Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Buone Feste

a drop of orange
a whiff of clove
a dusting of snow
a dash of joy
a sparkling holiday season

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Making It Hot for Winter

As even Padua gets its dose of snow and the Christmas season rolls in, I have decided to combat the cold and make some super HOT pepper spread.

From this summer's batch of plants that thrived on my very hot southern-exposure terrace, I harvested the little red peppers and made crema di peperoncino.

Plucked plants - peppers - kitchen supplies to get started

It will keep me warm as the winter progresses. Just a dab of this stuff and your mouth is aflame! Red pepper,  garlic and salt smeared on bread. Simple. Effective. Great.

Peperoncini which also provide the perfect colors of Christmas

The finished and jarred spread of... edible fire!

Just how much piccante can you stand?

As for me - a lot.

Bring it on!

Just Before the Snow

This was dawn before our second snow of the season. 
The orange cast made interesting lines in the landscape before everything turned gray and white again.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Smile! Cheese!


What even Italians can muster this exclamation when shooting a photograph of friends. They learned that somewhere along the line in their English lessons and/or movie listening.

But here we want to salivate in front of this marvelous cheese window in the Salone market area in Palazzo della Ragione in the center of Padua. Just look at those great big hunks of formaggio. I can assure you that they taste even better than they look. When I buy from this shop, cheese becomes an experience. What you find in the supermarket just isn't the same.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Presidential Cheer even in Italy

Upon the news that Barack Obama won a second term as President of the United States, Italy started overflowing with joy and relief. I was stopped by several colleagues yesterday, asking about my opinion and sharing their own about the outcome. Text messages arrived on my cell phone. The TV was ablaze with news. The Italians really follow our election campaigns, especially in the last few months.

In the few days leading up to the big US vote, I had to do my usual explanation about the electoral college vote. Honestly, I never understood the system myself until I started living abroad and had to explain it to others. Funny how that goes.

There are several voting differences between USA and Italy:

1) In Italy, they can vote for a party, but cannot directly vote for the specific candidate representing that party.

2) They only recently introduced the "primaries" and it is currently being performed by just one party: Partito Democratico. And anybody can vote for in that primary election - including people who would be "registered" as voters of a different party, if that were required in voting registration (which it is not).

3) There is no absentee ballot if you live in Italy. If you are registered in Calabria but working in Milan, too bad. You need to get your butt down to Calabria if you want to vote.

4) Referendums are performed as separate votes on different days from general elections. It can cause a hassle to get to your home town to vote, since you do not have an absentee option. It is also a considerable expense to organize the voting centers so every time they are opened, for elections or referendums, it comes at extra cost to the nation.

5) You vote here on Sunday and Monday

6) The vote is a popular vote.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Gondola Ride Kit: Instructions for a Heightened Experience

I'd like to introduce you to my little-but-powerful artist's book called Gondola Ride Kit: Instructions for a Heightened Experience. It's an ironic guide for living one of Venice's quintessential experiences: the gondola ride. There's a map, instructions and a trouble shooting guide at the end as I take you through the lagoon city in a whole new way. To start, I recommend the experience during the winter months of November to February, not your typical touristic season in the lagoon city.

Some the sections are dedicated to the five senses. You must concentrate on each one as you ride along in the gondola.

Canal Grande, original illustration by artist

Route taken by artist and recommended departure site to find your gondolier. 

For those who have read Dante Alighieri's Inferno, there is Experience B with references to Virgil and Minos, among others.

It's a guide. It's a book. It's art.
Enjoy this fabulous and unique read! Get your own copy. Buy one for a friend for Christmas! It will make for  an amazing gift for anyone leaving for Venice this winter. It can also be considered a special memento or just lets you dream about Venice with a new point-of-view. Not to mention that this little book is part of major public collections like Tate Gallery. You'll have a piece of art that is the "stuff" of museums.

This is the first time I have directly written about a piece of my art on this blog. I feel it is the right time and very relevant to your interests in Italy and my neighboring city of Venice, where I used to live. This artist's book is on sale for a great small price via Internet now. For more information, please go to my ETSY shop:

Thank you for supporting me as an artist and spreading the word about Gondola Ride Kit.

Let me know what you think once you've gone for your own ride with manual in-hand.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Handmade Scaffolding Cover

The people in Agordo, a town near Belluno, decided to approach the current idea of imagery on their scaffolding cover in the most artigianale of ways. Instead of using a sponsor's image to print over the entire surface of the facade area being restored, as is often done in big cities like Venice these days, or printing a photographic replica of what the facade normally looks like to place on the covering, someone got some paint and brushes and did their painterly and naif version of the original facade. I find this completely adorable. You can find this scaffolding painting across from the church in the center of town.

For some images of what the photo slick versions usually look like:

The recently restored Bridge of Sighs, Venice, with the sponsor Bulgari on display

Photo credit: flickr name: travellerlisa

For a picture reference of a Paduan version of a scaffolding cover, go to my post
At least Padua in 2009 advertised the City of Hope, part of the Padua Hospital system. It a hospital program for kids with physical problems.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ingenious Suburban Italian Gardening

Such a terrific solution to this gardener's dilemma: how to grow squash in a relatively small space. Just use your fence to let the vine grow vertically. And when the squash gets big and heavy, seat it on its own custom-made wooden shelf attached to the fence and hovering over the sidewalk. In no time, you'll have some great chow for some autumn risotto di zucca.

I am very proud of my neighbor's ingenuity.

For a recipe for Pumpkin risotto, click here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Extraordinary Packages

After living abroad for any real length of time, the need to send and bring items from the US to Italy becomes necessary. We all have this story. My first special one was a box full of expensive watercolor paints that I sent myself from home to my new temporary home in Rome for my study year abroad. I had sent the box to my former Italian teacher to make sure that if it arrived earlier than me, there wouldn't be a problem receiving it. At that time, we sent via ship and it took 2/3 months for a package to get to its destination this way. We did it to save about 2/3 of the cost of express courrier. But I mistakenly declared on the mailing slip what I thought was the authentic value of the paints, which was a high value. Why was that a problem? Because when they got to Italy, the addressee had to pay taxes and handling fees based on that large sum of money. When she alluded to having paid something, she refused to let me know how much so I couldn't reimburse her. It was a typical Italian "host" gesture. And as a 20-year-old American, I had no idea how to insist or understand what the money paid could actually have been. I just didn't have the experience yet.

Then there was the time I needed to travel from Italy to the US with a wooden box with lighting and plexiglass slabs, 2 of which were filled with water. It was a sculpture/artist book that I was getting ready to present to US gallerists and collectors. It weighed a lot and required an excellent packaging job to make the flight in-tact and undamaged. It was also 2003. When I stopped over in Vienna, the Austrian police had me come out to their handling area on the other side of the airport, holding up the flight, while they made me unwrap everything to show them that it wasn't a bomb. It was a miracle that they believed I was an innocent American travelling with a strange sculpture and they also had the patience to help me carefully rewrap each piece of my sculpture, further holding up the flight, so that it could travel safely to its destination.

Fast forward to 2012. Recently a new art project has demanded another important package to get to Italy. This time it's large sheets of handmade paper with deckled edges. I had to figure out a way to package the paper so that it would travel and not damage its edges, which are one of the best parts about the handmade paper making process. I was able to accomplish this with the help of a UPS shipping shop. But I already had too much to carry to bring it to Italy myself. So my father was given the assignment of travelling with the package when he recently visited. In order to do that successfully, there was still one piece missing to the packaging process. A handle had to be attached to the large, fairly heavy and awkward package. UPS couldn't help us when I was in their shop and time ran out for my own stay in the US. I left without making a handle, which I had learned to make out of string as a person living in Venice. In that city, you must carry everything so you learn how to make handles for all kinds of boxes.

In the end my mother made a handle. But not just a handle. She made a sort of vest out of denim for the package and then inserted a real plastic handle into the sheath.

I didn't want to open the package until absolutely necessary because everything was so "safe" inside the denim wrap, tape and cardboard. So the package sat in its "clothes" for months. I only opened it 3 weeks ago to get to a drawing I wanted to hang on a wall - finally.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of my mother's masterpiece of practical creativity and sewing diligence which was that package before I cut it up. (I was in a rush that day.) Here are the outer remnants that still remain:

handmade denim outer structure for large package, including plastic handle, 12" ruler to show size

The important thing was that the package travelled beautifully.

Thanks Mother.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Yellow Box Disappears

It's incredible but true-the yellow box will soon vanish from Italy's train stations. You know, the one you need to use to stamp your ticket before you get on the train. And sometimes you forgot or you didn't even know you were supposed to use it because you are a foreign traveller and assume by buying a ticket, that is enough to travel without a hassle on an Italian train.
Well, it's being replaced by a more modern variety of stamping machine which is neither yellow nor boxy anymore. Here's introducing Trenitalia's new slick machine.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Yayoi Kusama on Display Downtown

In the heart of Padua, Louis Vuitton has brought the art of the famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Her world  consists of obsessive dots.

What I like about this window display is that there isn't a single bag or Vuitton product in the composition. Just Yayoi.

The company is trying to bring this art to a new public that might not otherwise see it. For more about this mission, watch this video.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Reflecting on my Posts

Why did I dedicate 2 posts to my recovery, back to back? This is the question I asked myself.

While the Olympic games are being played, it has made me think. Many people are receiving medals for their  great efforts. All I have to show after a year of "work" and diligence is the possibility to get back to my former activity, although that's a lot more than some people can do. Not everyone literally climbs mountains. And some never get back what they lost.

I knew I would get back into my alpine activities but it amazed me that I really had to wait about a full year for that to happen, like the doctor told me from the onset. You always think it's going to faster for you: the young, active person. I also needed to keep up my physical therapy with a regular schedule of work, a house  to care for and other activities of everday life. Finding time for everything wasn't always easy.

It took me longer to get my tendon in order than my friends to give birth to babies, which they are in the process of doing now but got pregnant months after my surgery. It's ironic because most of us consider the waiting period during pregnancy to be long. My achilles tendon recovery was longer.

This is not the first time I have had surgery and had to go through therapy. It's actually the third over the last 15 years. I am probably a bit frustrated that I have had so much of surgery and injuries and recovery. Yet I know there are other people who have been through more. But that's in my head. My gut doesn't always care about those cases. Maybe  that's why getting over this operation is such a big deal for me.

I have to admit that my tendon still isn't perfect. It still feels raw when I push it. I am still doing physical therapy to help it along. I think I'll need to do that until I can truly lift up my body onto the tips of my left toes, a movement that I only do partially at the moment. August 4th was a year after surgery but I think I need another 3 months to get everything back in shape.

And then one day, I won't have to think about it anymore. The tendon will just perform exactly as it should.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

1 Year Later

Sorapìs, Dolomites

The joy rises along with the hiking distance as I celebrate 1 year after surgery on my achilles tendon. I know I am repeating myself slightly after my last post, but bear with me.

 It was August 4, 2011 that I rolled into surgery on a hospital bed. Yesterday I trekked up the Sorapìs in Cadore, Dolomites, as a reminder of how far I have come. I walked up about 1400 meters and my tendon rallied with me. This was my longest single rise this year, even longer than the day-journey in the high Alps recently.

Just fantastic.


Friday, July 20, 2012


Western Lyskamm 4482 m/14705 ft    July 9, 2012

I have come down from 5 days of heavy and exhilarating mountain climbing in the Alps: Monte Rosa and Gran Paradiso. I am thrilled about my accomplishment. Eleven months after surgery on a broken achilles tendon (August 4, 2011), I was able to successfully scale three peaks at over 4000 meters high in just a few days over the course of last week.

July 9th
Western Lyskamm 4482 m /14705 ft 
July 10th
Castore 4421 m /13848 ft
July 13th
Gran Paradiso 4061 m/ 13323 ft

It's such sweet success because I have been diligently recovering and rebuilding my leg since surgery. It's absolutely devastating what happens after not being able to weight-bear on a leg for three months, which was doctor's orders in my case. All the muscle tissue disappears and doesn't want to grow back once you are supposedly "healthy". The muscles are actually stubborn once you try to restimulate the area again. Then there are issues of balance. Therapists explained to me that the brain-nerve message system was damaged from lack of use. I had to work on that too. Then the other secondary tendons and various fibers and ligaments in my foot, ankle and leg needed help. The problems were many. But after faithfully doing my exercises and slowly going back to the gym for "baby" workouts, such as just 2 minutes of running at a time 9 months after surgery that eventually became 3 minutes and so on, I began to get results.

My calf is still only about three-quarters of what it should be but it was enough to get me on top of Monte Rosa!

On top of a mountain on a spectacular day is like nothing else.

For link to post about frustrations after surgery and physical therapy, click here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

City Action

Since buying a used Fiat last fall, I have discovered the wonders of this mighty and sometimes troubled car manufacturer. The suspension isn't the best but the engine becomes a lean mean machine when it gets into top gear. That's what the "Fire" engine gives you, what they call that model of engine. Maybe not all the umph comes right away, but once it's clicking, nothing stops it. My Fiat sometimes races to 140 km/h on the highway without my even realizing it. Considering the car is 10 years old going on 11, I am very satisfied with this performance.

What I really want to talk about is the City option. Fiat had the great idea to create a feature that makes moving the steering wheel a breeze. It's called City because it makes urban driving so much easier. Parallel parking is simple and the wheel feels "light" as I move into my space. Basically with just a couple of fingers on the wheel, I can steer the car in whatever direction I like. Fantastico!

So what do you love about your car? Any interesting features?

Stay cool in this heat and try to avoid driving at high noon. It's a challenge to enjoy being in a metal box under a burning sun at that hour.

Buona guida

Photo source: QUATTRORUOTE

Sunday, June 3, 2012

You Can Help in Emilia Romagna's Disaster Relief

Now I can testify that I have felt an earthquake. To be precise, it's actually been a few.

The earth continues to shift and shake in this part of Italy. We felt 3 big ones on Tuesday: 9.03 a.m. 5.9 on the Richter scale and 12:36 p.m. (5.3) and 12:57 p.m. (5.1). I was in an office on ground floor and things started moving, but it could have been worse. People are still scared. The experts expect more to come, we just don't know how many and how strong they will be.

On Thursday, an elementary school had a piece of ceiling fall while school was in session. It did not happen during an actual earthquake. No children were hurt.

This event happened just a couple of days after an expert had cleared all the schools in the area, stating that they were safe. Needless to say, the mayor was horrified and now classes have been cancelled for that school as well as all of the others in the comune.

In Padua, a piece of ceiling affresco fell in Basilica Sant'Antonio during one of the earthquakes.

Yet the real disaster area is about 100 km from here. If you want to help in the disaster relief for the areas most hit by these recent earthquakes, specifically in Emilia Romagna, you can make participate by:

send an SMS to the number 45500 to make a donation of Euro 2
 - or -
make a bank deposit to a bank such as:
Unicredit Banca
IBAN: IT - 42 - I - 02008 - 02450 - 000003010203
with the heading "Regione Emilia-Romagna"
 - or -

Potrebbe interessarti:
Seguici su Facebook:
buy from Ferrari's online benefit auction where they are selling cars, such as the 599 XX Evo valued at Euro 1.3 million and other accessories like helmets worn by racers such as Federico Alonso and Felipe Massa, etc.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Go Away for the Weekend and All Hell Breaks Loose

F and I went on a long weekend to Berlin. Absolutely fantastic.

But then we discovered what had happened in Italy while we were away: a bombing at a high school in Brindisi which killed one and injured many and a major earthquake nearby Padua! The day we got back a funeral was underway for Melissa Bassi, the bombing victim. Meanwhile in Northern Italy, over 4000 found themselves homeless. For some images and information on the BBC about the quake's effects, click here.

The epicenter of this earthquake was San Felice sul Panaro, about 100 km from Padua, and registered 5.9 on the Richter scale.

My area was shocked to feel such a strong tremor because it generally feels "safe" from this kind of natural disaster. Italy has over 40% of its population living in what scientists consider an emergency danger level for earthquakes.

Below is a picture of the danger levels with red and purple showing the highest risks

It got me thinking about the other earthquake I didn't feel but was deeply involved in: San Francisco in 1989. That one measured at 6.9 on the Richter sale and risked killing or injuring both my parents who were on vacation there. I was a young teenager home alone for the first time and briefly contemplated being an orphan after the news hit. Since I couldn't contact them because the phone lines were either too busy or down and cell phones hadn't existed for the public yet, I just had to wait and see if and when my parents would contact me to say they were OK or just plain come back home.

Maybe the strangest news coming out of Italy's most recent earthquake disaster is the fact that 250K rounds of Grana Padana and  Parmigiano Reggiano were "disformed" or destroyed. Could be funny if you don't think about the massive financial loss for the factory and producers because of those "cuts" in the cheese.

I deeply and sincerely feel sorry for the people in that area. It has lost castles, towers, cultural treasures of all kinds, thousands of homes and destroyed farmland. Some died. Even in modern factories as they worked the night shift.

Le mie condoglianze

Monday, April 30, 2012

Mount Ceva in the Euganean Hills

It's spring and that means waves of Paduans are hitting the hills. They are our Euganean Hills. Some go cycling. Some go by motocycle. Many have lunch on the green colline. We decided to go for a walk.

Yesterday F and I took a short trail up Monte Ceva, starting from the church of Turri (Montegrotto). It was great work for my healing tendon. It made the dog happy to spend time in the outdoors. We discovered new plants that grow in these parts. The view was better than expected from the top.  On a clear day, you can see to the Adriatic Sea and enjoy plenty of the Paduan plains.  The only problem was how amazingly humid and hazy it was considering that we are still in April!  

Monte Ceva 255 mt.

The poppies are out

Fichi nano dei colli euganei especially adaptive at growing on volcanic rock

Monday, April 23, 2012

No Co2 with Delivery

This great local solution to a global problem has arrived in Padua: Triclo. It's cute. It's energy efficient. It moves merchandise around the city center intelligently. It's an example of my city staying with the times.

Friday, April 13, 2012

PT Land

Life has been filled with physical therapy sessions since February, 6 months after surgery. As soon as walking wasn't painful anymore, I joined my gym again to build back my tendon and wimpy leg. It's quite a lot of work. I am doing 2/3 sessions of 1.5 hrs a week. In fact, I need to leave for one now.

You wouldn't believe how slow it is to build back muscle tone after not walking properly for 4-5 months. There is also the concern that the tendon itself is quite healed but weak, too, so I am dedicating a lot of time to re-energizing its every aspect and move...and neural brain-muscle connections. "If you don't lose it, you lose it." This applies even to a tendon's response to brain impulses, supposedly. And I lost those impulses for several months.

Then my dog started in his own round of physical therapy for an arthritic leg last month. That has been another 5 hrs a week hauling him to sessions 20 miles outside of town. That progress is slow, too.

I've been learning tons about PT, to say the very least: laser, ultrasound, exercises, balance issues, heat packs, massages, exercises with household objects as well as strange instruments, etc.

I'll let you know more soon . But for now, I've got to go and stimulate my tendon tonight at the gym. I just started to get my first signs of a solid calf muscle last week. It still has a long way to go, but I am so excited. It's a physical and tangible sign of progress.

If only I could blog from the gym bikes.....

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pedrocchi Cafè Carnival

Mardi Gras just hit Caffè Pedrocchi and the elegant lions have shed their gentlemanly faces today. After an afternoon of non-stop kids doing up carnival, the leoni are suffering from what looks like "cake face".

Entertainers have kept Padua's children occupied with festivities including balloons, music and dancing. They have assaulted the area with their enthusiasm. This comes in the form of a blanket of confetti, spray, dirty costumes and much much more.

Being early evening, I find it amusing to see all the kids dressed up, yet wearing coats that cover up almost all of their costumes. What's left is sprouting bright fabric in the form of skirts. Or face make up. The occasional tiara.

It's winter. It's Carnival. And unfortunately it's over tonight. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Life Through the Walls

Living in a condo, you can hear many distinct portions of your neighbors's lives. You start to weave stories about them.

It starts in the morning when you faintly hear the alarm go off upstairs, followed by the roll of the drawers as you imagine clothes are being found and put on.

There's the pounding of kids' feet as they run down the stairs to go to school. Sometimes they yell a bit, too. At 7:45 a.m.

There are the old neighbors who don't talk but rather shout at each other since they are hard-of-hearing. "Mario".....

The soft sound of someone else's light music playing in the bathroom. Are they taking a bath?

Occasionally there are workers banging or owners who are pounding on the walls. Maybe they are renovating or just hanging a picture.

The toddler crying his way to sleep or squeeking with glee.

Children trample up the stairs and devour lunch. Plates are clanking on tables in someone else's house.

Two children roll marbles after lunch and a nap. It can go on for hours.

A father scolds his son.

"Nutella," says a young boy who is probably making his snack request.

Tonight there's a young woman's voice coming from the kitchen upstairs. Does Sig. F has a special visitor?

There's a bird chirping from a cage in the apartment across the way upon the arrival of his favorite owner.

The owners who are calling the cat to come upstairs, "Fulmine, Fulmine." (I know not to take my dog out for a walk just now.)

Everyone is private here but I am learning about their lives whether they like it or not.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Carnival's Here

Padua is showing the signs of carnival. First it was the fritelle in the pasticceria. Then crostoni at the supermarket. Now some of the windows are decorated in the theme of carnevale. I already have seen confetti being sold at the tabaccaio and decorating the city center's pavement. Do you have your costume ready?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Crystalized Cobweb

Good morning Padua
We woke to a crystalized wonderland
All the fog had turned to ice and rained down on every millimeter of life

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Mystery Thieves or Just Pranksters?

It's the season of the Nativity and Via Coi in Cencenighe has had numerous families set up their wares and creative designs dedicated to the little Jesus in a manger, including a fishing version of the scene made by some vacationing Venetians, a distinctly water culture. See last year's post for background and photos of the nativities.

This year even more displays have dotted the historic street. But then the thieves (or rather pranksters?) struck. Two days ago, one family discovered they were missing a sheep. Another house found a random donkey on their stoop that no one knows who is the rightful owner. Yesterday a nativity was reversed and all the figurines disappeared. The nativity with the missing sheep, which then had a sign asking for some collaboration in the return on the sheep, saw a cow go missing, too. Kids are roaming the street looking for their missing ceramic and straw animals. Families are now putting their nativities somewhere safe inside the four walls of their houses.

It's sad to see what started as a spontaneous event of fun participation become threatened what is probably a few teenagers that are being stupid and trying to just peeve a few families. But now I believe that this street will not display so many manger scenes in future years. They will be afraid of possible theives. I hope I will be proved wrong.

Surprise Attention

Even though I have been doing little posting lately, I am discovering more and more about my silent following of readers. They are starting to communicate with me. Some are people that I know and see but never really tell me that they read my blog, until now. Others, who perhaps followed for years, finally sent me a comment to a post that is quite old. Still others are contacting me with compliments and scholarly publishing opportunities.

It's ironic. All this after 3 years of virtually nothing.

I read other bloggers with long strings of comments after almost every post: 13, 25, 38. I am lucky if I get 1. (Thank you, my actual historic commenters!)

I know I haven't been doing the blogger-type to the best of my abilities by commenting on lots of other blogs to get new interest on my site or being listed in a million other blogs with links. settled for just a dozen. Honestly, I don't have time because I work full time in a different field other than Italian culture and tourism, perhaps a natural link to this blog's theme.

I also seem to have a different mission and tone to my blog posts. I am not always hailing the glory of the bel paese. I am not using this blog to prove to future publishers that I can write. I am not advertising another profit business, such as a B&B, or promoting a book I just published about Italy.

My blog must age to be appreciated, like wine and my favorite cheese, I guess.

I must admit that I do like getting more intelligent solicitations like the recent ones.

By the way,
Buon 2012
Happy New Year!