Learning to say goodbye…

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This old blog has been pretty quiet lately, but for a good reason. Speedy and I are selling our house here in Rapallo and moving back full-time to the States.

It’s hard to say goodbye. We’ve been here about 14 years, 4 of them as full-time residents. Rapallo feels as much like home as Arizona (both feel a little other-worldly, to tell you the truth).

House from Rosa's

We leave behind a house into which we’ve poured our hearts and souls. We leave behind the gardens which were non-existent when we started, but which now produce oranges, cherries, apricots, pomegranates, grapes, plums and persimmons, in addition to basil, parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary, more basil, and any veggies we feel like growing. Sometimes there’s even a good olive crop.

grapes our garden

But a house is just stones, stucco and paint, and a garden is just dirt and plants. Either can be replaced in another location. What can’t be replaced is the friendships we’ve made over so many years. From our first visit in nearby Camogli, when we met a friend of a friend, to a meeting just a few days ago, people have been welcoming, kind and – always! – helpful. The community here helps one another when necessary in ways that are humbling and heartwarming. We’ve been befriended by people from all over Europe, from Asia, from America, some through introductions, some simply by chance.

We’ve had adventures in Rapallo and beyond, many described in the pages of this blog. We’ve entertained under the wisteria which, just last year began to provide the shade we planned for.

glicine-001

We’ve had guests visit from near and far, some old friends, some family, and some new friends too.

View from the guest room

View from the guest room

Speedy has cooked fantastic meals in the kitchen, on the outdoor BBQ and, beginning a couple of years ago, in the tandoor that he built himself.

There are so many stories I could tell you! Some of them I have, but many not. And now I won’t. Most likely this will be the last post from Expatriate in Rapallo, but I hope you’ll return for a visit now and then when you want a dose of beautiful Italy, or want to rustle up one of Speedy’s amazing dishes.

Thank you for reading and commenting on Expatriate. Your presence has kept my eyes open and my mind interested. It wouldn’t have been any fun without you.

I have an idea for a new blog – but not quite yet, as we’re very busy trying to move.

And busier still learning to say goodbye…

More Hikin’ Dogs

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In a recent visit to Lost Dutchman State Park I was able to add three new subjects to the Hikin’ Dogs photo album.

First we met 11-year old Lulu, who was visiting with her Mama from Wyoming. Together they have explored large areas of the Superstitions over the years:

Lulu

Next we met Cupcake, age and hometown unknown. In spite of having just finished a walk, she looked ready to go on another long hike:
Shortcake-001Last we met the shy and beguiling Nava. She and her people had just taken a quick jaunt up to the Flatiron. They started at 11 and we met them at 2:30. That is a hike that would take me all day, even if I had a friend to help carry the load:nava-001If you haven’t visited the album, do check out the other beautiful Hikin’ Dogs I’ve met over the years. To see identification and captions you can click the down carat on the right side and select ‘slide show.’

Why I Golf

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Speedy took up golf in about 1999 when a knee injury prematurely ended his tennis career. After several years of diletanttish play he became rather more serious when we moved to Italy. The course in Rapallo is beautiful, and Speedy made some lovely friends there. He became even more serious in his pursuit of good play when he finished all the hard physical work of redoing our home. In no time at all golf became his ‘work,’ a job to which he dedicated 5 days every week, a schedule to which he still adheres, both in Italy and here in Arizona.

What’s a poor Expatriate to do? The term ‘golf widow’ suddenly had a compelling resonance for me. The obvious solution was to take up the game myself, thereby giving myself an opportunity to share in my husband’s passion AND to have some quality time with him every week.

Here is what I quickly learned.  Golf is a tremendously difficult game. It’s no big deal to learn the basics, but to be able to apply them with any consistency is nigh on impossible. In addition, once one becomes interested in improving, the old brain kicks in and plays one trick after another. It’s just plain hard. Or, as the sage said, “It’s a cruel game.”

I also learned that it’s a game I’ll never feel passionate about; it’s difficult for me to stay engaged with something that offers such paltry rewards compared to the time and effort demanded. I’m not a good golfer, and never will be; Speedy says I could be good if I were willing to practice every day. Oh well.

However, here is what I love about golf: golf courses. Once a scoffer, I used to think that golf courses were a tremendous waste of resources, both of land and of money. But you know, you won’t find many better places to walk than a well-maintained golf course. And walk we do. For a while at our old golf course we would split a golf cart, each walking 9 holes; but now, both here and in Italy, we walk all 18 holes. There are frequently lovely views and, if there’s water present, as there almost always is, there will be an interesting variety of animals and birds.

Here, in no particular order, is an album of photos of wildlife and vistas snapped between and around tees and greens. While it may be true that ‘golf is a good walk spoiled,’ it remains true that it is a Good Walk. While I’m an ambivalent golfer, I am passionate about the walking.

First, let’s set the scene. Here’s the view down the 7th fairway in Rapallo with the remnants of a 16th century monastery on the other side of the green:

Giammi hits from the sand at #7; valle Christi

Painted Mountain in Mesa has a forest of palm trees:

sunset over painted mountain golf courseOver Thanksgiving we visited friends in Utah. How can anyone concentrate on a golf game when these are the views the course offers?

view from Provo golf course-001view on provo golf courseLake Utah and mountains-001I didn’t even try to play that day.

Now for some fauna:

Rabbits at Painted Mountain

Rabbits at Painted Mountain

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Peach faced lovebirds at Painted Mountain

Mama duck with her babies, Rapallo

Mama duck with her babies, Rapallo

A muskrat (?) in Utah

A muskrat (?) in Utah

Geese overhead in Utah

Geese overhead in Utah

Remember when geese used to migrate? Now they just hang around the golf courses year-round, which makes for interesting footing if your ball lands near the water.

Goose and mallard, Mountain Brook

Goose and mallard, Mountain Brook

This white goose has been protecting the male mallard with a broken wing for several weeks now. They are inseparable.

True love, mallard style, Mountain Brook

True love

Speaking of inseparable, it’s getting to be that time of year. Is there any place on earth where mallards don’t thrive?

A blue heron and an egret are resident at Mountain Brook and can be found fishing in the course ponds every day.

great blue flies away great blue fishing white egret and duck

Sometimes your scribe is just not quite quick enough trying to catch an action shot:

egret leaves

coots-001

Coots at Mountain Brook

widgeons-002

Widgeons at Mountain Brook

 

cormorants and widgeons

Cormorants dry their wings pondside at Mountain Brook

hawk on a wire

Hawk on a Mountain Brook wire – hunting for rabbits?

Large gold carp

Large gold carp at Mountain Brook

Deer come to the course 'meadows' in the early evening

Deer come to the course ‘meadows’ in the early evening

Perhaps the rarest sighting of all occurred this very evening – I saw reindeer. No, I really did! And I was able to get a photo of them.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!

Barnhardt

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The Barnhardt Trail winds about six miles through Arizona’s Mazatzal wilderness section of Tonto National Park. Starting at 4,200 feet elevation, it gains over 1,900 feet. If one were actually to complete the hike, which Hikin’ Buddy and I did not on our most recent foray, you would be higher than Denver. Which is one reason HB and I never complete this hike: the air is noticeably thinner and one of us becomes breathless rather easily.

HB and I love to tackle this trail – for us it is a bit of a challenge (well, for one of us anyway, the one who is not HB). It’s a haul to get there – about an hour and half north of where we live. But the drive up SR 87 from Mesa is gorgeous, the road undulating between rocky outcroppings and mesas. The driving distance means that Expatriate has to get up a lot earlier than her accustomed hour of rising – but it is well worth the sacrifice, for the scenery on the drive, for the company and for the hike. The greatest challenge of the day turns out to be trying to stay awake while HB nobly drives us home after our exertions.

Sections of the trail are flattish, but by and large it is up all the way.

Elly on path

Complex and colorful, manzanita grows along the trail.

manzanita root

manzanita-001

Red rocks rise on the southern side of the trail. Every now and then a section of cliff collapses, leaving a river of red stones… easier to cross than a river of water, but giving one an uneasy feeling of possible danger.

rocksrock slide-001rock slide-002

Someone who looks like Frankenstein in Stone stands guard over the wilderness.

Rockzilla

We ate our picnic on the rocky out-cropping that is sunlit in the photo. Yes! The one that is way up there.

rock

On a smaller scale there is much to see underfoot, a variety of shapes, materials and colors that is endlessly interesting.

greens on red

I keep thinking I want to understand geology, and even once attempted an online course on the subject. It told me much more than ‘what is this rock’, and it turns out I am little more than a ‘what is this rock’ person. I would love to tell you what this formation is, I’m sure it has a name. HB and I have dubbed it the M Rocks (me) and/or the W Rocks (HB). Whichever, if you ever doubted the incredible forces that the earth exerts, these rocks will make you a believer.

upper M rocks-001 Upper M rocksBarnhardt is relatively remote and not heavily trafficked.  We were surprised to encounter two other hiking groups, as it’s the first time we’ve ever seen anyone else on this particular trail. And we were even more surprised that both groups were accompanied by Hikin’ Dogs. Meet Herbie:

Herbie-001

and Ballo:

Ballo-001 After our hike we had a second picnic in a field. Mallow is blooming early this year:

Mallow

A challenging trail, a good friend, a picnic, fine weather and a pair of Hikin’ Dogs. It doesn’t get any better.

When this grew up…

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weird bug-005

weird bug on orange tree

When this grew up it became this:

Photo copyright Jim P. Brock, 2008

Photo copyright Jim P. Brock, 2008

or perhaps it looked more like this:

Photo copyright Carol Adams

Photo copyright Carol Adams

If you’d like to read about Giant Swallowtails, click here. If you’d like an article on their increase in New England, click here. If you’re wondering why I’m telling you this, it’s because this caterpillar dined on our grapefruit tree for several days before disappearing, no doubt to begin his metamorphose. It looks like he’s covered with fungus, doesn’t it? But that’s just His Special Look.

Many thanks to Trish and Hilary for the identification.

Back in the States and It’s All About Voting

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We returned to the U.S. yesterday, and everyone is all abuzz about voting. (Easy, comfortable trip, thank you for asking.) As an Italian citizen Speedy can vote in Italy, but I cannot. Here I can, and I’m planning to. There’s nothing like not being eligible to do something that makes you appreciate it when you can.

There are some interesting initiatives on our Arizona ballot, one that pretty much says that the Federal Government can make mandates, but if we don’t wanna, we won’t. The battle between States rights and Federalism – always spirited and interesting.

Anyway, WordPress, who gives me this blog space free (thank you WordPress!) has put together a tool to help voters, which, if you’re interested you can access here:

It says,”I Voted.” I haven’t yet, but by Tuesday afternoon that will be true. And I hope it will be true for you, too; I hope you won’t have to stand in a long line.

Poor, Sad Olives

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Speedy and I were pretty happy this spring as we watched the olive trees blossoming – it looked to be a good year for olives, something we haven’t enjoyed for the last four or five years.  Then came the summer that wasn’t. Uncharacteristically cool and wet, the hot dry days we expect in July and August never materialized. For the first time since we’ve lived here I did not have to water the gardens at all.

The olives didn’t like it. The first problem is an annual problem, but one that has never been as bad as this year: the Mediterannean fruit fly.

Photo by Jack Kelly Clark, courtesy of University of California

Photo by Jack Kelly Clark

This little stinker, only about 1/4″ long, has an ovipositer that allows her to deposit her eggs in ripening olives. The maggots that hatch dine on the meat inside the olive until they are ready to burrow out, leaving behind a black and mushy mess. We’ve always had some fruit with the tell-tale dots that show an egg has been laid. This year we’ve had ample evidence that the larvae flourished. Why they were more successful this year than other years I don’t know; I think I’ll blame climate change.

bad olives-001

Two other problems, certainly climate related, are a kind of rusty growth on the fruit that is called either anthracnose or soft nose. I don’t know enough about either of these conditions to know which has affected our olives; I just know that either one leaves the fruit completely damaged and useless.

Fruit showing both the rusty disease and puncture wounds from egg-laying

Fruit showing both the rusty disease and puncture wounds from egg-laying

Usually at this time of year, if we are having a good year, we are dragging out nets, olive rakes and sheets for our own particular style of harvest. (You can read about our harvest by pressing here and here.) This year there is no point.

bad olives-003Many of the olives have turned dark prematurely and have fallen off the trees on their own. There’s no telling what quality of oil might lie within the few hardy individuals that are still clinging to the trees. We’re not going to invest the not inconsiderable time and effort to find out.

Ours are not the only trees thus affected. We have heard from friends that no-one in our part of Italy has an olive harvest this year. This is a pity for those of us with trees, but it’s a misery for the people who have the business of pressing olives. They will have few customers this year. Fortunately for olive-oil lovers, we have also heard that the crop in the south is excellent this year. With luck they will pick up the slack for those of us in the north.

One thing that never seems to die is hope – and I just know that next year will be the best year ever for olives.

Poster courtesy of Santa Clara Design

Poster courtesy of Santa Clara Design

An Unexpected Festa

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Speedy and I took a stroll along the Lungomare and over to the Port in Rapallo on Sunday. To our delight we stumbled on a small festa we had not known about: a celebration of the centennial of the statue of Columbus that points to the new world.

Columbus statue in Rapallonew plaque on columbus statueThe festa was in honor of the 100th anniversary of the erection of the statue. The marble plaque newly placed on the rock in front of the statue says, “The Rapallini emigrants and those who returned from the Americas here placed a monument to the discoverer of their second country. The Administration of the Town of Rapallo gratefully remembers and celebrates the first centenary.”

A small crowd gathered to hear distinguished Professor Massimo Bacigalupo (Literature in English, University of Genova) speak on the history of the statue and meaning of the various figures on it. He was eminently qualified, being the product of an Italo-American marriage. He told me he remembers that when he was young his visiting American grandmother would point to the statue and say, “That is the direction I must go soon.”

Professor Bacigalupo after his talk.

Professor Bacigalupo after his talk.

Would it be an Italian celebration without food? It would not! Food was under the capable direction of Guido, owner of Parla come Mangi, a fine food emporium in the old section of Rapallo. His choices of food reflected the new world (guacamole, tortilla chips) as well as the old (wine).

Guido and Speedy catch up.

Guido and Speedy catch up.

guacamole and other festive food

A big bowl of guacamole destined for toast points.

food almost all gone

Tortilla chips were a hit – the bowls are empty.

Red or white, the choice is yours

Red or white, the choice is yours

cookbook

a cookbook celebrating Italian-American cuisine

When we read about Italians emigrating to ‘America’ we Americans think of the U.S. In spite of the large number of Italian immigrants and their descendants in the States, more Italians emigrated to Central and South America. According to Wikipedia Brazil has the largest number of people with full or partial ancestry outside of Italy itself.  50-60% of Argentinians can lay claim to full or partial Italian ancstry. Uruguay and later Venezuela also attracted many emigrants, as did chilly Canada.

And that is why, in the photo at the top of this post, there are flags of so many countries, all of whom welcomed Italians in the 19th and 20th centuries, and continue to do so today, just as Italy welcomes those of us coming in the other direction.

Happy Columbus Day!

It’s All About the Weather

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You may have heard about the terrible flooding that killed six people in Genova three years ago. Poor Genova! Again the Bisagno River overflowed and went crashing through the city’s streets, tossing cars around like matchsticks, leaving a trail of mud, debris, ruined businesses and homes, and at least one person dead.

flood genoa_italy

Press photo

Photo courtesy of The Telegraph

Photo courtesy of The Telegraph

Photo courtesy of The Herald Sun

Photo courtesy of The Herald Sun

Other parts of Liguria were hard hit by the fierce electrical storms, which went on for hours and knocked out power to many zones of Genova. In our own small area of Rapallo we received some damage. Above us a landslide closed the road that leads to the Valley behind us. Below us trees fell down into the road, damaging a guard rail. Enough were quickly removed to open up one narrow lane for traffic. Seems like very small patooties compared to what’s happened in Genova.

More rain fell this morning (Saturday, Oct. 11) with more forecast for this afternoon and tomorrow.

Liguria is a narrow bean-shaped region that hugs the Mediterranean, with high mountains that tumble right down to the sea. The mountains all drain into stream beds which, for most of the year hold only a trickle of water. Workers were mowing the weeds from our own San Francesco torrente just a couple of months ago. This is what it looked like today:

cascade

San Francesco near autostrada

It always amazes us when we open our windows or go outside after a big storm and hear the roar of falling water that fills the valley. We were lucky because the water stayed within its banks. Genova, which is also built on the thin strip of land between mountains and sea, had worse luck.

“It’s a mass of problems together. You have houses built in the wrong places, inadequate water channelling systems, poor planning and administration,” Carlo Malgarotto, president of the council in the region of Liguria, told Reuters.

Rapallo did a bit of planning a few years ago. To prevent debris from catching on a bridge that might then back up the Boate River, they decided to rebuild it so that it could be raised in times of flood. Why? There is a new cathedral being finished upstream and a large underground parking area is part of the project. The goal was to keep the parking safe and dry. They were able to raise it yesterday, no doubt to the satisfaction of all involved in the project.

raised bridge-001

It’s a bit of an inconvenience for people who would like to use that bridge. As you can see below, the water was not really high enough to reach the bridge at all – but better safe than sorry.

water under bridge

Unfortunately Genova has not had as good luck with the plans they made after the 2011 flood. According to Reuters:  “Environment Minister Gian Luca Galletti said in a statement that 35 million euros ($44 million) had been earmarked to reinforce flood defences around the Bisagno but the funds had been blocked by a legal dispute.”

Sadly that sounds exactly like Italy. It doesn’t seem to be a country that has embraced the idea of citizens co-operating for the common good. Rather, people are much more likely to be watching out for their own interests and trying to see what they can gain personally from any project. I guess that makes Italy like a lot of other places.

Meanwhile, more rain is forecast. Fingers crossed for Genova, because they already have their hands full.

Courtesy of 3B Meteo

Courtesy of 3B Meteo

Addendum: We visited the Port on Sunday and found the aftermath of the storm: flotsam, jetsam and a lot of driftwood that had already been pulled out of the water. There was so much rubbish among the boats that the water was invisible.

driftwood in port flotsam and jetsam in port-001 driftwood

 

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