Tuesday, April 22, 2008


The old adage "when it rains, it pours" seems to hold true. The nest at the Pinon Tree has been a little empty as things have picked up steam around here, keeping me very busy. Besides my usual "to do" list, I've had more writing projects come in (hooray!). It seems that post-Easter week heralded the official start of tourist season in Italy, and we've seen more activity with the tour company (woohoo!). We've had some wonderful clients come in; we've enjoyed showing them our corner of Le Marche...or "their" corner, as the case may be, because some of them have roots in this area. Its doubly fun to help them find records and see where their ancestors originated.

We also thought we'd take advantage of spring weather to hit the hills in the central portion of the region. Bryan has longed to explore the caves of Frasassi, and after touring them I am not sure it took us this long to make it up there. The cavern system is extensive and extremely well-preserved. Having only been discovered in 1971 there haven't been too many hoardes mucking around with them. Carlsbad Caverns was impressive...I had thought at the time. But with over 100 years of activity - exploring, mining, and suchlike, there has been impact. Frasassi seemed quite pristine in contrast. Three sets of vault-like doors ensure precise climate control. The network is sinewy and only a portion of the (at least) 13-kilometers of caverns is open to the public. How such a gigantic cavern could remain undiscovered for so long is a mystery! Geology-degreed hubby was in raptures. In typical Italian fashion, formations are named after food items: you have the prosciutto strata, bucatini (a type of pasta) strands, pancetta, lard, and butter formations!

I took advantage of the caves' location to hit an exhibition of artwork by Luca Signorelli in the tiny but charming town of Arcevia. The artist painted five works for a church there, and the place was transformed into a lovely venue to house this important mostra. I enjoyed not just the exhibit but the friendly town. It made for a nice little weekend getaway, something we've not done in quite some time. Our quiet agriturismo in the hills with welcoming hosts added to the enjoyment.

Back in town I've been trying to catch up on research, projects and tour strategizing. After a slow winter, the spring rains are pouring down not just much-needed moisture but much-needed work as well. Ah blessed springtime!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


When I was in high school my mom ran for city treasurer of our town. Granted, the town has all of 7,000 people and it was a part-time job with low wages, but it was an elected position and there was an opponent in the running. That meant she had to campaign, at least a little bit. Being new to the political arena, she didn't know how to approach the whole scheme of getting-the-word-out campaigning. I mean, in a small-town like that, you just drop the news in the beauty parlor and the breakfast joint over coffee and by noon everyone knows everyone else's business. But a friend of hers, Tom, told her she needed some real, solid, grass-roots, get 'em rooting and tooting, politickin' going on. Tom hailed from Kentucky and had a drawl, and that's exactly how he put it.

So, now that election season is upon us-not just the over-the-top primaries in America, but the national elections here in Italy-I hear Tom's voice in my head. Every time I walk past the temporary boards erected in the piazza for political campaign posters, I hear the lilt and drawl as he said the word "politickin". The posters are not glued too effectively, so debrise is blowing everywhere when they peel off (or are pulled off). Campaign offices for various parties have sprouted up like mushrooms after a rain. Everyone is clamoring furiously for votes, as it winds down to this weekend. Elections in Italy are - I think, sensibly - held on a weekend and for two days to give everyone a chance to get to the polls.

And people need all the time they can get to cast their ballot...because there are no less than fifteen parties on the ballot. That is right, 15! Which actually represents only a fraction of the insane number of registered, official political parties operating in Italy. How insane? According to Reuters there are 180 "political parties, movements, lists, sub-lists, sub-parties and a myriad of other groupings" that form the nation's political landscape. No wonder the government falls so often.

Despite the fact that everyone (e-ver-y-one) asks me "Obama o Clinton?" when I turn the question around to inquire who they'll be voting for, I am met with grumbled responses that are not actually responses at all. (Sort of like Italian politicians, come to think of it.) The answers I receive are -

"Stronzi. Tutti sono stronzi." Turds. They're all turds.
"Ladri. Tutti sono ladri." Thieves. They are all thieves.
"Tutti sono uguale." They are all the same.
"Niente cambia mai." Nothing ever changes.
"Tutti parlano senza dire niente." They're all talk without saying a word.
"Boh." Beats the hell out of me.

Which all boils down to..."I'm not voting because it doesn't change a thing". Voter apathy, pure and simple. With such a complicated system of coalitions, double-dealings, talking heads, and power plays, I can't say I entirely blame them. But get out and vote they will...I hope. Fortunately, it will all be over soon enough. Unfortunately, given Italy's recent politcal history, we may be repeating it all anew in six months.

In case you're wondering...while we are residenti in Italy, we're not citizens and therefore not eligible to vote. Which is a great relief.

If, like my mom's friend Tom, you can't get you enough of that politickin, hop over to read some of these articles:

Makes our choices seem a lot simpler and clearer, no?


Since writing this post I had a strange experience. I was in the pasticceria that I've frequented since we moved here. The barista and I usually chat it up a bit, so I asked if he was voting. He answered, "yes, because if you don't vote you can't gripe about things afterwards." Then I inquired who he would be voting for. He stammered, told me it was a secret and cast his eyes downward. Strange, so I pointed out he asked me directly about my vote. You should know his attire for the day as it figures into the story. He was dressed in a black t-shirt underneath a red bottom-up shirt. He pointed to his chest and said, "I'm voting like this". Ah, from your heart? Good for you! No, he said...nero. Pointing to his outer red shirt he scowled, "I'm not voting red but black." Eh? Black shirts? As in...fascism? Stranissimo!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

Walking Ancient Streets
I love the atmosphere, the feel of the heavy stones beneath my feet, the narrow pathways with timeless rock-hewn buildings rising on either side providing intrigue. The fact that I can place my feet where others have tread two thousand years before me is an exciting thing. I like the way the light ducks in and shimmers on the stones. Exploring these streets brings a new discovery each time, no matter how many times I’ve walked those paths before.