Thursday, November 30, 2006

Matera in the Movies, again

Matera is being featured in the movies again. Mel Gibson put the town on the movie map with "The Passion of the Christ". Now the movie "Nativity" is coming out tomorrow and once again Matera is used as a huge movie set. I decided to post two of my photos here so you can say "That's Matera!" when show a wide shot. This first one is from the a cave on the opposite side of the huge ravine that matera was built on. I'm standing it what was someone's home hundreds of years ago. They all lived in caves and slowly built houses on to the front of the caves. The result is what you see here.

This next photo has more color and shows the one road in town. It also shows how they really are built on top of each other. The ravine is off to the left. Neither picture really shows there is a cliff there. I'll have to go back and get another shot of that.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Walk to work day

Davide asked me a short time ago how far it was from the Train Station to work. I live right next to it and it’s something I drive everyday so I measured it on the odometer in my car. Turns out that it is exactly 2 km. I thought WHAT?! It’s only 2 km to work. I could walk that!! So this morning I did. This is how it went down.

8:04 leaving the front door. Timers set!
8:06 pass by the train station and the first temptation of coffee.
8:12 pass the stop sign you never stop at (unless you want to be rear ended).
8:14 buy a newspaper and saw someone I knew but I can’t remember his name
8:16 pass the Questura on my shortcut.
8:22 emerge from shortcut within sight of work
8:30 enter the front gate. Almost exactly 26 minutes after leaving home and I stopped to buy a paper.
8:36 finish explaining to the guards at the front gate why I don’t have my car
8:39 go for a coffee.

I figure I only lose 15 or 20 minutes with the time it takes to get the car out of the garage. Of course this will be weather permitting. I'm very close to not needing a car for ANYTHING.

Also what do Julio Cesar and I have in common? We are both goalies for the best team in our respective leagues. After that there is very little in common. Last night we had a spirited game (that's putting it nicely) that ended in a 5-4 win for us. We have now beaten the teams we lost to and tied in the first round of soccer tournament at work. All we have to do is win out and we’ll have the company trophy. The teams left didn’t seem that good the first round so as long as they don’t pick up any ringers we should be ok. The pressure was terrible leading up to last night. As the goalie you’re the last line of defense (and I'm not that good). In the end I had a decent game but the game wasn’t as close as score makes it seem. It was 5-3 with one minute left. That last minute seemed to go on for a loooonnggg time. Did I mention there were some tensions between the teams?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Fall Colors

Here is a collection of leaves for Kent. They are all from the chestnut tree on my balcony. Last year I planted one of my chestnuts instead of roasting and eating it. In true fall fashion it lost all leaves. It still has one green leaf for some odd reason.

Pumpkin Pie, Si!!!

What is this? A small Chirstmas miracle arrived in November. There is a coworker that worked in the States for a while so he has seen several Thanksgivings. His wife made a pumpkin pie and he brought me a piece to try. She did an amazing job and my compliments to the chef. I'll have to ask him the story behind it. Does his family like it? And where did she get all the ingredients? etc etc. At the time all I said was thanks and then hid it away from curious Italians.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Thanksgiving is the greatest of all the holidays. Bill Bryson mentioned this in one of his books. He had some strong arguments that I couldn’t deny. I can’t remember exactly what he said but it was something like:
No presents to buy (probably the greatest single reason to like Thanksgiving)
No cards (but I just received one from Nonna!!)
No caroling
No costumes
No decorations really.
No real religious implications
There IS plenty of food and it’s ok to eat as much as you want.
There IS plenty of football
There IS plenty of family time
YES, there are TWO days off of work.

I couldn’t go without turkey so I picked up a turkey breast at the “Salu…mino” the other day. It’s not as good as a whole roast turkey made by Nonna but it’s pretty good. How do I know already? Because I kinda ate it last night. I’ll have to get more tonight. I also jumped the gun and opened a new bottle of wine last night. The weather was lousy so I thought as long as I’m eating at home and watching Champions League Soccer I should have some wine and try out the turkey. I couldn’t resist.
I have no special plans for tonight. I did just have a great idea. I should take some of the turkey to my pizzeria and see if they will put it on a pizza. I think that would be good! Turkey pizza for thanksgiving!!!!

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


There are two webcams to see what's going on in Brindisi. The old one that has practically the same view as my apartment:
My View
but it for some reason was stuck on November 7th the last time I checked.
and the new one that shows the park down by the see. You might see people on the passeggiata in this one but it's really a little too far down the street:

If the picture doesn't load right when you click the link then try hitting the refresh button on your browser. I think because the picture updates every 2 minutes the link doesn't always work.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Kids on video (Part 2)

I had a request for more videos on the kids to I added this to my Youtube

The curtains that Mara is swinging on has now been pulled down. Nello makes a guest appearance at the end. I think Emily will like the "hopping" action. The next video I was thinking of putting up is one of Kent's from the celebration of the World Cup. Is that ok Kent?

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Good Story

Maybe it’s the holiday season but I was thinking I would post a good story. I always feel good when I think back about this one time that I was teaching an overnight at the zoo. That night was just a good night that reminds me of the unexpected pleasures that you never know until they hit you.
To get the whole picture an overnight at the zoo is when a large group of students come to the zoo after school, go through about 3 or 4 classes from 7:30 PM to 10:00 PM and then sleep overnight at the zoo (usually in the dolphin pavilion). The next day they have breakfast and then time for a brief look at the animals before they’re off, back to school. I volunteered and worked overnights for years, because I could easily go to the zoo after my day job. It kept me off of the streets and away from the TV.
This particular night I was teaching a class about marine invertebrates. I’m in the Waters Building, surrounded by tanks of sharks, fish, eels, lobsters, and all other kinds underwater creatures. You only have the light that filters out from the tanks so it can be dark and mysterious like you really are underwater peering eye to eye with these creatures. And if this setting isn’t enough to get the kids excited about the class, there is also an added tank that I wheel out from behind the scenes. It’s called “The Touch Tank” and it’s an important part of the class. After a brief lesson about one family of marine invertebrates I then get one animal out for everyone to see and touch. Sea stars (starfish, it’s not a fish!) sea urchins, crabs, and giant snails, the kids are always excited when the class involves live animals. The important part was after one of the classes, a parent comes up to talk to me.
She says, “So you’re Jeff” in a matter of fact sort of way.
I naturally reply back “I’m sorry, do I know you?”
She quickly responds “No, of course you don’t know me, but I know you because of my oldest. He was on an overnight 2 years ago and I distinctly remember him talking about this really cool teacher at the zoo named Jeff. I’m glad I got to see you this time.” She went on to explain more about how her oldest child really enjoyed the overnight at the zoo so this time when her youngest child was going she signed up to be a chaperone. We talked briefly about what she found interesting and then she had to rush off to the next class with the group.
After she left it all fell into place for me. This was how it was supposed to work. I would teach a class and the kids learn something and get excited about learning and nature. The bonus was how everything else worked, which I never thought about before that night. The parent listened and remembered what her child said and maybe even learned something too. Then she was moved to become more involved so she and her youngest child got even more out the second experience at the zoo. All you ask is for the kids’ attention for an hour and you hope they take something away from the class. In this case it seemed to work more beautifully then I could have imagined. I felt like I really made a difference and who knows how many other kids learned from my classes. Maybe I should be a teacher but after several years of teaching at the zoo I was getting a little burnt out. I don’t think I could have kept it up for much longer. It still makes me happy to think of the chain of events that were set into motion.

PS I should make that photo even smaller as it's horrible but it's the only one I have "at work at the zoo".

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Oldest

It’s very strange how long it takes and how you learn things some things in life. All of my life my older brother has complained, …no let’s say “expressed”, how difficult it is to be the oldest. I never appreciated or accepted this fact or opinion…until now. Bro, I have a little more understanding now. I come to this conclusion from a strange source. Watching my cats. It’s only after the recent addition of Mara to my household that I could make this discovery. Yes, Emily I have changed Smeagol’s name to Mara. Mara is close to “mare” which means sea in Italian and Mara was found in the sea so it seems to fit. I could call her “tempesta nera” (black storm), which is what she becomes when all worked up. Back to my observations, I find that I’m much more tolerant of Mara’s transgressions. I realize that most of them are just phases that she will grow out of but with Nello I feared I had to put my foot down or he would group up to be a “bad kitty”. Things like when Nello attacked his first roll of toilet paper and made a huge mess of it. I smacked his little cat butt and promised him he wouldn’t see the inside of the bathroom again for a long time. When Mara did it I got the camera out to take a picture. And sure enough even without the threats she has already outgrown that game. Yes, the oldest does get the pleasure of beating the crap out of the younger, which I see on a daily basis (and remember growing up) but he is the explorer that has to live under a more totalitarian regime from the parents for fear that “if once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny” (to quote Yoda). So it seems to be true that the oldest has it the toughest from what I’ve seen. I’ll finally agree with you on that bro. That’s just my opinion and I’m the middle child so what do I know. Wait, all of this doesn’t change the FACT that the middle child is always the best!!!!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Fight for a good Lunch!!!

We did it yesterday. It was THE most unusual strike I’ve ever done. We had a strike against the cafeteria here at work. Nothing radical, we just ordered panini from a little place down the road instead of eating in the cafeteria. This was done to protest the decreasing quality of the food being served. It’s funny because I still think the food we have for lunch is great but I have noticed that it’s not as good as it was when I arrived 3 years ago. We also need to remember in this time I have become a bit of a pasta snob. Having it everyday tends to have that effect. Way back 3 years ago I was amazed at what I could have for lunch every day. It was the highlight of the day. Everyday we have:
1. Bread always a little bun like thing called rosette.
2. Primi is always a choice between 2 pastas or maybe between a minestrone soup and pasta.
3. Secondi is always a choice between 2 meat dishes. Wed usually chicken (my favorite Baked Rosemary Chicken), Thursday a paper thin steak, and Friday is always fish or seafood.
4. Contorni is a seasonal cooked vegetable (always available options to this are a slice of cheese or green salad).
5. Water, beer or wine (yes beer or wine but the wine is Tavernello-the worst wine of Italy and it’s in a juice box like thing!)

So today we are back in the cafeteria at work. Was our point taken? Will things improve? We’ll see. I hope so, because I like panini but I would rather have that on the weekend when I don’t feel like cooking.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Superbollo, no it’s not a big end of the season football match! Let me explain. Lately this superbollo has been getting a lot of press and it answers a lot of questions for me. Cars in Italy are taxed on the horsepower of the engine, or to be exact the kilowatts of the engine. The magic number is 100 kilowatts or 134 HP. Every car new and old is taxed for every kw (HP) at one rate, up to 100 kw (134 HP) after that the rate goes up. This is the superbollo, the tax over 100 kw. Lately the new government decided that if you can have a powerful car then you could afford to pay MORE taxes, so the superbollo is creating a stir, as nobody likes more taxes and more people have been buying more powerful cars.
One of the quotes I heard from Prodi could be translated to “If everyone pays the tax then maybe we could lower it in the future” (I hope I translated it right). So he’s going to tax the nice law abating people back to the Stone Age but those that don’t pay, well, now they are saving even more. I think more people will decide a less than honest approach when facing more taxes. I have to say I like the method in the US where you pay based on the value of the car. I can’t imagine someone with big old 5.0L 1982 Ford Mustang paying more taxes than some yuppie with a BMW. Yes I appreciate how this helps the environment but I dislike taxes that aren’t connected to right thing. And to me this doesn’t seem to be the right way. Something about that just doesn’t seem right.
Now I can respond when people ask me “Why are all the cars so small over here?” An ape with a lawnmower engine would cost almost nothing to have and it still gets you around town. An SUV will cost a fortune.
Oh and by the way they are also passing a new “tourism tax”. Hotels in the cities will be throwing on another 5 euro a night in taxes. The smaller communes are supposed to go 2 or 3 euro. I can’t remember exactly. This money is supposed to go to the upkeep of local tourism attractions. If that’s true then I’m all for it. Everyone agrees that Italian Museums and wealth of cultural history needs more upkeep

Uncover the Truth!!!

Just a quick plug for the new website! "Puglia Posse" has changed to "Puglia Uncovered" in my link list. The area where we talk about local problems is in the "Forum". This website could become a beacon of information on this area. We have a group of "stranieri" that live here and can give you the straight talk on Puglia and we have some local Italians that can shed light on why things are the way they are. I think it could easily become the best resource for this area. Maybe I'm a little biased because I hope to be helping out as much as I can.
My friends and family already know how much I like showing people around so it's only natural that I try to help others through the internet and let's face it this blog just isn't that informative!!!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Brindisi Basket

What? Brindisi is leading it's division in Basketball and I would really like to go see a game. I copied down the schedule a long time ago and it seems there is a game tomorrow, or not? I looked at the schedule today online to check and the game is now on Sunday. That's better for me, but get this the location is "da stabilire" and the referee is "da stabilire". So there is a game Sunday at 6:30 PM but they don't where and they don't know who is going to be the referee!!! UGGHHH. No wonder I haven't been to a game yet! I couldn't understand why I didn't know more about them. In their defense they are just finishing up a new "stadium" for the team here in town. I say stadium because it looks like a high school gym, but all the better. I bet there isn't a bad seat in the place and when it's open I bet it will be packed. I'll keep checking their website and maybe I'll get to a game!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Norcia Piazza

One more photo of Norcia. This is the Piazza of San Benedetto da Norcia. You can see San Benedetto there in middle. Also notice the incredible blue cloudless sky that sunshine kept me warm.

My Birthday is done and over!

Yes, it was my birthday yesterday and it went well in so many ways. It started out almost like in the US, except I went to work with cornetti instead of doughnuts. In the US I was always one to harass people for doughnuts on their birthday so I understand completely the concept of cornetti for coworkers. Back in Indianapolis we even had two approved sources for doughnuts. The preferred place was Long’s Doughnuts in Speedway. Krispy Crème was the second and accepted as not everyone could get to Long’s before work. I remember once we managed to guilt Michael Mann into bringing in doughnuts to celebrate his new shoes. Hey, they were very nice shoes!
At work I took a break to go to the Questura to get the best present of all. My brand new permesso di soggiorno. This is THE all-important permit to live in Italy. Renewal isn’t usually a problem but they’ve gone to a new system in Brindisi. Instead of boring piece of paper I have fancy laminated credit card. It has holograms and chips in it, so I held my breath as they tested it make sure it worked. They put the card in one end of a machine. I put a finger on the little fingerprint scanner on the other end and machine gave me the green light. Very high tech! The permit is for two years, which is the remaining time on my contract here, so now I can legally stay here until the end with no more visits to the Questura to harass my friend there, knock on wood. I guess I’ll have to marry a beautiful Italian woman to stay longer!
Then I learned at work that we were playing calcio (soccer) on Monday night instead of Thursday. This threw a wrench in my plans but it worked out after all. The match turned into the second best present of the day as we won in good form. After a loss and a tie we were getting little “on each others’ nerves”. Nothing like a good win to make everyone happy again.
After the game I rushed home for the big Juventus vs Napoli match on TV. People filtered in and we had focaccia, cake, and salumi from Norcia to celebrate my birthday and watch the game. I appreciate everyone who was there last night and it was funny as it was almost like the World Cup again. We had a big match on the TV, the food, the cats in a state of panic, and then some of us looking at photos of the past parties on the computer.
It’s a birthday I won’t forget and that’s saying something because there are getting harder to remember!!!! I think I’ve forgotten 31-34. I remember 30 well because Emily put 30 plastic flamingos and a big sign in my front yard. That seems like ages ago!!!!

Monday, November 06, 2006


This is the valley that Norcia is in. A nice fertile plain with mountains full of wild pig and truffles!


Wild boar. This is what makes the salumi from Norcia so gooood.


Well I’m back at work after a 5-day weekend. They closed the plant November 1 for All Saints day and then made an extended “ponte” to the weekend. It’s an attempt to save money at the end of the year.
I used this time to go on that trip to Norcia that I cancelled a few weeks ago. My trip started out with a rather uneventful train ride from Brindisi to Rome. The train was almost empty so I didn’t sit near any interesting people. By the time I arrived my neck was hurting from trying to see out the window. It was a beautiful bright sunny day but there was sinister wind blowing in from the North. The whole country has changed seasons in matter of hours. I walked around Rome on Thursday after finding a decent hotel. I think I’m addicted to walking in Rome. I went from the hotel near Termini to St. Peter’s in seemingly no time. The guards were closing the line for the “cupola” right before I got there, so I didn’t get to go up top of St. Peter’s and that’s always one of my favorite things to do in Rome. So I had to be happy with just going inside, but inside St. Peters it seems a lot more areas are roped off. I don’t want to go wherever I want but I was a little disappointed. That night I eat focaccia in a little place near the hotel. The owner and I chatted a little but he seemed preoccupied with whatever was going on outside. The hotel clerk recommended I check on the bus but I was confident there would be plenty of buses to Norcia, but I went to Tiburtina and checked at her recommendation. I was wrong. There was only one bus to Norcia at 7:30 AM and one bus back at 15:30. The bus didn’t go direct so it took 3 hours to get there. Ugh, I had to get up at 5:30 AM (on Thursday) to catch the train and now 6:00 AM (on Friday) to catch a bus. On vacation I like to sleep in, but I was on a mission.
Friday morning I worked like clockwork and I was at the bus station at 7:00 AM waiting with about 3 other people for the bus. Naturally all the other buses arrived, loaded, and started leaving but no bus to Norcia. Finally at 7:25 it arrived and everyone jumped on and off we went. The bus driver was a VERY chatty fellow. He talked constantly to a lady in the front seat. They were talking mainly about energy prices and taxes. Among other things, I was amazed to learn that he had 4 solar panels on his house and she had 5. No wonder they liked to talk about energy prices. At Terni he said we have a 10-minute break and then we’re off for Norcia. So you could imagine my surprise when in 10 minutes we left but with a new bus driver. I missed something there. Also at Terni a little old man got on and sat right behind me. He immediately started up a conversation. He wanted to tell me how the stainless steel they were producing there in Terni is the best in the world. We passed one amazing stone building that was part a company that produces huge steel shafts from what he said. I was a little sorry to see him get off shortly after we left town. Now the bus was almost quiet and the new driver didn’t talk at all. Instead he played with the radio even as the road twisted and turned tighter and tighter. He would be honking before a sharp turn, hitting buttons on the radio and turning all at the same time. You wanted to yell, just drive the bus! Then he stops about 10 km from Norcia, “get off here for Norcia” is basically want he yelled to all 6 of us on the bus. There was another smaller bus waiting and it took us the last bit.
Norcia was almost exactly like I expected. The wall around the town is still completely encircling the historic center and there are only a few buildings outside this wall. Strolling down the main street is amazing. The cold wind brought the smell of wood fires and salumi. Norcia is famous for it’s salumi made from wild pigs and also for truffles. I stopped in the first store I saw, excited to tell anyone about my connection with the town. The butcher was interested and agreed that the Ottaviani’s were an important family in the town. I walked out proud of my heritage and with two nice salumi from Norcia. I saw the monument in town to the fallen soldiers of WWI and WWII. Sure enough there was an Ottaviani, Stanchetti and Carucci. All names I remember from huge holiday parties of the past. I had lunch next door to the monument at a restaurant called “La Locanda del Teatro” (the theater was across the street). I had a lunch based completely on the famous local wild pig and it was good. No fish dishes this far inland! Then I wandered around the town staying in the sun, where it was warm. Luckily, I could wait for the bus in the sun or I would have a cold right now. Finally I have seen my Italian origins. There are a lot of other observations but this is getting long so maybe I’ll make rest another post another day.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Capital City

Ciao from the "La Citta Eterna". I had a long day but I made it all the to Norcia and back. What a bus ride. First we changed bus drivers at Terni and then we changed buses by the side of the road about 10 km from Norcia. The same deal on the way back. I hope to post some photos of the town on Monday, maybe Sunday. It depends on when I get to good old Brindisi. Tomorrow I hope to go up in the cupola of St. Peter's. Ciao for now.