Category Archives: reflections

Surprises with Google Maps

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Ispra’s town square from Google Maps

If you’ve never tried it, looking at the street view on Google maps is loads of fun. I’ve used it, of course, to check out my own home but also to look at potential hotels and other places to visit. The fun thing about it is that sometimes you can see cars, people, and animals that are familiar to you – they just happened to be around when the google car drove by mapping out the street.

 

A few days ago, I decided to “Google walk” down the streets of my parents’ home town in Ispra, on Lago Maggiore. I know the town pretty well so it was fun seeing all the old places that are so familiar to me. While I was “walking” in front of my aunt’s home, I noticed a car with two women standing outside. One of those women was my aunt and it brought such a smile to my face. You see, my aunt passed away a couple of years ago, and seeing her once more was such a blessing. She was always a really fun loving woman, full of life. The expression on her face as the funny-looking google car was driving down her street taking pictures was absolutely priceless! Her and her friend were looking at it like it was “una bestia rara” – a rare beast! (I love that expression – it’s so fitting!).

Try it sometime, you’ll love it! Especially when you discover little gems like I did! What a special treat!

Changes in the Marriage Vow

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It was publicized last week that “fidelity” will no longer be part of the Italian marriage vow…couples will no longer  need to promise to be “faithful until death do us part.” Let’s be honest, infidelity has been rampant in Italy for many years – mainly on the man’s part, but many times also on the wife’s side. There is a total double standard, though, when it comes to cheating – men are forgiven a lot easier than women. I guess society (and men) accept that desirable men have mistresses!  But for a  women, this is frowned upon!. According to the law, infidelity in women can lead to illegitimacy – and this can disrupt the family! After all, a man may not know if a resulting child is his if his wife’s been cheating on him! Wow….I never realized that all this legal thought went into that little phrase. For whatever reason, though, they have now decided to abolish it entirely from the marriage ceremony. What do you think?

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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There’s Something to be Said for a Simpler Life

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Like my mom always says, “life was better when I was young!”…at times I really think she is right! With all that we have, we are also missing a more simple life where we can appreciate the treasures of nature and the people around us.

I’m not sure who wrote this story, but it was taken from a post by Cinzia Rocchi. It really made me think about our lives and made me wonder how I, personally, would do moving to the country and living a simpler life. In my present-day life, I do try to incorporate a more genuine way of life into my daily routine as best I can, mostly by cooking fresh food with fresh ingredients. I guess that’s the Italian in me!  But I dream to do more – I’d love to be able to walk or ride my bike to buy my groceries, and chat with my neighbors on a regular basis. Sadly, these are almost non-existent for me. The first is almost impossible since I don’t live within walking distance of any stores and if I were to ride my bike, it would take too much time – time I don’t have. And the second is hard, too, since everyone around me is so busy working that no one is ever outside (me included!). This is sadly typical of life in the Silicon Valley. But am I just having romantic notions of life in the country? Is it really so idyllic?

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(The English translation follows at the bottom of this story)

Un padre ricco, volendo che suo figlio sapesse che significa essere povero, gli fece passare una giornata con una famiglia di contadini.Il bambino passò 3 giorni e 3 notti nei campi.

Di ritorno in città, ancora in macchina, il padre gli chiese:

– Che mi dici della tua esperienza ?

– Bene – rispose il bambino

Hai appreso qualcosa ? Insistette il padre

1 – Che abbiamo un cane e loro ne hanno quattro.

2 – Che abbiamo una piscina con acqua trattata, che arriva in fondo al giardino. Loro hanno un fiume, con acqua cristallina, pesci e altre belle cose.

3- Che abbiamo la luce elettrica nel nostro giardino ma loro hanno le stelle e la luna per illuminarli.

4 – Che il nostro giardino arriva fino al muro. Il loro, fino all’orizzonte.

5 – Che noi compriamo il nostro cibo; loro lo coltivano, lo raccolgono e lo cucinano.

6 – Che noi ascoltiamo CD… Loro ascoltano una sinfonia continua di pappagalli, grilli e altri animali…

…tutto ciò, qualche volta accompagnato dal canto di un vicino che lavora la terra.

7 – Che noi utilizziamo il microonde. Ciò che cucinano loro, ha il sapore del fuoco lento

8 – Che noi per proteggerci viviamo circondati da recinti con allarme… Loro vivono con le porte aperte, protetti dall’amicizia dei loro vicini.

9 – Che noi viviamo collegati al cellulare, al computer, alla televisione. Loro sono collegati alla vita, al cielo, al sole, all’acqua, ai campi, agli animali, alle loro ombre e alle loro famiglie.

Il padre rimane molto impressionato dai sentimenti del figlio. Alla fine il figlio conclude

– Grazie per avermi insegnato quanto siamo poveri !

Ogni giorno, diventiamo sempre più poveri perché non osserviamo più la natura!!!

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A rich father, wanting his son to learn the significance of being poor, made him spend time with a family of farmers.

The boy spent 3 days and 3 nights in the fields.

Upon returning to the city, while in the car, the father asked “how was your experience?”

“Good”, the boy responded.

“What did you learn?” asked the father.

  1. We have one dog and they have four.
  2. We have a swimming pool with treated water that sits at the back of our garden. They have a river with crystal clear water, fish and other beautiful things.
  3. We have electric lights in our garden, but they have the stars and the moon for light.
  4. Our garden finishes at a wall, whereas theirs goes all the way to the horizon.
  5. We buy our food. They grow it, reap it, and cook it.
  6. We listen to CD’s. They listen to a symphony of parrots, crickets, and other animals.
  7. We use the microwave. What they cook has the flavor of a slow fire.
  8. To protect ourselves, we have fences and alarms. They live with their doors open, protected by the friendship of their neighbors.
  9. We live connected to our cell phones, computers and televisions. They are connected to life by the sky, the water, the fields, the animals, their shadows and their families.

The father was very impressed with the sentiments of his son. At the end, the son says,

“Thank you for teaching me how poor we are!”

Every day, we become poorer and poorer because we no long observe nature!!

 

 

 

The Other Woman….

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Recently, I’ve been listening to some old music by the Italian group, Pooh!

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This group has been around since the mid 1960’s, and their songs always seem to tell a story.  I know that lots of people listen to music for the pure joy of the melody, while others listen carefully to the words.  I am one who always listens to the lyrics, and many times I try to figure out what the song is trying to say!  Most of the times, I can figure out the hidden meaning, if there is one, but other times, my imagination probably gets the best of me!  One of their songs that always makes me wonder is L’Altra Donna (The Other Woman).  When I listen to the lyrics, I’m touched in conflicting ways.  The song is a type of beautiful love letter to someone they can’t have, but also to someone that they don’t want to have. The singer is obviously married but is singing the song to his mistress.  I can’t help but get angry at the singer – he seems to want his cake and eat it, too.  He is getting all the benefits of having a wife and a mistress, but yet is being unfair to both of them.  I know that infidelity is rampant everywhere, but it seems to me that this song rationalizes its merits because the man is singing about love for his mistress (which proves he’s not a total cad) but yet, he won’t leave his wife for her.  In Italy, and not just in Italy but lots of other places too, I feel that the institution of marriage is sacred, but the vow of infidelity is often times ignored.  Therefore, men and women have lovers but yet, they will not leave their families for that lover.  That’s a good thing, don’t get me wrong, but I often wonder where that leaves the lover, especially if they don’t have a spouse.  And it seems to me that the only one who wins, is the one who is doing the cheating!  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the song – what do you think they’re trying to say and how does it make you feel?

L’Altra Donna

È ancora tutto all’aria da ieri sera,
è più comodo in albergo,
paghi il conto e te ne vai;
ma in certe cose tu ci credi ancora,
far l’amore nel tuo letto,
prepararmi il tuo caffè;
è poi mi lasci andare via, quando è ora,
perché ognuno ha la sua vita,
e la mia non è con te.
Sei l’altra donna,
la libertà,
quella che sa e non può dir niente,
quella che all’alba rimane sola,
e che non può mai lasciare impronte,
con me non puoi cercare casa,
o uscire insieme a far la spesa,
sei l’altra donna,
quella importante,
quella che ha tutto e non ha niente, di me.
Mio figlio è un’altra storia, un altro amore,
tu non puoi partecipare, Dio lo sa se io vorrei.
Tu in macchina con me non puoi fumare,
mozziconi col rossetto. parlerebbero di te;
ma in fondo tu che colpa hai del mio cuore,
delle ore che mi manchi, dei problemi che mi dai.
Sei l’altra donna,
la libertà,
quella che sa perché ritorno,
e quanta pace tu mi sai dare,
io dirò tutto a lei un giorno,
faremo insieme un’altra casa,
io e te che siamo un’altra cosa.
Io e te che siamo la stessa cosa,
faremo insieme la nostra casa;
prima dell’alba c’è ancora un’ora,
stringimi forte e sogna ancora,
di noi.

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The Other Woman

Everything’s still in the air from last night,

it’s more comfortable in the hotel,

you pay the bill and then you leave;

but you still believe in certain things,

making love in your bed,

preparing me your coffee;

and then you let me leave, when it’s time,

because we each have our own lives,

and mine is not with you.

You are the other woman,

my liberty,

the one who knows and can’t say anything,

the one who remains alone at sunrise,

and who can never leave traces,

you can’t look for a home with me

or go out together to go shopping,

you’re the other woman,

the important one,

the one who has everything and who has nothing of me.

My son is a different story, another love,

you cannot participate, God knows if I would want it.

In the car, you cannot smoke

leave lipstick marks, they’d speak of you;

but in the end you are not to blame for my heart

or the hours when I miss you, all the problems that you give me.

You’re the other woman,

my liberty,

the one who knows why I return,

and how much peace you know how to give me,

I’ll tell her everything one day,

and we’ll build another home together,

You and I are another thing.

You and I are the same thing,

we’ll build our own home together,

before sunrise there’s another hour,

hold me tight and dream again

of us.

Venice’s Fabulous Hotel Danieli and my SPG Experience

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I know I’ve already written a little about the extraordinary Hotel Danieli from our first visit there in 2004 (click here if you want to read it), but I thought I’d do an update from our recent visit during Carnevale 2015!  It’s nice to know that things have not changed at this hotel – they are still as wonderful as they were 10 years ago!  The only thing that I noticed changed is that they have gone to an electronic key system. Funny enough, though, is that they have kept the old fashioned tassle on the key!  You still turn in your key with the concierge when you leave (unless you don’t mind carrying around a huge bulky tassled key with you!) and they put it on the little peg board they have behind the desk!  It’s still so old fashioned that way!  And after 5 days of staying with them, I didn’t have to tell them my room number anymore when we came back into the hotel after our walks about town – they knew it!

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It’s great customer service when you feel like a hotel really pays attention to their guests and makes them feel so much at home!

Upon check-in, we found a bottle of prosecco in our room – a wonderful treat to make us feel so welcome!

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And then on my birthday, which I celebrated while in Venice, they sent me a beautiful chocolate cake!

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At first, I thought someone from my family may have ordered it delivered, but when I couldn’t find a card with it, I went and asked the concierge.  When I told him it was my birthday, he came out from behind the desk and gave me a big hug and kiss!  And then he happily told me that the hotel had sent it!  What a nice surprise!

We spent a lot more time using the facilities at the hotel on this visit – so much more than we did back in 2004!  Probably because we weren’t travelling with young kids 🙂  At every single moment, the service was exceptional.  We ended up having Aperol spritz’ in the lobby every afternoon and breakfast in the beautiful terrace restaurant every morning!  The views from the terrace are absolutely stunning!

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Too bad it was February, otherwise we would have definitely sat outside every morning and every night taking it all in.  Despite that, we were still able to go out to enjoy the terrace’s views – they are gorgeous and so magical!  It’s as if you are looking at Venice from a bird’s eye view!

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The hotel was beautifully decorated for Carnevale with fresh flowers and masks everywhere!

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And so many people were milling around in costumes – it’s as if they had stepped out of a history book!

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Amidst the antique and elegant surroundings, it felt as if we had walked back into 15th century Venice.  Wearing the attire helped 🙂

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The Hotel Danieli is definitely a very unique and stately hotel.  It is one of Venice’s finest, and because of that, it is quite pricey if you have to pay for a room.  But luckily, we paid absolutely nothing for our 5 night stay there!  You’re probably wondering how we did that!  I am going to let you in on the absolute BEST credit card loyalty program I have ever been a part of!  No, I don’t work for this program – I am only a BIG fan!  They really know how to treat those that are loyal to them with exceptional perks at their hotels!  I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and this program definitely deserves my praises.  They go above and beyond in customer service!  Sadly, we experience so little of that these days that when one finds someone that is running their business as it should be, it needs to be complimented and promoted!  The program is called SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) and it is affiliated with American Express.

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You get points by charging things on your AMEX card, and then you trade those points in for nights at Starwood Hotels (you can trade them in for other things, like flights, but I find that the hotel points are the best value).  The Starwood umbrella includes many brands:  Westin, St. Regis, Sheraton, W and Luxury (and many subsets of these!).  The hotels are found all over the world, and I have to say that we have expanded our travels so much more after becoming members back in 2003.  We have stayed at places (like the Hotel Danieli) that we probably would never have experienced if not members of this program.  It has also made our lives more spontaneous – we live fairly close to San Francisco and have, on more than one occasion, decided to stay overnight in SF on a whim (sometimes without even packing overnight bags and toothbrushes!).  I know that we would never have done this if we didn’t have the points to stay in a great hotel!  Not only can you experience staying in these beautiful hotels for free as soon as you have enough points for an eligible night, but you are handsomely rewarded for being loyal customers!  We have been members for quite a while, and because we use their hotels quite a bit, we have been promoted to Platinum status and have become eligible for suite upgrades.  At this level, even more benefits open up.  For instance, we get free internet and free breakfast every day of our stay.

During this particular stay at the Hotel Danieli, our breakfast, in the beautiful terrace restaurant, would have cost us 50 Euros per person per day. Instead, we got it complimentary!  And, as an added bonus, we were upgraded to a suite for our entire 5 night stay.

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We had a living room, which was decorated with fresh flowers every day, a lovely bedroom, a foyer with a vanity table, and a gorgeous marble bathroom!

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But the best part of our suite was the spectacular view of Venice’s main canal!  Every morning, when we opened the shutters, we were greeted by the sight of gondolas and an unobstructed view of San Giorgio Maggiore…it was just like living a dream.

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If you are interested in exploring this SPG card and all its benefits, here is the link!  If you do sign up, let them know that Barbara Rindge sent you (yes, I’ll get some points for the referral and I’ll greatly thank you!).  But really, I’m not doing it for the points – I truly believe they are a great loyalty program!

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Enjoying our daily Aperol Spritz!

My Dad – The Soccer Player

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Growing up in Italy, playing soccer is every boy’s greatest dream, much like baseball, basketball, and football are the dreams of many American boys!  Few get to really pursue this dream, but my dad was one of the lucky ones.  Throughout his life, he lived and breathed soccer!  He truly loved the game and didn’t have any trouble memorizing all the stats of all the soccer games played by all the Italian teams.  His favorites were Juventus and Milan, but he paid close attention to all of them.  In fact, when the World Cup games were on, he was always at the Italian club in San Francisco watching the games on a giant screen TV!  Growing up, I never quite understood his fascination with the game, but I later came to understand why he had such a passion for it.  You see, my dad played professional soccer in Italy for probably about 8 years in the late 40’s and early 50’s.  His team was Gallarate (a town near Milan in Northern Italy).  He played in Serie B and was a mid-fielder.

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During his career, he was a top goal-scorer and earned quite a following in his home town.  Many in the town followed his games and were excited whenever he’d score a goal – even to the point of getting free dental work from his dentist!  He was a home-town celebrity but you’d never know it by his demeanor.  He took the accolades quietly, even though he enjoyed the little perks!

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During a recent trip to Italy, a few years after my dad had passed away, I got to meet up with one of his many fans who had followed his career closely.  He asked me if I knew what a great soccer player my dad had been, and sadly, I had to confess that I had only heard about the perks he received(and those stories weren’t even from him!)  He told me that my dad had great talent, but my dad was too conservative and humble to allow himself to venture into Serie A.  He said that Como, a Serie A team at the time, had courted my dad to play for them.  But my dad had declined because he felt that his knees weren’t good enough!  He had had meniscus surgery, which in those days was a major operation, and he was unsure that he could keep up in Serie A.  According to this fan, my dad had incredible skills – he could use both feet to shoot into the goal or to pass, and he had great aim with his head shots! I only wished that I could have seen him play this game that he loved so much.  The only memory I have of his skills was when he used to play “keep away” with me…I remember chasing the ball but never being able to get it because he’d whisk it away with his feet so much faster than I could ever go!

There is so much more I’d love to ask him about his soccer days but sadly he’s no longer with me.  And when he was here, I never thought about asking…why is it that we never take those special opportunities when we have them?