Devastation in Central Italy Today

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As most of you know, Italy was hit by a major earthquake early this morning. The quake struck in Italy’s central region, spanning Umbria, Le Marche, and Lazio, at 3:36 am local time while everyone was fast asleep. The old medieval buildings in Amatrice, Accumoli, and Arqua del Tronto collapsed – trapping hundreds inside.

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The magnitude 6.1 quake has already claimed 120 lives and injured 370 – sadly, this figure is most likely to increase.  The mayor of Amatrice reported that half the town is gone, meanwhile the mayor of Accumoli has said that there are no longer any homes that are habitable. Tents are being put up to house those displaced, and the many tourists in the area have been told to go home.

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The before and after shots clearly show the devastation that has occurred in these beautifully picturesque small towns, whose stone structures have withstood centuries, and which have been wiped away in the span of a few seconds.

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Risotto with Chives

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As I’m trying to watch my carb intake, I don’t eat much rice…but every once in a while, a good creamy risotto is such comfort food!

Ingredients:

1 cup Arborio rice

1 cup diced yellow onion

1/2 c. white wine

3 to 4 cups chicken broth, warmed

1 c. grated parmesan cheese

2 T. butter

Truffle oil or truffle salt

I package chives, minced

2 T. parsley, minced

Directions:

Heat some olive oil in a pot. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the rice and sauté a few minutes. Pour in the wine and stir constantly until the wine evaporates. Add the broth, one scoop at a time, and cook until the broth is incorporated. Continue in this manner until the rice is tender.

Add in the parsley, chives, butter, and parmesan cheese. Stir for a while and add some pepper and either the truffle salt or the truffle oil. Stir and serve.

Top with some more Parmesan cheese, if desired.

La Macedonia di Frutta

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Nothing reminds me more of the summers I spent in Italy as a young girl than La Macedonia! My aunt used to prepare for me a HUGE bowl of this delicious fruit salad, with all the freshest summer fruits she could find. She used to stare in awe as I finished off a whole bowl of it. “How can such a tiny thing eat so much Macedonia?”, she’d wonder.

Since those days, I’ve always been a big fan of summer fruit salads. I like to throw whatever fresh fruit I have and mix it up with just a little bit of lemon and orange juice, and a tiny pinch of sugar. When I had my first child, in August of 1986, summer was in full bloom and it seems like I survived on Macedonia di Frutta! I lost all my pregnancy weight, plus 4 pounds, within 2 weeks of having my baby! Was it the Macedonia di Frutta or just the fact that I was a first-time mom and was so nervous I forgot to eat!

Too Many Tourists in Italy?

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Summertime is probably the busiest time of the year to travel to Italy – not only are there lots of foreigners visiting but Italians themselves take their vacations in August. I’ve always thought that it was not a very good idea for almost the whole of Italy to shut down during the Ferragosto Holiday (the weeks around August 15th). It seemed to me that the poor Italians had to visit the beaches and the mountains (or wherever they want to spend their holiday) when they were at the peak of crowds! I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly like to sit on a beach among the hundreds of beach chairs all lined up in a row (and several rows deep!)….

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I like to be able to spread out and enjoy a tiny bit of paradise to myself. That is relaxing to me – not surrounded by hundreds of people. But that’s the way it is and maybe Italians are used to that!

But now, worse than ever, things are getting seriously crowded in many Italian tourist destinations that there is talk of limiting the number of tourists in these locations! Can you imagine planning a trip to the Cinque Terre or Venice and being turned away because they have reached their limit for the day? It’s as bad as visiting Disneyland or some other amusement park!

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According to the latest statistics, the amount of tourists in Venice and Florence has risen by 5%, in Capri 9%, and a staggering 20% in the Cinque Terre! This is putting a strain on lodging and on also on the life of those that live in these places. For example, there are only 5000 people who live in the Cinque Terre, but they get over 2 million visitors a year! Of course, this tourism brings lots of money into these areas, but it’s also becoming too much to handle.

It seems to me that there are logistical problems with trying to impose these limits – how do you close an entire city from more people coming in? It’s not like a paid attraction where you can limit visitors at the door. So I don’t think this will be successful but maybe other, less popular but just as beautiful locations, can be pumped up so that tourists are dispersed and not concentrated in just a few of these heavily populated vacation spots.

What are some of your favorite locations in Italy that may not be as crowded? Mine would be the Italian Lakes, even though I know they get their fair share of crowds during the summer months…

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Walking on Water

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What better way to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Fendi fashion house than to create a runway on the water’s surface of the incredible Trevi Fountain in Rome! Many large corporations (and among those, many fashion houses) have taken on the costs to restore Italy’s monuments and treasures. Fendi’s project was the Trevi Fountain – and to commemorate the end of the restoration as well as their 90th anniversary, they put on this incredible runway show!

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Watching the models stroll across the fountain on a sheer runway truly looks like they are walking on the water’s surface. The backdrop and the fashions are one of a kind – absolutely a phenomenal sight to behold. (Photos are from PanoramItalia)

The Floating Piers of Lago Iseo

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The beautiful northern Italian Lago Iseo, located between Milan and Venice, has become the canvas for the latest work of art by Christo and his late wife, Jean-Claude (their other works include Wrapped Fountain and Wrapped Medieval Tower in Spoleto; Wrapped Monuments in Milan; and The Wall – Wrapped Roman Wall in Rome).

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The Floating Piers was conceived in 1970 by the duo and finally brought to fruition. For 16 days this summer (from 6/18 to 7/3), visitors can walk on these piers which will create walkways into the lake and around the island of San Paolo.

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The docks, or piers, are created with modular cubes of high-density polyethylene and covered in a shimmering yellow fabric.

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The wind and the waves create a living art exhibit that offers a unique experience – no two people will experience the exact same thing! The piers undulate with the waves and the sensation will be like walking on water!

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The exhibit is free to all, and open at all times (as long as the weather cooperates!).

As much as I can appreciate the engineering involved and the experience that this “living art” exhibit offers, I can’t help but feel it’s an eyesore to the beauty of this magnificent lake. I’m probably not very popular with this thought, but if I was visiting this lake as a tourist to see its beauty (and not the exhibit), I would be disappointed that I couldn’t see it untouched by the orange piers. Thankfully it’s just temporary and soon the natural beauty of this beautiful lake, surrounded by mountains, will be restored.

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The photos are courtesy of Here & Now.

 

 

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Good from Tragedy…

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On September 29, 1994,  an American family (Reg and his wife Maggie, 7-year old Nicholas and 4-year old Eleanor) were vacationing in Italy when, late on a Thursday night between Salerno and Reggio Calabria on their way to Sicily, masked bandits opened fire on their car. “There was a small car following me from close behind,” Mr. Green told reporters later. The car came up alongside their car and the masked bandits began to shout something that he and his wife did not understand. The story goes that the bandits mistook their car for that of a jeweler whom they wished to rob. Reg Green accelerated while the bandits followed and opened fire at the rear of the car where the children were sleeping in the back seat. Mr. Green kept accelerating and the bandits kept following and shooting. It was only after the gunmen had abandoned their pursuit and the Greens pulled  over did they realize that Nicholas had been shot in the head. Sadly, Nicholas passed away in Messina a few days later.

Rather than seek vengeance and blame Italy for their tragedy, the Green’s selflessly decided to donate Nicholas’ organs to allow other Italians to live. “I would have liked him to live a long time,” Maggie Green said of her son. “Now I wish the same thing for his heart.”

“Perhaps they do not realize how rare that gesture is in our country,” said Gregorio Botta, a columnist in the newspaper La Repubblica. “Perhaps they do not realize that half the children with heart ailments in Italy do not make it and die while awaiting a transplant.” Italy was filled with an emotion they had never felt when the decision to donate his organs and corneas became known. Organ transplants had been very rare in Italy, but since this generous act shown by a foreign family to the citizens of a country where their personal tragedy occurred, organ donations has tripled. The “Nicholas Effect” was born out of this horrible event. This is the title of the motivational book written by Reg Green, but mostly, it’s the movement that sharply increased awareness of the multitude of deaths around the world cause by the shortage of donated organs. As stated in the book, “it sent an electric shock through the human spirit.”

The Italian populace, inspired by this generous act, donated bells to create an everlasting sign of gratitude to Nicholas Green’s family. A moving memorial was erected in their home town of Bodega Bay, California. My friend Susan recently visited and here is her story and pictures:

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A beautiful memorial for a 7 year old boy in Bodega Bay! Nicholas Green was on vacation in Italy his family, all from Bodega Bay, when road thieves shot him. His parents lovingly donated his organs to seven Italians who were awaiting donations. The Italian community were so touched by the gesture they collected bells and sent them to his family and the Bodega Bay community erected the tower for the bells. The large center bell at the top was forged by the Papal Foundry and was blessed by Pope John Paul II. It has ‘Nicholas’ at the top and the seven Italian’s names who received the organs below it.  

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Some bells donated had been in Italian families for generations, or had been donated by churches.  There  are sticks at the base that people use to reach up to bells to ring them if the wind is not blowing

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The bell tower memorial is at the end of a short path – in wide open field because Nicholas loved playing in wide open spaces! This bell is especially touching as it depicts his giving of himself to others…

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If you are in Bodega Bay, stop by for a visit and honor this little boy’s legacy, and the love his parents showed despite tragedy.

Two men were arrested in November 1994 for the shooting:  Francesco Mesiano and Michele Iannello. They were tried, but in January 1997 they were found not guilty because Reg Green could not positively identify them. However, a year later, with no new evidence, another court with a jury convicted the pair. This decision was upheld by Italy’s supreme court in 1999 and the two are still behind bars – hopefully to stay there forever!