Sunday, February 27, 2011


Life has certain inevitabilities.  I'm sure you already know that.  Death and taxes are, of course, the most famous.  Living in Italy inevitably means bureaucracy must be mucked through, or that the one time something busts is the one day that the ferramenta (hardware store) is closed.

If you're from Cleveland, it's inevitable that you'll root for a losing team.  Oh sure, you'll get your hopes up at the start of the season, but in the back of your mind you know it's all for naught.  You just get used to annual sports disappointments.  Washingtonians know that traffic is as sure as death and taxes, especially if the President is out and about.  For me, monthly chocolate cravings are inevitable. Not just a little desire for a piece of chocolate, but a ravenous *need* for cioccolato (the darker the better). 

And in my family it is inevitable that the minute my mom steps foot on an airplane to travel away from the cold, snowy, frigid winter of northern Ohio for a milder clime, the weather in said clime will go to pot.  Every.  Time.
Cleveland Lighthouse encased in ice

We had been enjoying sunny, spring-like weather for a weeks.  The almond tree in the garden below us was in full blossom.  The barista had a nice spray of mimosa, the traditional flower for the upcoming festa della donna.  We were taking walks in the countryside and went so far as to have a picnic one Sunday, with gelato afterwards. 

Then.  Mom arrived at Cleveland airport, and at the exact moment that she crosssed from the jetway into the plane the weather went to hell in a handbasket and a frigid cold descended.  We had a nice dusting of snow with a thin, slick layer of ice crystals nested on top.  In fact, some of the white stuff even sprinkled its cold fairy dust on Naples, a nearly unheard-of happening.

It's now windy and finger-numbing cold.  Not the kind of lake-effect, bone-penetrating cold of northern Ohio, I'll grant you.  But enough to make Mom an unhappy camper. 
Snow on the village

But what can you do with the weather and Murphy's Law?  We'll muddle through it, see the splendors of Matera, the unusual formations of Aliano, and some other unknown hill towns.  We're sure to eat some wonderful local fare to give her a sampling of our region.  We'll just have to indulge in cioccolata calda instead of gelato as a daily treat.  And, as is our tradition whenever we get together, we're sure to go shoe shopping.  Because, after all, some things are inevitable.

* * * * * * * * 
Want to know more about beautiful Basilicata?  Read the posts in Basilicata Recap.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Flippin' Good Fun!

Well Bryan beat me to the video punch by posting a montage of the (ridiculously abundant) footage of Lucano, our cutey-pie kitty.  Sometimes the problem of a two-blogger family is that we have the same news or stories to talk about.  But I'll give it to him because that wasn't the video I was going to share, anyway. 

We spent New Year's week on a cruise with Bryan's entire family, a lovely gift from his parents.  We celebrated Christmas all over again because his sister kindly transported our gifts from Ohio (thanks, Diane!).  One unexpected gem was a Flip Video Camera, a petite user-friendly gadget that has a USB port that flips out like a switchblade to plug directly into the computer.  I've always been a little camera shy, but I gotta say, this little sucker is a lot of fun. 

We toted it along to the festa and enjoyed catching some of our friends and fellow villagers on film (or digital, as the case may be).  We also clicked it on as we drove down the main street from the church to the main piazza, to give you a glimpse of the medieval lanes 'round these parts.

So without further intro or ado, I give you the first official Flippin' Fun videos.  More are sure to follow.

La Festa di Sant'Antonio

A Ride Through the Village

Sunday, February 06, 2011

WANTED: New Residents

Wanted: Residents to live in a charming Italian village. Must want a slower-paced life, laid-back mountain atmosphere, and crave fresh, local foods. Should be middle-age or younger, child-bearing age is even better; should be in good health. You'll enjoy gorgeous landscapes, centuries-old traditions, inexpensive housing, and warm hospitality.

I'm tired of funerals.  Today I attended another one, my third since arriving here in September.  It's the unfortunate fact of life that many residents are elderly and infirm, but it still seems an unusually high number even considering that.  I've never had to attend three funerals in a year before, much less in five months.  Villagers are beseeching us to import some new blood to help replenish the town.

It's not that there aren't people our age, and there *are* lots of kids running around; but unfortunately the history of southern Italy over the past 150 years has been one of emigration.  Many have moved to the north or to other countries to find better-paying jobs, or with a vision that "life will be better" in an urban or industrial center.  With just over 600 inhabitants, we really can't afford to lose any more to death or migration!

Italian funerals are an interesting contrast to the American traditions.  In the US, due to the vastness of the country and the tendency to have family dispersed in different states, funerals are usually three or four days after the person has died.  Here two days seems to be the maximum as chemicals aren't used to preserve the body.  Giuseppe passed away yesterday morning and the funeral was held today at 3:30 p.m.  (A friend informs us that by law they must wait at least 24 hours before burial to ensure that the person has, in fact, died.)

The funeral actually begins before the church ceremony.  People gather at the giardino and await the hearse.  The priest leads the procession, praying aloud as the hearse, the family of the deceased, and the townspeople follow slowly uphill to the church.  Following the funeral Mass, everyone lines up to offer condolences and then group around in the upper piazza until the casket is placed into the hearse and the procession slowly snakes down the hill through town.  The shops and coffee bars close during the funeral and remain shuttered until after the hearse has passed enroute to the cimitero.  It is a sweet gesture of respect, I think.

Giuseppe was the brother of our upstairs neighbor who passed away in October.  He was elderly and not in the best of health, and I saw a decline in him after Fabrizio had died.  Still, it came as a surprise and I was sad for him.  He was always very sweet to me.  He had retired from a lifetime of work on the national police force, and during the weeks that I was here alone, before Bryan arrived, he would sometimes come down to check in on me when he came to visit his brother, just to make sure I was alright here on my own.  He always smiled, stopped and kissed my cheek when he saw me on the street. 

The thing I love about living here is how intimate it seems, how people welcome us in and accept us as a part of the community.  That also means accepting the losses when they come and mourning together in cases such as these.  But it's still a bit difficult.  I mean, nobody likes funerals.  And I'd like to not have to attend any more for a while.

So, if you know anybody who wants to help repopulate a pretty village and contribute to lowering the average age, please let me know.  New residents are dearly wanted.