Most of you who are our friends and family know that each year Kay and I spend the last two weeks of July attending the annual conference of a literary society. Each year it is held in a different European venue. This year’s was Vico Forte, a small village with a large church in beautiful Piemonte (“foot of the mountain”) of northwestern Italy that borders France and Switzerland. This is a rich, bountiful region, and although our conference activities kept us intensely busy morning, noon, and evening, our program did include group visits to sights we might not have discovered on our own. Continue reading Piemonte
You can still do it. Until July 3rd, you can walk on water if you can get to Lake Iseo in the Italian lake district and then get through the packed crowds and onto the Piers at Sulzano.
First, I have to say that Kay and I didn’t go to Italy recently during one of the coldest, grayest weeks of the year on a whim. We went to see an art show we had read about a month before in the International New York Times.
Even with Kay’s arm in a cast it was a pleasure for us to be in the Eternal City four days last month and to find it every bit as beautiful and exciting as it was the last time we were there in 2002. Certainly, our pleasure was enhanced by being able to share it with our nieces, Amy and Sarah, the daughters of my late brother Chris and his wife Linda.
October 30, 2009
On a recent Sunday evening in Agrigento on Sicily’s South Coast, Kay and I left our hotel to walk along the single narrow street of the city’s medieval quarter. Traffic there was at a standstill, and we noticed that the stuck cars had the air of having been sitting for some time. Most of their drivers had shut off their engines and were reading, chatting with other drivers, or dreaming idly. The scene was calm; there was no horn blowing. Kay and I kept walking and eventually got to the cause of the jam. A city bus was wedged between a building and an illegally parked car’s rear fender. The bus driver and a group of men stood discussing the matter loudly as they do in Sicily. We kept walking and a short time later the bus roared past us followed by the rest of the traffic. Did the driver of the parked car show up and move it? Did a group of men physically pick up the car, move it a bit sideways, and give the bus clearance? Or did the bus finally just plough ahead and crush the rear of the parked car? We don’t know. It’s just one of many mysteries we encountered on our trip to this fabled island.
Others included the seemingly random store opening hours. In Turkey, as in the U.S., stores are open all day and often late into the evening. This kind of convenience is the norm. By contrast, in Sicily storeowners seem to measure success by the least number of hours they can stay open and still remain in business. And on the subject of stores, how can there be so many selling clothing, shoes, jewelry and watches? These merchants outnumber others ten to one. ‘Looking good’ must be preeminent.
In March of 2002, Kay and I along with friend Kathy took a trip to Italy. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep a journal of this trip, so what I’m writing here years later are a few things that I remember. Looking at the photos of the things we saw, memories of the trip have been on my mind.
Kay and I have been to Florence only once and it was more than fifteen years ago. Unfortunately, I made no notes about the trip, but we both have our memories. I must confess that we were often uncomfortable during our week-long visit.
Saturday, May 5, 2001
Wacked out from the flight. Eating gelato in the shadow of the cathedral, an immense construction of pinkish marble that took five centuries to build. I wonder what was the original form. It was finished under Napoleon who knew how to get things done.