Archive for February, 2011

Missing our postman

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

post logo

We usually receive the economist on Saturday morning. Recently it has been Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon. When I enquired at the post office I discovered that our excellent postman has been moved to Orciano and Barchi. His replacement covers Piagge and Barchi which means post will be delivered in the afternoon instead of the morning. I also discovered that there is now no delivery on a Saturday morning which then has a knock-on effect  for delivery in the following week.

This curtailment of Saturday delivery services is part of PosteItaliane’s plan to deal with competition from companies such as  DCL. The postal service is now concentrating on streamlining their business services and so the manpower saved in Saturday deliveries is now being used to man late night shifts allowing the postal service to offer customers the opportunity to specify a day and time of delivery.

Still we miss our postman and we miss not getting the Economist on a Saturday morning and settling down to read it with a nice cup of tea.

San Remo Festival

Monday, February 21st, 2011

san remo festival

From Tuesday to Saturday last week the 61st San Remo Music Festival took place. This is the Italian equivalent of the Eurovision Song contest but instead of lasting 1 night it lasts 5 nights. Each evening on television from 9.00pm to midnight the competition unfolds with the winner finally (!)being announced late Saturday evening.

On Italian television variety shows it is traditional to have 3 presenters – one short man and two tall, beautiful women or one old man and two tall, beautiful women or one ugly man and two tall, beautiful women or one short, old, ugly man and two tall, beautiful women. In the last couple of years the San Remo Festival went against this trend and had a single presenter and a show which had been declining in popularity bounced back. However, this year it reverted to type and had: Gianni Morandi the Cliff Richard of the Italian pop world; Elizabetta Canalis best known for being the current girlfriend of George Clooney; Belen Rodriguez an Argentinian showgirl who is famous in Italy for a series of television adverts and her body. And the show was a great success with over 50% of italian television viewers opting for the festival. We opted instead for going out. 

The idea of one man two women presenters exists in other types of tv programes. The highlight must be a programme called “Vivere Meglio” (Live Better). It aims to give advice on health and lifestyle issues and has the winning combination of 1 short, old, ugly man with 4 tall, beautiful women.
vivere meglio presenters

Italian tourism

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

The Riace Bronzes are lifesize bronze statues of 2 Greek warriors made in c.460 B.C.. They were found in 1972 by some scuba divers just off the coast of Calabria and were taken to Florence for restoration where local craftsmen started to make copies for sale. While visiting Florence in 1981 we decided to buy one (photo). At the time we could only afford to buy one statue and have always thought it would be nice to complete the pair. Then a couple of years ago we went on a bus tour of Calabria and the highlight of the tour was a visit to the museum at Reggio Calabria where the statues are currently on display. We thought that, at last, we might be able to get the second one. Seeing the statues “in the flesh” was fantastic but the rest of the museum and the shop in particular were disappointing. The shop was tucked away at the end of a corridor and had almost nothing of quality to sell. There were lots of small plastic models of the statues, all made in China, and you would want to buy and keep. So our Riace Bronze remains all alone.

We are, therefore, not surprised by some of the statistics produced in a new book called “Vandali”. The book is a critique of how Italy fails to maintain its artistic treasures and also how it fails to exploit them. Among the statistics are the following:

  • The Tate Gallery in Britain has an annual turnover of 76 million euros while all the museums and archaeological sites in Italy have ticket sales of 82 million euros.
  • The Metropolitan Museum in New York takes in 43 million euros from merchandising while for all the museums and archaeological sites in Italy the sum is 39.7 million euros.
  • The Metropolitan Museum in New York gets 19.7 million euros from its restaurants, parking and auditorium use which is 3 times the amount of tickets  sales in Pompeii

Drama in San Giorgio

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

poster for the play

On Friday night the play “La Casa della Luna Calante” (the house of the waning moon)was performed by some citizens of San Giorgio. The play was based on a short play by Furio Bordon called “Le Ultime Lune” and tells the story of an old man who is leaving his house to move into an old people’s home and before he leaves he has a conversation with his dead mother about the highs and lows of his life. In the second act he is in the home and talks about his life in the home and his preparations for death. It is a very bitter-sweet, tragic-comedy. The producer of the San Giorgio version Giuliana kept the basic outline of the play and added some comic scenes about the individual characters in the home. Opting to stress the comic elements in the play was a wise thing to do which in the context of a Friday evening’s entertainment in small village in Italy with an amateur cast. They also opted to use mostly dialect instead of italian. When you talk to people in San Giorgio about the use of dialect they also say that if they want to tell a joke then it works better in dialect. Unfortunately for me it meant most of the verbal humour was lost as some characers spoke pure dialect, others a mix and some pure italian. So it was like listening to a badly tuned radio where some sentences would come across loud and clear and then fade into a incoherent noise and then a few more words in focus. However, all the audience enjoyed the play. There was lots of laughter and lots of applause. Applause when the actors came on and people recognised them and lots of applause when people left the stage. Even I got into the game applauding when I recognised someone – “Sanzio” (our agricultural advisor) turned up as the owner of the home and then “Mrs Bella Giornata” came on as a women listening to the woes of her daughter’s love life. (I have never got to know Mrs Bella Giornata’s real name but as we always seem to meet in the street when the sun is shining and she always says “Che bella giornata!” this has become her name). The play ended with characters in the play reciting a poem about the value of life and the need to live now and then bright cheerful music was played, the actors bowed and danced while the audience clapped happily in time to the music. Everyone left with a smile on their faces.

Giulio Cesare

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Julius Caesar

The other night we saw  a live performance of Giulio Cesare from Paris. It was relayed to a small cinema in Pesaro. Well as usual Handel was magical and showed his genius as a composer.It was a pity that the Director/Designer felt unable to leave the piece alone and overlayed the work with a mismash of ideas and irrelevancies. Too many times the singers were placed in situations where a mass of supernumeries busied themselves in the background which distracted from the aria and the drama. 

It was interesting to me to see how the manners of Italian audiences have change little.In the 18th and 19th Centuries visitors from Britain regularly commented on the constant talking, the eating and the drinking that went on during a performance. Well now apart from the talking, the major distraction is the mobile phone,which under no circumstances can be turned off ( silent mode maybe).So throughout the performance one was conscious of the faint blue glow of  numerous small screens, whilst owners checked on the latest text from their friends.I wonder if this is so at La Scala?

Despite all this, the singers were excellent with exceptionally touching portraits of the roles of Cornelia and Sesto ( Varduhi Abrahamyan and Isabel Leonard) standing out in my mind. The star, Natalie Dessay, as Cleopatra was bit of a curates egg.When she sung and stood still, she was truly breath-taking but when obliged to move I felt that she ended up looking like a second rate pole-dancer at a disco. Not her fault maybe( the Director again?) but what may work in 19th Century repetoire doesn’t look so good in the early 18th.

 Next offering is the La Fanciulla del West.


Monday, February 7th, 2011


On Saturday we went to Ikea near Rimini to look for a chest of drawers. Here in the Marche we are spoilt for choice as there is an Ikea at Rimini and an Ikea at Ancona. Both equidistant and both the same apart from the fact that in one you go round the store clockwise and in the other anti-clockwise. As we had to meet Alba for coffee in Pesaro we opted for the Rimini Ikea and we were just in time to have our Ikea meatballs.

Ikea had been in the news last week as they are opening a new store in Catania in Sicily and are planning to recruit 350 staff. Ton Reijmers who is responsible for Ikea in Italy had arranged a meeting with the governor of the island Raffaele Lombardo.
raffaele lombardo
After waiting outside the Lombardo’s office for over an hour Mr Reijmers was told that the Governor was out of the office and couldn’t see him and that Mr Reijmers would have to speak to the vice Governor. Lombardo is angry with Ikea because many of the jobs being offered are part time and also that Ikea are not taking on ex workers from local firms. In fact Ikea have recruited their staff through an internet questionaire and this is perhaps the rub. The “Ikea method” is in conflict with Lombardo’s method where he uses his influence to get people jobs who then vote for him. An ex supporter of Lombardo was quoted as saying that “for Lombardo transparency is inconceivable and to selet using the internet means no-one must pay politicians for a job”

Early Spring?

Sunday, February 6th, 2011
garden jan 2011 garden jan 2011

After weeks of grey, cloudy, cold, miserable weather the sun has finally arrived. A strong anticyclone is covering most of Italy and they are predicting 2 weeks of warm spring like weather.

And so for the first time this year I was able to get out and potter in the garden. It almost had the feeling of coming out of hibernation.  Walking across the field to speak to our neighbour Sanzio I noticed that the daisies and the creeping buttercups were already out in the fields. Sanzio (photo 2)  was out pruning his fruit trees. Sanzio is our source of agricultural advice. His attitute to working in the garden is “piano, piano” i.e. slow and steady. He is incredibly systematic, finishing one job before going onto the next. When we first started to prune our olive trees Sanzio came across to show us how to do it. He said he would show us one tree. He started to clip  A clip here and a clip there and he continued to clip steadily finishing 3 trees before he decided to hand over the secateurs.

Dangerous things to do in Italy

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

The hunting season finished on the 31st January. Hunting is not only dangerous for the birds in Italy but also for the hunters. For the 5 months of the hunting season (Sept – Jan) there were 35 killed and 73 people wounded. Not all the dead and injured were hunters. Some were just passers by, in the wrong place at the wrong time and of course one wonders how accidental some of the shotings are. A couple  of years ago at Mondolfo there was the case of the retired police inspector who was arrested for murdering his wife. He claimed that he was in the bedroom cleaning his gun when it accidently went off and hit her in the chest.  

If hunting is dangerous then crossing the street is even more hazardous in Italy. In 2009 667 pedestrians were killed. This statistic will not surprise anyone who has visited Italy. Italian drivers do not like to stop at zebra crossings – they prefer to slow down and then drive around the person on the crossing.

The mystery of the dead pigeon.

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

dead pigeon

Speaking of pigeons. Last Saturday I was coming out of the house when I noticed a dead pigeon lying on the steps. It wasn’t sprawled out on the steps but lying neatly between the step and the wall. At first I thought Sam our car had caught it but there was no blood and then I noticed the single bullet hole in the chest. 

It was a very unfortunate pigeon as the village is a no hunting area and in fact just yards from where it lay there is a sign indicating that this area is not only a “hunt free area” but also an “oasis of safety”. 

The bird was doubly unfortunate as Sunday was the end of the hunting season. Another 24 hours and it would have lived to “coo” another year.

No room for pigeons

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

restored church tower

This is the tower of the Church of the Holy Spirit which is in front of the house. They have been restoring the building for some time but are now on the home straight. One of the problems they had to deal with was pigeons. The pigeons have been able to get into the roof space of the church and over time had deposited lots of guano i.e. bird droppings. So an important aspect of the restoration has been to ensure that pigeons are no longer welcome in or on the church. They have blocked up any possible entrances for the birds and where there are lintels etc they have used sloping bricks which prevent the birds from roosting.  However, the main line of defence is to install a very low voltage cable on the building. When the birds come to land they get a small shock which sends them flying off. So far it seems to be very successful. Now the pigeons have migrated to the castle wall becoming someone else’s problem.