Thursday, February 24, 2011

La Fattoria

On my bucket list - created long before that movie came out - was the deep desire to live in Europe for one year. I never achieved that, and probably never will, but my month here was just long enough that things started to feel 'normal.'

Normal and different at the exact same time.

It would have been nice to have sheets on the bed. I got a narrow duvet and that's that.  Every evening when I climb into the sack I think: I could teach you people a thing or two about cuddly comfort...

I've still not met a single person who owns a clothes dryer. And, while it makes for great photos I'll be thrilled to say arrivederci to scratchy, line-dried towels. (Score one for the Americans.)

I do love the fact that they're huge on slippers. (They hand you a pair when you show up at their house and it took all of my willpower not to snitch these little cuties.)

I suppose the biggest eye opener, and inspiration for when I get home, is how very fortunate we are to have... space.

My Italian friend giggles, when asked about her new life. I married the whole package, she says.

And, indeed she did. Her husband's family lives to the south on a self-sustaining, highly productive farm with beautiful, nutrient-rich soil enabling them to grow anything their hearts desire.

Casa di Luciano

Her mother-in-law is the classic, doting, Italian Mom who stuffs us with food and chatters happily the whole time she's cooking up the next delightful course.

I thought this was way cool but hard to photograph.
ABOVE the kitchen sink is ~ what looks like ~ 
a normal cupboard but it's so much better than that.
The bottom shelf is actually a metal grate. 
Place your wet, washed dishes into this cupboard, 
close the door and they're out of sight.
They drip-dry, water falling back into the sink.
This is fantastic if you, like me, 
always offer to dry vs. wash, in thanks for a tasty meal. 
'Cause that meant I got to go watch t.v.

So, back to the whole space thing. Hearing about the farm, and all that they produce, I figured 5... maybe 10 acres.

When I arrived, I was shocked, and a little embarrassed, to see that they accomplish all of this on less land than I own back home.

I wish I could show you pictures to do this place justice.

The farm is dormant in winter. A sleeping garden, dotted with the promise of tiny green shoots preparing for a new season.

I got scolded for turning on the lights during the day. Natural light, only, when the sun is shining.

This has my brain working overtime on all the new things I can squeeze into my own garden space ~ that I thought was stuffed to the gills prior to my visit.

So, I'm devoting my final days in paradise to stealing as many seeds as I can! If I can sneak through customs, I might have gifts for one and all.

This is how Luciano and I filled the wood bins to warm the house. 
He stands outside, passing logs into me, through the kitchen window, where what looks like a second oven is actually the 'furnace.'

* La Fattoria means 'the farm house.' This is the last of my blogging diary from Bressanone, Italy, where I am working for the month of February.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Buon Appetito!

Fresh produce day in Bolzano.

My Italian friend had business in a nearby town so I decided to tag along, in search of a t-shirt. How very American of me.

Now, I know they have t-shirts because I see every guy in town sporting one but it's a well kept secret as to where they get 'em.

Oh, I hate to even acknowledge this sad fact but my days here are numbered.

I'm leaving on Sunday ~ this marvelous month has flown by so quickly ~ and while I had pah-lenty of time to go shopping, send postcards, and do all the things required of you when you're traveling...

I have not purchased a dang thing for the horse sitters, house sitters and orchid sitters on my list.

Other than to sucker my Italian friend's husband out of 2 of the most delightful bottles of local wine I've ever experienced.

So, you'd think ~ since I was in the big city ~ I'd knock a few things off my to-do list. Instead, I poked around the local market.

Don't those artichokes look yummy??

The local spice shop.
Food, here, is a celebration of everything that's good about life. (I've not seen a 'healthy eating' commercial since I arrived and NO ONE is on a diet. Such a refreshing change from health-obsessed USA.)

Shopping is a joy, as well. There's the bread shop, the cheese shop, the meat shop and the glorious produce that shows up every Wednesday causing a frenzied amount of dickering among the locals.

Buon Appetito! They say, before picking up their forks and slowly savoring every bite of every meal.

Stores close each day from noon to three, so the shop owners can properly enjoy their lunch. A three hour lunch is standard fare!

That is one of the many traditions I'd like to bring home with me to America.

I wonder how long it will take before I get fired? :D

* Speck is the local's prosciutto and it is to. die. for. So much so, that before the full body screeners showed up at the airports a friend of ours smuggled Speck home strapped to her bod to avoid getting busted going through customs.

Monday, February 21, 2011


"Once you see Venice, you will never want to leave," so says my Italian friend. "It is magical!"

That, I’m afraid, was an understatement.

We arrived, on a full moon, during Carnivale. With celebrations, masks and music at every turn.

This was my first visit to the water born city, sadly sinking back into the sea.

The ‘street’ to my hotel was so narrow I could barely fit a suitcase down it. (Savvy travelers arrive there by boat.)

The street to my hotel.
But, I had a hunch it would be a great find the second I made a call to the desk clerk.

Can I get directions? I asked. We’re walking.

Oh, don’t try to walk here, came the reply in broken English. It is too complicated. 

If you've never been to Venice it is a small island of incredibly narrow streets, twists and turns that often leave you dead-ended at a spot where there is no bridge to cross the canal.

People are forever scurrying one way, only to turn around and go the other way on a quest to who knows where.

This is the entrance to my truly Italian, 4 star hotel, the San Cassiano.
Are you sitting down? $94 U.S. dollars a night and it's on the Grand Canal. 
Perhaps the reason it's empty is because no one can find it. :)))

Okay. True confessions: I agreed to work this month in Italy because, back home, I was feeling a little bit lost.

The view from my (affordable!) hotel.
So I guess, in a way, it was good medicine to push that feeling to the limits in a city where people are perpetually lost.

Where even the locals look at your map and admit they don’t know where they are.

But, if you give up on those worrisome feelings and give into the idea that – sometimes – being in control of things is hardly worth the effort...

Well, then it’s all so easy.

My 2 favorite Gondola Guys.
You buy a mask.
You dance in the moonlight.
And, you start thinking maybe your life is not so broken after all.

And, yeah. I haven’t a clue where my hotel is. But, hey. Life could be worse.

* A note for the directionally challenged (that be me!) Bring your iPhone. When things got really hairy that bouncing blue dot on the Map Quest app tracked my every step and got me back to my hotel in the blink of an eye. (Even when I thought, for certain sure, I was marching in the wrong direction.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Just in case you're thinking there's no such thing as trouble in paradise... here are a few pics of the missing Dolomite Mountains.

I'd been dying to see Val Gardena, that picture postcard area of world class skiing, nestled beneath the monstrous, jagged peaks of the Dolomites.

Alas... Heavy clouds hid the mountains. A cold, gloomy rain made for a less than enjoyable trek to the highest elevations...

Where rain turned to snow, then blizzard conditions during our walk to the restaurant.

Hard to believe this battered sign points to something marvelous, but sure enough, right around the bend on this desolate road was a cozy little spot for Speck (the local's prosciutto) and a warming glass of wine.

The chilly rains hitched a ride home and seem intent on staying for awhile.

Making this the ideal day to...

Get the heck outta town!

Surely you’ve heard that saying ‘what they don’t know won't hurt them?’ [as in hurt me?]

Well, I’m stretching the concept of President’s Day weekend about as far as I can take it, since Italians haven’t a clue what this long weekend means for Americans. (Please don’t tell them it’s not a religious holiday, that seemed to work like a charm.)

So, it’s off to Venice and hopefully bright, sunshiny skies.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesdays ~ The Monastery Ride

Our wheels
The route to the ancient church
A narrow stone path leads to the top of the mountain
Brilliant artwork tucked away inside that dull, grey building.
I was equally thrilled to discover the local pub serves fries. ;)

This is my blogging diary from Bressanone, Italy, where I am living and working for the month of February.

For more Wordless Wednesday participants, click here!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day ~ February, 2011

Local florists tempt me with bright blossoms
This Bloom Day finds me far, far away from my pretty flowers, left in the (fingers crossed!) competent hands of a house sitter back home.

My little Hyacinth
While I'm lonesome for my Bad Dog, I don't worry about him. That big, butter ball is not one to miss a meal. And, he can be quite vocal when dinner is late.

As for the 2 cats? Never cross them. There’s a distinct pecking order in my home and they're on top o’ the heap.

But my flowers? Well, that’s another story, those little girls I worry about. Though I imagine they are blooming just as brightly in my absence.

I freelance for a company that makes handmade shoes in Italy and Germany. So, I'm living and working in the picturesque town of Bressanone, in South Tyrol Italy ~ for one, amazing month.

It's beautiful here. Early springtime, a sweet break from the cold winds and deep snows back home.

But, enough about that. It's Bloom Day! So, what do I have to show for myself...?

Just one very fragrant Hyacinth who seems quite delighted with my sunny window sill.  I rescued her from the dark shelves of the Despar (doesn't that sound evil? It's the local grocery store.)

These pics are from my walks around town, where I sometimes resort to window peeping:

Never grow weary of the narrow, cobblestone streets:

And, happily say hello, each and every morning, to the town swan, who lives beneath the foot bridge:

Pay a visit to Carol, of May Dreams Gardens to see more pretty flowers, closer to home.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

San Valentino Felice

On our afternoon excursion, my Italian friend asked me if I'm noticing lots of things that are different, special, truly European. Having lived here for 3 years, now, it's all feeling very normal to her.

The mere fact that when we visit neighboring towns we go there on our bicycles vs. cars is, of course, about as non-American as one could be.

When we arrived, this little village captured my heart even more so than Bressanone (where I am living.)

Strolling through the narrow streets of Chiusa, we discovered the local florist. A shop the size of a postage stamp, filled to the brim with the prettiest little Valentine's gifts:

Colorful planters and eager spring bulbs anxious to decorate our window sills.

And here I am... on a bike... unable to buy out the store. :(

San Valentino Felice means Happy Valentine's Day in Italian. I hope you have a good one.

** This is my bloggin' diary from Bressanone, Italy, where I'm living, and working, for the month of February.