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SIGNS OF SUMMER

SIGNS OF SUMMER

By on Jul 4, 2022 in Blog | 10 comments

SIGNS OF SUMMER When I sat down to begin to write this blog entry, it was officially the first day of summer, the Summer Solstice. But here in Central Italy, as far are we are concerned, the calendar pronouncement was running late this year. It has been, from our experience, mid-Summer for nearly a month. In a repeat of last year, we went through a protracted late winter with chilly, damp days and intermittent showers, until into mid-May. There was a brief period of encouraging warmth around the first official day of Spring in April, but then late winter reasserted itself awhile longer. And then, in short order in mid-May, we went from jackets to mid-summer, shirt sleeves. For those of us living here in Ascoli Piceno, on the flat flood plain of the river Tronto, even with the western edge of Ascoli inserting itself into the foothills of the Sibillini Mountains, we were spared any serious accumulation of winter snow. We had a day or two of winter snow flurries which soon melted and was never a serious factor in getting around. However, some of the higher slopes around us were snow covered for most of the winter. It made a pleasant, distant backdrop when Cesare, our new canine family member, had me out in the morning sunshine, for my walks.   At our stage of life, we are not into winter sports, so we have been content to remain close to the hearth this winter. If I ever had any enthusiasm to drive on winter, potentially snow-covered, two-lane mountain roads, I have lost it. When we replaced our car several years ago, we decided on a single set of warm weather tires kept on the car all year round. We have a set of snow chains in the trunk to be legal if stopped and inspected by the authorities between the middle of October to the middle of April. But the chains have never been out of the package. Of course, a contributing factor is in this part of Central Italy and the lower altitude where we live, winters are less severe than further north or in the nearby mountains. Even with that consideration, part of the...

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EXPRESSIVENESS – A postscript to our recent post.

EXPRESSIVENESS – A postscript to our recent post.

By on Feb 21, 2022 in Blog | 5 comments

EXPRESSIVENESS – A postscript to our holiday post Those who may have read the most recent entry to this Blog will have discovered there has been an addition to our household – a now almost eleven-month-old male canine who has been named, ‘Cesare’. His breed is Havanese, we understand to be a several centuries old derivative of the Bichon lineage and the national dog of Cuba. Cesare is characterized as a ‘small breed’ canine at an adult weight of 13 lbs. (6 Kilos). However, that compact and solid little body incorporates a very large and exuberantly, warm personality. It is approaching two months since he has become part of our lives. What our instincts told us to hope for, has happened in short order. A very strong emotional bond has formed between us. Which leads me to ask, what has made this process develop so quickly and affirmatively? An obvious factor is the transparent, immediate honesty with which this little creature expresses emotion. There is nothing subtle or restrained in the way in which he conveys how he feels being in our company. That furry appendage at the south end of his little body oscillates with such furry that his whole back end gyrates back and forth. He seems to project a contrast to some contemporary human behavior patterns involving more constrained emotional expressions in relationship encounters – to appear detached, cool. The distresses of prolonged anxiety involved in trying to live through a pandemic have not helped lubricate comfortable human interaction. By that standard, this little being is decidedly uncool or restrained by apprehension; emotional detachment seems to not be part of his makeup. On better days, I attempt to muster resources to get into a more tranquil emotional state. But in this, admittedly, the early stages of the process of acclimating to another being of a different species, the unqualified positivity being communicated to us by this creature, is reinforcing our resources for positivity and sense of optimism. He is helping generate an atmosphere of positive joy and exuberance with being alive – interacting with with caring others. In the daily walks he takes me on, I can’t help smiling watching that joyful ‘prance’ his little legs...

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THE NEW YEAR COMES TO ASCOLI

THE NEW YEAR COMES TO ASCOLI

By on Jan 7, 2022 in Blog | 5 comments

THE NEW YEAR COMES TO ASCOLI The passage of time in our lives, seems punctuated by rituals. Currently, the ritual observance in Italy is Epiphany. Traditionally, it is the Christian observance of the Twelfth Day of the Christmas story when the Three Wise Men are said to have appeared bringing gifts of homage to the Christ Child. In Italy on this day, the Witch Bafana comes bringing gifts to good children and coal to those of us who have been naughty. Of course, the evaluation of ‘naughty’ depends, to a great extent, on how our various explorations and experiments in the course of our existence, are viewed by others.                 In most households, immediately after Epiphany, if they hadn’t done so already, the Christmas decorations will be coming down and being packed away for another year. In the piazzas, the decorations go dark and the skating rink in front of the Cathedral of Ascoli will be allowed to melt and then be dismantled. The Christmas music on loudspeakers will go silent again until next December 8th. Fortunately, Ascoli was far more brightly decorated this year compared to last, as a few of the included photos illustrate. However festive, the shadow of the COVID scourge is not far from everyone’s awareness. Last year, the COVID menace virtually shut down anything resembling holiday joy and festivity. This season, we had a few welcomed social events among our vaccinated Expat and Italian friends. It was on a smaller scale and more carefully orchestrated than in pre-COVID times but still, a very welcome change from last year’s depressing sense of isolation. The latest in the series of viral mutations, is proving to be far more virulent worldwide. The basis for some evidence of less severe consequences of infections traceable to this latest strain are yet to be fully understood, at least as of this writing. We are pleased to report both we and our friends remain healthy so far. We are trying to take precautions to keep it that way. This year, the system of a digital “Green Pass”, for those with evidence of having been fully vaccinated or having recovered from the virus, is permitting...

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ASCOLI SUMMER IMAGES REAPPEAR

ASCOLI SUMMER IMAGES REAPPEAR

By on Oct 2, 2021 in Blog | 9 comments

  ASCOLI SUMMER IMAGES REAPEAR Looking for options for summer relaxation and rejuvenation during a pandemic can be a daunting task. We are fortunate in many ways. Among them, we remain healthy, and most all our closest friends and associates take vaccination and other public health measures seriously. Then we are retired and not compelled to immerse ourselves into groups. And from an environmental perspective, in this special corner of Italy we have come to call home, it is a generally self-sufficient place with modest population density. But in the case of Ascoli Piceno, a less than overwhelming population density does not dampen a deep sense of vibrant, common community. The overall atmosphere here generates a sense of larger connectivity. For the entire COVID-19 Summer of 2021, we returned to a place of comfort and solace. For five years, we have been renting a spot on the nearby sandy shore of the Adriatic Sea. Once again, we returned to the same commercial concession on the water that provides a dedicated space with a small table, a sun umbrella and two lounges. Our dedicated spot is less than fifty feet from the water’s edge. Each allocated spot is organized into a grid pattern with ample distance of separation. And then there is the sunshine and the clean, salt-air breeze coming to us from across the Adriatic. Our sense is immersing ourselves into a refreshing, health-filled sanctuary. It is an environment where perceptions of pandemic dread can be set aside, at least for a while. Over the now more than eight years Ascoli has come to be called ‘home’, a few other expatiates of similar persuasion in wanting to expand their lives, have come here. Fortunately, this is not a ‘ghettoized’ group but people who share our enthusiasm for this culture that has been kind in welcoming us. These are a group of outward looking people rather than retreating inward seeking only the familiar. A few of our fellow expatriates have also decided to enjoy the Adriatic shore at this same concession. It has worked out that we have a small cluster of nearby spots that provide an opportunity for us to talk with each other as well as having pleasant...

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Primavera in viaggio

Primavera in viaggio

By on Jun 5, 2021 in Blog | 10 comments

  PRIMAVERA IN VIAGGIO IN ITALIA   –  Springtime on the road in Italy With the relaxing of travel restrictions, we celebrated a wedding anniversary and Spring, on the road.   There seems to be something perverse in human nature when told you cannot do something – it only increases your desire to do it. The impact of the COVID-19 viral epidemic on all our lives has been beyond anything we could have imagined. Considering the depth of tragedy this malady has brought into so many lives, it seems inappropriate to have been so discontented with lockdowns, social distancing, and the cancelling of stimulating experiences that serve to broaden life. But we confess, as gratified as we are to be living in this exceptional provincial Italian town, having our movements restricted seems to have only sharpened our appetite to travel and expand our experiences of Italy. But, we finally got an opening. We have been enjoying the expansive benefit of immersion into the daily life of a culture different from the one in which we were nurtured, by actually living in this community of others. A significant additional benefit in living here is the increased range and ease of our travel possibilities. Now, we can plan any number of shorter, focused, exploratory excursions, to experience places not generally accessible on a whirlwind itinerary. All in the same time zone we are already acclimated to. What previously required a grueling full day of travel and left us exhausted to reach exciting places, is now just a pleasant several hour drive through the beautiful Italian countryside. Added to that, we can choose the timing to optimize the uniqueness of the seasons and the greatest benefit of all, to be able to avoid the crowds inherent in mass tourism. Nonessential movement restrictions between Italian Regions had only recently been lifted. In fact, not long ago, nonessential travel outside our local community could result in a monetary fine. Last Fall, we had changed our around town car for something more suited to travelling on the road. We initially took advantage of that new resource and made a trip to the south of Italy. That experience only whetted our appetite for more. Then the travel...

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COVID AND WINTER

COVID AND WINTER

By on Mar 3, 2021 in Blog | 8 comments

COVID AND WINTER           “Now is the winter of our discontent . . .”. This opening phrase of Shakespeare’s Richard III may encapsulate the present mood for many of us –   Our most recent Blog entry was last Fall after a return from a trip in the south of Italy by car. We commented at the time it had been fortunate we had made the trip when we did because on our return, COVID imposed restrictions tightened up. Restrictions have remained in force ever since, with some minor variations. We are still under a 10:00 PM curfew and the variations involve how widely we can travel and how much we have to rely solely on restaurant ‘take-out’ for dining when not home prepared. In the not-too-distant past, there were coming together rituals we could participate in to bring some brightness into the encroaching gloom of Fall and Winter. But not so this year. An invisible scourge has descended on all of us and a succession of setbacks seem part of a path out of this viral malady. Finding resilience in the face of anxiety is taxing. Against this reality, an early perception of our elected new home has still remained with us. Because Ascoli is somewhat self contained, the perception of a heightened sense of community solidarity has made an impression on us. But over the past year, so many public manifestations of that solidarity have been cancelled to avoid becoming COVID super spreader events. For the first time in over sixty years, the signature Ascolani Summer Quintana Medieval Festival was cancelled. Then Christmas and New Year observances were very much subdued as has been the Carnevale festivities, all without the typical opulent decorations in the piazzas and tightly packed coming together of people enjoying themselves. The regular and readily accessible cultural performance events have also been cancelled. The joy of sharing a protracted meal together with a group of friends around a common table is now also just a memory. Ascoli is subdued. We are relieved to say we continue to be well and safe as are our expat and Italian friends. But we do what we can and look for something to get our minds off the...

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ON THE ROAD, DOWN SOUTH

ON THE ROAD, DOWN SOUTH

By on Oct 30, 2020 in Blog | 9 comments

ON THE ROAD, DOWN SOUTH  The timing we arbitrarily chose for our Fall travel excursion by car was fortuitous. Not long after our return to Ascoli from southern Italy, the resurgence of COVID-19 infection rates has caused the government to reinstitute more restrictive measures. In the current environment of more constrained movement and activity, I’m not sure the same travel experience would have been possible for much longer. But whatever the reason behind our timing, we are glad to have had the adventure when we did.  The broad brush of history has always interested me. The cultural history of the Mediterranean is a fascinating study of the interactions of diverse peoples over centuries. Emerging cultures expanded their reach and influence by becoming Mediterranean maritime nations. The geographic significance of the positioning of Italy is apparent. Even a cursory glimpse at a map of the Mediterranean Sea reveals the long, narrow peninsula of Italy jutting out into that large body of water.  With the crisscrossing of seafaring cultures through the Mediterranean, it was inevitable that the southern tip of the Italian Peninsula sticking out as it does, would have been a stopping-off place for seafaring explorers in search of adventure and the riches they hoped to come up with. The multicultural immersion of southern Italy, with many of their residual remnants having made their mark, is just one of the reasons for it to be an interesting travel destination.      Our most recent Blog briefly reported we had made a car excursion into southern Italy. We had set out from Ascoli in early October and headed south, on the Adriatic Coastal Plain, driving on the Autostrada A-14. After some five and a half hours, our first stop was at the ancient town of Matera in the Basilicata Region. The distinguishing feature of this area is the presence of cave dwellings that represent the oldest, known continuously inhabited, cave dwellings in the world. The cave complex has been carved into the walls of deep river canyons over time.  The imprint of human existence here is very long. The granular, calciferous rock in this area is of generally uniform texture, appearing quite solidly stable while also being responsive to early human...

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AUTUMN IN ASCOLI

AUTUMN IN ASCOLI

By on Oct 24, 2020 in Blog | 5 comments

  Autumn has arrived in Ascoli. Right on schedule, with the Autumn Equinox on the 22nd of September, the air started to cool. No more going out without a light jacket. Mostly sunny days began to give way to more frequent afternoon rain showers. The wind also began to pick up signaling changes were underway. At night, the faint smell of fireplace wood smoke is now apparent in the air.  Also as predicted, the Fall has brought with it an increase in the number of COVID-19 reported new cases. This trend is being reflected worldwide and of course, Ascoli has not been spared. However, the situation continues to be relative. During the Summer, the Province of Ascoli Piceno reported generally fewer new viral cases than elsewhere. Now in October, this Province, while seeing an untick, is currently reporting fewer new cases daily than some other areas. Unfortunately, a disproportionate percentage of the new cases appear to be connected to the return to in-person school classes.  Italy was criticized in the initial stages of the contagion. Mass attendance sporting events in Northern Italy, prior to any awareness that a biologic threat was present, resulted in high levels of infection which subsequently overwhelmed the healthcare system. Perhaps, having witnessed what this unforeseen biologic disaster had done to Italy, may have stimulated a more proactive public health response in other countries – at least in those places under the stewardship of more prudent and responsible leadership.   After some initial flailing about searching for solutions for something inadequately understood, Italy got its act together and significantly reduced the rate of viral spread.  The overall result has been Italy has faired much better over the course of this contagion than some other places.  Consistent with the more prudent approach to prioritizing public health taken here, the national leadership has reimposed 24/7 mask wearing and other measures to arrest increasing infection rates. The measures are being reinforced by the imposition of fines. With this writing, the government is imposing curfews, restrictions and closings of some businesses where larger groups of people tend to congregate, becoming viral contagion resurgence ‘hot-spots’.  We are seeing an overall increase in compliance in the general population particularly in mask wearing....

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SUMMER AND PANDEMIC IN ASCOLI PICENO

SUMMER AND PANDEMIC IN ASCOLI PICENO

By on Sep 6, 2020 in Blog | 4 comments

SUMMER AND PANDEMIC IN ASCOLI PICENO A pandemic, like anything unwelcome and unanticipated, has a way of upsetting how we go about our lives. We haven’t posted much for a while. It isn’t that the process of reflecting on what has been happening wasn’t going on. The problem has been, not knowing how to say anything coherent about it. With the last Blog entry this Spring, it had become evident a worldwide viral contagion, a pandemic, was in process of making radical changes to all our lives. The ground under us was suddenly becoming very unfamiliar. And with it, confidence eroded in the ability to make viable plans. Apprehension of the unknown, replaced a capacity for positive anticipation. An awareness was  forced on us of the fragile nature of life. A deeper perception of our vulnerabilities has been an understanding we were not well prepared to confront. The initial stages of viral contagion began to spread more rapidly than world-wide health resources were able to adequately understand and mount an effective response. Italy was caught off guard. Earlier mass gatherings in northern Italy, at a critical time in the infection cycle, resulted in serious public health issues. Although currently, that situation is under much better control. The Province of Ascoli Piceno, where we live, is in the Marche Region. This area is a more rural and self-sufficient part of Italy, less densely populated than the more highly commercial, globally interactive north of the country. We often use the phrase, off the beaten track, to refer to this area. During a pandemic, that factor appears to have become a valuable asset. The governing authorities of the Marche Region were among the first in Italy to take appropriate, decisive action to reduce the potential spread of the viral contagion. The result has been, this Province has had one of the lower viral infection and mortality rates compared to much of Italy. As of this writing, we continue to be in that more favorable position. At the time of the last Blog entry, we had already been in an enforced ‘lock down’ restricting social interaction. The initial very restrictive lockdown lasted the better part of three months. That was followed by some...

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PANDEMIC

PANDEMIC

By on Mar 27, 2020 in Blog | 10 comments

PANDEMIC   When preparing a Blog, I find myself sorting through the range of experiences we are having and trying to decide if any of them might make more interesting ground to be explored through writing. But never in my wildest imaginings had I considered the possibility that all our lives were about to have to deal with such a radical change brought on by a pandemic. I know we are not alone in feeling what we are currently confronting globally, seems surreal. Culturally, we are a people who celebrate ‘being in charge’, and now we are cowering in place in an effort to protect ourselves from something we can’t see. Mass biological calamities are not total strangers in a world brought in closer proximity through commercial globalization. No longer is it possible to ignore a serious disease outbreak in a remote corner of the world. The rapid, intercontinental exchange of people and goods ensures what happens elsewhere, doesn’t stay elsewhere. Scourges like Ebola, SARs and AIDs were identified and the likelihood of affecting human populations over wide areas was, in due course, understood and responded to in time to increase the effectiveness of the response. But something seems different this time with the COVID-19 outbreak. It is too early in this experience to understand the complex factors affecting the devastating effect this viral outbreak is causing. Standing in the midst of a crisis is not the best vantage point for perspective. But several components might be considered. Of course, there is the unique makeup of this strain of virus that was insufficiently understood. More on that in a moment. In addition, it is difficult to escape the perception that some politically fixated objectives seriously complicated timely, accurate assessment as to what the world was too soon to be confronting. In an authoritarian regime such as China, there is an institutional aversion to be a source of ‘bad news’ the regime would prefer to not have to deal with. The ingrained propensity of authoritarians to ‘kill the messenger of bad news’ does not encourage timely dissemination of critical information that needs to be confronted. Valuable time was lost both in the initial assessment of COVID-19 biohazard but also disseminating...

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