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We wrote a book!

10 Feb
10 February 2017. Having frequently mumbled to myself “Someone should write a book,” I actually became the “someone.”llbarton_3d_mockup
Ric and I have hiked in the Dolomites around Ortisei for the past five summers. The genesis for the book was this hike advertised as “easy” in local information but I was certain we were going to die at least twice during the trek. As we recovered from the experience I said those famous words about writing a book, and the trip turned into a research venture. Ric and I carefully traipsed the trails and documented a couple of dozen walks during our 4-week stay in Ortisei last July. Then, in the midst of the craziness of the past few months — moving to Oregon from Italy,  buying a house, relocating to the Oregon coast — we’ve managed to publish a book. Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena: 20 Easier Walks in the Dolomites near Ortisei, Selva, and Santa Cristina is now available from Amazon worldwideSimply search for it (typing “Hiking Val Gardena” in the search box on any Amazon site will bring it right up), or in the U.S. click here. 
I also have a new blog, ProjectEasyHiker, and will be shifting my focus to writing about our exploration of the Oregon Coast or anywhere else we may travel. Good Day Rome will be maintained as an archive and as inspiration strikes I may blog here as well. If you would like to continue our relationship, please head on over to PEH and follow. Project Easy Hiker is also on Facebook
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A great place to “go”

25 Jul
25 July 2016. Italian public bathrooms are often the target of jokes and complaints. The most offensive facilities have the infamous hole-in-the-floor squat or Turkish toilet. I walk away from those. I’d rather go in the woods. Then there are the WCs so small you cannot change your mind once you are inside. Many lack toilet paper or soap. And in Rome, we are cursed with many seatless toilets. They are supposed to be more sanitary and easier to clean. Clearly the invention of a man. Another classic is the lights, controlled by timers, that go out while you are seated leaving you in the dark. 
Here in the north, in the beautiful Alto Adige, we have lovely clean bathrooms. Sometimes they are transgender, often they are spacious, and I do not think I have ever visited one that did not have soap. The most beautiful bathroom has to be this marvel of technology high in the Dolomites — in fact at 2153 meters/7063 feet above sea level — at the Rifugio Emilio Comici.
No question as to what is downstairs.

No question as to what is downstairs.

It's easy to figure out men's versus women's no matter your native tongue.

It’s easy to figure out men’s versus women’s no matter your native tongue.

Red handles indicate occupied.

Red handles indicate occupied.

Green handles indicate available.

Green handles indicate available.

So you go into a stall with a backpack, hiking poles, a jacket. Where to put your stuff? Each stall has generous and thematic hooks.

So you go into a stall with a backpack, hiking poles, a jacket. Where to put your stuff? Each stall has generous and thematic hooks.

I am told that each urinal has an independent overhead light that comes on when you take your position. Photo by Ric Barton.

I am told that each urinal has an independent overhead light that comes on when you take your position. Photo by Ric Barton.

Lovely sinks, automatic faucet and soap dispenser, plus a built in hand dryer!

Lovely sinks, automatic faucet and soap dispenser, plus a built-in hand dryer!

Here is a close up of the sink. The "wings" on the faucet are actually Dyson dryers.

Here is a close up of the sink. The “wings” on the faucet are actually Dyson dryers.

On the way out, the lighted stairway is enhanced with a skiing graphic.

On the way out, the lighted stairway is enhanced with a skiing graphic.

Worth the hike! Oh, and they have a great mountain restaurant, too. Berries and yogurt at 7000 feet, yum!

Animal encounters

22 Jul
Mr. Marmot relaxes below the Seceda gondola.

Mr. Marmot relaxes below the Seceda gondola.

22 July 2016. Cows abound in the Alpe di Siusi and the Val Gardena in Italy’s north. True wildlife is a little harder to find. In fact, we’ve been hoping to spot a marmot here or in Switzerland for the past 4 years. We’ve taken “marmot trails” and seen nothing but cartoonish signs claiming the critters were about. Finally, the other day, we not only saw a marmot, but Ric captured a fine photo that I wanted to share with you. And for fun, here are a few more pictures of the animals that dot the trails we have traversed for the past 3 weeks.
Please click on any photo for a better view and a caption. 

 

Festa!

14 Jul
14 July 2016. Small town festivals were a part of the fabric of our youth: parades, bands, queens, community dinners, and carnival rides. Quite a different animal in Italy.
We arrived in Ortisei in time for the annual sagra, or local festival, complete with beer hall, folk-costume parade, and band concert. In Italy, many sagre (plural of sagra) are agricultural-based celebrating artichokes, chestnuts, truffles, and so on. Not so in Ortisei: They celebrate their Ladin culture.
Three of the more elaborate costumes.

Three of the more elaborate costumes.

The Ladin people are the historical inhabitants of this ethnically and politically confused region. Before WWI, this was Austria. They are still a part of the Tyrol, with which they share culture, history, traditions, environment, and architecture; However, they are Italian residents of the autonomous region of the Trentino-Alto Adige and have their own language. Luckily everyone speaks German and Italian, and most speak English as well as Ladin, so communication is interesting. It is not uncommon to hear three languages among four people in a single conversation. 
The band, smartly attired in Tyrolean costumes. Our hosts' daughter is one of the flautists.

The band, smartly attired in Tyrolean costumes. Our hosts’ daughter is one of the flutists.

As a community gathering, the sagra in Ortisei was remarkably simple and it seemed the entire town participated. We saw the beer hall go up in the piazza Friday night, forcing the buses and taxis to do their pick-up and drop-off on the highway 100 meters away. At noon on Saturday, several loud reports from a cannon and the vigorous ringing of church bells announced the start of the festival and drove LibbyJean into hiding.
The festival hall/beer tent on Saturday night. Teeming with people of all ages.

The festival hall/beer tent on Saturday night. Teeming with people of all ages.

Saturday night on our way to dinner we passed the beer hall — now encompassing the large bus-and-taxi piazza — where at least 2000 people were crammed tightly into picnic tables with little room for the beer servers to maneuver. We happily passed by to enjoy dinner at a relatively empty restaurant. The BIG day was to be Sunday.
Note the beer hall is set up in the bus piazza.

Note the beer hall is set up in the bus piazza.

Sunday morning at 9:45 the crowd began to gather outside the village church, awaiting the folk-costume parade, led by the town band. Many of the parade watchers also donned Tyrolean dress: boys large and small in lederhosen with women and girls in dirndl skirts. The rest of us were festively attired in hiking shorts and tee-shirts.
The short parade of extremely elaborate costumes depicted traditional dress associated with a Ladin wedding. From helpful neighbors to the “inviter,” the grandparents, and the woman with the keys to the wine cellar, everyone had a role and a costume with special meaning. The band was an assemblage of young and old musicians who after leading the parade also performed a two-hour concert during Sunday lunch. 
I nonni, the grandparents, of the bride and groomi n distinctive Ladin attire.

I nonni, the grandparents, of the bride and groom in distinctive Ladin attire.

Of course, after the parade passed everyone followed it down the street to the piazza where it was apparently not too early for wine, beer, or a spritz con Aperol. We tucked into elevensies and enjoyed the band along with our own spritzes.
Post parade parade of the uncostumed surges down ther main drag.

Post parade parade of the uncostumed surges down the main drag.

From our hillside aerie we could hear music on-and-off all afternoon and into the evening, as well as the continued firing of the cannon and overuse of the church bells. By Monday morning it was all swept away to make room for the weekly market. 

 

Sweet children in elaborate cosumes. These take an hour to put on.

Sweet children in elaborate cosumes. These take an hour to put on.

Even the tiniest participant has to have the right attire.

Even the tiniest participant has to have the right attire.

Tyrolean dress for all ages.

Tyrolean dress for all ages.

Horse drawn carriage for the wedding couple.

Horse drawn carriage for the wedding couple.

Smaller crowd Sunday after the parade. Note the street lamps and taxi station signs.

Smaller crowd Sunday after the parade. Note the street lamps and taxi station signs.

Elevensies! A spritz con Aperol with bocconcini di pollo and insalata di patate (chicken nuggets and potatoe salad). We hiked after....

Elevensies! A spritz con Aperol with bocconcini di pollo and insalata di patate (chicken nuggets and potato salad). We hiked after….

Small town memories

6 Jul
6 July 2016. My husband loves grappa. Over our years in Italy he has come to appreciate the good stuff versus the lighter fluid they sometimes give you free after dinner in a Roman restaurant. The good stuff, by the way, is usually yellow and aged, sometimes called barrique grappa. 
In 2014, during a trip to Ortisei with family, we stopped at a gelateria with the little grandnephew and grandniece. I noticed a shelf of grappas at the back of the shop and pointed it out to Ric and nephew John.  The young man serving the gelato immediately dropped the scoop into the hands of his colleague and offered to do a tasting for Ric and John at the back of the shop. We walked out a short time later with a most expensive bottle of grappa. Oh, and the rest of us did get gelato. 
Sibona Grappa di Porto. Golden and delicious, just the right ending to a meal. It is a digestivo, after all. (That's Libby in the corner of the banquette.)

Sibona Grappa da Porto. Golden and delicious, just the right ending to a meal. It is a digestivo, after all. That’s Libby in the corner of the banquette. She didn’t drink any.

We loved this grappa! It was smooth and delicious enough to (almost) replace my craving for the occasional Scotch. It proved to be hard to find this particular grappa in Roma, so the next summer, 2015, when we passed two weeks in Ortisei, Ric asked the shop for two bottles: one to drink while visiting and one to take back to the U.S. for a friend. The young man had one bottle in stock but asked us if we would please wait while he went to fetch another. I don’t know if he went home to get it from his private stock or bought it from a competitor, but 15 or 20 minutes later, after we had consumed a gratis gelato, he returned and we sailed off with our two bottles. 
Today we stopped in and went directly to the back of the shop and grabbed a bottle. A clerk asked us if we knew what it was, then stopped mid-sentence: “You were here last year! You waited and bought two bottles!” Unbelievably, even with the thousands of people they serve gelato to in that shop, this woman and her partner (the young man from the prior encounters) remembered us. I guess two bottles is a memorable sale. 
We’ve since found a source in Roma as well as one online, but as far as we know, you cannot get this stuff in the U.S. If anyone finds it, please let us know for future needs. I don’t think we can afford to ship home a carload.
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