Calanchi di Atri Nature Reserve

Helene and John picked me up on a beautiful Saturday morning for a two hour hike. We drove past Atri to the nature reserve. The calanchi or Badlands are a “geomorphological phenomenon”. The clayey rocks have little vegetation to protect them from water runoff. The deep furrows in the Atri calanchi have points that reminded me of dragon backs and Chinese brush drawings. There is a brush stroke called dragon back used for such jagged edges. There are many areas of calanchi near Atri, but the area where we hiked is a protected nature reserve established in 1995. John said the area was once part of the Adriatic Sea. We looked for sea fossils in the rock wall near the nature center, but they were well picked over. There are other calanchi in Italy and I saw some when I hiked in the Val d’Orcia area of Toscana on the Via Francigena in September.

It is believed that the Badlands formed during the Holocene when the clayey soils were exposed due to deforestation of evergreen oak forests. The presence of the right combination of ingredients was necessary for forces to mold the landscape into these rows of dragon back peaks and furrows. The ingredients included clay soil with the right amount of sand, a Mediteranean climate with long dry summers and a concentrated season of intense rains, slopes with a southern exposure with a slope between 40° and 60° and a less erodible area near the top of the slope.

I googled Holocene to continue this posting and the first entries were the song by Bon Iver. So I was briefly reminded of Eau Claire. It is good to have a touch of home on this trip. Holocene, however, is the current geological epoch which began approximately 11,700 years ago. It is marked by human impacts such as the development of major civilizations and the transition to urban living.

Our hike went downhill and then up in a steep loop about 5 miles long. It started on a paved road which turned to gravel and then to clay. In addition to the calanchi, there were wonderful views of the Maiella and Grand Sasso Mountains, farmland, olive groves and blossoming almond trees. The hike was a good challenge and not overly long. I felt a profound sense of gratitude for meeting John and Helene who took me to this amazing site.

Hills and Mountains

February 4, 2018

I am sitting outside with a sweatshirt and fleece vest while I write this.

Today I tried to take photos of the hills above Pineto as I rode on the bike path north of town. The sky was clear and from town I had a view of the Gran Sasso. It is always a thrill to see thes mountains and to think of my nonni being born near them.

The hills are very green today.

Unfortunately, one blemish-when it is clear enough to see the mountains, it may also be clear enough to see the oil rigs on the horizon in the opposite direction.

The Joys of a Towel Warmer and Cleaning Day

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Joys of a Towel Warmer

Lorenzo fixed the heater in the bathroom today. For the first time, I took a shower and dried off with a heated towel. What a luxury. As I wrapped the warm towel around my wet body, I could not be happier. I just wanted to relish the joy. Why don’t Americans have this luxury? I am having trouble using the word we here as I refer to Americans. Two weeks in Italy and I am certainly a stranger here, but I am no longer sure I am part of “we Americans”.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Cleaning Day

When Lorenzo fixed the riscaldamento in the bathroom, it involved draining the water and air from the unit. Despite using a pot, una pèntola, there was water all over the floor. To be fair, for some reason there is no big pèntola in this apartment, not one big enough to boil water for pasta for several people. Lorenzo and his nephew dried up the water, but during the repair, Lorenzo had to walk into the kitchen often to adjust the water flow to all of the radiators. He also fixed the ceiling light in my bedroom which was flickering on and off in an alarming manner. This is a long explanation for the many footprints allover the floor in the hallway, kitchen and bedroom.

So today was a cleaning day.

I was never into buying Swiffer products back in the States, so the floor cleaner with slots for inserting throw away wipes has me baffled. I found some cloths in the apartment that are labeled for pavimenti or floors when I see them in a store. They are too big for this contraption, but they are fine for hands and knees washing. Today, with every floor in the apartment at stake, I tried inserting a microfiber cloth. The next problem is that this doesn’t really fit in any bucket, and if it did, it comes out very wet. So I take it off and wring it out several times for each floor.

To start the day, I washed the bedclothes. I realized I had never washed anything this big here with no clothes dryer. I have to do it the Italian way. No one lives next door to me, so I used the clothesline in the courtyard area next to mine. I am not sure where I will hang them in the house if they are not dry by nightfall. I have been bringing the folding dryer inside at night and the clothes finish drying by morning. It is not big enough for sheets, however, and to top it off, the drying rack is filled with the pillowcases at the moment.

Now to plan my escape. Pack up all the belongings I want with me for a walk and a visit to the library. Clean the kitchen floor and the last of the hallway as I exit the door.

Saturday Morning in Pineto

Saturday morning is the most lively time of the week in Pineto in the winter. The streets in the center are overtaken with market stalls. Vendors sell socks, underwear, household goods and a variety of clothes. Many people are out for a passeggiata. There are lots of bambini in strollers.
I bought a small piece of ribbon from a stall with sewing thread, scissors and buttons. I barely bought a foot or 30 centimeters. When I asked “quant’è?”, “how much”, the vendor waved me goodbye with that friendly flick of the fingers that they use here. He didn’t want any money.
The food market at the edge of downtown is also in full swing on Saturday. There are many fruit and vegetable stands, as well as cheese, porchetta, salame, dried beans and honey. I bought brown rice or rici integrale at a stand and the man started to speak to me in English. I told him I was trying to speak Italian. Later, I realized that I had just used a phrase from the lesson I took with an online teacher via Skype the previous night. I also realized that I used it wrong. Provo a parlare is correct for I try to speak. I said provo di parlare. When to use “a”, when to use “di” and when to use absolutely no pronoun between the two verbs is confusing and a matter of memorization. My teacher grouped the verbs together in a logical organization, but it will take practice.
I watched the crowds and bought a few apples at the stand where people were filling bags with apples. One of the men at the stand started to loudly hawk their offerings. I didn’t understand a word of it, but it was like music. I continued to be amazed at the fresh tomatoes and artichokes in January. My bag was gettting heavy when I bought a head of Romaine lettuce at another stand and handed the vendor one euro. He motioned for me to wait. He came around and put my lettuce in a bag where he had already placed a large cabbage. Now my bag was heavy and my heart was light.


Phone Frustration

Today I took the bus to Rosetta Degli Abruzzi to find a Vodafone store. I thought I had used up all of my data by talking to John with the video of Facebook messenger. Vodafone had sent me a message that I had 86 cents worth of credit left. So to use my phone or iPad, I kept going to free WiFi spots. I found one in the town center and sat on the steps of Villa Filiani. My other hangouts are the library and Caffè Sant’Agnese.

On Monday, I went to a phone store to try to sort it out. They told me I had to go to a Vodafone store. The nearest ones I could reach by bus were in Pescara or in Rosetta degli Abruzzi. My new acquaintance in the library, Valentina, told me that Rosetta degli Abruzzi was closer. I have her to thank for today’s excursion. The bus ride was only 15 minutes and fairly frequent.

It turns out the 86 cents was for phone messages. I have lots of minutes in both Italian phone calls and phone calls to the US. I bought a new plan that gives me unlimited use if social media and their messaging platforms. So this includes Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype and a bunch more I never heard of. Unfortunately, despite many attempts, the salesperson could not help me install the Vodafone app for Italy. I can install one for Turkey or India, but not one for Italy. Here in the library with WiFi, I was able to track my usage online with a browser. With this new plan, the sales person assured me that I have lots of gigabytes. So Italians use social platforms for their texting, unlike Americans who use the phone texting.

Here are some photos of Rosetta degli Abruzzi.

And the best news – I found an Italian teacher! Signora Nadia will teach me two times a week. I returned from my phone excursion in time to meet her and discuss classes. She has an office in the center of town, in centro, above an optical store. I like the term in centro. In English you can say in the center, but it seems to need the qualifier “of town”.

The Beach in Pineto

I have been living in Pineto for 5 days. I have walked on the beach, rode a bike through the pines and explored the town.

The Beach

There were 3 parts to the beach. The area near the sea was wet with small pebbles (chiottolato) and shells sitting on top like French knots on a smooth embroidery cloth. Further inland, on the still damp sand shells and ciottolato were embedded in the sand. The third part was dry sand that the wind was sculpting into rivulets. The ciottolato and shells, blocking the wind, formed the accent points of the curved rivulets. The curving waves repeated in a pattern perpendicular to the shore.

Sun and Sea: Vasto, September 13, 2017

On Wednesday I traveled from Pineto to Vasto changing trains in Pescara. The second train continued to follow the coast but went through many tunnels. Sometimes arched openings in the tunnels revealed quick bursts of seascapes. The view of Ortona showed a busy working port.

Luigi picked me up at the Vasto San Salvo train station and took me to Villa Monteferrante, the hotel he runs with his wife. My room there was my favorite room of all the places I stayed in Italy. On the same floor as my spacious bedroom, there was another empty bedroom, a small kitchen, and a bath shared with the empty bedroom. Up some more stairs was a terrace with an awesome view of the sea. I had the terrace all to myself.

At Luigi’s recommendation, I walked to the Marina di Vasto and ate lunch at Lido Luccioletta down the hill from the villa. After a lunch of lasagna and sauteed zucchini, I explored the wide and curving sandy beach. There were many empty beach chairs and closed beach umbrellas. I tried to imagine the shore in the busy July and August season as I enjoyed the quiet of sharing the beach with only a few others. As I walked to the end of the pier, I watched a class of youth learn to sail on small boats. Then I continued walking hoping to reach the southern point of the curve. I didn’t make it that far before turning back. In the end, I accumulated over 7 miles of walking. Not bad for a sprained ankle.

At a small shop, I bought some mozzarella di bufala and some other groceries at a small grocery store. I cooked dinner and ate on the terrace until the sun started to set.

Pineto, September 12, 2017

While sitting in the pines and viewing the sea, Karen rewrapped my sprained ankle (mia storta alla caviglia). The bandage (la fasciatura) that I bought at the farmacia had the sticky part on the wrong side according to Karen. She deftly fashioned a donut with some cloth she had, placed the donut around my outer ankle joint and wrapped tightly. Her advice was to walk in the sand, ride a bike and take my first day of hiking easy.

I rented a bike not far from my B&B and rode on the bike trail to the northern edge of the town where the path turned to gravel. I passed campsites and public beaches. Atri, a hilltown I visited on my last Italian trip, was on a hill in the distance. As I rode back to the southern end of town, I found a group enjoying bocce ball.

After I returned the bike, I talked to Julie who I had met online. Julie, an amiable midwestern woman, married an Italian whose family owns a hotel in Pineto. She arranged for me to meet Vito who could help me with obtaining dual US/Italian Citizenship. Vito helps applicants from South America and has an apartment in Roseto degli Abruzzi where he houses people while they acquire their citizenship. This typically takes three months in Italy. I had an appointment at the Italian Consulate in Chicago set for late November to hand in my application and documents for citizenship. The latest news online was that it would take 2 years after your appointment in Chicago to hear that your citizenship was finalized. Vito could do it in three months and I had an apartment lined up. His prices were not too bad, but of course much more expensive than Chicago. I grabbed a slice of pizza and walked quickly to Julie’s family hotel.

Julie interpreted as Vito does not speak English and my Italian is intermediate at best. Vito has been a friend of Julie’s family for a long time and I felt comfortable that he was reliable and professional. I showed him images of my grandparents’ birth certificates and we talked about the logistics. At one point, Julie was called away to work at the desk and we talked with no interpreter. I understood maybe half of Vito’s conversation. This was all very exciting. At my age, 3 months versus 2 years seems like a big difference. I walked back to my room with the satisfaction of having accomplished two goals – I found an apartment in Pineto and a way to gain my citizenship more efficiently.