November 9, 2018, REDDER TAPE

MORE RED TAPE!   I guess my post from yesterday didn’t get published.  I’m having moments of confusion about using this blog site:

So not only do we need to go back to ground zero and start all over again to obtain a visa to allow us to enter Italy and stay for 90 days, meaning at least one trip to the consulate in San Francisco and playing the waiting game.  But we also have an argument running with our village over a tiny strip of land upon which our wrought iron fence was built some 30 years ago and which they now claim is theirs and for which we must pay many Euro.Further stories of inefficiency: we went to the train station at Chiusi to purchase our tix for the Dolomites — all well and good–except that the station mistress’s computer wouldn’t print out our tickets.  She became flustered, had to cancel the debit card transaction, start over again, and meanwhile a long line was forming behind us and a person muttered “Americani.”  Finally all is resolved and we’ll be on our way to the Italian Alps on Monday, stopping in Venice on the way back.

I promised stories about quirks and every day things, but I’m still sweating the red tape.  However, last night our doorbell rang and a woman appeared, apologizing for interrupting us.  A neighbor, she wanted to meet us because she has a house for sale and she thought maybe we knew some Americans looking for a house here.  If we knew such a person, we’d sell this apartment to them!!!  We got to visiting.  She grew up here in this tiny hamlet and attended the school, which comprised the ground floor of our present house.  The school room is now our ground floor studio apartment.  We live in an apartment on the third floor.  We are a house divided! The baby, Giacomo and his parents live in the apartment in between.   Lidia, the neighbor,, told me that she attended school here. The teacher lived in the apartment upstairs from the school room (now Giacomo’s apt) and had a child with “problems,” said Lidia, I assume handicapped.  Lidia told me that the teacher brought her child to the classroom every day.  In the 50’s before there were programs for special kids.  Now that’s a story I didn’t know!

Tomorrow I’ll be in a. better mood, I’ll post a few pictures and tell another story, OK?

I love that the hairdresser here calls my new violet hair color “castagna Beaujolais.”

Chestnut beaujolais — leave it to the Italians to be poetic!

Ciao tutti!

Red Tape!

November 7, 2018 It took us 24 hours, door to door, to arrive here in Mazzarelli from Seattle. And it will take 3 times that long to get over jet lag. Why do I love it here in Italy? Well, it’s not because of RED TAPE: Driver’s license: We must have an Italian license if we stay here longer than 90 days. This requires “residency” which we obtained a few years ago, and the renewal of our “permesso di soggiorno,” which we allowed to lapse. We’ve started the renewal procedure, involving plenty of paperwork and personal appearance at the police station in Perugia, the big city 45 minutes away by car. I dread these police station visits because the lines are always really, really long, with no place to sit and stone faced government employees. We are immigrants here in Italy. We add to the economy. At the “questura” (police station) all immigrants are treated alike. At least there is not a wall, not yet anyway. Here are the topics I plan to explore on this blog: Quirks in the village. Friends here. Human interest stories, some happy, some sad. Dante’s “inferno.” The French connection. Groups.My new neighbor (3 months old, Giacomo.).

Venice in May and Umbrian Quirks

Buon Giorno tutti!  Hello everybody!

Very soon I’m going to “launch” this blog, putting the word out to everyone I know hoping they’ll read me!

Now that my inertia and technical difficulties are resolved, I’m moving forward on this “Bella ciao” blog.


This is not a travelogue, It’s not about food and hotel recommendations.  It’s about Italian  culture.


The Venice Architectural Biennial, open now thru November 25 2018.

Quite by accident we happened upon the opening weekend of the Venice Architectural Biennial — a fair/exposition ranging over the entire city, with an intellectual focus on  architecture.  (In two years there will be an Arts Biennial.)

Our goal was to see Venice again, a second time.  I wanted to attend “La Traviata” in the newly rebuilt La Fenice Opera House.  It burned in a fire in 1996 and took years amid great controversy to rebuild.   The singing, the orchestra, the ambiance of the gorgeous theater “Traviata” pleased us immensely.

Also we intended to see an exhibit by the abstract/pop art German painter Albert Oehlen (see picture).  The retrospective called “Cows by the Water” runs in conjunction with the Biennial, taking over the entire strikingly renovated Palazzo Grassi, owned by Henri Pinault, one of France’s wealthiest men.  The paintings and the palace together make up a visual feast.

We stayed in a giant hotel on the island called “Giudecca,” in a Hilton Hotel, once a flour mill.  This island is delightfully calm compared to the main island San Marco.  We saw 5-6 cruise ships, in fact they passed right by our noses on the Giudecca Canal as we were having breakfast.  We know they disgorged thousands of passengers each day and we did our best to AVOID THOSE THRONGS!

We walked the back streets of Giudecca Island and discovered how the locals live.  Mind you, there are no cars in Venice.  Everyone travels by foot or by boat.  We loved the repurposed monastery,  now an artist’s enclave.  A relaxing island, with little commercial activity, just lots of canals, boats and windowboxes.

A vaporetto (boat) took us to peaceful San Giorgio Island, where there is absolutely NO commercial activity, only a beautiful papal Basilica. There we saw a glass art exhibit from Marseilles, France. It is part of the Biennial.  Since our home town, Seattle, is known for art glass, we were most interested and pleasantly surprised.  We attempted to see the 12 Vatican Chapels, commissioned by the Holy See for the Biennial.  Alas, it was invitation only.  We will return in November to see the chapels.

Ai Wei Wei’s “Gilded Cage” is visible from a vaporetto, a boat one can take to the Biennial Giardini, the cluster of 30 some pavilions, each from a different nation, each housing an architectural exhibit and the true centerpiece of the Biennial. The US pavilion showed a giant map of the US/Mexico border, elaborating on the many things that can cross borders:  ideas, questions, books, insects, air, water and disease, just to name a few.

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We dared into hot, crowded San Marco square to see another exhibit of the Biennial, the original Olivetti store.  Bob sold Olivetti so many chips that he thought we should have been guests of honor.

I could go on for days about the Biennial and about Venice.   I’ve become a Venetophile. I’ve become a “lagoonatic.”  I love it, I love the water, the boats, the vistas.  We dined beside the Giudecca canal. We ate small plates of “Cichetti.”  We’ll be back!

Next posting will be about my observations of the people, the natives, the locals, who live around here.   Wonder what they think about me?   A dopo – “see you later!”





22 Maggio 2018. Bella Ciao!

“Hello Beautiful Morning!”  “Mi son svegliato.”  “I awoke.”  The folk song with the title “Bella Ciao” became famous after World War II with its anti-fascist message.  Today the song has an expanded message: environmental activism.IMG_0323 (1)

Living here in Paciano, Italy, I awake every morning to a world new to me. I will talk about this experience throughout my blog.  Read along with me!

Do you know what the words “Bella” and “Ciao” mean?  “Bella” is the feminine form  of “bello” which means beautiful or handsome. In the case of this song, “Bella” refers to the beautiful “mattina,” or morning.  “Ciao” means hello and good bye, depending on the circumstances.  How easy is that?

I want to talk to you today about the lovely view I have from my window as I write this. The amazing red of the geranium has been nurtured by the equally amazing sun and rain of May.  In the near distance are fields of wheat, ripening, turning daily from bright green to yellow/orange.  There’s a soccer goal in the playground. May I remind you that soccer is the king of Italian sports? In the far distance, looking west, and hiding in the clouds is Monte Amiato in Tuscany.  They say that when it gets really hot here in the summer, people go to the top of Monte Amiato to cool off.  I go to Seattle.

Last Friday evening we had the pleasure to take part in a special “apericena,” called an “apericouscous.”  An “apericena” is an evening meal with drinks.  The “apericouscous” took place in a small bar outside the main gate of nearby Castiglione del Lago. The meal consisted of 3 giant round trays of couscous.  The proprietor of the bar is a Moroccan named Nabil.  He’s a very good cook.  The couscous dishes were hidden under giant embossed silver domes.  The music started, the lights lowered, Nabil rang the bell and the “cena” was ready.   The theme of the bar is North African, with Moroccan rugs, lamps and accessories and the pleasure of “couscous” dining  takes place under ancient olive trees.

We especially liked this experience because it is something so different from the usual, but excellent, Italian food we encounter here.

Buon appetito!



21 Maggio 2018. Introduction to My Blog


The title of my blog, “Bella Ciao,” comes from the refrain of a famously heartfelt Italian song,  “Bella Ciao” means “beautiful hello.”

The song is beloved because it’s about waking up to a new world.  It’s a symbolic song about the need and hope for change.  It was first sung in France!

“La mattina, sono svegliata:  Bella Ciao, Bella Ciao, Bella Ciao Ciao Ciao!’

“In the morning, I awakened:  beautiful hello, beautiful hello, beautiful hello!”

Now that you know what the title means, let me tell you what this blog is about?  I, Carolyn, an American from the Seattle area, live in Italy for about 5 months of the year.  I live deep in the countryside in a green valley in Umbria, to be exact, with my husband, Bob.  This blog is not just about tourism, nor is it just about food, but rather I wish to share with you my impressions of Italian culture.  I may touch on the abundance of beautiful artworks and landscapes, but all the while I’ll be reporting on my daily life and experiences as an American woman in Umbria. Dear reader, allow me to take you by the hand.  Let’s “wake up” together to a changing world, the world of Italy.  It’s always full of surprises!

Bella Ciao!