Italy is in a class all by itself.

The incomparable Vespa is known around the world, but that’s just one minor detail in the vast array of Italian accomplishments. The distinctions are many, including: food, art, the Renaissance, the Roman Empire, the Vatican, incredible villas, world-class fashion, fast cars (Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati ), passionate lovers, espresso, the original organized crime group (a dubious distinction), beautiful cities, culture, opera, and the list goes on and on. But, in addition to the many significant accomplishments over literally millennia, there is nothing quite like the unique Italian personality—a tireless energy, generosity and unmistakable presence, easily seen in their facial expressions, synchronized with flamboyant gestures or easily heard in their voices, as they speak. Spoken words sound like poetry, lyrical and lilting. The Tuscans are particularly proud of their language, since their favorite son, Dante Aligheri, invented it.

Traveling around Italy, wandering the towns and narrow back-streets, one can find all sorts of clever, cute, hilarious and sometimes downright unbelievable Italian sights. Following is a gallery of some surprising and often quirky discoveries we’ve made over several decades of living amongst the amazing Italians. They offer a seemingly endless source of inspiration, and yes, humorous, free entertainment. Their most fascinating contributions can be found scattered around in the every-day activities. You absolutely have to love the Italians!

 

 

Veruska and Igor seem happy with their lives in Italy. We don’t really know where exactly in Russia they came from or IF they really are Russian. Why did they leave? Were there suspicious circumstances? It doesn’t really matter. We simply know that they are the sweet couple that we encountered just outside the Balducci Coffee Bar on the piazza in Caldine. (more…)

So here’s the situation: In our Italian neck of the woods, there is a law that permits only a certain number of windows per room. Yes, that’s right. Apparently, the practice started years ago when farmers didn’t want so many windows due to their inefficiency—you know, drafty winters, vulnerability, etc. So, over the centuries, they just made the practice into an architectural common law of sorts. Why not? You can do that kind of thing here  . . . it’s Italy! (more…)

After he returned from 3 weeks in Lyon, France, Emerson offered me his journal to read. As I read, I wondered about the whys of his ways. He chatted with Marina on the first day. He struck up a conversation with Rosina and Stephan at dinner. He accompanied Romain to his workshop. Talked with Sid and Jean Pierre in the park—just to name a few local folks. Why? After walking all over the city, why did he continue going back to Place Sathonay, rather than other compelling spots? (more…)

“St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come down
Something is lost and can’t be found”

We have a great friend, Zia. We’ve worked with her for years on various projects, and whenever we needed something that seemed to be lost, she recited this little prayer to Saint Anthony. Miraculously, it always seemed to work. Once, in fact, she located something missing in our own home because Saint Anthony told her it was on a specific shelf in the dining room cabinet. I thought it was an unlikely place, but Em encourage me to immediately go home to check it out anyway—and there it was, just like Zia said. Or just like Saint Anthony said. That experience made us believers, even though we’ve rarely used the prayer since . . . except for one particular day in France! (more…)

At the visitor’s center in the small French town of Saint-Vallier-sur-Rhône, we asked the director, our new British friend Hillary what to do. We had taken the train from Lyon earlier that morning, with the intention of continuing by bus to the tiny burg of Hauterives, to visit Ferdinand Cheval‘s “Ideal Palace.” That was the plan . . . until we found out that the buses were really few and far between. The next bus would be along in 4 hours. A taxi was a logical second choice, but they’re hard to come by, and would be on the super high side of pricey. We were determined to see the Palace—hence our dilemma. (more…)

Many people have asked us over the years, “How did that fantastic international game of Bocce Bale ever get started, anyway?”

Well . . . once upon a time . . . three years ago, we were out on our evening meadow walk with our friend Joan. It happened to be the end of June, and Stefano, our local farmer friend had just cut and baled the grass in the fields. Well . . . Joan is an artist, and as you might expect, was captivated by the beauty of the sculptural round forms dotting the landscape. We all talked about them as we walked, playfully winding our way in and out of the geometric grass cylinders, marveling at the beauty of nature. (more…)

We sat down on the perfectly placed stone bench to enjoy a quiet moment with nature. A rustling sound began somewhere nearby: perhaps two lizards playing, a harmless garden snake, or just leaves blowing in the evening breeze. However, the strange sound intensified and before we knew it, we were sitting amid rubble. Our sacred stone perch overlooking the valley had literally disintegrated beneath us. No one was even slightly injured, but our quiet meditation had been bruised rather badly. (more…)