December 28, 2020
2020 is almost over. It is nearly Capodanno, New Year’s Eve. Looking back now at the year we have all experienced, I can see how our plans went awry, including mine. Let’s review.
I returned to the sea and Chiavari from the USA in Early January, bursting with ideas for travel experiences in Italy.
I asked my followers for ideas of off the beaten path travel in Italy. After all, I would spend the entire 2020 in Italy. I would have loads of time to venture out and explore. You offered so many locales and I researched areas to visit, often while sitting by the sea.
It may have been chilly but, as always, people were out and about. It looked like a fabulous year was ahead.
By the end of January, there were so many storms I wondered what Mother Earth was trying to tell us.
We heard stories of a new strain of the coronavirus in China with a few cases beyond their borders. It must be just a flu, we thought.
I was so happy being in Italy, by the sea, with Italians and speaking Italian as much as I could, that I turned a bit of a blind eye to the first news of this coronavirus because I wanted to follow my plan for the 2020. I bought a ticket to fly to Catania, Sicily in February for my first adventure of 2020.
My cousin, Vincenzo, with his granddaughter.
As February rolled out, I had a heartbreak and a scare. My cousin in Rome, Vincenzo, the man who was one of my first introductions to my Italian family in 1971, and an incredibly patient person with my family and me, passed away. I never got to say goodbye. I think of his kindness and generosity all the time and wish I had spent more time with him.
Next, I found out I had a growth on my thyroid. I would be folloiwng up on this anomaly shortly. It was frightening especially since my own father had experienced thyroid cancer as did my cousin Ron. I had an appointment scheduled but first I would travel.
I was off to Sicily in search of the perfect cannoli.
Catania was my first stop. I spent three nights there, exploring parks,
Where the local men spent their time gathering.
I visited churches full of baroque extravagance,
And gorgeous art.
I met locals in the piazza.
Another spectacular fountain
By the fish market.
And so much more.
My friends Linda, Bruno and I drove north along to coast to explore.
(Taormina and Mt. Etna)
(View from Castelmola above Taormina)
(Hanging with locals in Castelmola)
And the Islands of the Cylcops area further south. It was spectacular.
We journeyed by car through the interior of Sicily the next day and drove forever until we reached Trapani and Erice, the incredibly stunning hilltop town.
We also asked locals where to eat—they knew where to enjoy authentic meals.
We visited a famous Pastry shop too. My aunt used to make these beauties (below).
Ciao Ciao, Erice.
This hanglider enjoyed his ride down without the switchback roads we endured. It is a lovely place to visit.
After these adventures, it was time to return to the southeastern area of Sicily where I fell in love with Ortigia.
This island of Baroque structures,
medieval buildings, plus excellent food and wine was a definite place where I got lost and loved it.
Right next to the market.
Can you tell I loved visiting Ortigia?
I couldn’t leave Sicily without experiencing Carnevale. Linda, Bruno and I were headed for a local one in the mountains. Let’s go to Corsino!
My search for the best Cannolo ever ended at the Corsino Pastticceria. Everything looked amazing. It was pastry porn!
Now we were fortified with pastry, coffee and cool, crisp sunshine.
They were ready too.
So many colorful floats!
And people ready to party.
After this gathering, we decided, since we were close to a town that Bruno and Linda love, Buccheri, we would drive there through these mountains,
With Mt. Etna in sight.
We arrived in Buccheri’s central piazza where everyone knew Bruno. We moved on to see the sights,
Along medieval streets,
Where we stopped to visit
This tiny eatery is famous all over Sicily and is always fully booked. Again, they knew Linda and Bruno.
Yet, of course, we had no reservation. We simply chatted and enjoyed the titillating scents coming from the kitchen.
Instead, we shared a meal
surrounded by art.
Buccheri is a hidden joy with excellent food and views that is worth a return visit!
Our next move the following day was mainly to see the restructure Baroque town of Noto, a town destroyed by a horrible earthquake in 1693. Shortly, thereafter, construction began in a slightly different locale, to rebuild all that was lost in the traditional Sicilian Late Baroque style.
Most structures exhibited this above butter cream color and all the curly flairs of the Baroque era.
Even the balconies below were splendid.
Baroque is all about the tiny, often curvy, details.
It was a bit far from the sea but the air was salty and the people gathered everywhere. We stopped by the sea for a drink and a snack before heading to Linda and Bruno’s home for the night.
(on the backroads in Sicily)
Then it was off to Chiavari on 26 February.
By this time, Sicily had identified the first Sicilian Case of the coronavirus, now labeled Covid-19. There were more cases on the mainland and I was afraid to fly home, to go home at all. But I did. And as of the end of February, the Long Italian Lockdown was about to begin.
As soon as I took my grannie cart/grocery trolley to the local store, I settled inside my home. We were not officially locked down as of yet but we were concerned, urged to stay home whenever possible and wash our hands please.
Italy has about 60 million people living in country. Here are some stats for March:
Positivi = Positive covid case
Deceduti = Died
Guariti = Recovered
Six days later:
And I was ill. We were hearing so many emergency vehicle sirens that I began to jump when I heard them. In Italy, you called in if you were ill. They came to your home and tested you. Then they took you to the hospital.
I didn’t want to go. So I never called or got tested. I had incredibly horrid body aches, loss of smell and taste, screaming headaches difficulty breathing, terrible chills and fever. I was also all too familiar with my bathroom. I slept almost around the clock and when awake, I was foggy brained. I didn’t eat much at all. I drank an enormous amount of water. And I was completely exhausted.
So many people were being put on ventilaters. I hated the thought of that. I didn’t think it was the worst kind of Covid and I decided I would stay home no matter what. I was lucky. But I was also ill for at least a month. I didn’t want to talk about it. I couldn’t. I would spend my better moments writing about the trip to Sicily, singing from my balcony—that was at the beginning, and reading everything about Covid-19. I moved on to Introspection and playing percussion instruments. I needed to be alone with my own thoughts. I hoped I had enough inner life to make it through this crazy Covid mess.
We were in Lockdown. We could not leave the house but once per day and that was only for a walk of 200 meters from our door. We could travel a bit further to buy food if necessary. And those with dogs could go out twice I believe. It was always alone too—even the dog walks were by one person. We carried paperwork in case stopped by the police to see why were were outside. And the lungomare was closed off! I used to sneak on it, alone, for a few minutes.
It gave me a bit of hope.
Unlike the USA, we had plenty of toilet paper. What we did not have was hand sanitizer. I ordered mine on line from Morelli Antica Grapperia, a liquor company making hand sanitizer. I ordered a couple liquores too. We all needed liquor.
I took tree photos, local scenes on my short walks.
All the restaurants were shut down. Only Pharmacies, grocery stores, the Post office and travel services like taxis, buses and trains were open—but you really couldn’t go anywhere. And all places had plexiglass shields, hand sanitizer, etc. Every other seat on the train or bus would be blocked off. Social distancing was a huge deal in Italy. And, MASKS were always worn outside.
I saw an advertisement for a company who normally serviced restaurants offering deliveries to homes. I thought I should support a local business. And I placed an on line order. I was not too careful about reading the details. I didn’t check the sizes of frozen vegetables I purchased.
I thought the butter was expensive but they did deliver. Look at the size of it next to a normal sized butter—below.
I bought way too much meat and it was not sliced. That is 2 kilos of prosciutto crudo (4.4 lbs.!!!) in front, plus speck and salami. Oh lordie, it was a LOT of meat. (Below) I actually sold the Speck for 5 euros to someone less fortunate.
I ate so much meat I gave it up for a month when it was finally all gone. I had butter until July!
That was one of the funniest things I did during lockdown. I also did not have hair color. I had a skunk line on my head that I did not want anyone to see. I finally ordered hair color on line. I think that as April.
We all were living in our pajamas. But this is Italy! I think it is a LAW that you must look good when you leave the house. It became a game for many of us to clean up and dress up to take out the garbage. What WILL I wear today? Some people began wearing costumes to take out the trash. I wish I had photos of those. I wore a hat to cover my skunk line. Arrrrggggh.
The rest of the world watched as the numbers grew and grew in Italy.
These are the stats for Liguria. I live in the Genova (GE) province. We had 3024 positives by 28 April just in the Genova Province. It was climbing fast. And we were nowhere near the highest State in Italy.
I visited the market by the end of April. It took me that long to get a facemask.
There were few people at the market. And walking to and from it, the streets were almost completely bare of other humans.
I crept near the tape by the sea walk and enjoyed the view.
Oh how I wanted to be there. And I wanted this all to be over.
In the USA, my daughter began to work from home full time. My granddaughter was home too, doing school on line. This was one of the benefits for me from Covid. My girls live 9 time zones away from me. It was always a challenge to chat with them. Now, while my daughter worked and my granddaughter took breaks, she and I would talk face to face nearly every day.
And we discovered crazy faces.
We played like two kids and spent an hour or two together every single day. I loved this opportunity to be her Nonna. I think she kept me sane.
Still in Lockdown by the end of April here in Italy. Our numbers of new cases, and deaths were coming down. I worrried about everyone else more than myself here. I felt safer in Italy than I felt for others in the USA especially.
Everyone I knew was feeling claustrophobic. We want OUT.
And dear Lord, I need a hair cut without the use of a bowl and a hand mirror.
And I want a glass of wine or an aperitivo outside by the sea somewhere. Please.
Rumors of the end of lockdown were so enticing. I made plans with a friend to meet for Pizza Napoletano on the first day that the restaurants and bars would open.
But for now, know that the first Italian lockdown was coming to a close in May. More to come. Keep following along. Thank you for following too. It was another thread that has kept me going as we move through the year. Until next time.
Ciao for now!
Thank you for following!
Ciao for Now!
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