Monthly Archives: June 2015

Pupo SicilianoLaura Marco Marco Simona Solano Cavi di Lavagna (GE)
Supermarkets, Stores, etc.

NOI SIAMO SOCI DI IPERCOOP. If you want to buy food in a Walmart-type atmosphere, Ipercoop is the place. We shop at the one in Cogorno, where we purchased a membership several years ago. Ipercoop is a cooperative based on the communist history of cooperatives In Italy. Most of the supermarkets in Liguria are communist. They operate much like Sam’s Club, but with communist propaganda.

I like Ipercoop. It costs about 25 Euros to join. I can find almost everything here, including books and fine cheeses. They don’t have lavelle, however. The cashiers are seated. You pack your own stuff in bags that you pay for or bring along. We got low-price tickets for the Expo here. Hard beach shoes for 9 Euros.

I MEDICI. We ate dinner with two doctor friends in Sestri Levante. It was a fabulous evening on the beaches and winding through the crowded streets. Before that I ate a bunch of fish. The other three, Marco and the doctors, ate pasta and fish. Doctors are judgmental but not very self conscious. They scarfed down about 500g of pasta, each, and then lectured us that 100g of pasta would be too much for one meal.

LORENA. I think that Lorena’s grocery store is the best place to buy food in Cavi. I fear the Anchovies, like the ones in that first episode of Sponge Bob. Anchovies cannot form a line. When Marco and I shop at Lorena’s, we buy a lot of stuff: zucchini with flowers, fruit, bread, cheese, a crostata. If the Anchovies want to buy only focaccia, or a couple of peaches, they push ahead. They barge into that tiny space and act impatient. Anchovies are best eaten fried and covered with lemon.

Today we’re shopping with the Saracens. Sarzana is a tiny town in the low mountains about 30 minutes from here with a strip mall and that great furniture store, Grancasa. The people there are short and thin with slanted eyes. They want to help; they want to sell. The prices in Sarzana are pretty good.

I’m getting sick of the beach. Bring me that cappuccino and that spremuta di pompelmo! Then leave me alone. No more bare butts and hairy chests. No more swimming! The good thing is, I’m getting the updates done on my book – Social Security Disability Practice.

We plan to go back to the Expo on Wednesday. My idea. I want to see the Brazilian pavilion, early morning, before the Anchovies show up. Last time, on the long metro ride to Rho, I saw some interesting sights. There was a family of foreigners, and the woman was large. Three kids, two parents. They were traveling the metro with luggage. When the baby started crying, I thought – Oh, no. But the large woman had a solution. She pulled out one of her breasts and started feeding the baby, no cover. The baby stopped crying and ate. Everybody stared. I said, “Wow,” but Marco noticed nothing. I had to tell him the story later.

Before the Expo, I want to eat breakfast at Alvin’s one last time. Here’s hoping the people will be amusing and abundant.


Cavi di Lavagna (GE)
Surviving in Italy

LAVELLE. Every time I arrive in Italy, I relax into a nice shower or bath. The bathrooms are generous and the water clean. I get all the hot water I want because of the on-demand water heaters. Then, to wash my back, I reach for a washcloth. Arrrrgh! They don’t have washcloths here. I find a sponge that’s been hanging around for 12 months. It’s scratchy and suspicious. Maybe the cleaning lady used it to wash out the bathroom before we got here.

Last week, there was a revelation. Marco called from the shops with an excited voice. “I found washcloths. They’re called ‘lavelle,’ and they are here on sale. What color do you want?”

“Yeah! The color doesn’t matter! Just buy a bunch of them.” Marco came home with a pack of nine purple ones. Perfect. Now I can get REALLY clean.

PORTA CON TE LA TUA RICETTA PER OCCHIALI. This year I made another discovery. The opticians in Italy will make you a pair of prescription eyeglasses without a prescription. Caspita!

I’ve been begging the moronic American ophthalmologist to give me a prescription for reading sunglasses with dark lenses. Not just the bottom part at 1.50 – the whole lens. This is so I can drive. I can’t read the road signs without reading glasses, so I’ve been wearing reading glasses UNDER my sunglasses.

At first the optician in Italy was suspicious, but I insisted. In Italy you can shout a little, and I’m bigger than they are. “Hey! Just give me sunglasses with 1.50 lenses. The whole lens.” I chose some cool Italian frames, 20 % off. I was afraid they wouldn’t do it right — maybe give me some half-assed, bottom reading glasses. Then the sunglasses arrived. Perfect! And they look good on me. Now I can actually see the road, and read the road signs. I ordered a second pair with pear-colored frames. Any tourist who knows her lens strength by heart can do this. Also, they can test people’s eyes at the optician.

MATTERASSI AROTELLATI. Marco and I shopped at Grancasa and discovered that you can buy mattresses here that are rolled up and compressed until they are lightweight and about a foot in diameter. We bought a single mattress for the house in Cavi. “Ffffffff.” That’s the sound the mattress made when we unwrapped it and unrolled it. For 24 hours it filled with air. Last night I slept on it. Very comfortable!

PRIMO MINISTRO MATTEO RENZI. Americans who travel to Italy should know, at least, the name of the Italian prime minister – Matteo Renzi. Watch him on TV. He looks like a good old boy with a fancy haircut. Most Italians are “up” on American news. Unfortunately, the recent front page headlines here have been about the massacre in Charleston. Owning guns in Italy is illegal, so Italians don’t understand some of the problems we have in the U.S. with mental illness and guns.

Everyone in Italy knows about President Obama. Some Italians follow news about the Supreme Court justices. The death penalty does not exist in Italy, so the newspapers report stories about that.

Italians have no idea how large in area the United States is unless they have spent time in the U.S. They may know about New York and California, but not Texas. Italians may not realize that most of the United States is rural.
Laura and the Angolan women 061515

Laura and Marco in hats at the Expo 061515

Laura and the Angolan women 061515
The Expo

I’ve been watching Channel 50, the Feltrinelli channel, here in Italy. There are several good shows – “Posso Dormire da Voi?” is the best. Antoine travels around the world with a GoPro and asks people if he can sleep at their houses. I love their expressions when he invites himself to stay over. “What? Sleep here?” in this way he exposes the heart of how they live in Namibia, Uruguay, and places like rural Cuba.

The other day, Channel 50 had a spot on Davide Oldani – a would-be soccer player from Milan who broke his leg and became a famous chef (very pretentious and always on a cell phone). The show had him driving around Milan in an expensive car, going from his restaurant, called “D’O” (think “Homer Simpson”), to his food tent at the World Expo now taking place in Milan. When I saw the risotto he was serving, with a ring of lemon/saffron sauce, and a pile of crumbled panettone in the middle, I needed to eat some. It was the only reason I wanted to attend the Expo.

Surprisingly, I loved the Expo. Marco and I attended on a Monday morning when there were fewer people. We took the Metro to Rho, arrived around 11:30 and saw the Prime Minister of Spain give a short speech. Then we found Oldani’s food booth. It was just like on television, and the risotto was different and delicious.

The Expo is a big outdoor area, about a mile long, with pavilions from various countries that explain their local food. I liked the openness of it. I never felt crowded.

The most interesting pavilion was the one by the government of Angola. I stepped in and never wanted to leave. We were greeted by various friendly Angolans and a poster of President Dos Santos. The building was a spiral. Around the outer walls were various posters and interactive screens about food in Angola; beekeeping, raising cattle, and various grains. In the center, and rising to the top of the spiral, was a tremendous display in the shape of a baobob tree, featuring videos of women in Angola who work as fisherwomen, doctors, dancers, businesswomen, scientists, and government ministers. There must have been 50 women featured, with their names and professions. I couldn’t stop looking at these beautiful women telling their stories. This pavilion made me want to visit Angola.

Instead, the Korean pavilion made me want to stay far away from that country. “Our food is best,” it seemed to say. “Koreans are better than you.” I found this pavilion very boring.

Overall, the Expo was beautifully grand with lots of modern sculptures. We ate the famous risotto. I purchased the book by Davide Oldani. Marco chose a cowboy hat from Sudan.

Marco and the Meccai June 2015June in Italy
Food/ Cibo

Yesterday I watched a short, hairy man eat a fried octopus tentacle dipped in yogurt sauce. He sliced off a piece, ate it, and closed his eyes in ecstasy. I ordered a salad of chopped, boiled calamari – very tender — and a mixed salad. Everything was covered in lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. We had frutti di bosco for dessert. This is the real Italian food: fruit, vegetables, and fish.

When we stay in Italy, I almost always lose weight from the walking, the swimming, and the healthy food. It’s easy to avoid carbohydrates because the fish and the fruit and vegetables are excellent. Gelato is made from skimmed milk, so I trick myself into thinking it’s okay.

I’m swearing off the pizza this year. In years past, the choices have been pizza margherita (cheese and tomato sauce), quattro stagioni (ham, artichokes, onions, and olives), or maybe marinara. You don’t choose individual toppings here. The crusts are very thin and crispy. No oil.

This year my favorite grocery at the beach is about 20 by 20 feet large. The woman who runs it brings in produce from her family’s farm up the hill – usually cherries or zucchini. She has the cheeses I like – Gorgonzola by the huge, green, runny slice; Emmenthal; goat cheese, and farmer’s cheese.

The best part about this grocery is that the owner is nice. She wants to talk. She opens half an hour late one day (5:00 p.m.) because of a lengthy conversation with a friend. She has a country attitude – not a snooty one. Her hair is short and streaked with blond highlights. Her body is fat. She is bavarde but not loud. My type of person.

One day when we bought groceries, there was a loud shout from the bench outside. Inside, a kid with a bronze face and a tiny ponytail responded, “Arrivo, Enrico.” Outside the store was a huge, fat, retarded guy. The kid was his sitter. The store owner was apologetic. “Non vuole stare a casa!” So the retarded guy was spending his morning hanging out at the small store. Psychiatric hospitals in Italy closed in the 1960s.

The next day we drove to Leivi, a small village in the mountains, to a restaurant with an incredible view run by a dark brown Genovese woman. She is sour, short and thin – an excellent cook. The tomatoes and salad come from her garden. We ate manzille de sea in pesto sauce – a thin, silky type of pasta that is the best in the world. The sour Genovese woman was happier than usual because her attorney/daughter now has a paying job (after two years of unpaid internship). But she found something new to grouse about – the influx of immigrants from Africa.

On the way back to Cavi we stopped by a truck filled with blueberries (mirtilli) and bought more than a kilo. Blueberries are my favorite food in the world. These came from American plants imported to Italy. The berries were the shape of fat spaceships and tasted very sweet.

Photo on 6-8-15 at 6.21 AM #2 First Days in Italy
Who Will Save Me?

Who will save me from these loud-talking Italians? Will it be Hanya Yanagirhara (author of the excellent novel, A Little Life, now living in my reader? Will it be a new Italian/French TV travel show – “Posso dormire da voi?” Or will it be Marco, whose head is now the color of a sour Ligurian cherry, after we swam three times in the Mediterranean today? (Sunscreen – ever heard of it?)

Of course the answer is Marco, because he is an Italian like no other. Marco is a citizen of the world.

I also rely on Hanya Yanagihara, whose brilliant novel gives me respite and escape in the hot apartment in Cavi, when we are not swimming (the cold water is the only place that brings relief) in the Mediterranean that was today flecked with yucky debris from the passing yachts. Or raw sewage.

We sweat. We walk to Bagni Aurelia and swim. We open our computers, we read, we drink cappuccini and spremute d’aranica. We gaze at the strange Italians, so loud and demonstrative with their children – kissing and kissing them (I approve of this). We get naked, and we swim.

Lunches are fish and salad at the local restaurants. Dinners are light and eaten at home. Tonight we had cherries, gorgonzola, Emmenthal cheese, chunks of bread and gelato (limone, fiordilatte, nutella, e fragola). Acqua frizzante.

The people at Bagni Aurelia, (where we have a cabin and an umbrella plus two chairs on the sand, where we eat lunch at the ristorante), are like comic book characters. There is Stefano, the sarcastic Sicilian proprietor and Silvia, his mousey wife. There is the stream of fogey neighbors who ask about Gioia, Clara, Ross, and Dante. There is the elegant, nut-brown barista girl, the self-conscious lifeguards (don’t I look great in my red T-shirt and tight shorts?) and the hairy men in small bathing suits and ugly sandaled feet.

On the beach, we see the topless women lying prone in the sun, and the coconut vendors – “Cocco. Cocco bello!” There are the Africans and Moroccans selling towels and sunglasses. One of the African women, wearing a long cotton dress, carries a basket of towels on her head.

At home I read A Little Life. I cry sometimes at Jude’s plight. I sleep on the sofa and sweat. Then we descend the steep driveway to the street. We walk under the train tracks. We emerge on the other side, walk past the comic book characters and swim.

I can’t stand barking dogs or loud parties.

If anyone loud moves in next door to us at 229 Forty Love Point Drive, Chapin, SC 29036 — there will be blood. I’m warning the realtor — Robin Spohn — to keep the loud people away from us, or I’ll be calling the police every evening.

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