Spring in January….totally normal, right? Parenting and Garbage. Climate change in Italy

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After somewhat whacking flu that lasted over the past weekend, which like always, is devastating and like every time, it nearly brings me to my knees, I got an inspiration! It must be because of the people I’ve met, the book I read (Paolo Cognetti “The Wild Boy” / “Il ragazzo selvatico”) and/or the warm spring-like sunshine that gave me some kind of a “spark” which energized me into a lucid extent that I wasn’t even aware of.  Which practically means, I’m doing stuff, which I should have done years ago. I feel as if I have more energy to do it (and NO, I didn’t drink coffee. And NO – I definitely didn’t have any chocolate. Or sugar. Or black tea. Or ice-cream. Or in fact, anything like that)

So, this morning, after cleaning all the mold, which arrived on our apartment’s walls and ceilings with the humid-wet weather we had for the past months. Like the past two days which were filled with beautiful and warm sunshine, also today was sunny and therefore me and my 2,5 year old son went for a walk on the old railroad between Piovene Rocchette and Arsiero, which until the 70’s was still active, but now the rails have been removed and the road is a path for health nuts. Or just for Nature lovers. Or for bicyclist. Idyllic place to go for a walk because of its greenery and overall silence.

I’ve always taught my kids how to handle garbage. Trash it right into the bin! When they were smaller, “Garbage-game” was one of their favorite ones. The possibility to throw something away, it made them feel important. Although, right now I feel that they are throwing a bit too much stuff away (speaking about food).

Anyway. One day, when we were waiting for the kindergarten bus to arrive, we noticed that someone had thrown candy wrappers on the ground, right where we stand and wait. My kids were shocked by this scene – “Why they left it here and why they didn’t throw it in the bin?” So, I promised that the next morning we’d come with a plastic bag and pick it up and throw it into the bin.

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So, there we were, me and my little boy, walking down the road towards the old railway, when I noticed all the trash by the road. Cigarette butts and packages, juice/yoghurt boxes/bottles, beer bottles, plastic bags and candy wrappers. Oh…. Poor planet Earth. And again I didn’t have a plastic bag in my bag! But this time the solution came faster than I thought – “I’m going to buy some fruit from my fruit-vendor by the road, and will use the bag, which he’ll give me, to collect the garbage lying by the road.” 

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Road to the next playground, which is in San Giorgio, was quite surprisingly full of garbage. I was very surprised by that. Who goes walking or running or cycling and throws stuff on the ground, while enjoying the Nature around them. Why would anyone want to change its beauty, lush greenness and cleanness? 
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My son was very happy to contribute, indeed he felt sad that we stopped and told me that tomorrow we should continue. Indeed we should. I really recommend to give it a try. Put a plastic bag in your pocket. The glove, which you use to pick fruit in the supermarket/mall, instead of throwing it away, take it with you, and pick up the garbage by the road and place it in the plastic bag. Separate paper from glass and plastic. Throw away the rest. Easy-peasy.

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The way back was nice and sunny. It was past midday and we were fully enjoying the sun. The sun, which was way too warm for January. I could feel Spring. And indeed, also my eyes SAW the spring – the forest bed is covered with snowdrops… So romantic and beautiful…But in January?? This worries me. It really does. I wonder…where did Winter go?

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Valincantà – an Italian folk music group from Arsiero singing in Venetian language

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Venetian language? Yes, it does exist and believe it or not – around the world over two million people speak it, not only in Northern Italy but also in Croatia, Slovenia, Mexico and even in Brazil.

And yes, there is a group right here in Astico valley that sings in Venetian language, or like they say it here – in vèneto dialect.

Their music is peculiarly enchanting, even if I cannot understand all the lyrics, I simply love it. It might be the melody, the rhythm, or the few words that I can make some sense out of. Or simply the combination of all of them.

The lyrics are in simplified dialect, although even if simplified, I cannot understand all the words, but with the help of the Vèneto-Italiano dictionary and my husband (who is somewhat a native vèneto speaker) I can understand what they mean and what is written.

Most of the songs though are written by Roberto Zotti, who in my opinion, is a local genius. The way he sees what’s around him and how he can put it into the words, in dialect, which for him must be a native language, is simply beautiful. Simple and beautiful. Add these lyrics to its melody…and another  masterpiece is born.

fb-0605Valincantà’s music is quite powerful – they’ve managed to get all their emotions – the good and bad – carefully intertwine within the melody and lyrics of the songs. You can get a glimpse of the past, the present and the future, all at the same time. Powerful stuff, I assure you.

Even if you haven’t been to these valleys here in North-Italy, out of these songs they are playing, you can get the feeling, the very same sensation as if you were here. I personally love all their songs, it’s quite difficult even to choose which one I like the most, but definitely I am looking forward of their next album. I feel it’s going to be a masterpiece…like all their albums. I just know it.

How?

The way they sing about the place we are living, Astico valley, you just cannot have bad songs.

And you know what? They are FANTASTIC in live performance. Much better than on a CD! They improvise, they make jokes and clearly – while making/creating magnificent music, they are having fun. You san see it from the audience. You can hear and you can even feel it.

fb-0609 So, if you have a chance – try to make it to their concert. It’s really worth it!

Valincantà’s official website
Valincantà on Facebook

Here is a video I recorded during the last concert we went to. My hands are shaking and my kid was in my lap and I missed a line or two during the recording…but I think the video still gives you an idea, or the closest I could share, of how they are on stage.
(Although, in this particular song, “The market of Arsiero”, they are performing together with another folk-group from the area – Bandabrian) Grade finale to a wonderful concert.

Is it Spring that makes us more anxious to get out of the house?

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Let’s go somewhere next weekend” said my husband  while having lunch on an ordinary Tuesday.

Where would you’d like to go?” I kindly answered thinking that the past couple of months we’ve  been more on the road than at home. It was just a day before yesterday that we got home from a short trip in Verona.

Anywhere, but here. I need to vent out” he said, took a long breath in and out, broke a piece of bread and while holding it in his left hand, he continued “I wanna go some place new. See something new. I’m tired of being here“. He put that piece of bread in his mouth and gazed out of the window, longing to be free. Free from work and the responsibilities and stress that go along with it.

I mean, how could I object to an offer like this? A weekend out? Someplace new? Let’s goooo! Only one question remained – where?

Since the idea was to spend only the weekend out, we couldn’t dream to go overseas big. Of course at first, we wanted to take a plane and fly somewhere (to save time) but then I figured that perhaps driving would be a tad more flexible for this trip.

The distance could not be longer that 4-5h driving from home. The kids won’t make it to stay still for a longer period of time. And considering that we’d be away for three days, 4-5h would seem as a decent driving hours per one day.

I was to plan everything and started to propose different destination options to Manuel. Crossing out the places where we’ve already been in the past or where we’re going to be in the following months. Also “snowy places” were crossed out. We didn’t want to go to ski. Sent couchrequests and got answers and —tadaa – our long-weekend destination spot was — Piedmont region in Italy. We’ve never been there, haven’t heard much of it – therefore…let’s find out.

Our adventure started early in the morning. But it could have started even earlier. It always takes at least, at least, one hour from waking up until buckling up in the car. This particular (cold!) morning it took us one hour and half to get ready…and we started to drive less than an hour before sunrise. We always drive early in the morning, mainly when we have to cover long distances, so that the kids would sleep and I could drive in peace. Early in the morning there is less traffic too and, as a plus, sooner or later I was going to see a beautiful sunrise. Motivating!

But having started late, already before to arrive in Verona, the sun rose and filled our car with warm orange light which meant that the kids woke up and refused to fall back asleep. “Emme, vaata, päike tuli välja” (Mommy, look, the sun came out!) said my daughter Mimi enthusiastically from the back seat, waking up also her younger brother, who was asleep.

Luckily, the kids seemed to enjoy the ride and without having to stop, we arrived to our first destination of the day – in a city called Novara.

ImageWe had our breakfast there, went for a quick sightseeing – just to stretch our legs a bit – and then continued our trip following the road towards Vercelli.

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I was curious about Vercelli. It is one of the oldest urban cities in all Italy, dating back to ~ 600 BC and it seems to be the capital of Italian rice. Prior to the trip I did some background check on the city and the surrounding area, and already then I felt I’d like to be there. To feel the city.

Those who know me in person, would be surprised, because I am not a particularly a “city person”. If I have to choose between a city and nature, I would almost always, blindly, choose nature. This time, I wanted to see Vercelli.

But I almost lost my willingness to see Vercelli at all. Why, you’d ask? Well, because while looking for half an hour a parking place in that god-forgotten-full-of-cars city, we got a taste of a typical Piedmontese driving.

Do they have driving schools in Piedmont? Do people actually pass the driving tests or they pay to get passed?

Terrible, terrible, terrible driving manners. I don’t wanna stop on this topic for any longer, but I would give you an advice though. Remember, that, when driving in Piedmont, the prideful locals have/are always the right.

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While looking for a parking place in Vercelli, Manuel made me stop the car by a bunch of carabinieri, the Italian military police, standing outside of a local bar, so that he could ask for directions.
Carabiniere with a cup of coffee in his hands looked at him and said to him with a distinct southern-Italian accent “Sorry, we are not locals“.
Oh, swell. 
Manuel literally raised his both hands up and said: “I give up then. Thank you anyway“. He then rolled his window back up. As we drove on, the carabiniere was looking at us with a weird look. My guess is that it was because of what Manuel said and did that made him raise his right eyebrow.

The center of Vercelli was lovely but not as much as the countryside. Those rise paddies…beautiful! Even though they weren’t cultivated yet or filled with water, I was fully enjoying them.
Those long straight roads made me think of Estonia’s swampy Soomaa National park. Also this place here in Italy was a big swamp…look what it is now. Breathtakingly beautiful. And silent.Image

The road took us on and on and sooner than we expected it, we found ourselves in Biella, where our host was waiting for us.

The next day we spent sightseeing with our host. He was very generous and showed us the most important places in the area…the places that a slow-traveling family like us, can see in a day.

We walked in the beautiful Ricetto di Candelo village, imagining how grand it would be to live there.

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In the afternoon we drove up to the mountain and visited the The Sacro monte di Oropa – the sacred mountain of The Black Virgin Oropa (UNESCO). Its size was already astonishing, the details, the frescos, the figures…beautiful! There, too, I mostly enjoyed the silence.

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Back in Biella, which is 80 km from Milan and Turin, we visited Piazzo- the old part of the center and the took funicular railway to go down to the “real center”, where the life happens.
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Had a wonderful cup of Bicerin, traditional Piedmont hot drink made of espresso coffee, drinking chocolate and whole milk/cream served in a small rounded glass, while reflecting about the sights of the day.

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On Sunday we woke up and saw that it had snowed. We continued our trip and drove towards Turin, where we got almost completely lost and didn’t even see the city-center, had lunch with another estonian-italian family. Mimi complained a minor stomach ache all the way from Biella, but I never imagined that she would vomit all over the floor under the host’s dining table, where we were supposed to have lunch. She vomited couple of times more..also in the car, while driving back home.

Once we were back home, driving though snow, rain and fog, I pre-washed the clothes that were stinking of puke and put them in the washing machine. Cleaned up the kids and went to bed.

So, we saw new places? Check.

Freaking cold March here in Italy

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The title says it all. Where did the Spring go? It’s since I left Estonia that I don’t remember March as cold as this one… Take a look at the difference of these two images – they are both made on the 26th of March!2in1-2012-1605