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One of the perks of a professor’s life is the opportunity to chat up people and to give talks in interesting places. Despite the fact that my wife spent three and a half months teaching at the International University of Torino, the Director was good enough to ask her back when he discovered that she was going to be on the same continent for an extended period. The date that seemed to work the best for the talk happened to be my birthday. I was hoping that we might spend another memorable afternoon at Combal Zero, the restaurant that made my day on the same occasion just three years ago, when I was 64. Check out the post.

It was a fine idea, but it was not to be. The restaurant is on the outskirts of the city, and the best time to go is during the day, for a very leisurely lunch, in fact. But talks always entail preparation, and the delivery of my wife’s speech had been scheduled for six to seven PM on January 31. Our flight back to Hamburg was booked for the following morning.

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We didn’t know it at time, but the onset of winter weather had just preceded us in Turin. It was cold and white, but most of the residents of the city had been wondering for a couple of months where winter had gone. As we waited for our luggage to appear, ski sack after ski sack came down the carousel. Finally, our bag arrived and we headed in to the center of the familiar city.

Our host had arranged accommodation at the Hotel Victoria, which has much to recommend it. It is on a cul-de-sac, for one thing, and it is very close to the center of Turin. In addition to the lovely decor and the excellent breakfast spread, they have a sybaritic spa influenced by the Egyptian Museum, which is just around the corner.

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By the time we checked in, unpacked and checked our email, it seemed like ages since our miserable lunch at the Frankfurt airport.  Seven o’clock is very early for eating in Italy, but we headed out into the snow and slush to a restaurant that had been recommended by the concierge.  We were the first ones there.  My wife had been suffering from a pinched nerve since our arrival in Hamburg, and as soon as she sat down to order, everything seem to come to a head. She felt absolutely wretched and could not eat!  Not being able to eat in Italy is as close as you can come to an emergency without actually having a stroke or a heart attack.

If you show up at the emergency ward of a hospital, you will be admitted immediately.  To be sure that this was not something life-threatening, we did just that.  Unfortunately, it was a Sunday, so the waiting room was jammed full of people in various states of distress or despair.  Losing one’s appetite is not actually considered life-threatening, even in Italy.  So we had to wait and wait.

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An Italian colleague from the C.T.L.S. program in London had invited us over for lunch, but when he heard of the dire situation, he insisted on meeting us at the “Ospedale” and taking on the role of interpreter. In my book, spending Sunday morning in an emergency ward of a hospital on behalf of a colleague is enough to merit guaranteed entrance in Paradiso.

All is well that ends with an Italian meal. But a home cooked meal that begins with risotto and ends with a spectacular, delicious tiramasu is worth the price of visit to any hospital.  And this particular meal seemed to require four different kinds of wine, not to mention a bottle of Barolo for cooking the main course.  That kind of repast is worth braving the torments of the Inferno and Purgatorio to boot.

I simply had to abandon my recent conversion to vegetarianism for the afternoon, but it was a small price to pay for the wonderful cooking and the hospitality of Roberto and Maria Elena, as well as the opportunity to meet Giacomo, the new addition to the family.

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We managed to fit in several more meals before our departure, including an ad hoc “dinner” at a cafe immediately after my wife’s talk. It was good to be in a place that I know, where we have some friends, and where I could speak some of the language and understand more.

We have come back to a different city. The Alster has frozen over, and the lake that was full of boats not so very long ago is a huge expanse of white snow. A high pressure has come in, bringing sunshine and cold, clear air.  It is beautiful.

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I was already 22 years old back when the Beatles’ tune in the title of this post was released on Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  I remember being charmed by the whole album, but I couldn’t make the big leap into the future and imagine myself with grey hair, actually turning 64.

It was one of the best album covers to come along in an era of great ones.   My friends and I pored over it like a jigsaw puzzle, trying to figure out who each person was and why he or she had been picked for the cover.  We had no idea the artwork on it would become a classic. If you’ve never seen the short section of “Yellow Submarine ” where the song appears, check it out at  — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJ8kMbMpQbo.

If it were not for the Beatles, I doubt if this particular milestone would have had much resonance.  One birthday is pretty much like another once your odometer hits fifty.  But our presence in Torino and a visit from an old friend (and her friend), made it very special.

January 30 was the last day of class for a month-long session of Italian that I had joined a week late.  After the last test, a group of about twenty students and teachers from Italiano Porticando sat down together for a late lunch at a local restaurant in the neighborhood.  We ate good pizza and pasta, exchanged email addresses, took photos, and promised to keep in touch.

But one last passegiata was still on the agenda, and it attracted more students than all the other outings I had joined previously.  It was a visit to an artisanal cioccolateria, an award-winning chocolate maker–bottega Guido Gobino.

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Our tasting room was long and narrow, ultra modern-looking under some ancient wooden beams.  For the next two hours, it would be our new classroom and the subject would be chocolate.  Our host was gracious, passionate and fun.  Torino is the birthplace of gianduja chocolate, (a mixture of hazelnut paste, cocoa and sugar), bicerin (a drink of chocolate, espresso and cream), and chocolate-covered ice cream on a stick.

Although he was open to any and all questions, including the inevitable one about Ferrero Rocher and the phenomenal success of Nutella, his main mission was to educate our taste buds, to encourage us to discover what tastes were elicited by the carefully prepared blends of cocoa from around the world.

It soon became obvious that a more concentrated blend of cocoa did not necessarily translate into a stronger taste.  He compared the production of chocolate to that of wine, conjuring up the terroir of Java as if it were something you could taste.  He asked us to listen to the snap of the chocolate and lick our fingers like bambini.  There were chocalates that tasted like smoke, some like herbs.  The final confection literally melted in the mouth, leaving a delicious, lingering aftertaste of a key ingredient– salt.

We were all buzzing as we stumbled out of the chocolate boutique.  The sugar rush had kicked in and we had been sitting far too long.  I parted from my classmates one last time.  We said our goodbyes and floated home.  The next day was my birthday. We had booked a tavolo for four at noon at a renowned restaurant located on the grounds of the Castello di Rivoli.  It is called Combal.Zero.

Stay tuned for Part Two.  In which yours truly gets stuffed.  In an elegant way, of course, in the Brioni suit!


The Christmas decorations and lights have been dismantled and put away for the year.  The bustling crowds in the street and the festive air have disappeared, but the sales are on!  Now is the time when good shoppers who have been saving their euros throughout the year go into overdrive.

To me, the prices on Via Roma are only now descending from the upper stratosphere, but I’m not fortunate enough to have been born into the Saudi royal family.  For those who are feeling flush, it would be an excellent time to pick up a shirt, a suit, a pair of shoes or a even a fur coat.  Matrons of Torino don’t hesitate to wear them everywhere.

The operative word in the windows of most of the negozi now is saldi, meaning sale.  Sconti is another word you see often, meaning discount.  Unfortunately, your soldi will not go a long way in Italy these days.  The euro has made all the difference.

For North Americans and Australians, shopping in Italy requires a real adjustment, a reservoir of patience and flexibility which is not all that common in either nationality.  Items on Italian shelves are not necessarily found in the same stores they are at home, service is not a priority, and everything is expensive.

It may seem that the sales person has more important things to do than wait on you.  She (0r he) has to look good, for example.  And a text message that is vitally important to his/her social life may require immediate attention to the sales person’s phone.  Think about it.   This may not be obvious to Australians, since attentive service is not in their vocabulary, but Americans who shop in the best stories may be feel bereft.

Nor has the notion of one-stop shopping taken hold in this country.  There are few malls and department stores.  If you have come to depend on 24 hour shopping, forget it. Not only is that unheard of here, most shops will close every afternoon from 1 to 3 or even 3:30 so the natives can have a proper pranzo. Even the supermercato will close on Wednesday afternoon.

You can fill your prescription at the farmacia, buy your cheese at the gastronomia, get your newspaper at the giornalaio, your bread at the panetteria, your best seller at the libreria and your fancobollo at the tabaccheria. Or the post-office if you want to brave the lines.

If you come from the dark ages and still write letters to friends and family, you put a francobollo on an envelope (which you buy at the carteloria.  Mail your letter and keep your fingers crossed.  As a foreigner, of course, you are not required to memorize all these words.  You can usually make do with the universal language:  point and pay.

There is shopping to be done! Only 338 days ’till Chrismas!


My apologies to any faithful readers, who may have come to expect new chapters of this blog with a certain amount of regularity over the last couple years.  The holidays and travel have made that difficult of late.  

The flat we found for phase two of our Italian adventure is very near my wife’s school.  It is considerably larger than our garret apartment with the balconies.  Unfortunately, we have lost our wonderful view of the Alps and I am no longer seeing the vendors of food and wine I got to know at the market near our old place.

The new place offers a number of conveniences, however, like a real eat-in kitchen with a dishwasher, a bathroom with a real bathtub and a bed we can sleep on. It is near Statione Porta Nuova, the main train station in the city, in a neighborhood called San Salvario.  We can walk to Parco Valentino, the city’s main playground along the Po.

We overlook Sexy Shop, not the most inspiring of neighbors, but we are only a block from the city’s principal synagogue (in a Moroccan style) and two blocks from the protestant Waldesian church.  A Catholic church is never more than a block away, so  if we should need spiritual succor, we’ll have no trouble getting it immediately. I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to the feng shui of this flat, but I doubt many Italians worry about such things.

I am engaged now in a three-week Italian class at a wonderful, small language school called Italiano Porticando. Every morning I make an espresso, eat my ceriali, and head off on foot toward the Quadrilatereo Romano, the oldest part of the city.

Astonishingly, three out of six students are Australians. There is a father/daughter pair who have combined the language learning part of the holiday with a couple weeks of skiing, and a young environmental consultant whose father immigrated to Adelaide from Calabria in southern Italy.  Unfortunately for Ben, English was the only language spoken at home.  

There is a young woman from Japan who is mad about soccer and a girl from Brazil who has family here. Together, we manage to mangle the language beyond belief. It is great fun.  Our teacher compares us to babies, insisting that one day we will be able to converse comfortably like adults.  It is hard to believe at this stage.

Two or three afternoons a week, a teacher named Laura leads a “passegiata” to a neighborhood or cultural institution. She encourages us to ask questions, in Italian, of course.  Last  Thursday we set off for Palazza Reale, the principal Savoy family residence until 1865. The austerity of the exterior is belied by extravagance inside.  Keeping up with French royalty was de rigeur.

We were herded through the elaborately decorated series of chambers by a lady who must have been a former nun. She seemed to be weighed down by her duties, since there were no other museum aides.  She was charged with  guarding the royal furnishings and keeping us in line.

She seemed immensely frustrated when someone stepped off the carpet or lagged behind. It was a cold, damp day, and I’m sure she would have been much happier curled up by the stove with a dog, a good book (perhaps the good book), and an espresso.

There is much more to come.  Stay tuned. Ciao for now.


The day before I left Turin for Christmas in Canada, I had two scares.  In a misguided attempt to keep from bumping my head, I caught my foot under our platform bed and did a swan dive on the floor of our flat.  I cut one eyebrow open and bruised my ribs.  The second event was far more serious.  It was late in the afternoon in the center of the city, and I was getting ready to cross a major street after descending from a tram.  Like most people in the shopping mode, I was preoccupied.  And I was plugged in, listening to a book on my MP3 player.

The  young woman beside me stepped off the sidewalk.  From the corner of my eye I could see a car coming.  My brain screamed but no words came out.  By the time I reacted she had walked into the side of the moving car.  I caught her on the rebound.  For what seemed like a long time, I held her while she shook. She was bruised and in shock, but nothing appeared to be broken.

The driver stopped and came back.  An ambulance was called.  Her partner showed up.  If she had stepped out ten seconds earlier I believe she would have been killed.  It was that close.  I will never, ever tune out the city again.  Life is too precious to be preoccupied at a crucial moment.

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The teaching position in Turin offered us a choice that we would never have considered if we had been in Melbourne in December.  We could spend the holiday in the Alps, which certainly had its attractions, or we could return to the Stewart House in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia.

The stars seemed aligned for a small family reunion in Canada this year.  My sister could come from Montana, a son from China.  Our daughter was already in the province attending school and her new husband planned to fly in from Hawaii. They had been married there and we had not had a chance to meet him.  He is in the Marines Corps and we are very pleased to have him in the family.

There is plenty of room in the old house.  The main trick is staying warm this time of year.  It has been at least sixty years since anyone has lived in the building in winter.  There is no furnace, no central heating and no wood stove.  There are electric baseboard heaters and five fireplaces.

During the cold snap leading up to Christmas Eve, we struggled to keep two of the fireplaces stuffed with wood (and the family with food) from morning until night.  In many parts of the province thousands of people lost power.  I was glad it didn’t happen here.  I was very grateful for electricity, grocery stores, merino wool, the CBC, and indoor plumbing.

The cold snap was followed by a warm wind on Christmas day that quickly melted almost all the snow.  The cold has returned, and I am now staring at a field of frozen, green grass with patches of snow.  A blizzard is predicted for tonight, New Year’s Eve.  No one who lives in the Maritimes expects predictable weather any time of year, so this is not surprising.

I’ll be back in Turin in a week, so the Italian lessons are not over yet.  Who knows, maybe I’ll get up the nerve to drive.  The Alps are calling.  Happy New Year!  Stay safe and stay tuned.


I was dismayed to learn recently that Brioni is no longer dressing James Bond in their wonderful suits. It was as my last remaining link to 007. I can hardly lay claim his physique, devastating smile, sophisticated taste or ruthless ability to dispatch enemies. However, I used to be able to say that  we occasionally wore the same duds.

We were living in an upscale section of Montreal when Brioni came into my life. I had stumbled across a thrift shop where society ladies discarded their cast-offs. There was a small selection of men’s clothing with one very nice suit.

At the time, $200 seemed like a lot of money, but I didn’t realize the suit was going for ten cents on the dollar. These days, Brioni suits go for $5,000.  Think about that– ten pieces of beautifully- tailored cloth for the price of a brand new Vespa!

I wrote a short memoir piece about the suit and this is how I described it. Brown? That will hardly do. It was evocative of summer wheat, shiny acorns, the African savannah, the opalescent patina of a fine violin. The buttons, gold, embossed with the bas relief of a polo player. Made in Italy sewn discreetly in the label.

Fine clothes like that can seduce you. They make you feel like you could be Bond, if necessity required it. Most of us are insecure in the knowledge of our roles, and a good suit positively exudes class.

My story centered on the one evening when I actually wore the suit during our three years in Florida. Sandra Day O’Connor, the Supreme Court Justice, had come down to open the new law school library at the University.

At the cocktail party a high-powered developer, a man whose name I recognized from the local newspaper, singled me out from the crowd and proceeded to assault me with questions. Where was I from? What did I do? etc., etc.  Two minutes later he broke away, leaving me with an odd feeling.  I had been sized up, found wanting and dumped, and I had no idea why.

It was only much later that an explanation came to me.  Like a butterfly to a beautiful flower, he had come because of the suit.  He was probably the only man in the room who realized I was wearing a very expensive outfit.  He simply couldn’t figure out what someone with no visible means of support was doing in it.  It was a Fellini moment, my very own 8 and 1/2.

The Christmas season seems to bring out the beggars here. The sight of them is disconcerting if you have recently come from Australia. In Melbourne one gets used to panhandlers, but one never sees people in abject positions like the ones you see in Italy, with bowed heads or knees on the sidewalk.

Most of them have signs signaling why the are reduced to asking for coins. Some have children with them and look like gypsies. A handful are dressed entirely in white, with ceramic masks hiding their faces. They look like they have stepped out of the middle ages.

A recent comment by a drop in reader has alerted me to the fact that those of you who are following this blog in a less than dedicated fashion (you know who you are), may be under the impression that we have suddenly decamped to Italy. Such is not the case. This is a working holiday (for my wife), a real one for me. We’ll be back in Melbourne in February.

Ciao for now.


In 1706 Turin was invaded by the army of Luigi IV (Louis IV for most of us) who hoped to transform Piedmont into a French province during the War of Spanish Succession. He ran into fierce resistance from the troops of Duke Vittorio Amedeo II. The story tied to the Basilica di Superga goes like this:

On September 2, the Duke climbed into the hills above Turin to survey the field below. The city had been under siege for four months already. At a small church on top of the second highest hill, the Duke knelt before a statue of the Madonna and made a vow. If he won a victory against the French, he would erect a glorious temple to the Virgin on that very spot. I think you can figure out the rest. The Duke kept his promise.

Designed by Filippo Juvarra, the court architect who has left an indelible mark on Turin, the church was begun in 1717 and finished fourteen years later. This was accomplished only after demolishing the original church and lowering the hill by forty meters (130 feet) to make a large enough platform for the new church. We’re talking about a “hill” that would be a mountain in Australia. It is still 669 meters (2,195 feet) high.

The dome of the grand church is 65 meters (213 feet) high. To the rear of the basilica is an enormous monastery. Constructing such a monumental building in this particular location in the days of ox carts is absolutely staggering.

Together with a half dozen others, we had picked an absolutely miserable day to ascend the hill. It was cold, wet and foggy. The spectacular view that has been lauded by famous men throughout the centuries was nowhere to be seen. Still, there were young men on mountain bikes all geared up for a fast descent on the steep, winding road down the hill. I kept my fingers crossed that their brakes were in good repair.

As I looked out over the fog-filled valley, a question came to me: What’s wrong with this picture? Striking a bargain with God, a Duke decides to command the creation of a church on a high promontory above the city. But he doesn’t have to dig the foundation, lug the stones, make the bricks, cut the timbers. That is left up to his peasants, the sons of the soil. I’m miserable just standing here in my windproof fleece three hundred years later. What must it have been like to actually work on this? I can’t begin to imagine.

Getting up to the top was not even a chore. We had reached the summit easily on public transport. There was a long tram ride on the 15 across the city to the suburb of Sassi, then a rickety ride up the hill. A funicular had been constructed in 1884, then converted to an electric “rack” rail line in 1935.

With the exception of one chapel, the entire inside of the cathedral is now full of scaffolding. Three centuries of wintry weather and a lack of regular maintenance takes a toll. We contemplated a guided tour of the royal tombs of the House of Savoy, then decided to save it for another day. We simply have to come back for the view.

But there was a small cafeteria. And there, on the menu, the ideal drink for the cold, blustery day—hot chocolate. You can spend an entire life thinking you know what a thing is, then discover that you had no idea.  You had been taken in by poor substitutes all this time– thin, watery tasteless stuff. The frothy, delicious chocolate was absolutely heavenly, almost obscene in its rich sweetness.  So Italian.

Oh, mia Madonna! For heavenly hot chocolate like that, what vow could I bring myself to make? What homage to the angel who brought such stuff to earth. Another glorious cathedral? A statue?  An alter? Perhaps not.  But I would definitely light a candle.  Ciao for now.


After an Italian “Thanksgiving” dinner of spaghetti with clam sauce, salad with tomatoes and cheese, my wife and I read our respective newspapers and went to bed early. I had a long, involved dream about trying to fix up a house that we owned but had rented out while we were living overseas. The neighborhood had gone to hell and i wasn’t at all sure that it was worthwhile putting more money into the place. I expect a lot of people in the U.S. are having that sort of dream these days.

When I woke up, my first reaction that thick fog had rolled in. When I looked again I realized heavy, wet snow was falling, the kind that calls for an umbrella. This time it was reaching the ground without melting. It was on the sidewalks and streets, decorating long rows of parked cards and even clinging to the ones in motion. It was almost like a caricature of winter, not the real thing.

I had spent the previous afternoon in the company of cars. Despite the ubiquity of public transportation in this city, automobiles are everywhere. Turin is the home of the Italian automotive industry. The last letter of the word Fiat stands for Torino.

First came the Vespa, which gave italians mobility with a bit of style, then came their version of the Model T Ford, the Fiat 500. They have never looked back. On a per capita basis, Italians rank number one in the world in car ownership, ahead of Australians and Americans. Many don’t use seat belts, few use child restraints, and some drivers seem to regard the red light as negotiable. Is it a “rosso pieno” (full red) or is it simply there to slow you down on your way to a dinner party?

They see the red light as a suggestion rather than an order. Pedestrians and cyclists are at the bottom of the pecking order and had better not behave as if they had any illusory rights, like entering a cross-walk when cars are coming. The street is the modern equivalent of the Coliseum, and the gladiator with the best weapon is going to win.

Most of the cars here are small and fuel efficient, but I did come across a sparkling Hummer parked near the Supermercato. In Italy, that is a statement. I’m so rich I don’t even care what it costs to keep this monster on the road.

I had planned to pay a visit to the National Automobile Museum, and would gladly have shared with you a tedious tour of the place and a history of the evolution of Fiat, but it was closed for renovation. The next best thing was a show on Italian Dream Cars since 1950.

The dream cars are just that. Most of them are on-offs, which means they never made it into production. Many would go faster than you could drive on any road in Italy and take you there in style. Some are small and cute and look like they could give Smart cars a run for their money.

Despite what you may think, dream cars can make money. Ferrari produces only a small number of cars a year, but the parent company, Fiat, does very well, thank you. Nearly a quarter of their profits come from Ferrari. Of course, the prancing horse is into everything now, from clothes to Lego sets.

It is pure form, “la bella figura” that captures the heart of Italian consumers. And they know how to make things beautiful. From cars to clothes to chocolate and ice cream. Until i came here I had never seen beautiful ice cream before. Take it from me, it tastes as good as it looks.

Click on any picture running alongside this post and it should take you to Flickr. Then go to Red Flier’s photostream. There are more photos from the car show.


I don’t know what possessed me, exactly, but a recent whirlwind tour of art museums may have been triggered by the simple purchase of a 3 day, Torino+Piedmonte card. It is a promotional gimmick that offers “free” entry to more museums than you can possibly see in 36 hours, free public transport, and discounts on everything from the opera to river rafting. We North Americans like we have to get our money’s worth.

Turin is blessed with several collections of modern art that are dispersed around the city in some interesting buildings. The GAM was first on my list, since it is within walking distance of where we live. Its official name is the Galleria Civica d’arte Moderna e Contemporanea. It holds an extensive collection of art ranging from the late 18th C up to the present day. There were two ongoing exhibits, one on the designer, Enzo Mari, another on concepts of time and photography. Good for an afternoon.

To get to Castello di Rivoli by public transportation, you have to take the subway to the end of the line and then figure out where to take the connecting bus. The museum is located 17 km west of the city at the head of the Susa Valley.

Begun as one of the Savoy family’s residences, it suffered a series of major setbacks through its long history. Fortunately, it was rescued, imaginatively restored and re-opened in 1984. It is a stunning setting for an excellent collection.

I made it back to the city in time for a tour of the luminous art installations currently on view in Turin, Luci d’art. The guide spoke French as well as Italian, but he naturally favored his Italian audience. A Belgian family and I got an abbreviated repetition at the end of each monologue.

On Sunday I managed to squeeze in yet another exhibition at the light-filled, but warehouse-shaped building called Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. Most of the works were by Paul Chan, a Hong Kong based artist. Then I hoofed it over to the old Fiat factory. The Pinacoteca of Giovanni Agnelli is unique, perched like a Frank Lloyd Wright structure on top of the factory (now converted into a very popular shopping mall that is packed on Sundays). Nearby is the “Bolla,” an ultramodern conference hall that looks ready to take off.

Surrounded by the rooftop test track, Agnelli’s elegant Scrigno (casket) holds a small number of paintings from his personal collection—Matisses, Canalletoes and a very nice Modigliani, in addition to traveling exhibits.

Too much art in too few days. Basta! I have a headache already and I haven’t visited a single palace, church or the famous shroud. Ciao for now.


We have gone up in the world. Our new abode is a small flat on the sixth floor of a mixed-use building. This area is not far from the center of the city, but far enough away to be predominately residential. It is in an area called La Crocetta. Not Upper East Side, but solid middle class and well-to-do.

Night life appears to be non-existent. The boulevards are lined with fairly boring 19th century buildings, enlivened occasionally by something from the Baroque period, and, of course, shop windows full of beautiful and expensive clothes. This is Italy, after all.

The tiny elevator in our building goes to the fifth floor. We are in the garret, where the roof slopes steeply down on three sides and we are forever cursing the dark beams, nursing bruises. The flat is compact, but elegant, and three small balconies offer views of the city. On Saturday morning, it finally stopped raining and the view was spectacular. The sun was out and there was a sprinkling of fresh snow on the Alps.

I should have taken some photos, but It was market day and we wanted to get out into the sunshine. We are within walking distance of a wonderful, open-air market, adjacent to a church that looks ancient, but dates back only to the end of the last century. If there was a Fiat dealership, the market would have all three Italian obsessions, cars, clothes and food. Ah, but the food…..

Luscious tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, apples, Clementines, garlic and onions. Olive bread and Parmesan. Fresh fish. Squid. Since my Italian vocabulary is quite limited, we made our purchases with the time-honored method of point and pay. At least I know my numbers. Some gestures, a little French, and a few words in English rapidly helped fill our newly-acquired shopping cart.

Our week in the hotel was not without its good side, but we ate too much. We indulged ourselves in restaurants, even ones that shouldn’t have been good, like the chain restaurant called Brek. It was nearby, quick and inexpensive.

Set up like a cafeteria with taste and even some charm, it has sections for antipasti, the first course, second course, main course, salads and soups and dessert. In my country, opening a decent restaurant for linguistically challenged diners would be sufficient to make it a hit. Here in Italy, that isn’t enough. The food has to be good.

Now we have a flat, we are back to our own devices. Food preparation. This is the land of slow food, fast cars, and lots and lots of lovely new words.

Stay tuned.

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