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Verona Christmas Star From the Colloseum Arch of the Star Colosseum Arena Colosseum Arena Entrance Massive Colosseum Interior Verona Fortress Interior Wall Fortress Well Fortress Art Collection Madonna and Child in Wood Wood Carving Fortress Battlements Renaissance Bridge over the River Adige Church of San Zeno Maggiore San Zeno Maggiore Belltower San Zeno Apse and Crypt San Zeno High Altar San Zeno Raised Presbyery San Zeno Presbytery toward the Nave San Zeno Baptismal Font San Zeno Renaissance Crusifix San Zen Side Altar San Zeno Crypt San Zeno Contemporary Crusifixion San Zeno Bronze Relief Doors San Zeno Bronze Relief Doors San Zeno Fresco With Pilgrim Graffiti as early as 1390 San Zeno Doors to the Cloister San Zeno Cloister San Zeno Cloister San Zeno Nativity Verona Street Verona Roman Gate Attractive Tourist Being Followed Verona Street Christmas Tree Verona – Piazza Erbe Verona Piazza Erbe Tree Verona Christmas Market Verona Christmas Market Christmas on Via Mazzini – Verona In a separate post, we discussed our trip to Verona just before Christmas. We had previously enjoyed Padua and planed to see Verona, and we were delighted with the experience. The choice of timing was to get a sense of how different towns in Italy celebrate the Christmas Festival. Italy is a curious mixture of reverence for their culture which bears a distinctively Christian imprint while carrying out their lives in a generally ‘secular’ manner. Perhaps there is an inherently deep respect in Italy for their cultural history with so much of it bearing the Christian imprint. Whatever the root, one of he joys of life in Italy is the ready access to and respect for its artistic cultural history. And then, coming from a homeland which traces its political origins only back some four hundred years, we also recall that our American roots for many of us, were in Europe. So we are immigrants in Europe from the so-called ‘new world’ but in many respects we are here to discover roots from this part of the world that are very likely to be in our DNA as well. Perhaps, that is another reason we feel comfortable...

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Carnevale Piazza Popolo Carnevale Time Carnevale in Full Swing Carnevale Crowd Revelers Revelers Wolf and Piglets Talking Madona Trump – “Mine’s Bigger” Kim – “No, Mine’s Bigger” The Demure Comforted Clown Communication Fair Damsel Artist Clean-Up Squad ? Principessa Joyful Bear Face Painting in Process  Italians look forward to Carnevale. Not people to be staid and undemonstrative under normal circumstances, Italians let it all hang out at Carnevale. In Ascoli, this is an entire community coming out with a ‘no-holds-barred’ opportunity to lampoon anything and anybody – especially politicians and the church. It is a time of exuberant merry making, however, it is not fueled by excess alcohol. It seems here, being intoxicated is frowned upon to the point of derision. The Italians don’t seem to need to get ‘loosened up’ on booze to have a fun time, they seem to come by it naturally. And then, as in most social settings, this is an all age group, community-wide fun...

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NEW YEARS PERSPECTIVE – 2018 About this time each year of our Expats-in-Italy adventure, we try and look back to interpret the sum of our impressions of the calendar year recently past. There is that worn cliché – ‘if time is flying, you must be having fun’. As this is now our fifth post-New Year experience as immigrant residents in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, it does seem time has flown. In affirming the aforementioned cliché, on balance we have to agree, our Expat experience continues to go well, very well actually. But then, with everyone’s life experiences, the more significant events seem to revolve around interactions with others. Inevitably, that involves both experiences of joys as well as those of sorrows. Arlene lost a younger sister this past year and we both have continuing concerns on the health of some close family members. We also grieve over the loss of a wonderful Italian friend who left us much too soon. As unfortunate as having to confront such deeply distressing events seems to be, there is reassurance that we also can relate to each other on a very profound level to be able to share and support each other, not only in joys but also in life’s bitter distresses. Additionally, a facet in becoming an expatriate requires leaving a physical place where you had lived and established relationships with both family and friends. I sense the expatriate experience inevitably involves finding ways to come to terms with being physically separated from some relationships and places that have been very much part of framing ‘who you feel you are’. There may be a perspective on contemporary life that offers some broader insight into a sense of separation from elements of the past.  It seems contemporary American lifestyles frequently involve inherent disruptions of relationships with family and friends. Commonly, this includes scattering over distances as a consequence of the mobility required in many occupations and in pursuing educational opportunities. We experienced some of this kind of interpersonal fragmentation while still living within the U.S. Changes in proximity to those you care about was particularly evident as the children grew, established new social patterns of their own and then grandchildren went away to university....

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CHRISTMAS IN ITALY – 2017

CHRISTMAS IN ITALY – 2017

By on Dec 18, 2017 in Blog | 3 comments

Christmas in Italy – 2017 We are currently enjoying our fifth Christmas seasonal festivities in Ascoli Piceno, Italy. The very long and complex history of Christianity in European culture gives the holiday season, particularly here in Italy, a nuanced experience of great depth. Although Christianity may not have the contemporary, fervent commitment it may have once enjoyed, Italians are never-the-less steeped in the traditions of community participation in rituals celebrating the seasonal cycles. Participation in community observances is a means to express and reinforce a sense of identity and solidarity. Even the most cynical and committed secularist will be seen mingling in the holiday decorated piazzas. With each year we have been here, the inevitable, gradual increase in holiday commercialism becomes more apparent. Retail displays seem to start appearing earlier each year but nowhere near to the extent that they do in the U.S. But the economic situation here in Italy, as in much of the world, tends to dampen excessive consumption exuberance. Even more significant, when comparing our former lives in the U.S., holidays here are still strongly associated with family bonding augmented by enthusiastic socializing with friends. Italian gregariousness is never too far under the surface any time of the year but special holiday observances seem to add steroids to the mix. The more outwardly expressive nature of the Italian personality seems to add more depth to interpersonal connectivity. The traditional physical embrace with the kiss on each cheek (right-to-left here in Italy by the way) makes it difficult to not sense the presence of someone else. As we have commented on many times, an aspect of our transition into retirement has been a gradual adjustment away from material accumulation to more one of savoring experience. We are at a point where our pre-Christmas experience is no longer dominated in a frenetic, buying preoccupation. We may be establishing a pre-Christmas tradition for ourselves by going somewhere just after the official start of the Christmas observance with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on the 8th of December. We want to experience the festive decorations elsewhere and then return to Ascoli in time to participate in the community events here and to join in the round of dinners...

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AUTUMN IN ASCOLI After so many years in the very moderate climate of southern California, we have returned to the experiences of our earlier lives when the year was punctuated by pronounced seasonal changes. In our last Blog posting, we remarked on the very hot summer we had experienced this year. We are now in Autumn. Just now, the days are generally sunny and in the lower 60’s (F) and in the 40’s (F) at night. And then, there is the occasional rain. The change in the weather is also visually reinforced by the change of fashion seen on the street. With the equinox, there is a spontaneous, expected change in how one presents oneself.  And just the other day when out doing morning errands, I saw in the higher elevations of the Apennine Mountains to the west of Ascoli, a reflection of a covering of light snow. This Fall also involved a family loss. After a very prolonged history of serious health issues, Arlene’s sister was admitted into an Intensive Care Unit at a San Diego, California Hospital. She had been hospitalized before on multiple occasions but this time, the prognosis was less favorable. Given the short notice and other complexities, we determined to get Arlene to San Diego as fast as we could while I remained here in Ascoli. The decision for Arlene to immediately go to San Diego was the correct one to have made. After a little over a week following Arlene’s arrival, her sister peacefully left this life with Arlene and her sister’s husband holding her hands. The passing of a close member of a family is never easy to process.  Under the circumstances of a protracted and complex health history, the probability had been anticipated there was always a likelihood of her passing away sooner than might otherwise have been hoped for. In some respects, recognizing that probability was a means to try to be prepared for what seemed likely but still did not dull the sense of loss when it took place.  The extended family is now dealing with the complex emotions of grief over the passing of someone loved while also having a sense that a prolonged experience with suffering and...

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SUMMER IN ASCOLI PICENO As predicted, the summer of 2017 has turning out to be a warm one in Italy. It has been beyond ‘warm,’ it is has been hot! Here in Ascoli Piceno, our daytime summer temperature averages have generally been in the upper ninety-degree Fahrenheit range with some U.S. Midwestern-style humidity to match.  But in August, the afternoon temperature in Ascoli has occasionally reached 104 degrees Fahrenheit. This kind of weather is making the Mediterranean tradition of taking a prolonged midday break from activity seem like a sensible idea. Not surprisingly, this community, with a reported population near 50,000, is strangely quiet most afternoons between one to four PM. Added to the town becoming quieter is the long tradition of the August vacation to the beach or the mountains to escape the heat. Tradition has it that the Emperor Augustus made a magnanimous gesture of establishing a break from work which is still known as Ferragosto, the vacation time granted by Augustus in the first century in the Current Era. Our increasing Italianization is in evidence with our accommodations to the summer heat. As we mentioned in the last Blog post, we have rented a portion of an Italian sand beach for the season on the Adriatic Sea at San Benedetto del Tronto, about a half hour drive from our apartment. A small table supporting a sun umbrella, plus two sun lounges all sits about forty feet from the water’s edge.  On most days, the Adriatic is as calm as a very large lake and the water temperature is very pleasant. The air temperature and a gentle breeze at the Adriatic beach is often enough cooler than Ascoli to provide some welcomed relief. On some days, the beach on the Adriatic can be as much as ten degrees’ Fahrenheit cooler than Ascoli. Additionally, being immersed in the Adriatic up to my neck brought even further relief. Arlene is an all-day beach regular at least three days a week. My more restless nature hasn’t quite gotten into the all-day at the beach stage yet, so I usually go down later in the day to enjoy an on-the-water, mid-afternoon onwards with her. Our second accommodation to the heat of...

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ON CONTENTMENT Spring is finally here in Ascoli Piceno.  This area in Central Italy represents a complex, transitional weather zone involving the Apennine Mountain chain to the west and the nearby Adriatic Sea to the east. Against that setting, a continuous interplay between weather systems flowing north out of Africa, moderated by the Mediterranean Sea, interacts over this area with weather systems coming from the north from over the Alps. All that complexity adds a little uncertainty to weather forecasting. But we supplement forecasts by looking out the window before going out anyway. Spring anywhere can have its temperature oscillations between a refreshing sunny warmth one day and a damp, windy, chilly day the next.  Central Italy is no exception to that pattern but it does seem the oscillations here have finally given way to very welcome milder days. However, the long-range forecasts are promising a very warm summer. In response to the promise of a warmer summer we are exercising our developing Italianism. We have just decided to rent a spot with two chairs, a table and an umbrella for the summer on an Adriatic beach probably ten meters from the water’s edge. Better yet, the spot is next to our wonderful friend ‘Jo’. For Arlene, summers spent on a beach on the Atlantic are ingrained in her idea of what the season is about. Having traded the Atlantic for the Adriatic, life now seems in better balance. Some friends recently commented they hadn’t seen much in the way of Posts to this Blog since the first of the year. And I’m afraid that’s true.  But that doesn’t mean the writing compulsion has abated. My writing urge has been exercising itself in some other directions. But our underlying goal for this Blog remains to comment on our fascination with the process of acclimating ourselves into a new life in a very old place that is quite different than our prior experiences in the land of our birth. And so, that is the theme we will try and stick to. However, the absence of Blog commentary doesn’t mean there hasn’t been activity in Ascoli Piceno. The Lunar cycle timing for religious events such as Passover and Easter, changes when...

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NEW YEAR’S PERSPECTIVE – 2017   Since the beginning of this Blog, we have paused after the New Year’s celebrations to reflect on the year just past. Each year as Expatriates has brought new and different experiences.  Thinking back on these events seems to help us better understand this stimulating and different life we are now living. Of course, not all last year’s experiences affected us in positive and reinforcing ways. In reflecting back on 2016, a general refrain we are hearing from others as well is a diminished enthusiasm for some of what the past year brought. The major event in our United States homeland was a presidential election. The overall impression is that process was marked by division, acrimony, and expressions of vitriol largely rooted in fear and exploited anxiety.  What might have been hoped for in reasoned explorations of alternative visions to bring about a better tomorrow was largely drowned out in negativity. The presidential election process projected an overall absence of civilly moderated, reasoned dialog discouraged by the disparaging of ‘political correctness.’ The outcome appears to be we have been forced to confront the reality that just barely beneath the surface of American culture, there lurks coarseness and crude insensitivity. Apparently, a commitment to maintain a cohesive and inclusive American larger sense of common community has been sacrificed in favor of identity politics. This extremely troubling development is a consequence of fomenting division as a political strategy – a classic ‘divide and conquer’ objective. Demagoguery too easily replaces reasoned, civil debate in a society saturated in the stimulating noise of mass media entertainment. A meaningful vision of ‘a larger, We’ somehow gets lost in the process. Americans are now confronted by deep divisions within the fabric of the nation. Reflecting on the words of Abraham Lincoln in the dark days leading up to the American Civil War, we need to consider very seriously the question of ‘whether a house divided against itself can stand?’ America is currently appearing too fractured to promote a cohesive, collaborative community committed to a Common Good. Not all Americans wanted it this way but it seems sufficient numbers of us bought the sound bites probably out of desperation. An opportunity...

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CHRISTMAS 2016

CHRISTMAS 2016

By on Dec 23, 2016 in Blog | 9 comments

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND BEST WISHES FOR THE COMING YEAR   Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and Ascoli Piceno is alive with anticipation.  In Italy, family, food and dear friends are what make the holiday so special.   Our wonderful Italian friends have invited us to a series of festive meals with them. We start with a noontime gathering tomorrow and then a traditional Christmas Eve dinner at the home of another friend. On Christmas Day we join our friend Serafino and his extended family for a Christmas Day feast which will go on for hours. The day after Christmas, Saint Stefano’s Day, we have been invited to the home of our delightful upstairs neighbors for an extended midday meal with their family.   There is a Christmas Market in one of the main piazzas complete with lighted tree, above, and an ice skating rink.  On New Year’s Eve we will host our now traditional party in our home.   This is a season to take the time to reflect on what is most important in life. And that’s why we wanted to say how much we appreciate each of you.   With our warmest best wishes,   Larry and Arlene Ascoli Piceno,...

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EARTHQUAKE SWARM

EARTHQUAKE SWARM

By on Dec 15, 2016 in Blog | 6 comments

EARTHQUAKE SWARM As many of you are aware, Central Italy has been experiencing a series of earthquakes which began in late August this year. Clusters of earthquake tremors are not uncommon worldwide and are referred to as ‘swarms.’On 24 August, a very serious level 6.2 earthquake occurred in the Sibillini Mountain range of the Italian Apennines. Close to 300-people lost their lives and over 25,000 people either lost their homes or were required to evacuate. Countless businesses were destroyed and lives disrupted in the mountain villages. A contributing factor to the high initial loss of life was the late August period is traditionally vacation time in much of Europe.  During this period, it is common for Italians to escape the heat of late summer in the cities to vacation in mountain villages. It is also common to have visitors from outside of Italy come into Italy’s mountains for their vacations. As a result, many small towns and villages were filled to capacity with visitors on 24 August. Regrettably, many of these smaller settlements contained structures built in less prosperous times by people who worked the land and were not constructed in accordance with later, updated building codes more sensitive to seismic issues. After a somewhat moderate quieting down, the so-called earthquake swarm re-intensified adding to the property loss. In late October, more intense earthquake activity was felt in a concentrated area in the Sibillini Mountains.  On 24 October, a level 5.5 earthquake occurred followed on 30 October by a 6.6 level event. These tremors intensified property damage in structures already weakened in the previous series of tremors. Fortunately, the Civil Protection authorities had taken prompt and effective action in the aftermath of the initial 24 August seismic shock and had facilitated evacuations in earthquake prone areas where building structural integrity was felt to be compromised. The increase in late October serious seismic activity intensified the evacuation effort and broadened its scope. The evacuees were moved into temporary housing where many still remain. That prompt response has ensured the post-August re-intensification of the earthquake activity has not resulted in the additional loss of life. The issue of how or even whether to rebuild has yet to be addressed. It is...

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