Friday, January 28, 2011

Kenny Random Paints the Town

Our local painter/graffiti artist nicknamed "Kenny Random" has struck the streets of Padua again. This wall painting is off of Piazza dei Signori.

For other work by him in town, click for: Piazza Capitaniato and Via Dante.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Paduans Take Control of Historic Venetian Gem

Caffé Quadri, the historic café in Venice's Saint Mark's Square, is now being managed with a primary share by Alajmo SpA. This Paduan family and company runs the famous Le Calandre restaurant in Sarmeola di Rubano, just outside of Padua. The family of cooks/businessmen have taken the reins from Ligabue SpA, another historic business in the Venetian scene.

The new ownership's modo is, "Ciò che diventa era (What is to come, once was.)." They don't want to come in and change everything or make the Venetian landmark a copy of their famous Paduan space and dining experience.

Reasons for Ligabue's sell-out include too much recent acqua alta (high water, a.k.a. flood) damage over the past couple of years, including 202 out of 365 days of high water levels last year. (Saint Mark's Square is the lowest area in Venice so it gets flooded more often than any other place in the lagoon city.)

A blog post for Le Caladre which announces the merger is found here.

Photo from Flickr's Rita Crane Photography.

Friday, January 21, 2011

#!!?**!%! Dog Owner

The Italians get bent out of shape when it comes to dog poop removal because so many owners just don't bother to pick up the stuff. As a dog owner myself, I understand both ends of the stick.

On one hand, you are the owner walking your dog and have virtually no public trash cans to deposit your "baggie" for your entire walk, sometimes. That can last upward of 30 minutes in my case. (It's not fun carrying around a smelly bag that long!) The comune has only installed any sort of trash bin in the most downtown section of town: along the main street. If you don't walk your dog there, tough luck. And who does when that's the area with the most car traffic, confusion and air pollution? You might just decide to leave the droppings in the frustration of not having any comfortable solution to taking it away. Or you might forget your plastic baggy one day and find yourself leaving a poop in a bad place, too far from home to come back and retrieve easily.

On the other hand, the people living in the houses with the droppings found outside their property are right in feeling frustrated when they step in brown stuff with their new boots. They can be upset even by seeing the dirty mounds.

The Italian home owner's retaliation comes in the form of elaborate messages hung near the critical areas. This one is recent from my area: angry and rather funny. Translation below.


Gentile signore...sì proprio tu che continui a far defecare proprio davanti al cancello di questa abitazione il tuo cane, mi chiedo se nella tua testa ci sia un briciolo di cervello....evidentamente no, perchè se sono ne avessi un po' capiresti che questo non è un posto idoneo per i bisogni del tuo cane. Sicuramente l'unica presenza di materia all'interno della tua testa non è la stessa di tutte le persone educate e civili, ma è uguale a quella lasciata dal tuo cane.

Se solo un
ignorante, maleducato, incivile..........Il vero animale sei tu.............Impara l'educazione, me mai te l'hanno mai insegnata!!!

English translation:

Dear Sir or Madam ...yes you, the person who continues to have her* dog defecate right in front of the fence of this housing. I ask myself if you have a brain... obviously not, because if you did, you would realize this is not the place for the needs of your dog. So surely the only brains you have are not the kind that most normal and civil people have. It is the same consistency as what your dog leaves.

You are simply
ignorant, unpolite, incivil..............the real animal is you.................learn your manners if anyone ever taught you them!!!

* Note from translator: I used "her" to indicate singular third person on this blog with many links to women's websites, although it could also translate as a "his".

Number 4 of these message adorn the fence in question.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Debut of the Mural

One of the beauties of being a home owner is the fact that you can do anything you want to your house and walls. I decided to create a large mural for the end of the hallway. This was on my latest to-do list posts for the house. Thanks to the holiday season's gift of time off of work, I was able to get down to painting.

F and I thought it would be interesting and appropriate to paint a compound map in scale that takes into consideration the three geographical areas that make up our lives: 1) Towson in Baltimore county, USA: where I am from 2) Noventa Padovana in the province of Padua, Italy: where our house is located and 3) Venice, Italy: where F is from and where we met. They are layered over each other with a gold star corresponding to the exact location of these three places. As the areas overlap, the colors change. Brown: Baltimore County. Yellow: la Provincia di Padova. Blue: 2 Areas overlap. Violet: 3 Overlap.

Painting a large map system makes me think of the Gallery of Maps in the Vatican Museums. It includes the 40 topographical maps of the regions of Italy, that Gregory XIII commissioned between 1580-1583. They are one of the best displays of cartography of the country from the sixteenth century. I always love that part of the museum, as you make your way eventually to the Raphael Rooms and Sistine Chapel. It's a hidden gem of the Vatican.

During the process of completing the mural, I realized that the proportions were wrong for Venice. It was too big compared to the larger county and province, so I had to sand out some painting and draw it again, in better scale.

In the end, this mural has us reflect on just how tiny Venice is, despite its colossal fame. And as usual, we can see how big anything American is. Even a single county overwhelms anything else in size, according to European standards.

Here is the evolution of the mural:

Day 1: Paint in Baltimore county, USA, in brown. Plus gold star.

Day 2: Paint in yellow and blue

Day 3: Cancel out mistaken proportions of Venice, redraw

Day 4: Layer over more yellow, 3rd coat of paint. Cover mistaken areas of blue with brown and repaint the blue sections

Day 5: Gold Star, 2nd coat
Day 6: Violet sections painted in

The dog enjoying the paint throw as a temporary blanket in the hallway: much softer than tile

Completed mural: close, hallway shot, entryway shot


One thing to cross off the list!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Plentiful Holidays and Painful Reentry

You have to love Italy for its long and many holidays. There's virtually one a month. Some short. Others longer. We just finished over two weeks of holidays for many people, including students, some factories and for thousands of workers. It started on Christmas Eve, December 24th, and usually lasts until the Epiphany, January 6th. But this year since that day fell on a Thursday, we got either another ponte (long weekend) or another 3 days off, bringing us to Monday, January 10th as the official back-to-work date. That was yesterday. And oh how awful it was. Dreary and endless rain in the Veneto. Everyone sending urgent emails and making phone calls at once to get the ball rolling again.

It's fabulous to have so much time off. You can really remove yourself from your work to focus on other things like the people you love, hobbies, sports and travelling. A long sustained time away from work cleans the mind and boosts the spirit.

But then you risk forgetting how to work. You come back groggy and bump your way through your activities. You have forgotten some of the details of what's next to do in that list of your daily, weekly and monthly tasks.

Even though yesterday was hard, getting back into my job's rhythm, my clients said I looked rested. I had a rosier skin color. It probably came from all that sleep I had gotten! Then the outdoors always helps, I think. (I was snowshoeing all of last week.)

Alas, it's time to make money again. You gotta have it. At least some. It makes the world go 'round these days. For me, the final frontier is getting paid vacation. It is something I don't get to take advantage of as a freelancer. Maybe one day that will happen.

Unfortunately this year, 2011, will bring us less vacation than ever, according to Italian standards. Most of the holidays fall on the weekend: Labor Day is on a Saturday. Christmas is on Sunday. New Year's Eve will be on a Saturday and the day to recoup will be Sunday! Ugh!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Burn Last Year's Woes

In the town of Cencenighe in the Agordino, the locals celebrate the entrance of the new year with hands-on fire.

Several brave individuals hike up to the top of all the visible mountain peaks and make giant bonfires to be seen below, in town. Those include places like Cime Pape (2503 m/8212 ft), Monte Pelsa (2255 m/7398 ft) and many others around and in between. The bonfires begin at sunset the night before the Epiphany. This year, that occured on January 5th.

In town, the neighborhoods and individual streets gather its people together to light their own bonfires at the same time. The idea is that they are burning all their woes, problems, issues and misfortunes from last year in those big flames that rise at the beginning of the new year. They will start the new year with a clean plate, and hopefully it will be a better one.

Cencenighe center with bonfires in the lower fields of a fraction of town, Bastiani, and Monte Pelsa above

Then fireworks accompany the event from the peaks as well as a few shot up from the town fires.

Cencenighe river front, bonfire at the Cordevole river bank

Neighborhood "Inter"-bonfire in all its glory

It's impressive to think about the souls who climb up the mountain to set the upper flames aglow. After a heavy hike like what they have to do to get up to those altitudes, your sweat turns to ice in about 5 minutes, once your body stops moving. Honestly I don't know how they stay warm up there, waiting for sunset. I know that they take wine and grappa to drink, but I still can't believe that's enough to stay warm for more than half an hour.

Then, the same hikers have to come back down the mountain in the black of night. It takes about 2-3 hours to get down those mountains on snowshoes. Skiing down, the faster solution, is too dangerous without any light.

After the fires have all waned, the locals crowd into the town hall, Nof Filò, and eat gnocchi and polenta that the old ladies prepare. It's offered by the Comune (Town), so everything is free. It's a real event! Everyone is warm, slightly drunk and full of comradery. They dedicate a special table to the hikers that went to the mountain peaks. They are considered the guests of honor in this situation.

I've seen this event several times over the years and each year they are adding more bonfires and locations. It is growing in its importance.

Most of all, it's authentic, not turistic and as the Italians say, "suggestivo" (evocative).

Approaching Inter's bonfire along the hillside

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Europe's Partial Solar Eclipse

An eery light hovered over the mountains as F and I were snowshoeing under Monte Pelmo. Not only were we in the mountain's great shadow, but also under the moon's ombra in front of the sun this morning. Unfortunately a thin viel of clouds over our portion of Dolomites blocked a direct view of the spectacle of this partial solar eclipse, but we still sensed the world wth a strange vibrancy for a short while.

Here is a graphic of today's eclipse situation. For more information about how to better read the image and find out more, click here.

Dates for more eclipses to be seen around the world in 2011:

1 June - partial solar
15 June - total lunar
1 July - partial solar
25 November - partial solar
10 December - total lunar

Monday, January 3, 2011

How Many Care Takers Do You Have? Seven!

Padova, la truffa di colf e badanti: solo il 19% è stato messo in regola

Padua, the scam with care takers: only 19% had been legalized

This was in the local Padua news in December. The police did some local investigations and found that several families had up to seven care takers for a single elderly person. The police found that either there were too many badanti, or they were not properly legalized. Obviously some people are trying to help the immigrants in this work category stay in Italy. They are often women coming from such countries as Romania, Moldavia and Ukraine. Other Italians involved in the investigation did not even know that their names were on documents responsible for the legalization of these workers. Still others are probably associated with human trafficking and channelling Chinese and North Africans into Italy this way.

The question of immigration is a hot topic in Italy and these findings don't help simmer down the turmult.

Source article from 21 December, 2010: Il Mattino di Padova