Friday, May 30, 2008

Family Blogging

I feel a need to write about this, as I guess I have mixed feelings. It's great to be able to keep up with family members spread around the world, daughters and grandchildren from Seattle to San Diego to Switzerland and me in Italy. Email has pretty much replaced the hand written or even typed letter sent through the mail which was something to keep as a record of relationships, friends and lovers. It was a way to record history. I have copies of letters written by ancestors nearly 200 years ago, they really give a sense of the times.

Email on the other hand just doesn't have that personal touch, how many of us file them away to remember times past. Well I guess a lot of them are just left in the computer to be searched for later. Of course the new computer every few years and changed email programs tends to eleminate them regardless.

But blogging I don't know, it's kind of like reading about your family in the newspaper, ultimately unpersonal. It is great as an addition to the personal call or email. A way to see pictures, videos and little stories. It's not a replacement for some form of direct contact, it doesn't make one feel better to see photos when phone calls are rarely returned or initiated. In a way without the addition of personal contact it can make one feel somewhat alienated, like well there is a life going on there but I'm not part of it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Not Much

What's up, not much, you? Seems we've been busy, but nothing exciting that makes life in Italy seem different than any other place on the planet. We went to Milan for Julia's orthodontist appointment on a Friday, then home Sunday morning for a kids birthday party. The next weekend was off to Pradipozzo for Luisa's Dad's birthday and to see her brother in from Canada for a visit and a conference in Tuscany. Then back home for guess what, another kid's birthday party. Then this last weekend back to Milan for Sara's first communion (Luisa's sister's daughter). This coming weekend is a three day one so maybe we will take the camper out someplace. But we can't leave until Saturday as Julia has her dance class Friday until 7:30. They are getting ready for the big show in another week.

Milan was nice this last weekend. After dinner Saturday night Luisa and I walked what is I guess a couple of miles into the central area, where the duomo is. It was a nice warm evening, but then it started to rain; we were of course without umbrellas, but we managed to get into the central area where there are porticos without getting drenched. Going to Milan often one tends to forget how beautiful that part of it is. It is spectacular, always something new, and the store windows full of the latest fashions. Tourists from all over the World, and the occasional, beautiful woman passing by who can actually aford those fashions and wear them properly.

In Belluno, maybe, hopefully, the warm weather has finally arrived. We've had a ton of rain lately, so now it's quite humid and very green all around us. I managed to get my garden started the other day. It's going to be a simpler one this year for a couple of reasons, one we don't plan on being home that much and two, Luisa insists she would rather just buy her lettuce at the market as it's cheap and doesn't come into the house full of dirt.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bank Money Transfers & Exchanges

I've been asked by one of my "many" readers to say more about some practical matters of living in Italy. I just wrote this reply to someone asking about transferring money to Italy and how to avoid the add ons from the banks, so I thought might as well post it here too.

It's pretty hard to avoid the add on fee charged over the wholesale rate you find on the Internet. Those rates are for million dollar exchanges. We do phone transfers from B of A to our bank in Italy. There is a flat fee for the transfer and an add on depending on the amount we transfer. Then our bank here charges a small fee for their service.
If you are in Italy use your credit card from the US or just take money out with your atm card. Either one is a bit less than or the same as bank transfers. I found PayPal to be good. You can set it up to transfer money in from you bank account, they put the money in a money market account and pay interest. They only charge $1 for atm withdrawals and the exchange rate is usually better than the bank. If you use the atm card as a charge card when purchasing you can set it up to get 1% cash back.

We also use a credit card that gives us miles on a frequent flyer program. We pay it off every month using our US checking account. So we get mileage and also avoid having to transfer money for daily expenses such as groceries, clothes, etc.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Purse Snatcher

We were coming out of the underground on the way to Julia's orthodontic appointment. On the stairs in front a guy in a suit was pulling on the purse of a woman. Without thinking much I yelled at the guy. Next he starts yelling at me, saying what do I want to do, my Italian escaped me and I was silent, just giving him the dirty look. In the mean time his wife or girl friend, the one with the purse, was saying something like calm down. Turns out they were having a fight over a cell phone. When I realized that I walked away and let them have their fight.

The thing is I keep wondering what I should have done, just ignore the incident, and let someone steal the purse, or do what I did. Now in a calmer moment I think it was right to yell, a real purse snatcher may have just run off, my next move if it ever happens again will be to find the nearest policeman. In this case we were right in the center of Milan and at the top of the stairs were a bunch of cops. Doing anything else would run the risk of some physical injury, probably to me, possibly to the bad guy and not worth the loss of a purse.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Ravenna

The campers come into a large grass parking area. In true Italian
style, many bring out the tables and chairs, fix a nice lunch of
pasta, wine, etc. and relax.

Po River Delta and Ravenna

A few shots from our recent trip.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Wildcamping

Wildcamping, that's what the English call motorhome camping outside of an organized camping area with facilities, like electricity, showes, toilets, etc. and of course security. So far in our three weekends out including this last four days we have camped in a campground once and Wild camped in several areas. It seems to be quite popular here in Northern Italy. I'm not so sure about the south. We've had great fun, camped next to the water in a fishing village in the Po River Delta, took a long bike ride through the marshes to visit a light house, the kids learned how they harvest clams, and mussels first hand from the fisherman. Then we camped near one of the old basilicas near Ravenna and finally parked right next to the beach for one night, about an hour north of there.

The beach parking was interesting, it reminded us of the coast of southern California where one can sometimes park right next to the beach. The main difference is that in California one can't spend the night. There were many other campers there and we were able meet a few other people. I guess what got it started was me asking about claming. I noticed a few people out in knee deep water collecting small clams. So I started asking questions. Once informed I grabbed a bucket and started digging myself. One just digs down a couple of inches and there they are. I managed to get enough for a great spagetti and clam sauce lunch today. Wow, eating them in a restaurant will never be the same, so sweet and tasty. I will post some pictures tomorrow.