An Expat Interview with Me (or a self-centered diversion)

Ciao Dear Readers!

Since my last post I have been wanting to blog again, but I haven’t come up with anything original or better than all of the great uplifting and insightful pandemic-life posts out there.

Somehow in the middle of this, I was asked to, and did, participate in an interview with an online Expat website. I was kinda hoping there would be more edits and less type-o’s, but overall, reading it brings back fond and funny memories of living in Italy. I absolutely can’t wait to get back there once life starts back up. In the meantime, if you’re interested in my self-centered diversion: https://www.expatarrivals.com/article/interview-hope-american-expat-who-lived-florence

I hope you all are safe and mentally well. Until next time!

It’s the End of the World as We Know It, and I Feel Fine – R.E.M.

Ciao Readers!  I am happy to have this forum to reach out to you, wherever you are, say “hello” and offer my warm thoughts for you and yours.

So, I knew I wanted to say something in these strange times, but I didn’t know what. It just came to me on a long walk (one of many over the past weeks). I wanted to share my thoughts about the “silver linings” to the apocalypse. I completely understand that folks are suffering – physically, financially, psychologically – and I do not mean to diminish their suffering. But for me, I have to look ahead and try and glean the good that will come to stay out of the dark. So, in no particular order, here are some of the long-term “positives” I think will result:

U.S. Society: I think the pandemic is showing us where our societal structural fabric is weak and needs adjustments. This situation has shed (even more) light on the need for universal health care, paid sick leave, fair wages, childcare and more. It has also forced the justice system to ask questions like “should we really be keeping a 70 year-old locked up for inability to pay a jaywalking fine right now?” (which begs the question, should we ever?). On a more human societal note, I think it is making us appreciate our interconnectedness and motivating people to help others. Even the small things, like more patience at the grocery and a kind word for the cashiers, can start ripple effects of good in the universe.

Corporations: This seems like a “rubber hits the road” moment where we get to truly see if corporations are or are not good global citizens. When Amazon raised its and Whole Foods’ employees wages by 2$/hr., I felt much better about shopping with them. I am also very impressed with t-mobile giving unlimited data, Xfinity free hot spots, and Audible free books to help us all through. In contrast, when McDonalds actively lobbied against paid sick time in the stimulus bill, it reinforced the fact that it is good that I haven’t stepped foot in one since I worked there (ages 14 – 16, yes, against child labor laws). Don’t get me started on Hobby Lobby, which I was already boycotting before this (if you want to read their rationale for staying open and making people come to work, you can read it here). If I get to be preachy at all, I would ask that you think carefully in the future about the corporations to which you’re giving your hard earned money.

Global/Cultural: This one’s a little hard, because I know there have been many incidences of racism.  However, on the bright side, I think we have all been made more aware of what other countries and peoples are going through and what they have or have not done in response. Maybe we gain some empathy for suffering Italians and some appreciation for law-respecting South Koreans.  Maybe we also decide that the liberty/safety balance in China is more than we are willing to give; maybe not.  Regardless of what our personal perspectives are, we are probably getting more world news now than we ever have and learning about other countries and their people on a very human level. I am personally still mind-boggled by all of the photos I have seen of Italians queuing politely outside grocery stores (who knew they actually could?!).

Personally:  I could go on about this one for a long time (as I am guessing you can as well – feel free to share in the comments). For those of you who know me, you know I can be a bit of a control freak. I see this as the universe’s way of finally ingraining the old proverb about “learning what you can’t control” into my thick skull….we shall see.  And even though I am fortunate and still have tons of work to do every day (which I should be doing now instead of writing this), there does seem to be more time to stop and smell the metaphorical roses. So, I will leave you as I often do, returning to food – two days ago Steve and I made pasta from hand (something we keep “meaning” to do but never seem to get around to). I was too busy rolling and covered in flour to take photos of the process, but pretend you can smell and taste the final product (that’s Tuscan sausage/kale/white bean sauce)…….   Until next time!

 

Songs for Solidarity: Italians Unite through music from balconies, terraces and windows

Ciao readers!

So, I was going to blog about how amazing Italians are in the face of adversity – they’ve been having terrace “flash mobs” during this lock-down and I have seen pictures of them queuing in an orderly fashion at grocery stores (who knew?!), but this post from Girl in Florence already does the best job. Scroll down the post and you can see video clips from all over Italy. Grazie!    Source: Songs for Solidarity: Italians Unite through music from balconies, terraces and windows

Sempre Rivoluzione (or waxing poetic about Lucca and life)

Ciao Readers!  I just wouldn’t be me without at least one philosophical blog post from this trip…

So, the title of this post are lyrics from the song “Non E’ “ by Luca Carboni (you can read the lyrics and hear a clip here).  It’s basically a song about how everything changes, with a few jabs to the state of humanity thrown in for good measure. (Perhaps an edgier version of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by the Byrds?) In any case, not only do I like the sound of the song, but the lyrics speak to my current state of mind – trying to accept that everything changes (and trying not to get too worked up about it when it seems to change for the “worse”).  I have to admit, it hasn’t been easy – I’ll take a year when I run my first half marathon and get cast in a movie over one with personal angst and a friend’s suicide any day, but such is life.  But lest I get too pesante (heavy), I’ll move on to Lucca….

As I mentioned in my Florence post, I was expecting that upon my return I would see that everything had changed; much to my surprise, almost nothing had. I’m not really sure why I was so surprised, as I had always thought Florence was frozen in time in the Renaissance. And since Lucca is literally walled off from the world, I’m really not sure why I was surprised it hadn’t changed either (okay, my favorite sweet shop moved a few doors down).  So, take it from Italy to disprove my point, and throw a monkey wrench into my coming here to help me accept change plan… (To prove my point, here are photos I took last March and ones I took today:)

 

Favorite sweet shop in old and new location, same great pistachio cookies:

 

Since I’m headed to Milan tomorrow and then home, I will say Ciao for now!  Have a nice Thansgiving!

“The Wanderer’s Guide to Lucca”

Ciao Readers!
So, this week I am back at the school in Lucca I went to last year. And, since like Florence, Lucca hasn’t changed much and I have come down with a major chest cold, I am taking the easy way out and reposting this blog about Lucca – it is just as picturesque in the Fall. Enjoy….

New Mexico to Italy

Ciao Readers! And happy Monday after Spring Break! We have finally made it to Italy….

The title of this post reflects both its focus, as well as the book from which I got most of the substantive information.  As you may recall, back when we lived in Florence (was that real?!), we took a day trip here and had a thoroughly lovely time.  Now I have 10 days in which to really explore this place…

Lucca is mainly known for two things – primarily, its wall; secondly, Puccini.  Apparently there have been 3 sets of walls built around Lucca, dating back to Roman times;  the current wall, which completely circles the town, was built from 1550 to 1650, using much of the town’s resources (human and economic) for 100 years!   Either it was money and time well-spent or wasted, depending on your perspective – no one ever tried to bombard…

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There’s No Going Home Again (A trip to Florence)

Ciao Readers!

So, before I even left home, I had planned a blog post with this title.  I had imagined it as an allegory for how much things and people change – especially me.  Aside from the fact that we are all totally replaced every 7-10 years (all of our cells that is), I feel very far away from the person who lived here 5 years ago.  At least I did until today, when I walked around Firenze all day and found that nothing much had changed.  It’s really weird – the shops are almost all the same (plus some new vape stores), the shopkeepers are all the same (they don’t even look like they’ve aged), the kebabs at Mesopotamia are still delicious, the Bargello is still a quiet refuge hidden from the throngs of tourists, the Ponte Vecchio is still picturesque, and the aperitivo at Serafini is still the best (though more expensive now).  So, I guess you can go home again, and instead of a philosophical lecture, all I have for you today are some photos, which look very similar to ones posted here 5 years ago….. (with some new Clet street signs and a new foodie floor to Mercato Centrale)….Buona giornata!

Wondering around Florence:

 

 

The Bargello:

 

 

New additions:

 

 

Truffle Hunting!

Ciao Readers! Happy Monday!

Today (Sunday) I got to do something amazing that I had no idea I was going to do – I went on a real truffle hunt!

So, to back up for a bit, when we lived in Florence we went to a fabulous truffle “sagra” (“sagra” = festival) in San Miniato. It was exactly what you’d picture – tons of booths featuring all types of truffles and truffle-based foods. I went on about it in detail in this blog post.  The event we attended today was called a “mostra” – I didn’t get the difference before hand and expected a festival very similar to the one in San Miniato….

The trip started off well – the rains held off and we drove into the beautiful town of San Giovanni D’Asso:

But once we got into town, I have to admit my heart sank a bit – while the town is gorgeous, look at the small area of booths we encountered:

What I hadn’t understood is that unlike a “sagra,” a “mostra” is an “exhibition” – more about learning than just booth-wandering. I also didn’t know we were signed up to go on a real truffle hunt. I stress the word “real” because there are apparently ones staged just for tourists – the truffles are purposely buried before-hand, so it takes no time for the dog to find it and success is guaranteed. Our hunt was nothing like that – we started with about a 45 minute lecture about the process from a life-long professional truffle hunter (all in Italian; the rest of the participants were Italians, not tourists). We then proceeded to trek through the woods for about an hour, over hills, through mud, you name it.  Then came the real excitement – at the top of a very steep hill, behind a ton of pokey brambles, one of the dogs signaled it had found something!  I didn’t take any pictures climbing the hill because it was all I could do to stay upright and continually untangle myself from the brambles (and I thought breaking a second iPad in a week would be a bit much, even for me), but aside from that part, here’s the adventure (full disclosure, despite the enthusiasm of the white dog, the other dog actually found the truffle – can you pick it out in the hole it/its owner dug once it found it?):

And, of course, I had to pretend to eat the truffle (I hid it and said “delicioso” to the truffle hunter, cheesy I know):

Our truffle hunt and the accompanying (mostly) educational lectures lasted till after 1:30 – we were hungry! Now, lest you worry that I never actually got to eat my beloved truffles, all of the (very packed) restaurants in town were featuring truffle dishes, and we chose ours on the recommendation of the professional truffle hunter.  (In one of his tangents during the hunt he explained how much he hates people taking pictures of their food, but since he wasn’t at lunch, I couldn’t help myself) – Buon Pranzo!

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