A cake of questionable taste

Italy continues to amaze me.

Cake in the window of Chieli

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When one ass is not enough…

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Google visits Anghiari

Few have been more instrumental in making sure every street of the globe is digitally documented than the folks at google, which is why I was thrilled to see them show up to put Anghiari on the map.

Until recently, the most beautiful part of Anghiari – the historic center – has been left undocumented on google street view. This being due to the difficulties of squeezing the google van down streets barely wide enough to fit a mule, and the restrictions of navigating the limited traffic zone of the historic center. (Thanks be to God. If Italians had it their way, they’d drive their cars directly into their living rooms.)

Enter the “google-bike” –  street view’s solution for capturing the cobbled roads of Italy’s medieval towns. This guy has a great job – he is the singular person tasked with documenting the corners of Italy where the google van is unable to go. I can only begin to dream about the places he’s seen.

I don’t know how long it will take to get Anghiari street view up, but check periodically on google street view / anghiari.

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Venice Underfoot

If you can manage to get a glimpse of Venice’s sidewalks through the herds of tourist’s trotters, you’ll  see that the city once had some dignity about how it approached tourism. Here is a sampling of some of the mosaics to be found underfoot.

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The Sporting Life

Spanish Triathalon

Whenever you pick up a t-shirt on vacation, be sure you understand what it says. I didn’t stick around after she finished her food and drink.

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Stick and Be Saved

Holy Sticker

There’s no nice way to say it. A good percentage of Italians drive like lunatics. Clearly they are under the impression that a blessed adhesive like the one above is enough to save them from their devil-may-care approach to road safety.

The prayer goes something like this…” St. Francis, watch over me as I exceed the speed limit, drive recklessly close to the person in front of me, and park wherever I damn well please – including sidewalks and pedestrian crossings. Amen.”

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March 17: Happy Italian Unification Day

St. Patrick and Giuseppe Garibaldi

In cities across America, March 17th is often reserved for wearing shades of green otherwise inadvisable for clothing, consuming green alcohol, and dying rivers green (no – the Gowanus Canal is naturally that color) all in celebration of St. Patrick, a 4th century bishop who tried to bring Catholicism to the Irish people. The popularity of this holiday in the US is understandable considering that Irish is among the top recorded ancestries in the States today, and that the main objective of the day is, well, to get drunk.

Something you may not know however, is that March 17th also marks the unification of Italy. Prior to various campaigns, including the overthrow of the Kingdom of Naples led by Guiseppe Garibaldi in 1861,  (That’s a gross oversimplification of the Risorgimento which lasted decades), Italy was just a bunch of bickering neighbors. Garibaldi is one of the most identifiable symbols associated with the unification. It is, in part, thanks to him that the Italian map takes on the familiar shape of a boot rather than a penny loafer.

I was curious, with Italian-Americans following close behind Irish-Americans in numbers, why this supposedly important event in Italian history hasn’t received more press in the new country. I lived in New York for over 15 years – at times in largely Italian neighborhoods – and have never once been invited to a Unification party, or a Garibaldi dinner on March 17th. I even recall my Italian-American landlord wearing a sweater bedazzled with green shamrocks on the anniversary of Italian Unification.

At a glance, I would guess that in today’s New York, there is more influence of Italian culture than perhaps of any other Western European country. Even Garibaldi himself could be considered a New Yorker -while exiled from Italy he stayed with his buddy Antonio Meucci at his place on Staten Island.

I looked further into the reason this date has been seemingly eclipsed by St. Patrick and learned that not even in Italy is it a widely celebrated day. Only because this year marks the 150th anniversary has a public holiday been granted. The effort has been accused as artificial, which is not surprising from a populace that tends to favor regional allegiance over national pride and a political system peppered with groups that stand on secessionist platforms.

While St. Patrick is parading flamboyantly down 5th avenue Garibaldi will be in his usual New York haunt – Washington Square Park – surrounded by pigeons. Perhaps you’d like to pay him a visit. He’s the guy with the sword.

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