added to the room. Also, no renovations had been done in years. All fixtures were easily 30 years old.) To be honest, I had expected a similar set of rooms in Rome.

Well, let me tell you the apartment is nothing like the one in Naples. It is a beautiful spacious apartment. We have a dining-room, a living-room, a beautiful spacious foyer and all overlooking the Tevere and minutes from all the main attractions. OMG, it’s the kind of place I would love to live in if I had to be in Rome for any length of time. The icing is that the Internet is reliable, works fast and can be accessed in every room. (Have found that reliability nowhere else in Italy.)


September 16, 2014 diario/journal, italy

campo di fiori and the coliseum27th entry – italy 2014

Sept-15 015Campo di Fiori is the square in the old Jewish ghetto that has always been the place where the farmers of Rome have brought their produce to sell to the locals. And after all these years, I got to go and shop for fruits-and-vegetables. In the past, I was too rushed to think about cooking dinner or the places I was staying had no kitchen.

We bought new potatoes, artichokes, basil, rosemary and porchetta. And Rick made oven-baked potatoes and Roman style artichoke.

After our food shopping trip, we headed to Piazza Venezia, the Mussolini balcony and the over-exaggerated Victorio II building. (The Altare della Patria also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II or Il Vittoriano is a controversial monument built in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. The Italians refer to it sarcastically as the wedding cake.)

We then headed over to the Roman Forum and finally the Coliseum. I have never been to this famous landmark and I have to say, the Romans have done an amazing job restoring the structure and making it very tourist friendly.


September 16, 2014 diario/journal, italy

villa d’este – tivoli28th entry – italy 2014

Sept-16 096BWe kept the rental until today, so we could drive out to Tivoli and visit the Villa d’Este – the famous country house of Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este. The villa is best known for its terraced gardens and fountains. (The country-side east of the city was a favorite retreat for the nobility during the hot Roman summers. Castel Gandolfo, the Papal summer residence, is in this area.)

Because we had to drive through the middle of the city to get to the Autostrada, we got to see the camps for the University of Rome – Sapienza. And like the university district in Naples, it too is full of graffiti.

Once we got to Tivoli, it took us almost 45 minutes to figure out how to get to the villa. No guide-book tells you to park in the center of town and walk the five minutes down the hill. (After driving in endless circles looking for the road that would take us to the house, we pulled over and I went and asked someone for directions. That’s how we found out that the house was around the corner and we just had to park and walk.)

The garden is a set of terraces on the hillside and it’s designed like a group of stage-sets. Each set has a fountain at its center. There is a stage-set with Athena presiding over cascades and spouting fountains. There is a stage-set with a relief of Artemus Ephesus the fertility goddess and each of her breasts is a fountain spout. There are three large reflecting pools all fed by the largest fountain in the garden. The above image shows the pools and the jets of the largest and most spectacular fountain.


September 17, 2014 diario/journal, italy

crossing the tiber29th entry – italy 2014

DSC_9997We began our trek crossing the Tiber at Ponte Garibaldi. (I’m shooting up-river at one of the ancient bridges. The larger image has St. Peter’s above the tree-line, but the dome got cropped in creating the narrow slice for the post.) The streets were empty of tourists at least until we got to the Pantheon. Rick is great with a map and he got us to the Pantheon using the opposite side of the circle than I would have used. (Using the distance from where we’re staying to the Pantheon as a diameter, he took us right where I know the route going left.)

The Pantheon, similar to the Coliseum, was full of tourist groups, but we were there early enough that the mob wasn’t overwhelming. The Roman structure with its magnificent oculus deserves all the visitors. (The last time I was here was the summer of 1971. I had forgotten that Rafael is buried here, but I hadn’t forgotten the oculus.) The Roman temple has been turned into a Catholic church and on the Feast of Pentecost, workmen drop thousands of rose-petals through the oculus during mass. The marble floor is covered in rose-petals.

From there we wound our way back to Piazza Navona another of my favorite places. The last time I was here it was mid-August and the place was wall-to-wall tourist. Traveling is September has been great. The weather has decent and the mobs manageable.


September 18, 2014 diario/journal, italy

musei vaticani30th entry – italy 2014

Sept-18 003This morning we went to the Vatican for a guided tour. As part of the package, we got in before the mobs and were able to be in the Sistine Chapel with a smaller group.

The guide first brought us out to a huge balcony and she was willing to take pics. (The pic is altered. There were several people behind us, but after dealing with the mob in the galleries, I wanted to pretend that there was a minute when we were on our own, so I Photoshopped the other tourists out. Also, we are wearing the ubiquitous head-sets that tourist-groups wear around their necks. All over the city, tourist groups are led around by a guide that talks to them through the head-sets.)

I don’t think anyone will understand the vast number of people that are allowed into the Vatican Museum at any given point. There were times throughout the tour when the long hall in front of us and the long hall behind us were filled with tourists. As far as you could see in front of you and and far back as you could see was all tourists. At one point we got to look out onto Bernini’s colonnaded square just to see the line waiting to go into the Basilica. It circled the entire square. These were people in line just to get into the church and the tour-guide said it would be a 4 hour wait to reach the front of the line and get into the church.

Because of the mobs, the tour-guide concentrated on the Michelangelo works, the Rafael frescoes and the Basilica. We raced by Dali and Chagall paintings; we ran through a room full of Matisse drawings and tapestries. I never got to shoot the Laocoön. I saw it as we rushed to get ahead of the mob.


September 18, 2014 diario/journal, italy

the terminus of la via flaminia31st entry – italy 2014

The whole time we were in Le Marche, we traveled the Via Flaminia. The modern Strada Provinciale 3 paralleled the old Roman road. And near Fossombrone, we went to the hand-carved tunnels through the mountains – left image. Yesterday, we made our way to Piazza del Popolo – right image – the southern terminus of the Via Flaminia. (The modern Italian name for the square is a corruption of the Latin. The original name was The Square of the Poplars. In modern Italian is has a very democratic name The Square of the People. The Latin for poplar – populus – is very similar to the the Italian word for people.)

Sunday5E-139 Sept-18 062

Today the same route, still called by the same name for much of its distance, is paralleled or overlain by Strada Statale (SS) 3 in Lazio and Umbria, and Strada Provinciale (SP) 3 in Marche. Once through the mountains, it descends the eastern Apennines and splits, one branch going to Fano on the coast and the other going north to Rimini.


September 18, 2014 diario/journal, italy

la fontana di trevi32nd entry – italy 2014

3A-coinsAfter the morning and the mob at the Vatican, we went back to Trastevere, rested and made plans for the afternoon. The goal was to head north to the La Piazza del Popolo and then walk back downhill to our apartment. We took the subway up to Piazza del Popolo and then began our walk back. Via del Babuino the straightest path to the Spanish Steps, is the modern Via Veneto.

In the 1970’s the Via Veneto was the most famous street in the city. It was the place to see and be seen. There’s a plaque to Fellini on the street.Fellini_plaque,_Via_VenetoIt reads To Federico Fellini who made the Via Veneto that stage for La Dolce Vita But today it’s a memory of its former self and it has been replaced by the Via del Babuino. The Babuino is being repaved and made into a pedestrian road.

After the street with all the high-end designers and the Spanish Steps we walked down to La Fontana di Trevi. The fountain is being rehabbed and the work is being paid by Fendi. There’s no water in the basin or spouting from its statues, but there is a walkway over the basin and a small pool to throw your coins into. Sarah and I threw our coins.

This was my first experience with a potential pick-pocketer/crook. Sarah and I were standing there getting ready to throw our coins in and he suggested that he could take our pic. Now he had a camera, but all my senses were in hyper alert. He was perfect – his own camera in hand, Asian, soft spoken. I could be mistaken, but it felt creepy and the area is famous for pick-pocketers and crooks. (He was in the original pic, standing right behind Sarah; I cropped him out.)


September 19, 2014 diario/journal, italy

a one-percenter33rd entry – italy 2014

Sept-19 015This being our last day in Rome, we wanted to do an easy walk. We decided to go to the two museums down the street from where we’re staying.

The Villa Farnesina, located in Trastevere, is considered one of the noblest and most harmonious creations of Italian Renaissance. Cardinale Alessandro Farnese bought it 1579 and named it Farnesina, a diminutive form of the family name, to distinguish it from Palazzo Farnese on the other side of the Tiber. In the art world, the Farnesina’s claim to fame is Rafael’s fresco the Triumph of Galatea. Raphael did not paint any of the main events of the story. He chose only the scene of the nymph’s glorification. Galatea appears surrounded by other sea creatures whose forms are somewhat inspired by Michelangelo figures in the Sistine.

I am less interested in the one fresco, but more interested in the fact that a cardinal who already had a super-sized villa on the other side of the Tiber needed to buy a smaller house with a large garden, something more country-style. Was the cardinal a predecessor of the billionaires who are crowding out the millionaires in Vale?

It took generations for Italy to die under the weight and greed of the 1%, but it did. World War II was the end of Italian political and financial influence on the continent. It was was 400 years between the time that Cardinal Farnese bought the villa and the end of WW II. (The above image is the coat-of-arms for the Chigi family who had the villa built and from whom the Cardinal bought it.) How long will it take American corporate society to bankrupt the country? Both empires were and are being built on the backs of the 99%.


September 21, 2014 diario/journal, italy

     the nobles and the churchepilogue-1 – italy 2014

Sept-18 010AI’ve been thinking about all the churches and palazzi we went into and my conclusion is that the churches were the lesser of the two evils. The churches, even in the time of the one-percenters, were always open to the public where the palazzi were off limits. The high, brick wall that surrounded the formal gardens of the Villa Farnesina is still intact. There was no access to this country-home.

The image on the left was taken in The Vatican. We were walking down a hall full of tall cupboards, the filing system before the modern age, and there was an open window. For me, it suggests the nobles, in their gilded palazzi, looking out.

Throughout the 3 weeks, we went in and out of churches and palazzi in order to see the art and the architecture. The palazzi blew me away. The fact that the one-percenters could live in such splendor, had access to master craftsmen was information I had never applied to my understanding of Italy. It became most evident at Montecassino, the monastery that was re-built in all its splendor, in four years after having been destroyed in WW II. And during the rebuilding, southern Italy was being emptied, because of poverty. Carlo Levi’s Cristo si è fermato a Eboli became the metaphor for the poverty of Il Mezzogiorno – the region south of Naples. As an expression it means the opposite of its literal meaning – Christ stopped at Eboli. As an expression it suggests that the people of Il Mezzogiorno feel they have been bypassed by Christianity, by morality, by history itself; that the people of the south have been excluded from the full human experience.


September 26, 2014 diario/journal, italy

      in the church of the poor claresepilogue-2 – italy 2014

window-naplesThe huge campus that is the church, monastery and cloister of the Poor Clares was an amazing complex and then there were the majolica tiles and columns throughout the garden cloister. We saw the chapel after visiting the Gesù Nuovo, the over-the-top Jesuit church in the square – Piazza del Gesù Nuovo – of the same name. The chapel was in stark contrast to the Baroque Gesù.
(Only the Jesuits have the coglioni to call their church The Jesus.)

I’m doing this post more because I wanted the work with the image on the left; it’s the round window on the back wall in the chapel of the Poor Clares. I shot the image with a zoom and I got a black background with this circle of light. I had to figure out how to isolate the circle and create a tondo-like photograph.

Sept-11 017The chapel and the whole complex was a great example of an inside-naples and an outside-naples. The chapel was this amazing minimalist space, but step outside into the courtyard and the whole wall is littered with graffiti. Naples is full of graffiti especially the area around the university. It seems that throughout Italy, university students have decided to decorate their environments with wall scrawl. (Very different than here where graffiti is the domain of the middle and high-school students.) A while back the graffiti throughout Italy was political, this time all I kept seeing were announcements of who loved who. Pathetic! University students reduced to scrawling ti amo and on a wall that already is crowded with lettering. Maybe if they spent more time hitting the books, Italy’s test scores wouldn’t be scraping bottom.


September 28, 2014 caravaggio, diario/journal, italy

searching for caravaggiosearching for caravaggio – 1st entry
epilogue-3 – italy 2014

Sept-17 053AIn Ortigia, a neighborhood of Siracusa, we saw our first Caravaggio – Seppellimento di Santa Lucia – The Burial of St. Lucy.

And this began our search.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio supposedly painted 4 large images in Sicily – Burial of Saint Lucy, Syracuse; Raising of Lazarus and Adoration of the Shepherds, Messina; Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence, Palermo. For centuries the Nativity was displayed in the Oratory of San Lorenzo, but on October 18, 1969 it was stolen from the church and has not been seen since. The most popular rumor suggests that it was taken by members of the local mafia.

We saw two more in Naples.

We saw the Sette Opere di Misericordia – the Seven Works of Mercy and La Flagellazione di Cristo – The Flagellation of Christ. The Flagellation is in the Museo di Capodimonte and the floor it’s on is being reorganized, but they opened it for 15 minutes so patrons could see the famous painting. We all made a bee-line to the last room on the floor. The painting is at the end of a long hallway in a dark room illuminated by Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro.

In Rome, we say five more.

We were walking back to the apartment and Sarah, who was reading the guide-book, discovered that we were in front of the church of San Luigi dei Francesi, and that it had Caravaggio’s triptych of St. Matthew: Vocazione di san Matteo – Calling of St. Matthew, L’ispirazione di san Matteo – The Inspiration of St. Matthew (the above image), and the Martirio di san Matteo – Martyrdom of St. Matthew.

The next day, we took the subway north to Piazza del Popolo and there in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo we saw the Conversione di san Paolo – Conversion on the Way to Damascus and the Crocifissione di san Pietro – Crucifixion of Saint Peter.


October 4, 2014 caravaggio, diario/journal, italy

the XIV station – jesus is laid in the tombsearching for caravaggio – 2nd entry
epilogue-4 – italy 2014

roberto-ferriWe drove into Noto and parked. Walking the narrow streets towards the piazza and the cathedral, we had no idea where we’d come out. We ended up on a platform that gave us an amazing view of the steps, the cathedral and the piazza. And coming down the grand staircase, was a funeral cortege. We waited for the procession and the hearse to pull away before we made our way to the duomo. Once inside the Cattedrale di Noto – La Chiesa Madre di San Nicolò, we noticed that a crew was getting ready to set up for a wedding. What a strange juxtaposition; what strange scheduling.

On March 13, 1996, a large part of the cathedral collapsed. The reconstruction was a complex process, made all the more onerous by the importance and high visibility of the cathedral and the city, the so-called capital of Sicilian Baroque architecture.

Inside we found a bright, beautiful modern building. What were most surprising were the Stations of the Cross. First they were paintings instead of the standard reliefs that line the walls of most churches and second they were very modern. But the biggest surprise was the composition – the male characters were almost nude and had very modern bodies. I had never seen such a rendition of the traditional fourteen Stations. The image on the left is the XIV Station – Jesus is Laid in the Tomb. The artist is Roberto Ferri. He was born in Taranto, but lives in Rome. He works in the style of Caravaggio. (Another juxtaposition – in an ancient Baroque church, the works of a modern painter using baroque techniques.)


October 13, 2014 caravaggio, diario/journal

  the X station – jesus is stripped of his garmentssearching for caravaggio – 3rd entry

station10                and carrie is stripped of her humanity

I’ve been watching “Homeland” and the new episodes present the main character as about her career, about her leadership, about her drive, about her ambition. Looking back at previous seasons it is now clear that the Brody character gave Carrie her compassion. But without Brody, Carrie is truly The Drone Queen – the title of the first episode of the new season. At one point she almost drowns her baby daughter, because she is a distraction, a pawn in the Queen’s way.

The connection between Showtime’s Carrie and Ferri’s paintings – Via Crucis – came from the idea of stripping away what prevent us from seeing. In “Homeland,” Carrie is stripped of her humanity and we see the robot; in Ferri’s Stations of the Cross, Christ is stripped of his divinity and we see the man.

I am very curious about Ferri’s commission for Via Crucis. When I saw the paintings in the cathedral in Noto, I couldn’t believe they were in a church. (The photograph on the left is of the 10th Station. Each painting is in a gold-leaf frame.) The images are raw, almost erotic and the Christ has a gym-rat body. Such an interpretation of the Way of the Cross would never be allowed in rabid, conservative America. (Ferri’s Caravaggesque style straddles conventions. But New-World Catholics don’t even know who Caravaggio is, let alone understand a modern artist who paints in the Baroque style.) Catholicism in the west is about violent opposition to abortion and gay-marriage; most American Catholics know little about empathy for the less fortunate or about their Church’s artistic patronage. But then, they too have been stripped of their legacy, their righteousness and what we see is their obsession to punish. Maybe, they would welcome Ferri’s paintings, after-all there’s a lot of S&M references in them.


October 27, 2014 caravaggio, diario/journal

       did judas iscariot have god on his sidesearching for caravaggio – 4th entry


I’ve been listening it Dylan’s “With God on Our Side” and
the second-to-last verse:
through many a dark hour
i’ve been thinkin’ about this
that jesus christ
was betrayed by a kiss
but i can’t think for you
you’ll have to decide
whether judas iscariot
had god on his side.

brought me to Caravaggio’s painting.

The Cattura di Cristo nell’orto – The Taking of Christ – was painted in Rome at the end of 1602. (The Italian title is great, full of alliteration and hard vowels.) Breaking with past traditions, Caravaggio offered a new perspective of the betrayal narrative; all emphasis is directed on the action perpetrated by Judas and the guards on an overwhelmed Jesus. The fleeing disciple on the left is John and the lantern holder on the right is Caravaggio himself at the age of thirty one.

The flight of the terrified John contrasts with the entrance of the artist; it seems that Caravaggio is making the point that even a sinner, one thousand years later, has a better understanding of Christ than one of his own apostles. Two of the more puzzling details of the painting are the fact that the heads of Jesus and John seem to visually meld together; and the prominent presence of the arresting officer’s highly polished, metal-clad arm.

The painting is in Dublin in the National Gallery of Art.


October 29, 2014 caravaggio, diario/journal

where in the u.s.a. is caravaggiosearching for caravaggio – 5th entry

The map is from the website – – Caravaggio Gallery. (List of thumbnails is clockwise beginning bottom left in Texas.)


I Bari
The Cardsharps
Fort Worth, Texas

San Giovanni nel deserto
St. John in the Wilderness
Kansas City, Missouri

Marta e Maddalena
Martha and Mary Magdalene
Detroit, Michigan

1.Concerto di giovani
2.Suonatore di liuto
3.La Negazione di Pietro
4.Sacra Famiglia con
San Giovanni Battista

1.The Musicians,
2.Lute Player,
3.Denial of St. Peter,
4.Holy Family with St. John the Baptist
New York City, New York

San Francesco in estasi
St. Francis in Ecstacy
Hartford, Connecticut

Sacrificio d’Isacco
Sacrifice of Issac
Princeton, New Jersey

La Crocifissione di Sant’Andrea
Crucifixion of St. Andrew
Cleveland, Ohio

christmas – 2014

December 14, 2014 christmas, diario/journal

 owls call the breathless moonchristmas 2014 – 1st entry
sunrise (pgh) – 7:35

dec-moonAI shot the image last Sunday morning; I was up early with the dogs. And there, as if hanging from the fire-escape, was the full moon. My favorite aspect of the image is that it came out as a black-and-white photograph. In the past to achieve a B&W effect, I’d strip all the color from and image, but the stripped image lost its contrast giving it a pale blurry finish. The outline is the west wall of the Mattress Factory.

I leave for my trek into the wilds of the Upper Peninsula and Northern Ontario later in the week. The weather forecast for the Gaylord and St. Ignace areas includes no snow. If this holds, it will be the first time in five years that I won’t have to deal with winter storms and dangerous driving conditions. Sault Ste Marie has had snow since the middle of November. But my dad says the city-roads are clear.

Have been spending my time writing opinion pieces and finishing a short-story. (18,000 words take up 90 pages double-spaced.) The first opinion piece is the posting – dual citizenship. It the posting opinion #1 in the footer. I am in the process of shopping it around. (Out of civic duty, I sent it to the local paper, but I hold up no hope with them.)

The second piece I’m trying to write is more an essay than an opinion. I want to write about finding the lead into a story, finding the character that can take me into the narrative. I’ve titled it Finding Vigil. The premise is that a person from one’s real life can act as the guide into a fictional narrative. And that the real-life person changes and becomes a fictional character as the narrative gets written.

The short-story took about four weeks. I write first in long-hand using an HB .9 mechanical pencil and after a couple of re-writes, word-process what is on the loose-leaf sheets. Every two or three day, I read the word-processed file out loud. Word-sounds and word-rhythms are critical for me and the reading aloud gives me a way of checking both. I also eliminate as many words as possible during the read-aloud. I believe writing should be free of words that don’t contribute to meaning. (I give myself license to add descriptive words when describing landscape.) A friend, that I did a lot of academic writing with, would always comment that my edits made the piece we were working on ping. I am proud of that comment.

The short-story is not ready to be sent out. I have about another two/three weeks of edits. I also need a title. (The working title – Year after Year – made sense when I first began, but by the end it no longer reflects the story. The working title along with the real-life person I used to lead me into the story got lost in the fictionalization.)


December 22, 2014 christmas, diario/journal

the last four dayschristmas 2014 – 2nd entry
sunrise (ssm) – 8:19, sunrise (pgh) – 7:40

breakfastThe trip up had a scary part and a non-scary part. I left Rose-and-Derrick’s around 9:00. As I was packing up I realized their front steps were very icy and I had to be careful, but the outside temp wasn’t above freezing, so I didn’t worry. Was I wrong. Going up Michigan 24 there was snow everywhere and in a few spots there was a white-out. What the … I get on 69 West and start seeing all these cars in the median. The whole time I’ve driving there’s been a steady drizzle, but again the temp was above freezing. Next came the fender-benders and the highway patrols. 69 West and 475 through Flint were littered with accidents and police cars.

As I near the exit onto 75 North, I’ve already decided that if the drizzle continues, I’m pulling over checking into some motel and waiting out the weather. I get close to 75-N exit and traffic is at a stand-still. Luckily, the exit lane is moving. Up ahead I see ambulances and flashing lights. However, as soon as I turn onto 75-N, the drizzles gets down to a few drops, the road-bed is dry and traffic is moving fine.

I was able to make up the lost time and still got to my parents’ in 5 hours.

The challenge at this time of year is – how many times can I say no and not offend everyone? My parents seem to think that I should eat-and-eat-and-eat. My dad, who gets up even earlier than me, was pushing polpette at six in the morning. When I told him they weren’t breakfast food, he just waited a longer block before offering the meatballs again. And every time company comes over, it’s another occasion for the prodigal to again reject his heritage and not drink wine or eat large amounts. If I ate everything they want me to eat, I’d be huge as a house and then I’d get criticized for having no self-control.

Breakfast is the only meal I eat my mother’s Christmas cookies. On the blue paper-plate are biscotti and turdilli – Calabrese Christmas fritters covered in honey. This year her scalille – braided Calabrese Chritmas fritters covered in honey and sugar – came out really nice. I’ve switched from turdilli to scalille.


December 23, 2014 christmas, diario/journal

wires and winter-lightchristmas 2014 – 3rd entry
sunrise (ssm) – 8:19, sunrise (pgh) – 7:41

There is Internet at the Zingas. Connie got it all set up with a Bell sales-clerk she know, I figured out how to do a seasonal suspension so that we’re not paying while no one is here to use it and yesterday the technician came to do the install. (There are so many phones in this house, that in order to boost the signal to a normal high-speed bandwidth, he had to install adapters on all the various phone extensions throughout the house. BTW, there are 3 phone on this floor, two upstairs and one in the garage. I suggested to my dad, that we get rid of all the lines and cords and that I get him some portables that will also have the hearing-impaired feature, he scoffed. I went on to a different subject.)

pozzobone2Except for the first day that I got here, the weather has been grey and overcast making for poor picture taking. The image on the left was one of the rare mornings when I saw the sun. It didn’t stay long, within the hour the cloud-cover brought back the grey. Will not complain. This is the first Christmas visit where we haven’t spent all our time shoveling snow or retreating indoors because of the severe cold.

Company has been visiting on a regular basis and Monday night I went and visited Connie and Ron. We laughed when she told me that she will no longer invite the parents over. The times she’s invited them for dinner, they bring all the food, even though she has spent money and time getting the dinner ready. She and Ron went on and on about having bought all these stakes, just to have to freeze them all, because the parents walked in with pasta, a meat dish, cheese, salad and fruit. “It drives me crazy. I invite them and they don’t get that I’ve cooked.”

Last night my dad got all mad and left to go upstairs when my mother and I told him to not cook all the fish for Christmas dinner. The menu has been – soup (chicken broth with small meatballs), lasagna, fried shrimp, fried calamari, fried white fish, baccalà in a tomato sauce, baccalà in a olive-oil sauce, turnkey, stuffing, cranberry-sauce, mashed potatoes and all sorts of other vegetables. Salad to finish the meal and then fennel, oranges, mandarins, chestnuts, and prickly-pear. Dessert would be served after all the gifts are opened.

christmas 2014

December 24, 2014 8th grade, christmas, diario/journal

field of dreamschristmas 2014 – 4th entry
8th grade – 16th entry
sunrise (ssm) – 8:20, sunrise (pgh) – 7:41

There is a thaw going on, but I need a walk so I head out with my cameras. It really is a pea-soup environment. There isn’t much I can shoot, but with Photoshop I can get rid of some of the gloomy grey. I’m walking down to Ron’s and decide to shoot the empty lot where we used to play baseball. The brick house in the background is where Corrine lived. Sometimes she would play with us. And even though she was a girl she could pitch, hit and run like a boy. The lot was beside Ron’s house and behind Corrine’s. The house on the left of the image was not there.

field3Like everything from childhood, the lot looks small. In my mind it was huge. (I’m standing across the street in the church parking lot shooting.) Most of us hit inside the field. Frank Bitonti and Jacky Porco could hit the ball into the church parking lot, so the fielders would back up when they were at bat. (In my old neighborhood, I never played any team sports. The subdivision was just starting to get built and there were not enough kids or established families to organize team sports.)

Tonight we head over to my aunt-and-uncle’s. It’ll be a meatless meal with lots and lots of fish options. All the fish will be fried. My aunt, my mother and I will eat spaghetti slathered in anchovies and olive oil; the others will have it with a meatless red-sauce. My uncle is from Aiello – and small mountain town south west of Aprigliano – and in his town the rule was that you left 13 items on the table on Christmas Eve. So after we are all done with dinner, he and my aunt make sure to leave 13 items on the table overnight.

There will be cullurielli – a deep fried sweet dough – made either plain or at Christmas with an anchovy inside. (I like the ones with the anchovies. My friend Chris Colecchia coats the plain ones in powdered sugar and has them for breakfast.) In my extended Calabrese family, the cullurielli are a Christmas tradition and I eat them instead of bread for the time I am here.


December 25, 2014 christmas, diario/journal

no shrimp, no calamari, no baccalàchristmas 2014 – 5th entry
sunrise (ssm) – 8:20, sunrise (pgh) – 7:41

My mother and I were able to convince my dad to not fry shrimp, calamari or baccalà. Don’t forget that these would be in addition to – a chicken broth with polpettini – tiny meatballs – and pastina, lasagna, turkey, two types of stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries, and various vegetables that no American would ever see on a dinner table with roasted turkey.

decorationConnie came over after lunch hoping to help with the preparations, but all that was left was for her to put out the glasses. (We looked at each other acknowledging how the prep work must have gone down.) The kids, Dave, Isabel and the dog got in by 4:00, but dinner wouldn’t be for two more hours. But, for the two hours until ate, I had to restrain the parents, because they wanted to carve the turkey, mash the potatoes that way everything would be ready. They’ve insisted on having two different menus for the Christmas dinner for years and this is the first time there was some negotiation towards a more reasonable amount of food.

After all the food was put away, more wine drinking and fennel eating followed. (Rose, Mary and Connie manage the dishes and the clean-up.) And by 9:00 we were upstairs opening gifts.

What remains is helping the parents through the next couple of days. I head home Sunday, but between now and then there will much food preparation to manage and keep under control. (My mother will now follow the kids and I around asking if we’ve had breakfast, what foods we want for lunch, what foods we want for dinner, if we want coffee, if we want a snack …)


December 26, 2014 christmas, diario/journal

  that old british left-over – boxing daychristmas 2014 – 6th entry
the first day of christmas
sunrise (ssm) – 8:20, sunrise (pgh) – 7:42

stringChristian and I put away the extra table and the extra chairs. Both were keeping my father’s obsession with everything-in-its-place on edge. He had already been busy at work drilling rebar into the outside wall of the garage to hold the folding chairs. He used to tie them and then put them on hooks, but the rebar hook would make getting them and putting them back easier.

The long table is one of two that gets brought in at this time of year to accommodate the 18 to 20 people that eat Christmas dinner at my parents. The tables are hung against the side of the garage, but in order to get them there you have to move everything. Christian moved the huge snow-blower; I moved all the shovels and brooms my dad uses to remove the snow from the double driveway. (Who knew how heavy a snow-blower was. Certainly not me who has no driveway.)

The parents are now busy getting lunch ready. (It’s no use interfering. With the grandchildren in the house, anything I may say about reducing their amount of work will be seen as my suggesting they shirk their responsibilities. And neither of them will tolerate that. I guess that’s what you get when you have 90 year old grandparents from the old country.)

Any minute now, the call will go out from my dad and we will all be expected at the table ready to eat.


December 28, 2014 christmas, diario/journal

heading home, at lastchristmas 2014 – 7th entry
the third day of christmas
sunrise (ssm) – 8:21

Dec2014 044Today, I get to go home. And it seems that the weather is not going to be an issue. (It did snow last night on this side of the lake, but the forecast for the snow-belt, better known as the area between Saint Ignace and Grayling, Michigan, is for sun and temperatures in the mid 30’s.) It has been 5 years since I was able to head out and not worry about winter weather in the northern Michigan.

I’ve used the time driving up to think through the character development in the Saturday Smiles short-story. I need to figure out how to end the piece, so the drive to Rose-and-Derick’s will give me a chance to think this through.

The visit was too long. (I thought it would be OK, thinking that since I didn’t make a fall trip I would make the Christmas visit longer. I was occupied working on the Saturday Smiles piece, but it would have been OK to have gotten here a few days later.) For the first time ever, my mother and I did the Christmas dinner. She did the soup and the lasagna, I did the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberries. My dad did the green vegetables and they were done by 7:00 AM. And even with that reduced menu, there was a lot of left-over turkey.

The left-overs make some appearance, but the parents have to cook new foods, because they have the grandchildren to feed and heaven forbid their favorite foods are not on the table. (The advantage of the grandchildren is that no one tells me to keep eating. The parents tell the grandchildren to keep eating more.)

The image on the left is the inside of a very old ornament. (I’m purposely using the out of focus image, because I like the impressionistic quality.) I remember buying it back in the mid-sixties.


December 31, 2014 christmas, diario/journal

  six geese-a-layingchristmas 2014 – 8th entry
the sixth day of christmas
sunrise (pgh) – 7:43

If it’s New Year’s Eve, then it’s the all-meat dinner at Jerry-and-Diane’s.
This year, I didn’t take a pic of the long dinner table at my parents, because I have enough pictures of it, and instead decided to shoot the dining-room table at Jerry-and-Diane’s. And being consistent with the other dinner images, I shot the table before all the food was put out.
jerry-dianeWe affectionately call this the all-meat dinner, because the only vegetable in sight is a cucumber salad, everything else is a meat dish – meatballs in a red sauce, ham, roast beef and in past years kielbasi and sauerkraut in a sweet tomato sauce.

The sunrise time was an add-on when I noticed the difference between first light here and what I was seeing up in Sault Ste Marie. (There’s a half-hour difference between the two places.) I’m an early riser, but I’d stay in my room and wait until there was a hint of light before I went upstairs to have breakfast. I’d take my time making coffee, defrosting the scalille and cutting up the oranges hoping to find some morning light when I made my way into my mother’s sun-room. (The window-rich room gets appropriated by the dog and the kids’ stuff when the Thormans arrive on Christmas Day.)


January 1, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

seven swans-a-swimmingchristmas 2014 – 9th entry
the seventh day of christmas
sunrise (pgh) – 7:43

X-mas-TMy grandmother used to say that what you do on New Year’s you will repeat throughout the year. (Chi fa a Capo d’Anno, fa tutto l’anno.) Kielbasi and sauerkraut are supposed to bring good luck; eating lentils on this first day is also supposed to bring good luck. With the image on the left, I’m reaching back to the tree worship customs of the pagan Europeans who decorated the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year’s to scare away the devil.

The decorated tree is in the side-yard. It’s on top of the Hosta pot. (I saw the live tree at the grocery store and decided to pick it up and put it somewhere in the backyard. And after the holidays, if it survived, I’d plant it.)

It has been a slow, lazy day full of sunshine and mild temperatures, and I’m glad for it.

I’ve expanded the dog’s domain on the first floor. They are no longer confined to the kitchen, they have access to the whole floor. I do have to block off the stairs, because Jack loves to go up and then continue on to the loft, but then has no way of getting down. He doesn’t do down-the-stairs yet, so you have to go get him and carry him down.

They love running the big-room chasing and mock wrestling. Jack has figured out that he can wait for Bilby by one of the entrances and pounce as he streaks by. (I’ve brought the water spray-bottle to my desk and threaten when the rough-housing gets to be too much.)

I finished the second short-story. It’s 90 pages and 32,800 words. I’m beginning to think of a collection of novellas that share the same theme – men whose lives get re-organized. I’m staying away from dramatic events as plot devices and letting the day-to-day tell the fictional narrative. It’s much more fun to weave reality into the fiction and let it shift and impact the storyline.


January 3, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

nine ladies dancingchristmas 2014 – 10th entry
the ninth day of christmas
sunrise (pgh) – 7:43

rain-treeThis morning was a mess. There were accidents all over the place. It started to rain around 6:00 and with the temp below 33, a slick surface covered the asphalt. Drivers in trucks and Range Rovers seemed to pay no attention to road conditions. I was out, because I needed a longer HDMI cable; took the side-roads, because there was an accident on McKnight and I wanted to avoid the two hills.

I finally broke down and got a desktop to better deal with Photoshop and other high res programming issues. The other convenience is that I can now use the laptop throughout the house. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen writing and I the laptop is great for research and for word processing first drafts. (The best would be to have WiFi access to the printer, but that will have to be the next upgrade.)

The White-pine is one of my favorite photo subjects, especially after a rain storm . The long needles hold the raindrops.

I was thinking that 66 years ago, a twenty-two year-old Mafalda had a baby. And the world at that time was vastly different than the one we all live in today. While up in the Sault, Mafalda comes downstairs one night and asks, “Ma, did you touch the electrical?” (Ma, which rhymes with fa, is short for the Italian version of my name.) I had no idea what touching the electrical could possibly mean, so I ask if something was not working. And she told me that the TV had gone off. It came back shortly, so I guess I hadn’t touched the electrical after all. The next day, I tried to explain dish-technology to my 88 year old mother. With my dad, it was trying to get him to understand that the new router wouldn’t interfere with his phone service. Both understood that something had changed, but had no references to make the connections to the new world.


January 5, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

eleven pipers pipingchristmas 2014 – 11th entry
the eleventh day of christmas
sunrise (pgh) – 7:43

samsoniaIt has been a crazy three days. Saturday morning the roads were a sheet of ice. It started to rain around 6:00 and for the next three hours driving was at your own risk. Sunday the temperature went up to 60 and today it never went above 25.

I walked into town and when on the foot-bridge over the Point, I thought the wind was gonna freeze my face. I came home via the 6th Street Bridge. The wind was not as virulent.

Today, the Euro hit an all time low and while in town, I went and bought some. I came home and spent the afternoon restoring the system on the new tower PC. I had downloaded a package of analog-clocks screensavers and with the package came a miserable trojan – pop-fuz. It littered the browser with pops up; it put McAfee into overdrive; and on the blog, it made any Internet related word a link. I would try and do some work, but instead spent the whole time responding to McAfee’s virus alerts.

For some reason in this round of pictures, I am noticing how many wires there are. The above image is of Sampsonia Way the premier Art Street here on the North Side. The wire mesh is a combination of the ubiquitous wires that cross the street and the wild-grape vines that use the wires. Last year someone cut the vines, but it will be a few years before the dead vines disintegrate. And when I was in Canada, I couldn’t get over the fact that every image I shot had wires in it.


January 6, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

twelve drummer drummingchristmas 2014 – 12th entry
the twelfth day of christmas
sunrise (pgh) – 7:43

snow-treeThis is the last entry for the christmas 2014 category. And I wanted to end the posts on the twelfth day of Christmas and on the feast of the Epiphany.

Today is gift giving in Italy. I still remember that January 6 when I found gifts and coal in the sock I had hung by the fireplace. Let me tell you, I was not happy. And about trees in old Calabria – our tree was decorated with fruit – oranges and tangerines, and with candy – torrone wrapped in shiny cellophane and chocolate bars, which friends of the family brought when they came to visit during the Christmas season. And I was allowed to eat these decorations. I saw tree ornaments for the first time when we came to Canada.

The winter weather continues and today is a snow-day. I really like what the grocery store tree looks like covered in white. The dogs love eating the snow.

It’s slowly beginning to feel like I’m back home, back to my own routines. The week after Christmas began with the long drives – to Rose-and-Derrick’s, then across Ohio to Pittsburgh. What followed were: the New Year’s dinners, the birthday, coffee with friends and the new tower PC. All were fun, but they were part of the social fabric that began back on December 17 when I left to go to the parents. Monday was my first day back to exercising. I had been away a month. And like all other post holiday weeks, the place was packed. This was on a Monday morning when it’s usually the retired set, but the kids are still home and everyone who had gotten a gift certificate showed up hoping to shed their holiday pounds.