Monday, August 31, 2009

A Beach for Dogs

When a dog owner living in Italy, you quickly realize the beauty of spending a day at the beach can be a difficult task to accomplish since it usually means leaving your pet at home for a long day without bathroom privileges--and so that means you can't do it. But alas, Italians have found a way to resolve the problem. Beach facilities have opened that cater to dog owners! My husband and I took our pooch to go swimming in the sea for the first time this weekend. We had to drive 130 km (80 miles) to get from Padua to Bibione, but no matter. It was worth the ride because we were duly impressed with the set-up at Spiaggia di Pluto, a facility at the Eastern end of Bibione's sandy beaches which only allows dog owners as guests.

You are required to rent an "ombrellone" for the day which includes a beach umbrella with table, lounge chair, beach chair, beach bed for your dog, a leash to attach to the umbrella when your dog is not in the water and a water bowl. The umbrellas are distributed at a good distance from one to the other so that the dogs don't get overly territorial with each other. Spiaggia di Pluto also offers doggy shower areas for pooch wash-offs that are separate from the human versions. You can also fill up the dogs' water bowl at those showers. The rules require that you keep your dog on a leash at all times until you reach the water. You clean up after your dog if it leaves any business around. Sea water needs to be tossed over liquid business.

We loved the relaxed atmosphere with lots of families and lazy dogs lounging around. Kids were running around meeting new dogs. Owners were alternating dog walks with swims. They were also meeting each other through the curiosity of asking information about other people's dogs. Some owners were so organized they had doggy life jackets and doggy tents for their beloved animals to use. Several languages were being spoken including German.

We even saw an area reserved for dog agility but it wasn't being used the day we went.

A day at the beach costs between Euro 15 and 20, depending on the season. The facility is open from May to the end of September. Book in advanced during high season, especially on the weekend.

As you pay for your beach space, you can scan over dozens of photos of former dog guests that cover the main desk cabin like wallpaper.

Initiatives like Spiaggia di Pluto are an excellent resource to protect Italy's dog population. Why? Because Italians notoriously abandon their dogs when summer comes since they find their pets a nuisance due to the fact that they are usually not allowed to partake in much of summer's vacation resort system. Along Italy's highways, hundreds of dogs are commonly left at rest stops. By organizing beach facilities designed for canine companions, Italy can combat this bad habit which has led to even the death of a few people. Last year in Calabria a band of semi-wild abandoned dogs had formed an aggressive pack which bit and killed some children. The news really shook up the country. Finally solid actions can be seen to prevent the loss of doggy homes which can lead to such situations.

Spiaggia di Pluto's website also has links for hotels that accept doggy visitors in Bibione in case you would like to be a villaggiatore (tourist) with your furry friend.

La Spiaggia di Pluto
via Procione
Bibione (Ve)
Phone: +39.348.3848970
Website in English:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Favorite Valentino

No, he is not the famous dressmaker.

He's the young comical athlete who has been nicknamed, "The Doctor".

His last name is Rossi. Yes, he's the MotoGP motorcycle phenomenon who has dazzled the world with his talents for almost a decade.

My poll, "Which Famous Italian Do You Love Most", proved to show my public as timid in their responses so I will simply discuss my personal favorite.

Valentino Rossi has been a constant in my development in the bel paese. His entry into the 500 competition class, matched my definitive arrival as a stable ex-pat in Italy. That was in 2000 when he was little more than a teenager. Despite his young age, he surprised his adversaries by becoming world champion of the category a year later. Italy had its sweetheart: young, cute, funny and unbelievably amazing driver!

I remember watching his big eyes and wide smile as he won each big race. A first place ranking was his excuse to perform a practical joke on the motorcycle race course. A few of those acts included the following: a ride around the track with an inflatable woman, having a pit stop in a spot-a-pot on the racetrack, receiving a traffic ticket for going too fast by a vigile (traffic policeman) and acting like one of the seven dwarfs while his fan club simulated the rest of the clan. He kept his public happy as victories piled up and he continued to entertain during post-race shows. He was a kid at heart while being an athlete of steel. The big kid was even awarded an honorary college degree for his victories which sealed his nickname, "The Doctor". (All Italian graduates, even from only the undergraduate level, get the title of Doctor.) The University of Urbino gave him a degree in Comunicazione e Pubblicità per le Organizzazioni (Communication and Publicity for Organizations).

Victories continued for years. The 500 class became today's MotoGP. The winning kept coming. Sunday was a weekly date with Valentino on TV and the buzz of motorcycle engines sounding throughout the house. It seemed impossible that he could lose. He even changed motorcycle company brands to challenge the system that thought his ability to win was more based on the bike than his own determination and brawn. Valentino abandoned the winning Honda team to revamp Yamaha. He left everyone speechless when he broke that stereotype, too.

Then a couple of hiccups rained on his parade when he started winning less and found the Italian Finanza (Financial Police) chasing after him for fiscal evasion totalling 112 million Euro while he was residing in London. He came clean by paying back Italy's government and started winning on the track again shortly thereafter, once several kinks were worked out on his motorcycle. These drivers adore their bikes more than their girlfriends. The blend of power and technology makes or breaks the athlete. His Yamaha had gone through some tough months that turned into years.

Now the boy with curly hair is a man about to turn 30, already old for his sport. He is back on top with a virtually shaved head, same earrings as always, a more mature outlook on life and the sport and over 100 1st place titles under his belt. He is even back living in Italy full-time. The smile is there. The ranking is high. Perhaps he will be crowned with his 9th world championship title overall and 6th in MotoGP this season. It is within his grasp.

Go Vale! A cheer from an unlikely motorcycle fan, your truly.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday's False Friend

parent v. parente

Your parents are your mother and father, if we don't need to count new-entries from divorced and remarried situations, but the Italian word parenti (pl. of parente) widens the field to family members in general, or relatives, in English. Use the Italian word genitore when referring to a parent.

Eng) I have a parent who lives in London.

It) Ho un genitore che vive a Londra.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Reflective UNESCO Ceremony

Yesterday the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano, visited Auronzo di Cadore as part of a ceremony inaugurating the Dolomites into UNESCO's natural heritage fund. What should have been a festive day turned out to be very subdued because on August 22, 4 emergency workers were killed in a helicopter mission on Monte Faloria, in the heart of the Dolomites.

The accident has rocked the community and country. A Suem helicopter (Servizio urgenze ed emergenze mediche del 118) from Pieve was flying toward the scene of a mud slide, triggered from intense rains, to check for potential victims. On the way there, the helicopter hit electric lines which caused the death of the 4 people inside, including a distinguished alpine climber from the area.

In this case, those who come in the aid of the fallen were victim to that same end. A helicopter which usually saves lives, took them suddenly and unexpectedly.

The funerals were also held yesterday. A moment of silence was observed at the UNESCO ceremony in their honor.

May they rest in peace.

Images from

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Italian Condo Barbeque

I come from a country that is famous for its barbeques but I have never quite seen a barbeque in USA like the one I was invited to the other day. It was part of a phenomenon I like to call the Condo BBQ.

At the bottom of an apartment building or condo unit, you can usual spot a grill. During the summer, the residents of the entire building group together for a meaty dinner, prepared on that single grill. They set up a big plastic table and chairs, make sure there is a temporary canopy or umbrella overhead and then get down to the business of grilling sausages, pork chops and ribs for everybody.

The man, who wanted to invite my dog and me to his building's event, was donning a white paper chef's hat that was really cute to top off his plump figure: the perfect image of a barbequing enthusiast!

For me, the interesting part is that these people are celebrating not necessarily with friends, but trying to share a fun experience with their neighbors, who sometimes can even get on their nerves. In Italy, you learn to live with the good and the bad. There's no use in trying to isolate yourself, even from annoyances. There are always going to be people around to share in all parts of your life. You can't avoid them in this over-populated country.

Did you know that Italy and Japan have the highest human density per square foot of territory in the world?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Andraz Castle

in dialect: Ciastel da Andrac; in Italian: Castello di Andraz

In the Dolomite's Agordino area, the recently restored Andraz Castle still stands over the route to Falzarego. Built around 1027 A.D., it had a military and administrative function and was controlled by the cardinals of Bressanone.

Seven centuries later, during the Serenissima reign, the castle controlled the area's mining routes from Monte Pore which produced high-quality iron which was used to weld swords across Europe. It is said that even the Scots used the Veneto iron for their weapons during their rebellion in the VIII century. Wood was also very valuable from that area because the trunks of trees from Cadore, an area north of the castle, provided the pile foundations for the buildings in the Venice lagoon. Particular trees would fossilize once underwater and therefore were fundamental to the foundation of Venice. Andraz watched over the movement of both resources.

After over one hundred years of neglect and destruction incurred during WWI's intense fighting in the area, Andraz Castel has been restored and awaits your visit!

It is located outside of the town Livinallongo del Col di Lana, in the fraction of Castello, along the Falzarego pass which connects Alleghe to Cortina.

There is also an old mill nearby which can be seen in the picture above.

I highly recommend having a picnic or barbeque along the stream that runs next to the castle. Park your car and walk north for 2 minutes along the trail that follows the stream. There is already a little fire area set up for your barbeque needs!

And if you are also a rock climber, you can do some practice runs in the natural gym just off the road, also next to the castle. After lunch, a little exercise could help burn off some of those sausage calories!

For great images of the castle with a 360° view, go to:

Friday, August 21, 2009

Which Famous Italian Do You Love Most?


Scores of foreign women are drawn to Italy because of its dark, handsome and romantic men. Now that we have moved here or have visited this country more than once, we have discovered that not all Italians fit that bill. An example could be the Olympic gold metalist swimmer, Massimiliano Rosolino, whose blond hair and tall build make him look more German than Italian. But of course, we love them in all shapes and sizes!

Which famous Italian man is our favorite in 2009? Considering athletes, politicians, actors, musicians, news anchors and anyone else, who do you love most?

Let me know by Thursday, August 27th. Results will be published next Friday.

(Submit as a blog comment or to my email:

Friday's False Friend

fabric v. fabbrica

Clothes are made of fabric in English while a fabbrica in Italian refers to a factory, perhaps where they make the fabric. In fact, Italy's Lombardy and Tuscany regions are well-known for their high-quality fabric factories which have helped Milan become the fashion capital it is today. Without fine raw materials, design can only go so far.

Italy is fighting to keep its fabric factories in the country during a time in history when most factories are moving abroad to Eastern Europe or Asia.

Use the Italian words stoffa or tessuto when translating English's fabric.

Eng) I like the fabric used to make this dress.

It) Mi piace il tessuto usato per fare questo vestito.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Writing on the Wall

A Relationship Between the Military and Farming in VI Century Padua

Padua's walls needed to protect the city in military fashion and farmers provided a useful element to that end.

Military tactics and farming's symbiosis:

Enemies could be watched in an "invisible" fashion from Padua's walls that were angled in such a way to render them "hidden" from an enemy's advancing eye. Cannons and hakbuts would be used to quell the forwarding enemy by surprise. A relatively open land area one mile wide was maintained outside of the walls, with a moat placed at its feet and only a few doors constructed to allow access to the city. In this large and empty space, farmers were allowed to grow certain crops as long as the plants did not reach heights of more than one meter (3 ft). Those crops hid trapdoors, sharp rocks and low bundles of wood that made passage dangerous and noisy for invaders who were not extremely careful. The farming solution helped keep the land in a militarily ideal situation of "open" area while not weighing heavily on the government's financial investment which would have otherwise been necessary from constant expenditures due to cleaning, pruning and general land maintenance.

Various cereals were the preferred crops that grew at the feet of the Padua's old walls because of the plants' perfect height and the fact that it also offered basic sustenance to the city's inhabitants. Once harvested the wheat, grain, oats, etc. would be processed in the mills located inside or along the walls. Ponte Molino, which I will feature in the next entry, is evidence of that tradition.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday's False Friend

camera v. camera

I love this false friend because the one word reveals the origins of the other. In English, we use a camera to take a picture, digitally nowadays, but also with film. But in Italian, camera means room, or better yet, bedroom. What's fantastic is that the English word's action was originally performed in a box or dark room and today's photography students usually have to experiment at least once in their life with the "camera oscura" technique.

Use macchina fotografica as the correct translation for English's camera. It literally means "photographic machine".

Eng) Don't forget your camera when you go on vacation!

It) Non dimenticare la macchina fotografica quando vai in vacanza!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Is the Venice Biennial of Art Happening? Can't Tell Here

As an artist, one of the main benefits of living in the Veneto is the fact that it is easy to visit La Biennale di Venezia (Venice Biennial), the oldest and still perhaps most prestigious international contemporary art fair. This year's 53rd International Art Exhibition, entitled "Making Worlds", opened to the public on June 7th and will run until November 22nd. From Padua, it takes less than an hour to reach Venice and start looking at the art venues around town.

The art displayed during the biennial has an enormous impact on the entire art world: discovering new talent, leading to prominent shows in other parts of the world, massive amounts of press being published in all the important art magazines, awarding career artists, highlighting a variety of curatorial work.

Despite the epic importance of this event, Padua does not display even one advertisement or billboard for it. I find this fact quite strange because many other art and cultural events have posters displayed in Padua. Off-hand, I can think of Bologna's modern art museum show, Vicenza's Palladio displays, Verona's theater performances, Bassano del Grappa's temporary exhibit, Belluno's sculpture exhibition and Ferrara's street performers' event. All of these locations are possible day-trips from town. Yet Venice's huge art biennial gets zilch exposure here, even though the cultural impact is great and the location is easily reachable.

The reason must come down to city rivalry. Padua is too proud to advertise for Venice. Paduans must figure that Venice gets enough publicity as it is. This may be true, but I doubt most Paduans realize they are missing some great art. The city could at least allow them the chance to be aware of the event, especially at its inauguration.

Another reason could be old historical tension. Padua was once ruled by the Venetian Republic, la Serenissima, and not all Paduans are not happy about that ancient control a nearby city had on their inhabitants.

Paduans proudly talk up their businesses, law school and hospital. They are not as culturally-oriented as their Venetian neighbor, as a contemporary society. Art takes a back seat to business in this part of the Veneto plains.

I just find it curious that not even a hint of a fabulously important art event in the next town over gets wall space in Padua.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

San Lorenzo's Night: Not Falling Stars

They are actually meteors, remnants of comets that range in size from grains of sand to big rock chunks, that burn in Earth's atmosphere to dazzle our mid-August nights. These "falling stars" are a yearly ritual for Italians as they head into Ferragosto. All across the country, beaches and countryside are full of romantics who flock to dark places to get a glimpse of the predictable meteor shower.

As true Italians, they associate the event with a saint's birthday. In this case it's San Lorenzo (Saint Lawrence) who is celebrated on August 10th, but the whole week usual boasts great noctural light displays.

Watch this informational video created by Challenger Center in 2008 about the causes of this beloved Italian phenomenon.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Manic Internet Use? Italy v. USA

Sunday's night spat with my husband reflects itself in the same day's New York Time's article, "Breakfast Can Wait. The Day’s First Stop Is Online." My Italian husband was upset that I had spent too much time on Sunday on the computer, checking various sites including the social network, Facebook. Today I found a friend's link to this eye-opening article about the changes in family etiquette regarding Internet and computer use.

The writer, Brad Stone, reveals that Americans are increasingly jumping to their computers as soon as they wake, which affects their morning efficiency and sometimes their quality time with the family, during breakfast or other meals. Often the family components are divided between separate rooms and computers, consulting email, social networks or playing video games even before their first cup of coffee or bowl of cereal. A surge is being registered in Internet use at 7 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, according to Arbor Networks, a Boston company that analyzes Internet use.

With that said, I find that I am in a small personal conflict by living here in Italy. At bedtime here, the US computer action on Sunday is at its best. I can get responses to emails and social network comments in virtual real-time. This is compared to the more common, lethargic response lapses of several hours due to my typical daily postings in the morning or at lunch (while Americans are asleep) and their responses which appear several hours later (after my bedtime). The quick-time play of our computer keyboards across continents and oceans makes it irresistible to stay up late, remaining connected to Internet, and lunge for the computer in the morning, curious about what might have been written in my absence. Plus, many of these beloved American correspondants, I cannot see in person for months or years at a time so their virtual notes take on more powerful meaning.

Our habits are changing. If I am not composing an email on the computer, my husband is using it to play a video game as part of his relaxation. There is always a reason to be in front of the computer screen, it seems.

Italians are not quite as connected to Internet as Americans, in my opinion, but they are catching up fast. The computer revolution took several more years to get here. Some Italians have come up with the expression, "Meno Internet, più Cabernet" (Less Internet, more Cabernet) to combat today's trend. However, text messaging is the true addiction of choice in the bel paese. Italy has the highest per capita of mobile phones in Europe, if not the world. Pre-adolescents are receiving their first phones at 10 and quickly abusing them shortly thereafter with incessent text messaging. The grave problems are seen in the Italian classrooms, where the students do not keep their mobiles switched off, not even during official tests, and sometimes receive test answers via text messaging from their dear parents, of all people!

Contemporary society is always connected to a plug or wi-fi. In July, Venice announced its wi-fi services in campos and many other public places for locals and tourists. It has changed the character of a Venetian visit because now you can see people parked in front of their laptop in the campos' benches, consulting Internet instead of chatting with friend, side-by-side or licking a drippy gelato.

Times are a'changin'

C'est la vie

--excuse my French on this blog about Italy

NYT article link:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Writing on the Wall


I started with a walked along the Bastione Cornaro that parallels Via Gattamelata on the southern end of Padua. I noticed that the hospital structures seem to spring up out of the walls. In one case, the chapel shares a brick extension from the old wall into its foundation and its own external wall. How did this happen?

Well, the city decided to buy up the property immediately around and on top of the wall once its defensive features were no longer necessary, which became official in the nineteenth century. By the twentieth century, that city ownership led to many public or semi-public institutions constructing buildings in the wall's vicinity, where the terrain was free or very cheap. The hospital is a perfect example of this flurry of wall-construction and, supposedly, there are many schools that border it, as well.

Basically, public buildings grow like mushrooms around contemporary Padua's old fortress wall.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Writing on the Wall

My fascination with Padua's old walls has brought me to embark on a deepened exploration of them. It all started with our first apartment which had a view of one section of them and has continued through my daily cycling route into town which flanks them.

I have decided to learn more about them and share my findings with you.

The looping construction we can see wrap 11 km around today's Padua, began in the XVI century by the Venetian Republic which perfected and enlarged the work already done by the Carraresi family. Construction took fourty years to complete. The walls' effectiveness was barely every challenged, aside from a little attack on the part of
general Dauvergne of the Napoleonic troops in 1801.

The walls hold renewed interest today because they are among the few that remain rather intact in the third millennium. Differently than larger and historically more prosperous cities such as Paris, Padua did not ever demolish most of its old wall system. Their delineation kept Padua's limits well-defined until WWII. Construction was kept within the walls and agriculture only dominated the landscape outside of them.

to be continued...

Map by Angelo Portenari, Della felicità di Padova, 1623.
Historical source: Il paesaggio delle mura di Padua: Percorsi tra storia e natura a cura di Gariele Cappellato.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Found Wallet: Continued Frustration

About three weeks after the incident, my husband's stolen wallet was found by hikers from Treviso along a trail between Frassené and Voltago, the next town over.

Almost all the cards and documents are inside it, except the ATM/credit card AND his Venetian IMOB card. Now, these facts lead us to believe that the theft was DEFINITELY not executed by a foreigner, or Romanian. Why? Because they would have used his Italian ID card to create a fake for an illegal immigrant friend and they would not be interested in having the Venetian waterbus card (IMOB) which allows locals to pay an easy Euro 1,10 per ride on the famous vaporetto as opposed to a tourist's price of Euro 6,50! Only someone from the local Agordo area would understand the savings involved in keeping that particular card. Also, if we think about the location of the theft, at an abandoned sports and game park off the trafficked path, where only rock climbers go nowadays, it leads us to conclude that locals must have been the perpetrators. They are probably junkies looking for easy cash to sustain their habit and they got very lucky with us!

These realizations further anger us about police action in this country. The Italian carabinieri blame Romanians for everything and then throw up their hands. It's an excuse not to do their job to the best of their ability. Foreigner culprits are the scapegoats for the result of lazy police work.

Meanwhile, our bank refuses to refund any of our stolen money, even though they have insurance policies which can help cover such reimbursements.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Friday's False Friend

educated v. educato

When you are educated in English, this means that you show evidence of having studied but in Italian educato refers to the manners your family or society have taught you. For the best translation, chose the Italian word, colto, for best results.

Eng) It was very interesting to listen to the educated young man during dinner.

It) Era molto interessante ad ascoltare al ragazzo giovane e colto durante la cena.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Glorious Fatigue

The high mountains demand respect for their immense presence, potential for danger and fantastic panoramic gifts. My husband and I finished our 6-day experience among the crests of Monte Rosa.
Life goes into a different dimension at 12000 ft. As true alpinists, we had wake-up calls at 4 a.m. everyday and were treading the snow at or before dawn to guarantee the best conditions for the long journey to and from the peaks. By 11 a.m., the snow that was crispy at dawn had turned into mush under your crampons and made walking almost hazardous from mounting snowballs that formed under your feet in descent.

At that altitude, you are literally living above the clouds. Most days, the valleys were hidden under a blanket of vapors while our skin toasted away despite protective factor 50+ sunblock, thanks to a very formidable sun.

Processing oxygen becomes a more cumbersome on top of Monte Rosa, according to scientists. We were lucky because we only suffered from a couple of headaches and I had a slight loss of appetite. Blood runs thicker through the veins as it tries to nourish the body on overdrive, plodding along the trails to Punta Parrot (mt 4435/ ft 12422), Punta Gnifetti (mt 4554/ft 12756) and Piramide Vincent (mt 4215/ft 11806), in our case. Fatigue is a constant but through sheer willpower, you burn on. One step at a time gets you to the top of the summits and back to the lodge for some much-awaited rest and the single hot meal of the day.

The landscape dazzled our eyes in its symphony of white, ice, snaking human trails of skiers and alpinists. We could constantly admire a handsome suite of summits. It was even possible to see the Matterhorn peek out from behind Lyskamm, the peak featured in my last blog entry.

Everything is hushed. You only hear the crunch of snow under your crampons for hours, except for the occasional comment or exclamation from your alpine companions. Being on the top of the world is surely a kind of escape from it. No TV. No distractions. Barely any mobile phone use. You. Nature. Sun. Wind. Snow. Clouds. Ice. Rocks.

I discovered that I can handle serious alpine conditions. My body and mind allowed me to succeed in reaching a series of incredible summits on Monte Rosa, the second tallest mountain in Europe. Unfortunately I cannot say so much for the other woman in our entourage. Her constant complaints were a drag on spirits and the group's progression on more than one occasion.

This expererience only makes me further revere those who scale the Himalayas, shooting twice as high into the atmosphere. (Of course, our alpine guide, Andrea, came with pictures of his journey there and up the Mountain G2.)

General Evaluation:
Sweet personal satisfaction on an adventure accomplished.