This and that

We got back home on Friday afternoon. Our cats were very happy their full time staff was back. Outside in the evening they had a concert in the Piazza. Very nice classical music. The chairs were well spaced for the social distancing, for both the spectators and the musicians.

Today I made a big pot of soup. I hunted and gathered in the kilometer zero market on Saturday. I bought a big bunch of beattole aka, beet greens. And a butternut squash. Among other things. Here’s a picture of one of my favorite onions. I was talking about it with a friend yesterday so I thought I’d include it. They have enormous piles of them and they are mild.

My hand is included so you can see they are big!

Otherwise, I’ve still been watching the Covid cases in both Italy and the US. A friend of mine seemed to imply we, over here in Italy, are being mislead about the severity in the US. That it is not that bad there… That is not true. I‘m watching the US news, and I’m watching the statistics on the Johns Hopkins, WHO, CDC, and Worldometer websites.

I know it is bad in the US. People say it is because of population differences. But many stats are adjusted for that. The figures I’m seeing on the news, CNN and Fox ( I try to be bi-partisan 🙂) say taking into account population differences – the US is 4% of the world population with 23% of the worlds Covid cases. And The US death toll is more than twice as high as that of the country with the second-highest death rate, Brazil. So that says a lot.

There is still a ban on people traveling from the US to most of Europe until they can get the infection rates down. The magic number is when the US has an average of 15.3 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the previous 14 days. I have noticed US numbers are slowly coming down which is good, but it still has a ways to go. 
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— Italy has around 60 million population with 1,458 cases on 9/13
— US has around 350 million population with 33,506 new cases on 9/13

Doing the math. The US has about 6 times the population of Italy. So if you multiply 1,458 x 6 = 8,748 new cases which would be how much the US would have on 9/13 if their infection rates were the same as Italy. That is 24,758 more cases than Italy in one day, adjusted for population.

It tells me the much harder lockdown in Italy has succeeded. Life here is quasi normal. I don’t think the US can say that yet. Masks are key. They are still here everywhere. Masks help a lot but the real help will be a vaccine. Here’s hoping 🤞
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Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene. 🌈

Trip report. Naples and Positano

Here’s a trip report. The trip was short but the report has plenty of pictures. If you are not interested, as always, just skip!

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We took the train to Rome. It was a FrecciaBianca. One of the high speed trains but the slowest of the three kinds. We booked first class. There weren’t many people in our car. The seats were staggered anyway so no one sits near anyone else. We all were wearing masks. This was the longest stretch that I will have worn a mask non-stop. I put it on at 9:15am and it will come off around 3pm. (Except for eating)
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Then we boarded the FrecciaRossa to Napoli. This is the fastest train. We got up to 298 kph. We can get from Umbria to Naples in just over three hours, including a change of trains. We were in the business class car called “Area Silenzio” the silence area. Nice in there. Big cushy seats. Only one other passenger. Took just over an hour to get to Napoli from Roma. Before we boarded they passed out little bags with: a mask, gloves, antiseptic wipes, a cover for your seat back, water, cups and napkins, nice.

FrecciaRossa
Our speed.
party pack! Masks, wipes, gloves, etc.
I booked the Area Silenzio. It is so tranquil.

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I brought a picnic. Egg salad sandwiches with tomatoes, and peanut butter cookies courtesy of my friend Jen (yum – thanks Jen). And a bottle of white wine. Livin’ large on the FrecciaRossa.
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We had, for the first time, hired private transport from the Naples train station, to Positano – two hour drive.

Cliffs of the Amalfi coast.
COVID portrait. Our driver insisted.

The other two times we’ve visited, Luther drove rental cars. This time, our driver was waiting for us and he drove us expertly to our destination. All we had to do was walk down the hill to our hotel. It was pleasurable experience. If we ever again have guests who manage to come, we will do this again.

Our hotel is called Palazzo Murat. Our first visit to Positano was in 1994 when we lived in Germany. This is the hotel we stayed in then. So, kind of for old times sake, I chose this one again. It is much more luxurious than before. Might be the best place in town. They have a pretty patio bar. Our room has views of the sea and the duomo. There is also a large garden beneath our window. 

Across from us.
Breakfast terrace from our balcony.

The entire building is wrapped by a bougainvillea that is more than a century old. It’s main trunk is as big as a tree. For a plant enthusiast it is incredible. Along the balconies, and above the walkways there is a Genus Bignonia. There are also a banana plant, and tropical plants. My friend Doug would love it. There is even an entire trellised lemon, orange and tangerine grove. To one side there is the restaurant’s garden full of beautiful ripe tomatoes, and herbs and salad greens used by the chefs. All of this in the center of Positano. 

Vegetable garden.
Pool
Centennial bougainvillea

I was intrigued by the history of the Palazzo. It is 17th century and was the summer home of the King of Napoli. He was the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1808 he visited Positano and fell in love with the house. He spent summers with his lovers away from the politics in Napoli. 

Now the house is the home of the Attanasio family. Several generations have lived here and made the hospitality of the hotel their careers. Each member of the family looks after a specific department. 
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After we arrived we rested and showered and met our friends Gary and Bill for drinks in the pretty bar as the sun set behind the cliffs. They had taken the boat from Salerno, where they live. I met Gary, virtually, a few years ago through my blog. We had met in person in Rome for lunch back in December, what seems worlds away now. I was happy to try an interesting drink so Gary and I tried a Bellini. Peach juice (fresh) in Prosecco. One of us tried the Fresh Breeze, a cucumber based drink. And one got a white wine.

Bellini.
Fresh breeze.

After drinks we wandered down to the beach. Gary and Bill had already made reservations for us at Chez Black. This restaurant has been there since 1949. We even ate there in 1994. The food was good. And the servers were nice. We started early. By the time we left the place was packed. That had been a surprise. Positano is positively packed with tourists. Mostly young people. They have mandatory masks inside but not on the street. I admit to not feeling comfortable with this.

Octopus carpaccio. Oh my. So good.
Spaghetti al mare…seafood pasta. Also very good.
Luther had the grilled fish plate.

After dinner we sat in the patio bar where Luther could smoke his cigar. Pretty at night.

Cigar man
The beautiful patio at night.

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Our one full day in Positano I wanted to do some shopping. We rose and took our time going down to breakfast around 9:30. I thoroughly enjoyed it. They brought a plate of pastries and jam. And we ordered OJ (fresh squeezed – no surprise being in the citrus capital of Italy) and cappuccini. Then we ordered a la carte the smoked salmon Insalata dressed with a mustard, honey vinegrette. Very yum and light. 

My delicious smoked salmon salad breakfast.

After breakfast we walked all over Positano. The shopping was not what I had hoped. Maybe when I get to Napoli. Or maybe not. I was looking for some interesting necklaces. Not expensive but kind of large with interesting colors and stones or shells or … But I found only one store with interesting things like that and they are an expensive store. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spring for that amount of money. Maybe tomorrow morning, before we leave I will go back. Or not…

Park bench pal.

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Dinner in the restaurant at our hotel with Gary and Bill. First drinks on the patio. Such a pretty place. We just had to walk down a set of steps to the restaurant. I’m afraid I wasn’t impressed with the food. We had a bruschetta gift from the chef. I had tuna with a Bloody Mary sauce. It was not notable. The squash blossoms looked good. It was still an enjoyable dinner with good conversation and companions. 

Squash blossoms
Tuna bloody mary
Polpette aka meatballs
Bye Bye Positano.

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We breakfasted and left our pretty hotel to meet our driver Vincenzo. He whisked us straight to the Grand Hotel Excelsior.

Luther’s eggs.
My own personal frittata in a cute pan.
The Amalfi coastal drive from the van.
The Amalfi coastal drive from the van.

For this, our first trip to Naples, I chose the seafront. There is a row of big hotels. They sit directly across from the Castello Ovo. All around the castle are seafood restaurants. It is a quiet area compared to in the city center. Next time we come we decided it would be more fun to be in the city.

Our hotel is described as the Grand Dame of hotels. It was nice enough, if a little dated. Very large room with olive flocked wallpaper. High ceilings and a decent bath. Two big windows looked out on the sea. The room had a seal across the door indicating it had been sanitized. The hotel takes all the Covid precautions. The top floor is a roof terrace. Pretty flowers and trees around and among the tables. They serve breakfast here as well as drinks at night. The breakfasts were good.

Sidney the seagull was our assigned gull during our stay. Always on duty.

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The first night we decided to have dinner at La Scialuppa. Right beside the water. Outside tables. They took our temperature and then we had to fill out a form with our contact info – document number telephone etc. everywhere we went they took our temperature. Food was good enough. I had the Caprese salad and a pasta – big tubes with a pistachio cream sauce and prawns. Very rich. I was glad I had ordered the Caprese. And we could actually see the island of Capri where the Caprese is said to originate

Couple of guys entertaining us. They were fun and serenaded me with “that’s Amore”
Our hotel from our table. Hotel Excelsior is on the right.
Luther’s appetizer
My pasta.

We returned to the hotel and went up to the roof terrace for Luther to have a cigar and an after dinner drink. It was very pleasant.
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After a good breakfast of scrambled eggs fruit and toast we grabbed a cab and went to the Museo Archeologico. The cab ride was beyond exciting. The traffic in Naples is legendary and our taxi driver was expert.

We have two full days here and today was the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. We’ve wanted to visit here for years. They’ve got all the original Pompeii art, frescos, mosaics etc. Also Greek, Roman, Etruscan, and all the prehistoric societies in southern Italy. We toured for almost 3 hours.

The museum was really great. In it they have all the bits of Pompeii and Herculaneum that they removed. Entire walls from houses with their frescoes. Mosaics. All kinds of ceramics and pottery. There was an Egyptian section. A Roman section. An Etruscan section. A Greek section. Even a prehistoric exhibit. Lots of carved statuary. The focus is on the bottom of Italy. The heel and toe of the boot up to about Rome and also Sicily and the islands like Capri and Ischia. Excellent museum. We spent about 3 hours there.

Roman sculptures

They had a cute photo installation with some of the sculptures juxtaposed into photographs. Here are just two of them.

Decoration from a Pompeii villa
Portrait of a Roman intellectual woman.
Map of the early settlements at the base of the peninsula.
One of the beautiful floors. We had to wear shoe covers.
I don’t know why I liked this, but I did. Until he removes her helmet, he doesn’t realize he killed a beautiful woman warrior.
Greek drinking cup.

We left the museum and headed down Via Toledo. It is one of the main drags in Naples. Very busy street. We were looking for a place to stop for refreshments and to rest our feet. We found a place in Piazza Dante. It didn’t have food though and we were hungry. We used the phone to find nearby restaurants and went to one called Cisterna. It was close. I ordered a wonderful ceviche with lime. Cool, light and refreshing. We were planning an outing later in the afternoon so took a taxi back to the hotel.

My ceviche.

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After resting we headed out to find the cigar store that Luther had heard of to see if he could buy some cigars. It was about a 15 minute walk but the sidewalks were very hard to walk on. Hard stones and uneven surfaces. And lots of traffic and crosswalks. Very chaotic. Not liking it. We found the store and Luther got his cigars. Then we headed to a wine bar he had found. We had a glass of wine and walked back to our chosen restaurant, 28 Posti Bistro con Gusto. I was sorry to see it was inside dining but the tables were far apart. After a temperature check and document filing as usual, we sat down and ordered. I had bruschetta with colorful tomatoes and peppers. And then a spaghetti con Vongole. Both tasty. We walked back to our hotel and I turned in. I was bushed after a very full day.

Thursday. Our other full day in Naples. The weather has been hot. And no rain. We left after breakfast. I had downloaded an app called GPSmyCity. You can pick any of eight or ten walking itineraries or custom make one. We took a taxi to the starting point at the Duomo of Napoli. The duomo is enormous. And very pretty. We started following the tour. It was nice. It told you where to go and then had nice write-ups of the sights. The second stop was the Naples Underground. I really was enjoying this neighborhood. Skinny streets, lots of shops. Lots of people shopping for their groceries at the individual food shops. One for fish, one for pasta, one for bread, one for fresh vegetables. Lots of life. This is where I’d like to stay next time.

Duomo.
One of the cool little streets near the Duomo.
Fish monger.

Then, there was this sign. Translates as — Top signs says, they are awarding degrees immediately. The second sign says they are hiring housekeepers who have the measurements of 90-60-90 with offers of food, accommodation, washing, rinsing, drying, ironing, massage and sex at will. Okay then….

We kept going, seeing Piazze, and churches, statues, and landmarks. The tour actually ended at our hotel. We decided to stop for lunch. We couldn’t find anything with outside tables. Eventually we found a cute trattoria. It didn’t have outside tables but it didn’t feel too cramped. They took our temperatures and we filled out the forms. They are required to keep the forms for two weeks. If anyone gets infected they can use them for contact tracing. I had Caprese insalata again. It is just so good because we are in the land of Mozzarella di Buffala. It is much creamier than what we got in the US or even in Umbria. We also noticed it is spelled Muzzarella here. From the dialect of Naples. Which is getting closer to the Muzzadell’ you’ll hear in NJ and NY Italian communities. After the Caprese I had another pasta with seafood dish. It had Pecorino cheese in it. It was sort of a cross between Caccio e Pepe Roman specialty and pasta with seafood. Strange. But good. 


Since we had a big lunch we decided to stop by the grocery on the way back and put together a picnic. We got ham, mortadella, and two cheeses. Along with a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine. The end of a nice day.

The following morning we breakfasted and packed and checked out. We grabbed a taxi to the station and found our train was delayed 25 minutes. It meant we’d miss our connection. But we grabbed the next one so not terribly inconvenient. The downside was the train was a Regional and it was packed. Everyone put their bags and backpacks in the seat next to them, taking up 2 seats each. They had no seats marked restricted which would have helped with the distancing. But this meant that a family who got on couldn’t find seats. No one wanted to sit right next to, or across from anyone. Including me!
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Final thoughts. I always love Positano. Taking the private transport from the Naples station there was seamless, relaxing and painless. The town was packed on the Sunday afternoon when we arrived. I was surprised. Monday was not as bad. But still a lot of people. Masks are required indoors but not outside. The hotel Palazzo Murat is amazing. The food in Positano was not at all notable. Chez Black was the best.

Naples was as I expected. Busy chaotic Italian city in the south. Lots of horns honking. Millions of Vespas and motorcycles. Crazy drivers. But they did let you cross in the crosswalks. The neighborhood up near the Duomo was the most interesting. There are many places we didn’t see of course.  They don’t seem to use the word Ciao as often in Naples as they do further north. The food in Naples was not notable. Not bad but not great. We didn’t get any pizza. Maybe next time.

Pia Bianca. Piccione libera.

My post of two days ago chronicled my rescue of a piccione intrappolata. A trapped pigeon. And if you read that post you’ll know I got someone to open the window and free her. But, the pigeons, being stupid birds, all decided to come back, and go in the window. Sigh.

Pia Bianca did not come back for a while since freed. But she is back now. I think she’s got a nest in there. So I was able to snap her photo. For those who care…here she is.

That’s all folks!

Lunch with friends

Nowadays we are careful about getting together for just about anything. We have space on our terrazzo for only four to dine together. So I can only invite two at a time. Today was the second time since lockdown that we’ve had friends over for a meal. The weather couldn’t have been better. Sunny, breezy and the perfect temperature. I set our round table outside.

My menu was: Bruschetta with avocado, gazpacho with mozzarella, shrimp risotto, peach cobbler. Some pictures.

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Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutti bene 🌈 And so it will. Ever hopeful.

Pigeon rescue

I think and hope I saved a pigeon today. I’m not a huge fan of pigeons. Messy dumb birds and we have so many they are a nuisance. But I just can’t let one starve to death while I watch. There’s a small window across from our living room in the Comune. It has been left open and pigeons are living in there. I’m sure it’s a disaster inside. It must be some sort of storage or utility area for them not to have noticed, even though the building is empty.

Anyway, yesterday I noticed someone had shut the window, but I saw they’d shut a pigeon inside. I gave her the name Pia. Her mate was outside and quite distraught. For a pigeon the stuckee was pretty. Almost totally snow white. I tried to find some help this morning, and finally in the end was knocking on the Comune door and hoping a caretaker or workman was inside. Irene, at Bar Mary called to me and I told her the problem. She called someone and they said they’d let her out. So I had my fingers crossed.
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Good news. Later the window was open. I kind of wish they had shooed her out and re-closed the window. It’s got to be a disaster inside. And now all these pigeons are right back inside. 🙄 I’ll try to get a picture of Pia to post.

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stay safe all…🌈 andrà tutto bene.

Rainy days and Mondays… 🎶

It is the last day of August. The summer has passed. It feels like fall. The temperature was in the upper 90s just a week ago and today it won’t get out of the 60s. It is also raining steadily. Soaking the fields. The growing season is nearly done. The corn is drying on the stalks. The sunflowers are sad and drying as well. The tobacco is halfway harvested. The wine harvest is just starting. I am sure the rain is not appreciated by the vineyards. But it is just raining for today so I imagine the growers can let the grapes dry in the next sunny days and all will be well.

1,365 new cases in Italy. The good news is the summer vacation season is over today. So I hope our numbers will steady, or better yet, decline. 23,000,000 people were on the road going home from vacation over the weekend ! Considering there are only 60,000,000 people in Italy, that is quite the onslaught. I’m glad I wasn’t out there.

School is scheduled to begin in person classes next week. The kids won’t have to wear masks, but the teachers will. I’m not sure of the reasoning for this. They had to scramble for more desks because kids traditionally sit at two person desks. Now they can’t. They also mandated the school buses only carry half of the capacity so there is a shortage of buses. Our Italian teacher told us they have a rule the kids can only be on the bus for 15 minutes. This is creating its own set of problems and issues. For example, her son rides a bus for an hour to his school. Now what? I don’t know the answer.

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Stay safe everyone. Sooner or later we will get that vaccine. It is the only thing that will really help end this thing. But we mustn’t rush the process. Better safe than sorry.
🌈 Andrà tutto bene!

Update on Covid here, and my morning walk today

I had a hard time with my title today. It is definitely not a pithy headline!

Numbers here in Italy have been fluctuating. For a few weeks they crept up steadily. Then the last couple of days they dropped from around 1,200 new cases a day to 800 or so. But yesterday it shot back up to above 1,400. Sigh. At least I know the people in charge are watching it carefully.

I am happy to note, since the closing of the discotheques and the new mask mandate our piazza has calmed considerably. No longer does Cafe Centrale have bands or loud music. They have a sign that all must wear masks. This has definitely dampened the party atmosphere. I am feeling good about this development.

There have been a couple of publicized issues here regarding anti-maskers. It is the law you must wear a mask on public transportation. A German tourist on a Vaporetto (bus boat) in Venice, was forced off the boat by fellow riders for repeatedly removing his mask. He was kept from reboarding by the passengers.

The MSC Italian cruise line started limited cruises out of Genoa along the Italian coast. They have taken extreme precautions to keep the ship virus free. They try to keep everyone in a bubble. All transport drivers are vetted. All shore tour guides are vetted. The rules are if you go into port you stay in your tour. A family decided to go off on their own in Naples even though they were told they could not. When they tried to re-board the ship they were denied. They were left in Naples.
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I’ve been very good with my walking since I decided to do it first thing when I get up. All my life I’ve excercised in the morning. For 20 years I rose at 5:30am to run. Then I changed to walking with my neighbor In Alexandria and we met outside at about 5:30am everyday. I find if I put off my walk until later, well, I simply won’t do it. It is also more pleasant in the morning. It’s cooler during these hot summer days for one thing. And I enjoy the quiet of the morning.

Today I walked along the river. Behind our house is a colony of feral cats. The latest batches of kittens are out and about. Someone built a little lean-to house covered with plastic and there is food out. No sign of mamma but here are two of the kittens. Tiny ones.

The Tiber in the still of the morning.

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Stay safe all…🌈 andrà tutto bene…spero di si!

Today I canceled our cruise…

We booked a cruise in February 2020. Pre-Covid. In a completely different world.

I’ve known for awhile, in my heart, that we weren’t going to be able to do this cruise for so many reasons. But still, I waited until the date we were obligated to pay the big payment. When I called to cancel I could feel the despair in the woman answering my call.

The cruise was from Barcelona to Lisbon stopping in many cities along the way. It was a small ship, just 300 people (if full), so we could even sail up rivers. We would also stop in Marrakech, on my bucket list. The ship was to embark on November 20 for 10 days and it was over Thanksgiving. My sister and her husband were also booked and we looked forward to our only chance to see each other this year, and to celebrate Thanksgiving together.

The Windstar line has almost 100% Americans as passengers. As of now, and the foreseeable future, Americans can’t even fly to Spain to embark. Spain is having a very large spike in virus infections too. Then there is the whole idea that I would be on a ship — in itself a known risk — but also that all the passengers are Americans, from the country with the highest virus infections in the world at this time. Well, it was inevitable we couldn’t/wouldn’t go. I’m sorry, I was looking forward to it. But more important, I wanted to see my sister. Who knows when we will see each other now?

This is the Star Breeze. She is in a shipyard here in Italy being lengthened right now.

An amazing thing. They insert an 84 foot section in the middle. We would have been one of the first voyages after the refitting. Check this out.

We tell ourselves, there is always next year, or the one after. But will Windstar survive? Seems doubtful. And it is sad.
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Stay safe everyone. 🌈

Saturday

Hey all. Nice and very hot day today. We went out to the market this morning and bought some more tomatoes, squash, eggplants and best of all, the famous potatoes from Pietralunga. You may laugh but they have a potato sagra that (in normal years) is pretty famous. But times have changed…alas.

Numbers keep going up in Italy. It is very sad. There are 1,071 cases today. Umbria has 18 new cases. You may remember we had just over 600 cases just two days ago.😢

We did go out for a nice aperitivo with our friend Vera who is going through a bit of a rough patch. We wanted to take her out for a break from her problems. This is lo Scoiattolo (the squirrel), situated high above Lago Trasimeno, where we enjoyed their terrace.

Vera!

My spritz. Liked the glass.

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Scary here as things turn around. I have to accept we went through a very strict lockdown , got it under control, and now we are enjoying our summer, which seems to be allowing the virus to re-occur. Sigh. It seems there is no way out of this thing. We need a vaccine I guess. Keep safe everyone.
🌈 andrà tutto bene.