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Dispatches from the Village

Anghiari through the sunflowers

It’s been a long time since we’ve visited.  I’ve had some technical issues with my website which I hope have been resolved now (collective finger crossing is in order here).  I am not a technical person, so I did what I usually do when confronted with the unknown – took lots of naps, drank lots of wine, and successfully avoided making myself learn this daunting process for a good little while.  This is one of the beautiful things about retirement.  When I don’t want to do something – I don’t.  I think back on all those days at work when something challenging came up and I had to spring into action.  Ticking off options in my head, thinking ahead a few steps, weighing alternatives.  Now I can just sigh and move on to something else, like petting my dog, coming back to said dilemma at a later date – or not.  I’ll have to balance this, I know, because otherwise I’ll become what I have a predisposition for anyway – a lazy slug.

Because I have so much to catch you up on, I’m including a jumble of things in this post.  Some may interest you, some may not.  Pick and choose what you’d like to read about.  I’ll get back to more regular posts now that my technical issues have been resolved (keep those fingers crossed).  I’ve missed visiting with you!

It’s Freezing, Then It’s Broiling

The weather is making news all over the world and our corner of it is no exception.  We had the wettest spring on record, with our neighbors in the Emilia-Romagna region getting about six months of rainfall in three days.  Massive flooding and landslides devastated that area.  We didn’t have anything that biblical here, but it rained, it hailed, it thundered, it lightninged, and it was all around a miserable spring.  In fact, spring was largely AWOL this year.  It sputtered a little and then it was summer.  We went from down jackets to shorts in a week.

Now it’s hot.  Really hot.  Not Phoenix hot, but darn close.  We’ve been in the mid- to high-90s for a couple of weeks.  No rain, no clouds.  Usually we do have a nice breeze, that glorious venticello, that helps keep things somewhat tolerable.  But when it’s absent, watch out.  Big deal, you may say.  It’s hot everywhere.  I’ve been watching the weather in Atlanta and other southern cities and see high temps, high humidity, and high suffering.  So what’s so special about my hot weather that makes it worse than your hot weather?  AC.  Or the absence of it.  Our house is cooled by the breeze through the open windows and fans strategically placed around the house.  I miss that magical little box on the wall that you push to make cold air surge through your house.  Sometimes we get in the car and go somewhere just to have the AC blasting in our faces.  Yesterday the AC in the car died and our hopes and dreams along with it.  Fortunately, it’s in the shop now getting a reboot and soon we’ll be back in the cool car.

Most restaurants and business are not really air conditioned, either.  They say they are, but they are nothing like American stores.  I remember in Atlanta going into restaurants when it’s 90 out and having to wear a sweater inside.  The AC is set on meat locker mode and wearing summer dresses or tops inside them is not pleasant.  Then when you walk back outside, it’s like you’re walking into a pizza oven with a hot, wet towel draped over you.  Shocking to the body, for sure.  I don’t have that problem here.  In fact, I broke down and bought one of those little handheld fans and carry it around with me like it was a lifeline.  It has made a huge difference in my ability to be outside (and inside), so I don’t really care how silly I look.

Harry, the Inveterate Hiker

Some of you have asked about one of our guests from earlier this year.  Harry, the 85-year-old who was determined to hike along the Thames River Path by himself.  Well, I’m happy to report that he made it.  He made a few adjustments along the way and availed himself of buses, trains, and ferries maybe a little more than he’d anticipated.  He had a couple of catastrophes – what great adventure is free of those?  His phone was lost in a cab, but with the help of family back in the states was quickly recovered.  When his son-in-law called his phone and got a hearty “Allo” instead of the usual “Hello”, he knew something had happened.  But the kind cab driver delivered the phone back to him and all was well.

He also had a couple of mishaps involving the muddy path and unsure footing.  Twice he fell in the mud and wasn’t able to get back up.  Imagine having a backpack on and falling in a mud pit where you have nothing to grab onto to pull you out.  Just slippery muck all around.  Fortunately, a path volunteer happened along and got him upright.  His experience was filled with joy, excitement, trepidation, sadness, exhaustion, and exhilaration.  He spent a lot of solitary time in a wondrous environment, old memories swirling in his head and new ones being formed.  He met a host of interesting and kind people and saw the charming English towns along the Thames.  I don’t know about you, but that sounds like one wonderful adventure and I hope to the Good Lord that I’m so inclined (and able) to undertake something like this when I’m 85.  Cheers to you, Harry!

Trip to Abruzzo

Steve’s birthday is July 4 and while that’s very cool, it’s a bit of a complication for a birthday.  Everything is closed, including most restaurants, and it makes it difficult to put together a personalized birthday celebration.  Everything centers on the red, white, and blue.  So now that we live in a country where July 4 is a regular old garden variety day of the week, we can celebrate his birthday as singular event.  Steve decided that we should take a little road trip to the Abruzzo region and who was I to argue?  It was his birthday and I was all to happy to oblige.

We only stayed a few nights, but we had an incredible time.  Such a different experience from Tuscany.  We stayed in Teramo, because of its proximity to both the coast and the mountains.  And it did allow us to visit both areas.  But beware of things that look close on a map in Italy.  There’s almost always a mountain or two and the road may be a decent highway or it may be a goat path.

Corno Grande, Abruzzo, Italy
Not my picture, but an unattributable source from the internet

One of the highlights of this trip were the amazing mountains of Abruzzo.  They are the Apennines, the same range that I see from my terrace.  But the Apennines of Abruzzo are huge and rugged and snow capped, even in broiling July.  The highest peak in the Apennines, that spine of a mountain chain that runs the length of Italy, is Corno Grande, measuring in at over 9,500 feet.  This is in Abruzzo and this peak has the only glacier in the Apennines, which really is amazing.  The day we drove there it was cloudy so our view was obstructed.  But we were both awestruck when we got a glimpse of this massive mountain.  It erupts from the ground and goes straight up, causing you to have to crane your neck to take it all in.  The Apennines of Tuscany are much more gentle and smooth – older, I guess.

Another of the highlights was the stunning coastline.  We live in the mountains so a trip to the shore is always delightful, but the Abruzzo coast is truly beautiful.  Water that shifts from turquoise, to aqua, to emerald against the dramatic cliffs that seem to have been pushed out the ocean by the gentle waves.  Part of this coastline is known as the trabocchi coast for the distinctive old fishing piers built out over the water.  Dating as far back as the 1700s, these wooden structures were built so that fishermen could still bring in a catch in rough seas.  There are about 20 left and most have been converted into restaurants.  We had to eat at one, so we had a wonderful lunch out over the Adriatic Sea.  The day was sweltering, but the breeze out on the water was perfect.  They serve you whatever was caught that morning, so there’s no menu.  They ask about allergies and preference (do you like raw seafood) and then just bring food.  All prepared in a kitchen the size of a typical American bedroom closet.

Until Next Time

Well, this is a start on catching us up.  There’s much more to talk about, but it will save for another post.  In the meantime, I hope you are staying cool and weathering this heat storm.  Soon it will be fall and I certainly hope it doesn’t skip us like spring did.

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