I Fell in Love on the Hop On, Hop Off Bus

The universe can toss you a curve ball when you least expect it. Certainly, riding a “hop on hop off” bus would be one of those places where you would least expect it. Least expect to fall in love. Least expect to find me. I’ve always striven to be the non-tourist and even thinking about riding the hop on hop off bus would give me hives.  My hip friends, Mike and Lori, insisted that I would truly enjoy it – no matter what city I was in. Well, I didn’t know if I would enjoy it but Jack and I had four hours to kill in Naples. 

Who knew the hop on hop off bus would have such an impact on my life. Maybe it was the Neapolitan songs. Maybe it was the sun shining over the bay of Naples. Maybe it was the 30 children on the upper level of the bus who were excited to be going to an art museum. Maybe it was the architecture or the feelings that the people of Naples sling at your soul.  Who can ever really tell you why you fall in love with someone or something. Love is a strange emotion.  It pieces your heart, turns your brain into mush and forces you to do things you never thought you would.  Today, I fell in love with the turbulent, bad boy city called Naples. 

Historically, I have found Naples crowded, a driving nightmare and the train station full of obnoxious faux cab drivers.  My eyes have been opened to the incredible parks, interesting neighborhoods and wealth of theaters and museums.  Tomorrow, we are going to Teatro San Carlo to see Verdi’s Il Trovatore.  Sigh…my love may deepen.

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Categories: Travel Comments | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

This Is A Drill – Earthquake!!!

This is a drill. I repeat, This is a drill.  Crash, boom, the house is moving.  *&^%$, an earthquake!?  A terrorist attack? Run? Hide?  What do we do?  Sirens wailed.  We ran out of the house. Ambulances raced to the historic center.  My emotions are off the chart.  What the hell is going on?

Today, July 9, civil defense teams from all over Campania raced to Pontelandolfo to aid its residents. I repeat, This is a drill.  Jack was an emergency management professional for over 40 years and was part of the teams that created drills.  I would pop in and out of exercises simulating the media and harassing state and national spokespeople.  When we heard there was going to be a simulation of a natural disaster, we had to witness it.

I put it in my calendar and when I woke up I shrieked – it was 9:30, we’re late! At about 8.30 am, Pontelandolfo was to be invaded by approximately 150 Civil Defense volunteers from various parts of the Campania Region. Twenty associations had given their commitment to participate in this unique event.  When we got to the piazza at about 10:00 they were all gathering under a tree near the two way radio transmitter.  Soon, everyone stood at attention for the national anthem. This signaled the beginning of the drill.

The purpose of the drill was to implement and test Pontelandolfo’s Municipal Civil Protection Plan. I wander if I ask nicely, if Jack and I can read it?  According to my source for all things Pontelandolfo – the Pontelandolfo News – 

By setting up such a document, the administration wanted to give a strong signal for the protection and security of citizens in the event that they experience natural disasters such as an earthquake. Pontelandolfo, nestled in the Apennines, has  high seismic risk, knowledge and preparation to face this danger is critical.

Emergency vehicles from all over the region encircled Piazza Roma.  My heart burst with pride as I remembered that just like all of those Flagtown Fire Trucks of my New Jersey youth, these trucks were driven by a dedicated group of volunteers.  The same type of dedicated volunteers who, in recent years responded to horrific earthquakes and dug out the victims of the massive avalanches in northern Italy.  These men and women are the backbone of our communities. We thank each and every one.

After a short briefing, an Emergency Operations Center was activated at the Municipal Building.  We didn’t peak our nosey noses into the EOC but watched the volunteers mobilize for a variety of scenarios. The evacuation drills  were staged in our medieval village center – which has historically been hit by earthquakes. The various teams evaluated the extent of damage caused by the faux seismic events.  Other teams practiced rescuing the wounded. The Croce Rossa ambulances  soared up the steep hill and returned with rescued wounded.  A triage tent had been set up to evaluate and assist the wounded.

Vonuteers from Pontelandolfo’s Protezione Civile prepared lunch for all.  It is great that all of these volunteers from various towns get to network.  Those relationships will certainly be important if and when they need to assist each other.

I made a perky little video to salute the work of all of the volunteers – again – WE THANK YOU ALL!!!

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Love Fish? – Il Corsaro della Baia Azzurra

Some days – the ones when I am not pretending to work – Jack and I get in the car for rides to nowhere special. We simply drive and stare.  We have visited and lived in Italy for more years than I will admit to and the views still enthrall us.  Patchwork green hills frame the blue sky.  My favorite nowhere special drives have the sea on one side of the road and the hills on the other.  One day, we saw a sign that said Porto Vasto and thought – what the heck lets check out the port.  We veered off the highway and started bumping down one of Italy’s many pot hole riddled roads.  I think it was the bumping that got our tummy’s  gurgling for food.  Stop! I screamed.  What! Jack screamed.  Look there is a sign for a restaurant – Il Corsaro della Baia Azzurra.  Pirate by the blue bay????  Ahoy matey we found a place to eat. We made the 90 degree turn and slowly crept down the narrow lane.  We approached a large white house that seemed perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea.  Jack and I stared at each other.  There was no sign of life – and certainly no sign that said “Good Eats, Eat Here.”  What the hell, we are adventurous.  As I started to open the car door,  Woody Allen with a Jerry Garcia haircut burst from the house, helped me open my door and hugged me like I was his long lost Auntie Midge.  We were whisked into the house and a smiling gracious woman came out of the kitchen wiped her hands on a mapine and gave us hello kisses.

Where are we? I thought the first time we went.  Where are the cameras?  Is this my closeup?  Antonello and his wife Grazia are the owners, front of house, cooks and bottle washers of what has become our absolute favorite seafood restaurant. The interior is adorable.  The walls were festooned with portraits of press clips of a man who kind of looked like our host.  Further investigation revealed that Antonello’s dad, Claudio Crisci, was a vibrant entertainer who started the restaurant with his wife.  It has always been a two person operation committed to slow fresh food. The tables faced a wall of windows with a stellar view of the sea.  Rather than sit, we were taken on a short tour of the veranda that overlooks the Adriatic ocean.  Talk about view!  We would just come for the view but the food!  The scents of the sea wafted over us and we remembered we were starving. We only chose courses from the sea and all were prepared perfectly.   How can one woman alone in the kitchen turn out such great stuff?  Now that we are five times a year regulars, I can tell you that it is a wee bit more than eating in Pontelandolfo but worth it.  Our bill is usually around €100 but we spend hours drinking two bottles of wine, eating seafood antipasti served in multiple courses and a grilled fish entré that would feed a small family.

I could show you pictures of the food and talk about each course, but you will only get jealous and race to the refrigerator to angrily discover you don’t have any miniature clams opened in white wine, or octopus sautéed with parsley and garlic in the most fragrant of local olive oils and be frustrated because you can’t find langoustine split and grilled in your grandmother’s clay baking dish.  So, I won’t tell you what we had.   But please watch the video!

IT takes us an hour and a half to get there but ahhhhh – seafood by the sea with antics by our host. Who could ask for a better way to spend the day.  “Ristorante Tipico, Il Corsaro della Baia Azzurra is located at Via Osca, 51 in Porto Di Vasto.  Call them at 0873.310.1113

 

Categories: Food - Eating In and Out! | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Visit Galleria Civica Before September 17!

Woodsman Greeted Us

Being cultural junkies, Jack and I visit lots of art museums.  Somedays, we are impressed, enlightened and love the eye candy we find.  Other days, Jack walks slowly by grand masters and I stifle yawns. This June in Trento, Italy, I had my very first visceral experience in an art gallery.  Yes, dear readers, previously, art touched very few of the senses I was born with. Most works of art only got me sensually to first or second base – I was a gallery virgin .  Today, I know what it feels like to look at something, connect, and feel my entire body tingle. Legno|Lën |Holz, curated by Gabriele Lorenzoni, at Trento’s Galleria Civica was the most incredible exhibition I have ever experienced.  No I mean it – in MY LIFETIME – as an arts patron.

Each sculpture pulsed with life.  One grouping of two women made me pause and look even closer. Were these two real women in make-up?  I swore I heard a heart beat and know I felt their souls connecting with mine.  The photos that I took don’t do justice to the life altering experience of walking through rooms of life size work that literally pulled me into each of their stories.  I wanted to know who they were, why they were captured at this point in time and what they were thinking.

Trento, nestled in a valley of the Italian Dolomites, is home to Galleria Civica.  This museum is part of MART – Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto.      We happened upon Galleria Civica, located at Via Belenzani, 44, noticed the poster for the show and went in.  The two euro entrance fee makes the museum accessible to everyone.

According to the MART catalogue of 2017 exhibitions, Legno|Lën |Holz, is “the first Italian exhibition of the wood sculptures by the most important artists currently active in the Dolomite area.”  I sincerely hope there will not only be more exhibitions, but also, that this show is a catalyst for the work venturing out to the rest of the world.

If you are coming to Italy this summer and have the time – head over to Trento.  The exhibition is up until September 17.  My video doesn’t do it justice but it just might tease you into visiting Galleria Civica.

 

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo, Stops Along the Journey - Sites Off the Tourist Track | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

I’ve Been Blogged!

Che cosa?  What?  Non puo essere vero? That can’t be true.  My pal Angela whipped out her cell phone and showed me the blog that had been written about the night Jack and I danced the night away in a tiny local bar surrounded by thirty-somethings.  Note, I said written about –  not by me!  All these years I’ve written about other people, places and things and I hadn’t really thought about how they might have felt seeing themselves revealed.  Actually, I don’t give a tinkers damn how Verizon Wireless feels when I write what a terrible corporation it is.  Or don’t feel sad when I bash politicos.  Perhaps I should.  Perhaps, I too need to think before I pound a keyboard.  I mean, is it fair of me to decide that a certain village isn’t worth stopping in or that I wouldn’t let a wild dog eat in a certain restaurant?

In today’s world of instant access via Instagram, Facebook and all the other “wheeeee I can send something out to stratosphere sites,” I feel compelled to never leave home without full makeup, my hair done and ready for my closeup.  Compelled but often, yawn, don’t bother and then WHAM a fugly photo of me shows up on FaceBook.  ERRRRRRGGGGG.  If you are going to take my picture – stand on a chair and shoot down – I look thinner.

Midge & Jack Party 2017

I didn’t post this picture.  But it isn’t bad. The person who did, likes us.

Back to the blog –  the author didn’t use our names, so why did I think she was writing about us?  Because people who weren’t there told me they recognized our personalities and young folks who were there told me it was obvious. We were the only “old” couple there. GRRRRRRRR.

Ad un tratto li vedo, ballano bene, conoscono i passi, ma non è quello che mi colpisce: sono una coppia di mezza età, ballano stretti stretti, si guardano negli occhi, si amano con la tenerezza e la complicità di chi attraversa la vita insieme…

Suddenly I see them, (Guess who?) they dance well, know the steps, but that is not what strikes me: they are a middle-aged couple, (Bless you darling)  dancing closely together, looking at each other with love, tenderness and the complicity of those who go through life together.

There is more but I would need permission to re-post it.

Discovering that tons of people in Pontelandolfo knew exactly who this particular blogger was writing about – even though she didn’t use our names – felt a little bit squirrely.  Then I read the article.  OK,  it still feels a little bit strange, but since all press is good press, what the hey – I’ll enjoy the moment.  Especially since the story was touching, positive, a wee bit sad and reinforces the good life we have here in Pontelandolfo.  It was also very well written.  I would like to have coffee with the author. PS – if it isn’t about us – gulp –

PS – if it isn’t about us – gulp – I WILL FEEL REALLY STUPID.  Even if it wasn’t about us, it served to make me rethink – or remember – that old adage – “Think before you speak.”

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. Abraham Lincoln

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/speak.html

 Ci Vediamo

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Buona Pasqua – The Dancing Pastiera

Buona Pasqua!  Happy Easter!  Wizzzzzzz there goes a pastiera!  Vroom – watch out! Another pastiera is zapping by.  Screeeeeech – quick stop and one pastiera down!   EEEEEKS – is that a flying pizza piena?  WAIT A MINUTE – is that the pastiera I gave you yesterday?  It just landed back on my table!

My best buddy, Rossella and I were laughing madly.  The laughter was so loud that it crossed the Atlantic Ocean.  As a matter of fact, the ocean between us must have been rockin’ and rollin’.  She had been telling me that she had made a number of pastiera – a Neapolitan tart made with cooked wheat berries, eggs, ricotta cheese, flavored with orange flower water and candied citrus.  In our part of Southern Italy, for Easter, we practice the Neapolitan tradition of baking pastiera and/or pizza piena  — crust topped pie or calzone shaped pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese and dried meats.  Women from Pontelandolfo, Casalduni and other villages in the Sannio hills  visit their friends and bring them a gift of a lovingly baked pastiera or pizza piena.

As Rossella was talking I was thinking of my  Aunt Julie making “pizza chiena” in my grandmother’s kitchen.  She tossed in eggs, ricotta, mortadella, salami, cappicolla and rice to make a pie that would sink the Titanic.  But boy were they good.  BOING – it suddenly hit me why she made three or four but we only got to eat one!  She too took them to other people’s house.  But in Flagtown, NJ there weren’t any other Pontelandolfese to bring us a scrumptious gift.

Suddenly, I saw a parade of pastiera moving slowly up curvy mountain roads, into valleys, around centro storico, pausing for a moment at a house and dashing out again.  Rossella, I said in my pigeon Italian, let me get this right.  I make a bunch of pies and I bring them to a bunch of friends.  They make a bunch of pies and bring them to a bunch of friends.  What happens if they get more pies than they made?  I bet they give to a friend the pie I made or you made.  How long would it take before we got one of our own pies back as a gift?  She started to giggle, I started to giggle.  The laughter started to roll.

May this day of Resurrection be filled with peace, love, happiness, laughter and new beginnings.

buona pasqua

 

 

 

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Pontelandolfo Featured on RAI TV!

On Sunday, March 5, 2017, something fabulous happened in Pontelandolfo. The national television channel, RAIUNO, broadcast the 11:00 AM mass live from one of the most beautiful churches in the province of Benevento –  Parish S.S. Salvatore of Pontelandolfo Chiesa Madre.  The church, built in a Romanesque style, heralds back to before 1500.  Completely destroyed by the earthquake of 1688, the church was then rebuilt ten years later in a Baroque style. This is the church my grandparents were married in and my aunts and uncles were baptized in.  It is truly magnificent and deserves to be seen by the world.

Archbishop March 2017 Ponte

Mass was officiated by the new Archbishop Monsignor Felice Accrocca.

Pontelandolfo News  published the formal announcement from our parish priest, Rev. Don Giusseppe Girardi and our mayor, Il Sindaco, Dott. Gianfranco Rinaldi.  My heart filled as I read the announcement.  It reminded me just how many of us left this village in the Sannio hills.

“Sarà un momento unico e irripetibile che ci permetterà di entrare nelle case di tutti, in particolare in quelle dei nostri fratelli emigrati in terre lontane, per stare ancora più vicini agli anziani e agli ammalati.”

“It will be a unique and unrepeatable moment that will allow us to enter the homes of all, in particular in those of our brothers who emigrated to distant lands, to be even closer to the elderly and the sick. “

The WhatsApp texts and e-mails started flooding my in box.  The mayor sent me a notice, my friend Nicola sent me pictures of the crews setting up an incredible collection of cameras in the sanctuary.  My favorite florists Nella and Fabio were up to their elbows in flowers.  My family urged me to grab a plane and get back.  I sadly missed the mass but thanks to the RAI application on my iPad.  I was able to get up at 4:30 AM and watch the program live.

Rai Pix

Pontelandolfese filled the church.

To me – with my public relations hat on – the opening of the broadcast was the best thing that could have happened to Pontelandolfo.   Before Mass, RAI, presented an overview of the village.  It featured the mountain scenery that daily takes my breath away, our iconic medieval tower and other points of interests.

I don’t know how long the link will be live so click on it and see why I return to spend months at a time in Pontelandolfo.

RAI 1 in Pontelandolfo

Ci vediamo.

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Multa – Ancora!!! NO More Tickets!

Son of a &*^%(!  ONCE AGAIN our Fiat 500 L got a ticket.  Notice, I said the car got the ticket – not my Indy 500 wanna be speed demon husband.  Tickets are mailed to you two or three months after you zoom by an autovelox. Traffic cameras, autovelox, – which are bloody everywhere – clock your speed and grab your license plate number.  The autovelox, however, are not sneaky, smarmy cameras.  These are blatant speed traps. There are signs announcing them and most GPS devices have them listed. Beware of –

autovelox

Now, I don’t know where the car was out by itself speeding – because obviously no one in MY FAMILY would speed on an Italian road.  Or not see the SIGN.  The tickets come in the mail and you pay the fine at the ufficio postale.  This is the third one we have been SURPRISED to get.  The tickets go to the car – that is to the the person to whom the car is registered.  The car is in my name.  Hmmmmmmmmm.

Yikes, what if you are driving a rental?  The ticket gets mailed to the rental agency and then the rental agency – a few weeks or in our case months later – charges your credit card.  Watch out for that – because we also discovered that you can be charged and not have been driving the car that day.  Always ask to see the ticket and demand to know the date and time.

Here are some – Don’t get a ticket – hints.

speed-sign
My favorite Italian Attorney, Rossella Mancini, filled Jack and me in on the speed limits law – JACK memorize this –
The general speed limits are as follows (this is only valid for cars. The limits are different for trucks, buses and agricultural vehicles):
-130 Km / h on motorways, which are reduced to 110 in case of rain or poor visibility;
-110 Km / h on main roads outside urban areas (the ones with 2 lanes in each direction) which reduced to 90 in case of rain or poor visibility;
– 90 km / h on secondary rural roads (they are those with one lane in each direction);
– 50 km / h in built-up area (which can be the smallest of villages perched on the highway.)
lower or upper speed limits may be imposed in the presence of suitable signals present on the roads.
Thanks Rosella!  I am posting this in our car.

The speed on the local roads changes randomly.  Sta attento!  Pay attention to the signs!  We noticed that where the roads need repairs – and that is a lot of roads in a lot of places- the town, region or province merely lowers the speed limit on that road. Whoops, we’ve got a giant pothole – lets just lower the speed limit and go for a coffee.  The road washed away in the last flood, lets put up some orange plastic tape to narrow it down to one lane and reduce the speed limit.  A lot of Italian roads are in deplorable condition – not the Autostrada or the main roads but the local roads.  Lack of funds that has caused this situation.  The speed limits are posted so don’t drive and daydream about lunch.

If you are zooming along and suddenly all the cars in front of you slam on their brakes, slam on yours.    All locals know where the autovelox cameras are and slam on the brakes to drive 5-10 miles below the posted speed.  The slowdown lasts for a few hundred feet beyond the autovelox and then zooooooom the cars race off again. Since Italians always slow down for these camera boxes, drive like an Italian.

traffic-italy-sign

These signs are easy to miss!

Beware of Zona Traffico Limitato.  ZTL is a Limited Traffic Zone.  We are familiar with the one in Alghero, Sardinia.  In the historic center the roads are incredibly narrow and full of tourists. Driving there is limited to very few taxis and residents with stickers.  Hours may or may not be posted on the signs too.  Between posted hours cars are forbidden access to the ZTL. What will make you crazy is that all cities do not have the same rules.  If you are driving to a new city or village, take the time to look at a local map.   Car driving can cost you your vacation savings. Traffic cameras are everywhere and take a picture of your license plate. As I said earlier, the rental company will get the ticket and will forward the expense on to you. Probably with a service fee.  Do NOT drive in a ZTL.  Park outside the zone and walk in.  On foot you see more anyway and meet all kinds of interesting folks. If you are staying in a B&B or hotel in the ZTL and have a car – ask them what to do.  Some hotels can issue a temporary pass.  The fine is huge!  Better to spend that money on great olive oil to bring back.

2017 – new rules – Highway Code in 2017

Don’t text, talk or play with your cell phone!  Italians can now loose their licenses if caught.  The fines are incredibly steep – 161 euro to 646 euro!  Now that is one hell of a ticket.

Our Fiat 500 L misses us and we will soon be back driving around Pontelandolfo.  Since I don’t want my insurance to become so astronomical that I can’t afford to go out to dinner, I will become the car nag.  My nagging will be done with love….

Ci vediamo!

Categories: Practical Matters - Living Abroad, Travel Comments | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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