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It seems to be very hard to shake off the cold I acquired in Italy, but I’m working on it.  Fortunately, the memories will linger longer than the virus, and I still have a thousand photos to sort through.  A comment from one of the ice climbers  who was in Valnontey the day of the accident came in yesterday, taking me to task for my interpretation of events.  If I got it wrong, I apologize.  I did not mean to imply that any one was at fault for climbing when the weather was warming up.

From what little information I was able to find on the internet, I suspect ice climbers may find it difficult to get reliable, up-to-date  information about conditions in Cogne or elsewhere in Italy.  That, in itself, is dangerous.

There are three stories that caught my attention in Turin but never made it into this blog.  One was about pro- Mafia Facebook groups.  When it was discovered that more than 2,000 people had joined a group hailing Salvatore Riina, the so-called “boss of bosses”, Senator Gianpiero D’Alia, a member of the anti-Mafia commission called for a government investigation, saying:  “We can’t accept in virtual reality what we don’t accept in real reality.”  A new group (159,000 strong) calling itself “Mafia Off Facebook”  held a one-day Facebook blackout.  An on-line  petition was circulated to close Facebook in Italy.  That may have made Zuckerbeg sit up and take notice, but probably not the Mafia.

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Luca Marchio, a native of Como, decided that it would be a good time to visit Iraq, so he caught a bus from the Turkish border to Baghdad, then checked into the Coral Palace.  The hotel has not seen a casual Western visitor since the U.S. invasion.  Despite the manager’s  qualms about hosting the foreigner, he agreed to arrange a tour of the city for Luca for an extra $40.

The following day, Luca set off for Falluja on a public bus.  The police found him sitting next to a woman selling milk.  They contacted local journalists, the U.S. marines and the Italian Embassy.  Even though it was determined that Luca was not a risk to anyone but himself, he was put on a plane home.   He lived to  tell the tale. So much for the Darwin Awards.

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In 1987, a Korean immigrant named Yongman Kim opened a movie rental store in the East Village, New York City.  Begun as a sideline to his dry-cleaning business, the store quickly became a local institution.  Before long, Kim had staff traveling the world in search of obscure films that would eventually result in a one-of-a-kind collection of 55,000 videos and DVDs.  Then Netflix and the internet came along.

Last September, Kim issued a challenge, promising to donate the collection to anyone who would keep it intact, continue to update it and make is accessible to Kim’s members and others.  Offers poured in, but all failed the test one way or the other.  All except one.  A 42 year old Italian graphic designer was intrigued enough to pursue the dream.

What she had in mind was a town in Sicily that was going through a major upheaval.  Salemi’s efforts to reverse long-term neglect had led its citizens to invite prominent artists and intellectuals to take over the government.  An art critic was elected Mayor;  a prince was put in charge of town planning.   A provocative Italian photographer was appointed the town’s Alderman of Creativity. Houses were being offered up for one euro in exchange for promises to restore the buildings within two years.

A serendipitous meeting led Franca Pauli to come up with a proposal that looks like it will actually happen.  “It was almost like falling in love with this thing, and I was trying not to,” she said.  “We generally start projects from an idea, but then we have to calculate a budget and planning and timing and meetings….. This was the opposite.  It was all friends and phone calls and meeting people in a bar.”

What a great story.  So Italian.  I’m going to miss it.  Arrivederci, Italy.  Next stop, rail trails in Australia.

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