Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Posts Tagged ‘Italy

Comparisons

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Drove to dentist this morning. Little Nissan started right up on first key application after sitting under cover for the past 10 weeks. Bev’s Toyota started fine, too. I discovered I prefer driving in Italy. Motorists there are much more aware of what’s happening around them than the folks here, more and more of whom are oblivious to the world outside their container of tin and plastic. And as Bev and I sat in the house with the wind pelting rain at us, we found there’s more to do in the rain in the village of Panicale than there is here. There, we can pop open the umbrella and. all within a three-minute walk, stop by Aldo’s for cappuccino, or Masolino’s for espresso or lunch, or Linda’s for some groceries and gossip, or Iolande’s for some fruit and conversation, or the tabacchi for a chat and some Internet time, or the bakery for some fresh rolls, or church to light a candle, or the bank ATM for some cash, or get a haircut. If that’s not enough, it’s but a short drive to another fine restaurant in Paciano (4 km) and an excellent bakery/coffee shop in Tavernelle (6 km).

Written by Cecil Scaglione

January 18, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Posted in Europe, Travel

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A Day for Delays

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With the worst winter weather in years trampling all over England, we flew right into its maw, and paid the price. After getting from Bologna to Gatwick without incident – not even a 10-minute delay – on Tuesday, we stayed overnight in nearby Crawley and Bev got her pub-meal fix. Out taxi arrived about 7:30 a.m., a couple of hours after the snow began falling, and got us to Gatwick without delay. We noted how pretty southern England looks draped in white.

Pretty thoughts ended at the airport. The Virgin holding pen was crammed and jammed and under-manned. We were told the world’s largest/busiest single-runway airport had been closed for hours. Then it was announced that passengers on our 11:20 a.m. Las Vegas flight would be bused to Heathrow and the plane would take off at 1:30. Having given ourselves a four+-hour window when we booked USAir to San Diego, things still looked workable.  After milling and telling and listening to strained jokes for 2 1/2 hours, we were shredded into groups of 40 and marshaled down to minibuses, after we poured our luggage into vans that were supposed to follow us.

Now, mind you, it was snowing, but lightly, and it wasn’t cold. I grew up in northern Canada and my memory still works. The only reason we could surmise for closing down Gatwick was that no one ever ordered snowplows for the complex.

AT 1:30, we were told our 747 had not yet arrived from Las Vegas. So they gave each of us 5-pound vouchers “for the inconvenience” and suggested we all go grab some coffee somewhere. We’d all be checked in but no one was certain what gate would be used. We managed to get double vouchers because Bev and I went separate ways to find the source and each came back with our share. And we sat down with a healer from Australia who was heading to Barbados as the guest of a cancer patient she’s working with.

An airport announcement notified us of what gate to report to, where chunks of the group were picked at random to go through security again. And then they herded us onto buses to head to our airplane, which, we learned when we reached it, had just been emptied and the sanitation crew and security folks still had to sweep it clean. We sat in the buses for an hour.

Fortunately, it wasn’t a full plane so we passengers scrambled aboard in rather short order and, after de-icing the wings, unglitching a minor engine glitch, and standing in line for takeoff, we slid off the snow almost six hours late. Which slammed shut our window to our Las Vegas-San Diego flight. And there were no more USAir flights later in the day. ,

The10-hour flight was actually quite pleasant but our concern about getting home lowered our level of appreciation. After clearing customs and immigration at McCarran, we trolleyed our luggage to Terminal 1 and barreled into a Southwest counter. Explaining our position, the ticket agent said we were too late for the 7:35 flight, which was leaving in 20 minutes, but there was another at 8:55. Magnifico? So we called home and arranged for our pickup. Then we were told that a Reno flight had to use our gate first and our San Diego flight was delayed until 9:50. I fell asleep as soon as I sat down on it and didn’t awaken until the wheels bumped the tarmac at Lindbergh.

We got home at 11:20, about 26 hours after we awakened to head to Gatwick.

It was a grand trip but the return journey made us feel like we’d been riding planes and hanging around airports for the past two months.

San Diego smells fresh and oceany. And I’d forgotten how quiet it is here at home.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

January 14, 2010 at 3:23 am

Posted in Britain, Europe, Travel

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Befuddled and Bewildered By Befana

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The church bulletin said Befana would arrive at 13:30 Tuesday in the catechism-class building up from the church. I saw Christmas stockings and assorted images, from Cabbage-patch like copies to hand-carved and twisted crones to Smile happy faces of la buona strega Befana (The good witch Befana) displayed for sale leading up to the Epiphany – Jan. 6 and also known as Little Christmas in our part of the world.

I got to the hall about 30 minutes early, right after Don Bruno and his team of teens got there to set up the small hall.

I asked an early arrival if Befana would be on stage doling out goodies to the kids. She nodded and told me Don Bruno was taking care of things. Tables were moved around, chairs were hustled into the room, boxes of assorted children’s goodies and gifts were emptied — hold on, some prizes included wine and umbrellas. So I clicked some photos as the hall filed with a couple of dozen people, most of the older women. And they began playing Tambolo, the church version of Bingo.

I wandered down to Masolino’s and checked in with Stefania and she was confused about my confusion. “Pensavo andavo a vedere Befana” (I thought I was going to see Befana)

I showed her the little note about her making an appearance at that place at that time and the light dawned. She explained that the “arrival” of Befana was the little gifts of goodies handed out by the priest as special prizes to the youngsters as he called out the Tambolo numbers – from one to 90.

We give everybody gifts at Christmas “ma solo i bambini a Epifania.”

The legend of Befana, briefly, is that she turned away the magi looking for the baby Jesus and, having second thoughts about her error, runs around on the Epiphany and delivers sweets to young children hoping to redeem herself should she find the right child.

“It’s all over – the holidays – on the Epiphany,” Stefania said.

She’s right. We’re heading to  Bologna for a handful of days – plan side trips to Ravenna, Parma and, perhaps, Rimini or Padua or Modena — before heading home next Wednesday.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

January 6, 2010 at 7:42 am

Posted in Europe, Travel

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Spello Still Spellinding

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Even on a rainy wintry day, “Spello is still a pretty town,” said Jean. And it’s easier to get around since it isn’t packed with tourists. We climbed up to a shop that features – what else? – olive wood products. She bought a rosary, similar to the one I had blessed by a couple of old friends – retired monsignors – last fall in a visit/reunion in our Northern Ontario home town.

When we got back to the village, we bumped into the tail end of Bobbie’s funeral, the man who died Christmas Eve morning  just hours before he was to play Santa Claus/Babbo Natale for the children. As the white hearse drifted away from the front of the church below our window, the crowd applauded as Bobbie exited left life’s earthly stage. The more cynical onlookers had their own explanation for the hand-clapping.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 29, 2009 at 6:06 am

Posted in Europe, Travel

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Sampling Arezzo’s Stops and Streets

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Driving through the alleys and around the pedestrians of Arezzo has prepared me for taking the car back to the rental agency in Bologna when we wrap up this trip.

Many of the folks from around here, when they don’t head for Rome, do their “major’ shopping in Arezzo, a sizeable medieval town an hour to 90 minutes north of here, depending what road you take. One of its shopping attractions is an extensive array of antique furniture.

Our jaunt was impromptu; we were heading to a shop just the other side of Castiglione del Lago a dozen kilometers up the road. Arezzo’s another 35 kilometers farther, 20 kilometers past the gleaming hillside town of Cortona, so we decided to re-visit the place we hadn’t been to for eight years.

On that last visit, we took the Roma-Firenze toll road and rolled into a parking lot behind the duomo perched atop the hill overlooking the city. We photographed the park there and strolled down the hill several blocks and found a great restaurant – Il Saraceno – where I had rabbit while watching a gentleman at the next table wolf down two kilos of steak. That’s how they sold it on the menu – by the kilo.

This time, we were on the local road forming lines behind large lorries and didn’t get to the hill overlooking the city.

We didn’t even get out of the car. I did for a few minutes. After spending about half an hour brushing pedestrians aside, dodging motorbikes, slamming brakes to avoid rear-ending other vehicles, squeezing up against parked vehicles to avoid moving vehicles, standing in traffic-signaled lines several times for several minutes each time, I ducked into a temporary parking space and asked a young couple how to reach the parcheggio behind the church. They said go two corners (they don’t use blocks in Italy because short blocks, curved streets and roundabouts make that standard confusing if not downright useless) and turn right, another two corners and turn right, and then to the second semafora (traffic light) and turn right again and head straight up the hill to the church. After another session of aiming the car away from amblers and autos, we wound up exactly where I’d talked with the young couple. So we tried it again and was squeezed onto a roundabout that looked like it would lead us out of town, I drove around the block again, suggested we give it up and got back to the roundabout that got us onto a main artery – the first one we saywhere – that took us to the Roma-Firenze A1 and headed back. Return trip took half the time and the toll was only 3 euros.

(Nonths later, I got  mail saying the rental-car company had taken another $70 out of my credit-card account for providng the Arrezzo police with information about my rental agreement and then tickets from the Arrezzo police department — the service was outsourced — with fotos of my two transgressions within 15 minutes of each other and which I still hav no idea about. But they said I owed them  a total of $190 U.S. for the two infractions. I just paid to get rid of the crap. That was an expensive visit.)

We left at 10:45 and got back about 2:30 in time for pranza at Masolino’s – an almost-four-hour car ride. We did get to see Arezzo’s shops and sample its streets.

Snow Storm

Snow flakes did their stunts outside our window all night and most of today (Dec. 19) and piled onto parked cars and piazzas. They also clustered into sheets of ice so walking around the village was treacherous – you walked around its edges to avoid the slippery slopes and slants.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 21, 2009 at 7:05 am

Quick ‘Qwake

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Had a simple terremoto (earthquake) in Panicale on Wednesday, shortly after 2 p.m. Its center was in Mangione, across the lake where we had lunch Sunday. Enough of a scare that schools were closed but, to us Californians, it was a simple little ride.

‘Quakes here are rare. There are more a bit farther north and farther south, but no one around here likes them very much.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 18, 2009 at 11:57 am

Posted in Europe, Travel

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