December 30, 2020
I swear that the year 2020 is at least 2 or 3 years long. It was May before Lockdown, Italian style, came to an end and, restaurants were reopening. I was so sick of my own cooking that I planned to have lunch with a friend and eat my favorite Napoletano Pizza at a local restaurant, Vera Napoli. It is normally about a 10 minute walk from my home. This day, something happened. I still do not understand what caused it. But that 10 minute walk turned into about 30 with 6 sit downs along the way.
My heart was racing, and I experienced dizziness and shortness of breath. There was a tightness in my chest and, when I sat down, my heart was beating about 160 times per minute. What was happening?
Once I sat at the outdoor table and drank a spritz with my pizza, my heart slowed to about 80 beats per minute. I thought it was a fluke.
After we ate, we walked into town and admired the façades along the way. And my heart was racing again. I had to take a taxi home where I took aspirin and lay down for the rest of the day. My heart was irratic. My chest hurt off and on as did my jaw, my neck, my shoulders and my arm. But I hate going to the doctor.
The next day it was an ambulance ride to the hospital. After 4 ECGs and a myriad of tests, they still did not know what caused this event. I was put on a beta blocker to keep my heart in check and went home. I had several other tests but no one knows what happened that day. I am alive. It wasn’t a heart attack.
Life goes on.
Jasmine is blooming, the scent of it is intoxicating. We were officially out of Lockdown with very low counts of new Covid-19 cases. I didn’t feel healthy enough to start traveling yet
the lungomare was open and the focaccia the best in the country.
Beach chairs were appropriately spaced and ready for visitors. Few had yet arrived.
Everything was blooming.
My friend, Barley, the dog who blogs, and his help came for a visit.
We enjoyed each other’s company for a few days of fun in Chiavari.
By the last week of June I was ready to head west and explore more new areas of Liguria beyond Genoa and Celle Ligure.
I took the train west where one of my first stops was the stunning town of Laigueglia.
Although I was only at the seaside briefly, I fell in love with this town and will return.
For five days, my driver and I explored the Hinterlands of this side of Liguria where few Americans ever travel. Boy, you do not know what you are missing, USA travelers!
There are ancient, medieval towns reconstructed, far from the normal hordes of travelers. Beachtime along the Mediterranean here is exquisite. Towns like the enclaves that comprise Varezzi are breathtaking.
Views Views Views.
And late 19th century faux painting is everywhere as it is in Chiavari.
Each locale was unique, all had fabulous olive oil, wine, food. I met some of the most amazing people on this adventure, enjoyed organic, biodynamic wares, experienced the Slow Food Movement in Liguria and wow, I loved it all.
My driver and I explored museums
And churches, medieval construction and amazing meals.
Winding streets with flying buttresses supported buildings and laundry, always laundry.
Each town has its own version of the little streets and a unique feel to it.
Varigotti is the most unusual seaside town I visited.
The Saracin (Arabic) influenced construction and color was so inviting. I hope to stay in the town for a bit in 2021.
One of the best adventures of July was a ferry ride to Portovenere and time on this paradise island.
I would highly recommend this ferry. The views along the way include many stylish beach towns including the Cinque Terre villages.
And many you may never have heard of.
Personally, I adore the rocky promontories and the boats everywhere.
On the island you can explore a Romanesque Church overlooking the sea, a castle even higher and the entire city itself.
As we began the month of August, we seemed to have Covid-19 licked. Most days we had around 200 NEW CASES IN ALL OF ITALY. What would August travel do to those low numbers. We would need to wait and see.
Throughout the summer, especially in August, it was hotter than Hades itself. My little appartamento was without air conditioning. I had 7 fans going almost every day. It got so hot I could not think or drink enough water to stay hydrated. So I decided to explore a close by town and stay in an air conditioned hotel.
I took a short train ride to Moneglia where the water is rated among the cleanest in Italy. Italians and other Europeans flock to this town every year. This year it was mostly Italians.
Even in high season, the beach was monitored for safe distancing and number of people allowed on the beach at any given moment. Even in the water, people spaced their family groups away from each other.
Centro Storico, Town Center, is well preserved and a wonderful walk.
It is mostly flat as is Chiavari’s Centro Storico which makes it easy. Sometimes it felt as though I had it all to myself. There is beauty everywhere in this town.
I will return.
By the end of August, Covid-19 cases had begun to rise.
Chiavari is beautiful in September. I could have remained home the entire month. However, I had a feeling that it was time to travel now or, perhaps, not for the rest of the year.
My first adventure carried me via train to Siena and the surrounding Crete Senese. I spent time with friends and experienced the once per year opening of the upper level of the Duomo in Siena.
Views from above are incredible.
All those tiny pieces creating these scenes on the floor!
Looking straight at the rose window was stupendous!
The adventure in this area included so much art, so much beauty, especially natural beauty. Of course the food, wine and people were incredible too.
My next exploit carried me to Luinigiana, where Tuscany kisses Liguria.
And where my friends Eva and Chris live. We went wine tasting, ate excellent food, laughed and worked together plus they took the time to show me a new area of Italy.
And here, Sarzana. What a lovely town! I will definitely return here.
Meanwhile, the Covid-19 numbers were exploding all over the world, including Italy. It was unnerving. Yet, I wanted to travel, made plans. I kept traveling.
Next stop: Vicopisano and Brunelleschi’s Manor. Vicopisano is a gorgeous small town near Lucca and Pisa. Brunelleschi, who built the Duomo roof in Florence built a fortified community in Vicopisano. After 6 years of Restoration of the manor, it opened at the beginning of the Covid-19 epidemic in Italy. I visited in September.
The original fortification walls are adjacent to the modern pool. My apartment was by the pool, the restored barn, now with amenities.
I loved the kitchen area. The only modern equipment that was visible was the microwave. All else, including the air conditioning units, was behind wood framing.
I found the living area, with the original walls and feeding trough, to feel like comfortable ambiance.
Again, I will be returning to this area in 2021 and to this place. Every apartment was individually outfitted and stunning. The winery, olive oil and kiwi farm,
and other places I visited were very good, as were the eating establishments.
Are you hungry yet?
While numbers climbed, I headed for Rome. As usual, I stayed in the Monti district, this time very near the Colosseum where I would be taking a tour with Carpe Diem Tours.
It was rainy but who can complain while in the Eternal City? Not me.
For dinner the first night, I savored a plate of Cacio e Pepe, my favorite Roman pasta meal.
The following day, I explored with Carpe Diem Tours as scheduled. I haven’t been in the Forum and the Colosseum in 2 years. I usually do not take tours but this one was excellent.
I had hoped to see my Buzzelli family while in Rome on the last evening. Unfortunately, I became ill and could not go. However, the day before, I met a cousin I did not know existed. She is a Del Fiacco cousin and I adore her.
It was so fun to get to know her. Thank you, Carla.
It was close to the end of September when I left Rome and headed to Tuscany once again. This time I would be in the Chianti area mainly, sleeping in Panzano, a town I had not yet visited.
My friends Arianna and Alessio met me at the Florence Train Station.
We drove into the Chianti region for exploration and
wine tasting with lunch.
We visited Montofioralle (above) and S. Michele A Passignano (below).
This medieval masterpiece of a religious facility houses so much including
The Last Supper by Ghirlandaio, one of my favorite Renaissance artists.
After all that walking and exploring we stopped for Merenda, afternoon snack.
This is just a portion of it.
I also explored my B&B plus the town of Panzano. We enjoyed dinner together too.
The food was exquisite, especially the dessert.
Too Bad it was too cold to eat on the patio.
When time came to return to Chiavari, I was ready to be home.
Covid numbers were rising fast. Rumors of another lockdown were everywhere. I was tired. I do love all of Tuscany and my friends there. I will return in 2021. But now it was time to nest, recoup my energy and stay safe while worrying about all the people I love all over the world, but especially in the USA where Covid was running rampant with only chaotic safety rules. Happy Halloween.
I am back home in Liguria, enjoying pasta with pesto sauce by the sea. This was 2 days after the US Elections and I needed a break from news and from my own cooking. We were under new rules in Italy. Masks were absolutely required after 6pm until 6am in an attempt to stop the nighttime gathering of the young party people who were catching the coronavirus now. At the beginning of the month there were threats of a lockdown closing all the restaurants and bars, except for take out places. This was coming, I knew, but not yet. I was dreading it but I believed it was necessary. Covid cases were skyrocketing in Italy again. In the US, it was truly frightening to watch.
The news of protests and questions regarding the election’s validity stressed me out completely. Talk of violence in the US, of Covid, of deaths rising even in areas that had been careful was always at the back of my mind. Still the sea helps me relax. And good food served by someone else was a gift to my soul.
Soon we were in lockdown once again. There are three color designations.
Red is everything is closed up and very little movement is allowed. You could not leave the town you lived in, except to shop for groceries if your tiny town had no grocery stores—then once per week you could shop. Orange is slightly better but most all things are closed. And we could leave our towns. Yellow granted free access to move betweent Regions. We began as Orange and, by the end of the month, we were Yellow before the end of November.
Above is how we handled it.
A friend sent me the above order for a coffee. I think we were all feeling something like this by the end of November, all over the world. Happy Thanksgiving, America.
In Italy, the number of new Covid cases were beginning to come down.
Christmas decorations were everywhere.
In Chiavari and everywhere in Italy the cities and towns were decorated as always. We were feeling festive. Yet, festivities in large groups were not allowed. In Liguria we were in the Yellow zone and could now travel but were hesitant to do so. I had hoped to go to Rome for Christmas. I would have loved that.
But, in an attempt to curb a burst of new Covid cases during the holiday season, The Italian government came up with new restrictions. In typical Italian fashion, it was complicated. We needed something to keep it all straight. See the calender from December 21st through January 10th above. We are yellow/red/orange through the 30th/red until the 7th except for the orange on the 4th. Good Lord. Thanks for the calendar—otherwise I would just lock myself in the house the entire time. Let’s hope it works.
Gatherings over Christmas were allowed but only 2 guests who do not live in your home were welcome and they must live in your commune, your town. Strict rules for no gathering. No restaurants open on the red and orange days. Nighttime patrols to make sure you are NOT OUTSIDE AFTER 10PM EVER. Did I already mention that we have had a curfew? We do. And we have paperwork to carry with us to prove we below where we are. Many of us spent Christmas alone.
However, Thank goodness for Zoom, Facetime, Duo, Facebook Messenger, Skype. I spent a couple hours on Christmas morning with family via the internet.
I saw my granddaughter’s joy as she opened presents. I saw my 96 year old father and we sang Silent night across the continents.
I ate good, gluten free pasta, pandoro and cantucci. It was almost like being there. And I thanked God and everybody for still being in my life, despite people catching Covid—they survived. And I had a lot of time to reflect.
What a year we have had. Below is a list of just some of the worst things.
No more Baci e abbracci, hugs and kisses greetings
Feeling powerless and unable to plan anything
George Floyd and other atrocities
Peaceful Protests around the world
Crazy looters and armed people
People shooting people
A rise in Domestic Violence
People without food in top tier countries
Fear, anxiety, depression everywhere
The Nashville bombing
People chose to ignore what was happening unless it affected them personally
Below are some the the wonderful things that happened this year.
The hole in the Ozone closed
The air pollution cleared
Dolphins swam in the Venice Canals
People helped people all over the world
Kindness appeared when least expected
New industries were initiated because of the life changes in Lockdown
Some of the funniest songs I have ever heard were created and posted on YouTube
Laughter helped save us from isolation and depression
Many of us had so much time to think that we re-evaluated our feelings and beliefs
We learned to let go and go with the flow
We had much more bonding time with family
We had time to figure out how to love ourselves and our neighbors if we chose to do it.
As 2020 comes to a close and we all say Ciao Ciao 2020 finalmente, Goodbye 2020 finally, many are saying good riddance too. We look to 2021 as a new era with hope for the future. If we can keep that feeling through the next challenging months, if we can live by the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” maybe life will become easier, covid will be less threatening, and the world can rebuild. Remember patience. Remember we are all—the entire world—in this together, fighting covid and learning new ways to live. You are not alone.
As 2020 began, I chose to work on one word, Kindness. I wanted to learn to be more kind to myself and to others. It was a challenge. Sometimes it didn’t work, but overall, I have incorporated more kindness into my soul.
For 2021, I will be working on patience and flexibility. We do not control the world and what is happening in it. I hope that travel to Italy will return quickly but I can have patience and flexibility. I will be here in Italy to help you when the time for planning that adventure comes to fruition. Until then, I will live by the sea, letting the sea’s ever changing mood and behavior help me understand my own, and I will be filled with hope for the future—I don’t give up easily.
Until next time, Buon Anno 2021, Happy New Year 2021.
Ciao for now!
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Ciao for Now!
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