12/3/22 | Campiglia Marittima, Tuscany > Drove in pouring rain to Suvereto for dinner, had seafood including tiny snails we had to pick out w/ toothpicks if we couldn't suck 'em out.
12/4 | Lucca> Weather cleared a bit, pushed on north. Stopped in Castiglioncello + walked thru an umbrella pine grove along waterfront, clambering along rocks + poking into tidepools. Managed to scamper up cliff to stairs that led to an abandoned hotel (Parisi) that we snuck through but we couldn't get to the street b/c it was gated, so had to climb back down. Had a coffee then continued onto Calafuria, hiked down to some interesting spot w/ pocked rocks.
Then continued on, past Pisa (could see the leaning tower from the highway) to Lucca. We came here once before in 2011, but only flash-posted about it, don't think we even spent the night. Walked the ramparts + around town, trying to make up for only walking 3-4 miles yesterday b/c of the rain, 9+ miles on the day). Pizza for lunch, then to Peperosa for dinner, Michelin star kind of place which we're usually not crazy about but it was great.
Lucca (view from the tower w/ trees on top)
rambling on the ramparts
12/5 | Lerici, Liguria> woke up + walked around Lucca + up on the wall + went to the Puccini museum/birth home + got back to the room + were about to settle in for the afternoon when the front desk ringed us asking if we were staying an extra night + we said we thought we booked 2 nights, but then checked our itinerary + indeed we fucked up... not sure how, but we thought we were staying 2 nights there. So quickly packed up, so quickly in fact that our bedder-½ almost forgot their phone + as they ran up to get it we thought what else did we forget + remembered our passports in the safe! And also our jackets in the closet. It was like 2 or 3 o'clock + we blazed out of Lucca to Lerici, back to the coast, just in time for the sunset, which we enjoyed on our terraza overlooking the ocean, drinking prosecco. Walked into San Terenzo for dinner (pesto, since we were in Liguria), 11+ miles for the day.
Lucca pano (higher rez)
Lerici/San Terenzo (Cinque Terre on other side of mountains beyond)
12/6 | Parma> Walked around Lerici then drove to Parma through the mountains. Last time we went this route, it was a long windy 2-lane road thru the snow... seems since then they've built an autostrada b/c it took less than 2 hours. Got to Parma + got lunch at Gallo d'Oro, had some sort of dish w/ egg + parmesan cheese + truffles, can't remember the name of + bedder-½ got tris de tortelli, washed down with a sparkling white called malvasia, which is sort of like pigneletto, that—even though Bologna is less than 100 km away—the server had never heard of. Watched Morocco beat Spain, lots of Moroccans + north Africans in Parma + they were going nuts. For dinner ate at Antica Osteria della Ghiaia, we had tortelli di carciofi + bedder-½ had anolini in brodo, like capeletti or tortellini in brodo but round blobs.
just how we like it (no ppl, no cars)
12/9 | Bologna> back in the orange town of porticos + fatty food... the impetus for this trip was to scout out Italy in light of our Italy vs. NYC decision. We weighed the NYC side in post 1044, now we're giving Bologna another shot, or at least Italy in general... after spending a good part of last year in Bologna we're pretty sure we don't want to live in Bologna itself (for reasons we went into in post 946 + other posts from last year), but our bedder–½ would only need to teach 1 day a week for 1 semester (4 months), so we could conceivably live elsewhere in Italy + commute here during that time, hence why we came up through Tuscany. Florence would be a practical choice, since there's a high speed train (45 min) to Bologna, but we've been to Florence enough to know there's no way we could live there, unless it was in the outskirts or a nearby town, away from all the tourists. Lucca is nice (though an extra hour away from Bologna) at 1st glance, but we're not so sure after spending 2 days there... this «no car» thing is a bit of a farce, it basically means only rich assholes from Lucca can have sports cars + they speed around acting like pedestrians + bikers are peons... unnerving to walk around, like elsewhere in Italy, always worrying about cars or motorini speeding up behind U + U have to get out of their way, as there are usually no sidewalks.
Most people probably think we're crazy or fussy primadonnas for griping about such things, for not jumping at the opportunity to live in such a beautiful place, but you have to look beyond the surface + imagine yourself living day to day. We've fallen for it before, lived in a ~500 year old house in Trastevere for 3 years (w/ no regrets, from 2010 to 2012) + traveling around Italy + again in Rome for ½ of 2015 + then again in 2018–2019 living in the attic of a fricking palace off Piazza Venezia. Rome's a different story—if we moved back to Italy, it would likely be Rome for practical reasons (2 hr train ride to Bologna, near an intl airport + all the intl food agencies our bedder-½ works with, etc.), but what we're talking about now is these picturesque hilltop towns that every one thinks are so quaint + charming... of course they're wonderful to visit + walk around for a day or 2, but to live?
Joyce's observation from a century ago applies to all of Italy:
Rome reminds me of a man who lives by exhibiting his grandmother's corpse.
+ yah, the food's great, but it's 1 type of food, hard to even source ingredients for cuisine from other parts of the world, let alone other parts of Italy.... what's the adage about Rome? they have 10,000 restaurants w/ the same menu? Bologna has 100s of restaurants, but w/ the same 3–5 dishes specific to this region + they are all heavy + involve meat... we've had to throw out our vegetarian ways being here this past week (+ would if we lived here) + while it tastes good, it's hard to stomach, especially the mortadella, which we never order but seems they always bring you for free. We woke up in the middle of the night last night feeling like we had a belly full of cured death. + then 1 has to consider how they're gonna burn off those calories, hardly anywhere decent to run + if there's gyms they don't open until 7 or 8 a.m. so if U have a job, what do U do?
The other thing about Bologna (+ nearby Milan, which could be viable option since it is more international + only a 1-hour train ride) is the weather + air sucks. The whole north swath in the Po river valley gets socked it w/ this haze/fog, that combined w/ all the industry in this corridor makes for some of the worst air quality in the world. If you take trains between touristic towns U don't notice it, but driving between Parma + Bologna it's a flat industrial wasteland, + always traffic w/ lots of trucks... really unpleasant driving. Essentially Bologna has all the pitfalls of a big city (crowded, smoggy, lots of traffic) without the advantages.
We're not car people + living w/o a car (outside of Rome + Milan) would be difficult. Even in Rome, public transport sucks + it's not very biker-friendly. Or walker-friendly. Cars rule everywhere in Italy, they'll run U over or cut in front of U even if you're on the sidewalk or crosswalk with a green light. If someone pulled such a dick move in NYC, U can speak your mind, like Ratso Rizzo did in Midnight Cowboy, but in Italy it's not our place to say anything. And when other Italians complain about such things (which they do) it usually involves a long back + forth engagement, arguing who has the right-a-way, or whether your dog should be on a leash, or whether you're allowed to walk on a certain beach, or whether you can walk on a boardwalk on a sunny day without a shirt on (we've been running out in the middle of a park with no 1 nearby + been asked to put a shirt on, by police even) ...
sign in Lerici saying people need to cover their torsos
Italian idea of a bike lane
We have ex-pat friends that have lived in Italy for 20+ years + engage in such banter + let such things get under their skin, telling people to clean up after their dogs go poop (which they rarely do), but we don't want to be THAT ex-pat. U can argue til you're red in the face, you're not gonna change Italians + their repressed + fossilized ways.
Italy is a hard sell for people like us that don't like cars, like to walk, that like diversity, etc... it's worth reiterating the 10 pros of «aNYCity» (+ cons of «iTLE») that we st8ed in post 1044:
1. NYers get 5hit done, most afishant + functional place on th planit
2. pede5trians rule, n0 need 4 car, gr8 place 2 walk + gr8 public tran5port
3. culturally most diverse place on planit, true melting pot
4. U/i reL8 2 NYers more than Italian ⊕ NE other ppls
5. gr8 restraunts of all types + markets + concerts
6. even tho itLE = more central 2 rest of mundo, we probly wouldn’t live near major airport
7. w/ regard 2 US politics/gun violence/MAGA types, etc. (main motiv8ion 2 get th hell out of dodge b4 next election) aNYCity = bubble + itLE has issues of its one now
8. iTLE mite B new/different eXperience iF we'd nvr bin, but we already lived there ~5 yrs
9. aNYCity surrounded by water + U have Central + Riverside parks (wich rock), itLE has very few accessible waterfronts ware 1 can walk ⊕ run + 5hit 4 green space/parks
10. everything just = EZier in aNYCity, 1 can get/do N-Ething @ N-E time, whereas itLE there = s0 much burrocrazy w/ everything + establishments never open when U want them 2 B
Regarding #1, it's like pulling teeth getting anything done in Italy. We started going through the visa process last year + it was a nightmare of bureaucracy. Same with navigating their health-care system, or buying a house, or getting Internet (last time we lived in Rome we tried for months to get Internet before giving up + using a shitty satellite bumper)... it goes beyond language fluency. And good luck buying anything off the Internet (if U do get it hooked up) or having your mail delivered.
#7 is a big reason to choose Italy over NYC, especially w/ the 2024 elections looming, though things don't seem as dire after the mid-term election results + Italy has a fascist prime minister + political problems of their own (though we'd be an outsider to it). Perhaps the biggest advantage of Italy over NYC is what's nearby, far as traveling or having a 2nd home. If we moved to NYC we'd probably have little interest in travelling around outside of NYC, unless we hopped a plane + flew for 5+ hours... we determined that on our recent trip through Catskills, Berkshires + Long Island. Italy is more central to the rest of the world + Europe, there's lots of nearby interesting places to explore + unfinished business (for example, we still haven't been to Germany or Greece).
Another pro for Italy is that it's less capitalistic, not just that it's cheap + fair + there's no tipping (though with no tipping comes worse service), but for example if someone recommends a wine U just say, «sure why not» + it ends up being good + not so expensive (sometimes even the cheapest wine on the list), or U order sparkling water without thinking whereas in the U.S. we usually don't b/c it could end up being ridiculously expensive... not that we're cheapskates, but it's the principal of it, not feeling like you're being nickeled + dimed for everything like you are in the U.S. There's lots of mom + pop shops in Italy + little in the way of chains.
These are of course all personal reasons regarding lifestyle/living situation... there's the professional considerations our bedder-½ is considering (as we speak they're meeting w/ ppl trying to figure out what this move + new working arrangement would entail). This might be the best opportunity they ever have to be an academic in Europe. It's perhaps the hardest decision we've ever had to make.
So yah, that's what's been weighing on our minds. The 1st day we arrived, we walked around revisiting old haunts + ate lunch at Quanto Basta, had cacio e pepe, alici + puntarelle... what does that say? Only a few days in Bologna + we choose to eat at the only Roman restaurant in town. As we said, living in Rome is probably the only way it would work... even after living in Rome 3–4 years we still pinched ourself. We don't feel that way walking around Bologna. Seems just like yesterday that we were here even though it was a year ago (to the day). Walked around for 10 miles. Yesterday clocked another 11+ miles walking around + up through the 666 portico arches to San Luca... not sure what's going on, but it was ridiculously crowded even though it's Thursday, maybe b/c it's a holiday (feast of the immaculate conception), or maybe this is normal + it wasn't as crowded the times we walked it last year b/c of covid. And if there is a sidewalk, people in Italy will stroll 4 across coming at you + not get out of your way, expecting you to jump out of their way into the street. We ended up walking in the road up to San Luca there was so many people + there was tons of cars speeding up the road even though it dead ends at the monastery so they're just doing it for a joyride.
view from San Luca (air so bad U can't even see Bologna)
(more street art of Bologna)
new street art by Simone Pelligrini (who some might recognize from Sleepingfish iX (unless he's got a copycat)
back perambulating the porticos
time's ticking on our decision