lunedì 25 agosto 2008


Sunday I went on what is locally called a gastronomy tour. I understand in recent years they have become popular in the region. The tours focus on particular communities and the little villages that make up the whole commune.
The commune seems to be the basic municipal form in Italy. I'm sure I'll not really describe it acurately, but this is my layman's take on the organizational structure. Pergine encompasses the actual town of Pergine and includes fractions, smaller towns with populations from 38 to 790 people, and localities, that can be uninhabited or have as many as 227 inhabitants. I am not sure what qualifies each community for what status. I am leaning toward thinking that the presence of a church changes your status, but this is a mere supposition.
The Perzenando is a relatively recent entrant into the gastronomy cycle. Each year they change the course of the walk to, I assume, let people get to know more about the little communities that make up the commune. For a flat fee of 20 euros, you get a gift, this year it was a rain poncho which we thankfully didn't need, and all the food you could possibly want to eat. The course was about 15 km, about 10 miles, and it took all day long. Every few kilometers you stop and eat something, and you always get your choice of water or wine. Whether you want it or not. It does no good to ask for just a little bit of wine, as your little plastic cup is always topped off.
This year I had to do without Scott's company. His leg is now technically healed, but he has been told not to put any weight on it for another month. He actually considered coming along on crutches, but he realized, correctly, that there would be passages that were just too steep. Instead of his company, I recruited a friend of mine from Mexico that is here in Trento doing enviornmental research. I'm sure we could have walked much faster, but as the point of the day was to enjoy the communities as much as the countryside, we went at a leisurely pace.
The tour passed through the fractions of Susà, Costasavina, and Roncogno, the locality of Fornaci, and a religious retreat, Villa Moretta, and included a challenging climb through the woods above the little towns. All the little towns are quite dense and have a very medieval feel, although I have no idea how old the buildings are. They are all attached and remind me in some wierd way of those native American cliff dwellings in the Southwest. Most of the building are well cared for and have been rennovated. Sometimes only a portion of the building is lived in, and only the inhabited parts are in good repair, leaving an odd image of a building half occupied. Since the area is experiencing some growth, I noticed that the buildings in Susà that have been sitting empty and in disrepair, now seem to be undergoing rennovation. In each little village, there were people demonstrating local crafts. In Costasavina, there was a man doing some woodworking with an ancient lathe, and another shaping copper into pans and relief panels. In Roncongo, someone was making sauerkraut, a staple in this part of Italy, and another was making corn meal for polenta the old fashioned way. Several people in Roncogno had opened their cellars up to the public, and you could see the innards of these lovely old buildings. I saw one that was covered with every immaginable type of tool. In another cellar I discovered an interesting cultural tidbit.
There is a local group that supports several causes including a yearly bike "race" for leukemia. They are rather lively and part of their routine is these bicycle contraptions that pump beer or use a saw to cut bread and lucanica, the local salami. A few group members were in a smoke-filled cellar singing ribald songs. One of them was "Heidi" which is the theme song to an animated television series that was made in Japan and dubbed into many European languages. They were never broadcast in the United States so I am totally unfamiliar with the series. Apparently in Italy, as my Mexican friend related, the song is available in Karoake Bars and patrons enjoy themselves by changing the words in predictably vulgar ways. Apparently, an Italian aquaintance told her it is also a popular sing along on car trips. The changed lyrics include the phrases "Heidi, Troia (which is slang for a woman of easy virture, and also, oddly enough, is the name for the city of Troy)" and "hai un culo fantastico." I searched on youtube and found several versions, but only with a crowd singing the "Heidi, Troia" line. I filmed a snippet with my camera and am kicking myself for only getting 16 seconds.

The really funny part is that RAI television hosts many shows that showcase popular songs and performers from bygone eras, the 50's, 60's etc. There were also numerous versions of these in Germany. Here they almost always seem to be hosted by Carlo Conti, who also hosts a game show, L'eredità, that includes as side entertainment a group of provocatively clad women who "dance" in between show segments. On one of these shows they had the woman who sang the Italian Heidi theme song on. Now that I know that they lyric changes are so commonplace, I have to giggle at their selection.

venerdì 22 agosto 2008

La Gola

We don't exactly live in Trento. Trento is part of a much bigger river valley that leads straight up into Germany through the Alps, the famous Brenner Pass. We live in one of the many side valleys -- the Upper Valsugana. Trento is relatively close as the crow flies, but not as easily reached by other forms of transportation. To arrive you have to pass over a mountain or go around. Since the road on the mountian direcly behind our house is little more than one lane that twists and climbs, the only real choice is through the narrow gap that separates the valleys.
Even still the people on this side of the mountain don't venture into Trento often, but this is changing as many people are buying houses and apartments on this side of the mountain. The fastest way to arrive is through a series of tunnels and bridges that pass through what is essentially a gorge, or una gola. When you are on the road that leads from Trento to the Valsugana, you don't notice that you are actually on a bridge, and the ground is quite a way down. If you take the train you notice the drop as the train tracks are on the other side of the gap. My neighbor said it used to take at least 40 minutes to get to Trento before they built the tunnels, now you can arrive in 20.
There is a road that passes on one side that is not as primative. The cyclists use this to train. I've bicycled to Trento several times on this road, but it's difficult. Getting to Trento isn't as tough, but the return trip is hell. Trento is 300 meters lower than we are, so you have to climb 500 or 600 meters. Not an easy task. The relief you feel when you reach the top of the ride is tremendous. I've never managed to get to that point without stopping several times. It's great exercise though.
Just before the pass opens up into the valley is a little community called Cire. I've always thought it would be a terrible place to live. It is very close to the highway that goes through the tunnels and bridges that leads to Trento. There are also a series of industrial sites intermixed with the housing. The overall impression is oppressive. A bit like living in a highway rest area.
During the First World War the area was heavily fortified and many battles were fought in the hills and valleys, as Trentino was part of Austria and the front lines were located here. Almost every mountain has the remnants of trench lines and it is also easy to find a fort in ruins, or the anchors for the artillery. I always wonder how on earth they were able to get the materials and those huge guns up the mountains -- beasts of burden I imagine. Today they use helicopters to transport building materials.
Since Cire is at the bottom of the mountain and it is the first flat area of any size that isn't too near the small river, the Fersina, that flows through the narrow pass, it must have been an attractive military site. An acquaintance here told me that during the Second World War, Cire was a munitions dump. She was a young girl during the war, and said that the valley was bombed often. I imagine since this is the major access point between Italy and Germany, it must have been hellish. However she doesn't remember being afraid.
Soon after the war had ended, there was a huge explosion at the munitions dump one evening. The explosion was so destructive that they never found any traces of the guards on duty that evening. Even though the war was over, the site of the fire filled her with terror. When I pass through Cire now I always think of her story, and can imagine the smoke and heat.

mercoledì 20 agosto 2008

La Caviglia

Yesterday Scott had his cast removed. Although we knew that he would get an x-ray and an exam, we were expecting that the doctor would at least place a boot on the foot. I was a bit surprised when we left that Scott exited with his very pink and still swollen foot bare for the world to see. I took some photos of the foot, but I am hesitant to post them as they are VERY ugly, and actually might be considered obscene.
Our landlord, and neighbor, Marco drove us to Trento for our appointment. He has been incredibly helpful throughout the whole process. The other day we saw him in the hallway and he was a bit outraged thinking we'd been to town without asking him for a ride. After he dropped us off he went somewhere in Trento to wait the two hours that our appointment took. We had agreed, as we had for the last appointment, that I would call him when we were done. I wasn't able to reach him so we didn't wait were we had last time, but found a shady spot, and a bench, to wait.

The bench is in front of the hospital at the taxi stand and there is always a crowd of people coming and going. Scott was unbelievably excited about being able to see his nasty scars on both his ankles, and the fact that he had print outs of the two x-rays that they had made. When we got home he made me count the holes on each of his scars to figure out the number of stitches that he had had -- 18 in total, six on one side and twelve on the other. Even though his ability to communicate in Italian is limited he eagerly shared the pictures of his now healed bone with the placca and the screws the doctor used to attach it clearly visible. He even showed the older gentleman his freshly uncovered scars. Not to be outdone, our neighbor on the bench pulled at the collar of his shirt and showed Scott the scar he had from having a pacemaker installed. He had just had the old one he had had installed 19 years previously replaced. He waved goodbye to us vigorously as his son arrived with the car.
Since I was still unable to reach Marco I headed back to the other entrance and he was waiting there. I was a bit horrified. He later said that he had forgotten his phone at home, but fortunately neither of us waited too long.
Scott is still over the moon about his x-rays and manages to bring it into the conversation whenever he can. I have to admit that I am fairly disgusted by his foot and calf that look worse for the wear after being hidden in the cast for a month. The daily injections still go on for another month because even though the cast is off he can't walk on the foot for another month. Yesterday was the first time we were charged anything -- 40 euros for the x-ray and the visit, but I can go get the x-rays in another week. Scott will have the real set to admire.