Viaggio con Isabella

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Duomo Selfie FirenzeOne year ago I was just returning from Italia with my nipotina Isabella. Since we are not able to travel in real life, viaggiamo in pultrona, let’s armchair travel and revisit our trip.

A bit of backstory…when Isabella was about 8 years old, she saw a photo of me on the Ponte Vecchio and asked ‘Zia, where is this?’.  I replied ‘Firenze’ and she asked if we could go there together one day.  I was thrilled at the opportunity to share my love of Firenze with her, so of course I said ‘Si! We can go when you graduate’.  We were delayed a few years due to scheduling issues, but last year in between Isabella finishing her university classes and starting a summer job, we managed to squeeze in a 2 week trip!Ponte Vecchio Firenze

We flew to Firenze, where we rented a studio apartment in the Oltrarno for a week.  It was in a renovated stone tower a short walk from the Ponte Vecchio and down a narrow alley from Piazza della Passera.Peppe Zullo, Mercato Centrale

Chef Peppe Zullo, our amico from Orsara, was in town our first day.  We met him at the Mercato Centrale where he and his son Michele had recently taken over a restaurant upstairs called Tosca.

Galleria degli UffiziWe had prebooked only 1 museum-the Uffizi of course, for the Saturday so that Gaetano, our cugino in med school could join us.  New Caravaggio rooms have opened since my last visit!  Galleria degli UffiziI noticed many portraits of Anna Maria Luisa de Medici on display.  We have her to thank for all of this! Isabella loved the Uffizi, not just for the artwork, also the building itself, so Gaetano suggested she visit Palazzo Pitti another day.Palazzo Pitti Firenze interior

I am ‘vertically challenged’, which may be why I like to climb to the top of things, especially if there is a view involved. We climbed almost everything in Firenze, starting with a walk to Piazzale Michelangelo via Porta San Niccolò for views of the city, then continuing up to San Miniato al Monte. We climbed the dizzying narrow stairs to the top of Brunelleschi’s Duomo to see the views and the Torre Giotto.  Duomo FirenzeAnother day we climbed the Torre Giotto and saw the Duomo!  These climbs were vital to working off gelato! For more photos taken from above see Viste di Firenze.

We also enjoyed the view, modern art and caffè from la terrazza degli Uffizi.  This is the title of one of my monotypes, so I had to throw that in there!  The Aperol Spritz from the roof bar of La Rinascente in Piazza della Repubblica was the best I have had.  With her new headband and puffy sleeves, Isabella looked like a Renaissance principessa enjoying a spritz!Isabella Aperol Spritz Duomo Firenze

We were on constant lookout for street art by Blub-even Gaetano when he was with us.  The results of our Blub hunt are in the post L’arte sa Nuotare.Blub street art Firenze

Isabella loves caffè.  She started ordering caffè lungo because both times she ordered un americano, they repeated ‘American coffee’ and tried to serve her drip coffee!   Mannaggia!   What has the world come to!Caffe a Firenze We had caffè at a different place every morning, including Caffè degli Artigiani in Piazza della Passera, Bar d’ Angolo in Porta Romana, one of my old favourites I Dolci di Patrizio Cosi, and one place way too close to Ponte Vecchio. They were all wonderful!  Isabella kept track of the cost of a cornetto and 2 caffè lunghi…..as expected, she found the price decreased and the quality increased the farther out we went!  Valuable life lessons!

San GimignanoWe joined 5 others on a lovely daytrip from San Gimignano to Siena with Piero of Bike Florence and Tuscany.  The weather was ominous, either sprinkling or threatening to rain all day.  Bicicletta ToscanaMonteriggioni was a stop for wine tasting and we cycled parts of the Via Francigena. In Siena we had a few hours to explore the city and have Panforte.Monteriggioni Siena

The weather was not very warm for May.  I think this is the first time I have ever packed a small umbrella, but glad I did!  We had to dress in layers, or ‘a la cipolla’ as they say in italiano.  Some evenings in Firenze, it seemed like we were wearing ALL of the clothes in our valigia! Despite this, we walked everywhere.

Here is our map –YES- a map-of where we walked.  Maps of the city centre are great for getting oriented.  It is much easier than trying to look at a GPS on a tiny phone screen.  We did not have time to take the bus to Fiesole or get to L’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David or attend Mass at Santa Croce.  Isabella will definitely need to get back to Firenze.  While shopping, she did receive many compliments every day on her Italiano, even bartering down the price of a cute leather jacket!Biciclette, LuccaLucca was our next stop, 1.5 hours away by train.  Lucca is one of my favourite places in Italia!  We stayed at a small B&B near Torre Guinigi.  The owners found out we lived in Vancouver and told us about their nipote in Vancouver who is Isabella’s age.  I started to say that Vancouver was a big city…… when Isabella said ‘Uh….Zia….I actually do know him….  Che mondo piccolo!  After that, every time they saw Isabella, with no subtlety at all, they went on about what a nice boy he was!Riding the medieval walls Lucca

Lucca is known for its intact medieval walls.  We rented biciclette to ride the path on top of the walls.  The forecast was for good weather.  We had done 4 laps of the tree lined 4 km route, when unexpectedly a torrential downpour started.  It rained so hard we could barely see.Lucca medieval walls

We tried to get off the path, but visibility was so bad we could not tell which gate and ‘onramp’ we had taken to get up to the wall.  This was important because we had to return the bikes where we rented them.  Isabella wore her new jacket, and rather than get it ruined in the rain, she had folded it up inside out in a plastic bag in the cestino -the basket- leaving her in short sleeves.  Brrrr!

Piazza Anfiteatro LuccaBy the time we got to Piazza Anfiteatro to warm up and wait for the rain to stop, we looked like wet rats.  The restaurants are outdoor, so they had large heaters, and even blankets.  Piazza Anfiteatro Lucca A friend was coming from Viareggio for aperitivo later, but she had to cancel due to the weather.  Even in the rain, Lucca is spectacular. It is also a great place to shop!  I never spend enough time in Lucca.Monterosso a mare, Sentiero Azzurro

Our next stop was La Spezia via Pisa and on to Vernazza, our home base in the Cinque Terre.  I wrote about our time there in 2 posts- Le Cinque Terre and Exploring le Cinque Terre. The second post is specifically about our adventures.  The weather was beautiful, which is good, as there are no indoor activities there!  Hiking all day with a 19 year old is hard work, so luckily there was wine tasting in the evening!Milano Naviglio GrandeThe morning we left Vernazza was raining almost as much as on the walls of Lucca!  Isabella had been to Roma several times, but not to Milano, so we booked to fly home from there.  We met our cugina Federica, who we stayed with, and went to the Navigli area to have dinner with more cugini. Our visit was too short.  We spent the next day walking and window shopping around the Cento Storico and had a few ‘streetside reunions’ and phone calls with more cugini and a friend.  I have been to Milano many times but have yet to see L’Ultima Cenacola, Da Vinci’s Last Supper.  Even 2 weeks in advance, I was not able to book admission.  Another reason to return!Milano Duomo nella pioggiaWe hope you have enjoyed this piccolo viaggio virtuale with us!  Hopefully we can travel again soon.  Ciao, Cristina & IsabellaPiazza della Repubblica selfie

Street Art for International Nurses Day

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Angeli Custodi TV Boy Street Art Guardian AngelsMay 12th is International Nurses Day.  Since 1965, it has been a day to mark the contributions that nurses make to society.  May 12th was chosen because it is the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.

The theme for International Nurses Day 2020 is A voice to lead:  Nursing the world to heal. A fitting theme for this (so far) sucky pandemic year.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize my fellow nurses and also doctors, first responders, lab and radiology techs, respiratory techs (Yes, especially the RT’s!), housekeeping staff, delivery drivers, mail carriers, everyone in the food distribution chain, and all other essential workers.  Sending much love and gratitude to you all!

Super Nurse street art by FAKEStreet artists have also been showing the love.  ‘Super Nurse’ is a stencil art mural by Dutch urban artist FAKE.  The artist is offering the image as a free downloadable PDF with a customizable background from his website Highonspraypaint to share with healthcare professionals, give as a gift, or put up in the workplace. Super nurse FAKE street art downloadable PDF

‘We can do it/ce la faremo‘ is Sicilian street artist TVBoy’s health care professional image released for italian labour day, May 1 as a ‘tribute to all health workers who have not spared themselves in these months and worked with courage and dedication, as always, even if we have only realized now the importance they have in our lives’.  I like to call her Rosie because she is posing like the WWII poster of Rosie the Riveter!We can do it TV Boy street art

The cover image Guardian Angels/Angeli Custodi, is also by TV Boy, aka Salvatore Benintende.  TVBoy and Banksy were also featured in the post Napoli Street Art.Banksy Game Changer Sock Monkey Super Nurse

Banksy’s newest work ‘Game Changer’ is a beautiful image.  A child ditches his makebelieve superhero action figures to play with a real one….Sock Monkey Super Nurse to the rescue!  He has donated the work to  Southhampton Hospital to be auctioned off to raise funds for health services. Banksy Sock monkey super nurse close up

Happy Nurses Day everyone!  Please share the love and kindness.

Images from the artists’ instagram accounts @iamfake, @banksy, @tvboy.

Ciao, Cristina

Cinquecento Love

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Fiat Cinquecento wedding carCinquecento Love:  My lifelong obsession with the FIAT 500 is my article/photo essay in a special print edition of Accenti Magazine.  With the COVID Pandemic, we do not know when the issue will be printed.  The article is now available online at the link posted below.

Accenti, The Canadian Magazine with an Italian Accent was launched in November 2002. Thirty-one issues were published in print. Since January 2015, Accenti is published online-only. Accenti also publishes a newsletter, which is emailed to subscribers.Fiat Cinquecento Roma

Cinquecento Love:  My lifelong obsession with the FIAT 500

‘Nothing says Italian style like a Fiat 500 (pronounced cheen·kweh·CHEN·toh). My love affair with the 500 began when I was 16. I really wanted one, but it would not fit into my suitcase. So I had to go home without one. I don’t know if I will ever own a super cute, chubby 500, but I have spent years photographing them all over Italy. Every time I see one, I just want to give it a hug!’ …….read the rest of the article at Accenti online.  You can also order a print copy of the magazine-orders outside of Canada just need to pay for shipping.

Fiat 600 Troia Puglia

I hope you all share my Cinquecento love!  Ciao, CristinaRobin's egg blue Fiat Cinquecento

La Festa della Liberazione

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Today is la Festa della Liberazione d’Italia, the anniversary of the liberation of Italia from Fascist occupation in 1945, and a day to honour those who served in the Italian Resistance. That makes today the 75th anniversary of liberazione.  April 25th has been an Italian national holiday since 1946- Viva la libertà!

There are usually rallies organized all over the country by ANPI (Associazione Nazionale Partigiana d’Italia).  This year the celebration is bittersweet, there not being much liberazione at the moment with everyone in isolation.

There will be balcony celebrating all over the country, including singing Bella Ciao.  This was originally a protest song of the late 19th Century, for women working in the rice fields in Northern Italia, then adapted as an antifascist song of the resistance.  Please listen to this Facebook link to a video of a beautiful version sung by a few of my talented young paesani in Orsara di Puglia! Frecce Tricolori Festa della Liberazione 25 Aprile

Le Frecce Tricolori of the Italian air force also flew the colours of the Italian flag over Roma this morning.

Today is also Un po di pepe‘s 6th bloghiversario / blog anniversary.  I usually write about the past year and what I would like to write for the next one.  This year, I would just like to share a 1955ish quote by Piero Calamandrei, an author and protagonist of the Resistenza:

La liberta è come l’aria.  Ci si accorge di quanto vale quando inizia a mancare. /Freedom is like air.  We only realize how much it is worth when it is lacking.

Continue to stay safe everyone, and hang in there.  Forza! Ce la faremo!  Un abbraccio, Cristina

Corzetti

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Corzetti (cor∙ZET∙ti) are a traditional pasta of Liguria, also called croxetti (cro∙shet∙ti) or crosetti in Ligurian.  Corzetti are an embossed pasta shaped to look like gold coins.  The name comes from ‘crux’, latin for cross. They  have been around for a very long time. We know this because the Republic of Genoa had a medieval coin with a Genovese cross and there is a 1362 literary reference to pasta with crossetti served at a banquet.Stampo per corzetti

Corzetti are made with un stampo per corzetti- a corzetti stamp.  This is a 2 part device made of unfinished wood-usually pear wood.   The textured finish of the wood is functional-it transfers to the pasta and helps hold sauce, as does the embossed design. The bottom of the lower half is used to cut the circles. The top of the lower piece and the upper piece with the handle for pressing each have a carved design.Corzetti pasta con grano

Corzetti are like edible woodcut prints!  The perfect pasta for a printmaker.  This must be why I like making them so much!
If you read the posts Le Cinque Terre and Exploring le Cinque Terre, you may remember my determined quest to find a corzetti stamp.  In Corniglia, I found dried corzetti for sale, but no stamp.  I did not notice any restaurants serving them either, but I also did not look very hard.  I finally found a stamp by accident in a tiny shop in Vernazza, the town where we were staying. They were in a basket at the back, where no one could see them!

The design on my stamp is a stem of wheat, with a swirl on the other side.  It cost 11 Euro and was carved by a local fisherman.  I saw a similar one online for $72 US.  You can also custom order stamps but they can be very expensive.  It is much more fun to buy something like this where it is produced.

Noble Ligurian families had their family coat of arms engraved on the stamps.  Designs also include crosses, wheat, gigli (fleur de Lis) or the emblem of il pastaio, the pastamaker.

Circles are cut on a freshly rolled sfoglia or pasta sheet-not too thick, but thick enough to hold the embossing.  Each corzetto is pressed between the 2 parts of the stamp, embossing a design on each side.  If the pasta is rolled out too thin, the designs will transfer to the other side.Stampo per corzetti Corzetti stamp

Corzetti dough is traditionally made with eggs and white wine.  It is usually made with flour and semola rimacinata di grano duro (called semolina in North America) or chestnut flour.  Traditionally, corzetti are served with pesto or olive oil, herbs and pine nuts.  They can also be served with an herb and scallop or mushroom walnut sauce.  I have made corzetti several times now, and here is the dough combination I found works the best:

To make Corzetti:

200g (1.5 cups) 00 or All-Purpose flour

200g (1.5 cups) semola rimacinata (Semolina)

3 medium sized eggs plus 2 yolks-add an extra egg if they are small

60ml dry white wine (1/4 cup)

5ml (1 tsp) Extra virgin olive oil

Pinch of salt

Make a well with the flours on a wooden board.  Place the eggs, wine and EVOO in the center and beat with a fork, then slowly start to mix in the flour.  This dough needs to be soft and elastic to hold the embossing and you may not need all of the flour. Keep some to the side in case it is not needed. Once the mixture is less liquid, start to mix by hand.  Knead for 10 minutes.  Roll into a ball, cover and let rest for 30 min.

Use half the dough at a time, and keep the other half from drying out by covering with an upturned bowl.  Roll the dough out by hand 3mm thick.  You can use a pasta machine, but hand rolling will result in a better embossing.  Lightly flour the corzetti stamp.  Cut circles as close together as possible.  Pasta rolled out multiple times will not be consistent thickness and will dry out, and not take the embossing as well. Stand up while pressing down firmly on the top of the stamp with the palm of the hand to get the best quality embossing. This makes 60-65 corzetti.
Corzetti pasta con pesto Genovese

I like to serve corzetti with a traditional Pesto Genovese. This mushroom walnut sauce is also yummy.Corzetti con funghi e noce

Corzetti con Funghi e Noce / Corzetti with Mushrooms and Walnuts

200g porcini mushrooms or mixed mushrooms in season

1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk

2 cloves garlic

Prezzemolo (Italian parsley)

200 g (~3/4 cup) walnuts shelled

30g (2 tablespoons) pine nuts

Dry white wine

EVOO, salt

Finely chop everything except the pine nuts.

Make a soffritto-Fry the onion in olive oil, add carrot and celery, half of the garlic and the pine nuts

In another pan, fry the mushrooms (these can be finely chopped or just separate the tops and bottoms) then add the soffritto. Add wine and cook for 30 min.

Before serving, add salt, the rest of the garlic, and prezzemolo

Cook corzetti in boiling salted water for 3-4 min.  Add mushroom sauce and sprinkle with the chopped walnuts and grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Want to try making corzetti, but don’t have a stamp?  Cut circles out with a 5cm (2 inch) diameter drinking glass.  Use a cookie press for the design, or find something that can be lightly pressed to make a design in the dough-a wax seal, a ring, the crosshatch design on your meat tenderizer…..  get creative!Corzetti pasta con grano

It is hard to believe I was in Liguria 11 months ago.  Since we can not travel there-or anywhere at this time, I hope this helps you viaggiare in pultrona… armchair travel to the coast of Liguria and the Cinque Terre.  Buon viaggio and stay safe, Cristina

In my Kitchen~Quarantine edition

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Sottosopra (sot•toh•SOH•prah)…upside down.  I know I am not the only one who feels like an extra in a sci-fi movie where everything in the world is upside down. Kisses and hugs can be disease spreaders, binge watching Netflix on the couch all day is responsible adult behaviour, and NOT visiting your family is a sign of love!

Everyone copes differently with the stress of quarantine.  Some of us are madly productive, and others binge watch Netflix all day.  It does not matter what we are doing, as long as we are doing it at home-staying home and helping everyone stay safe.  If you have been hiding under a rock and this is news to you, please read these 2 posts: COVID19~Andrá tutti bene and COVID19~Insieme ce la faremo.  

I am one of those ‘essential’ workers, but I am ‘freelance’ now, and happened to not have any work booked at the hospital the last 2 weeks. I have been at home, only leaving the house to buy groceries or walk to my parents’ back porch-the socially distant designated drop off/pick up point. This week I work a few days… and am not sure what to expect!

While home, I have done yoga class via zoom almost every day, and spent a lot of time in my kitchen.  I made a kitchen ‘to do’ list -mostly things I am not often home long enough to attempt.  Making pasta by hand is calming, almost meditative, punching dough is violently therapeutic, and my freezer is now full. It is also time for another ‘In my kitchen’ blog post.  Here are some of the things I crossed off my list:Tortelloni stuffed with meat

I have made a lot of stuffed pasta, but not filled with meat.  Ricotta, spinach, mushroom, pumpkin…but not meat.  These tortellini are stuffed with a mixture of veal, prosciutto, mortadella and parmigiano.  They were delicious, so I will be making them again, although I may vary the shape.Candied orange peel

In the spirit of using absolutely everything, I candied my orange peels, using a technique based on Domenica’s and then dipped half in chocolate.  They are a small flavour explosion and a nice garnish for a cheese plate, or served on the side with espresso.  I ate a lot of oranges, so made a lot of candied peel and will see if they freeze well.

I love making bread-and the kneading part is a great stress reliever.  Making pane senza impasto —no-knead bread, was anticlimactic, but i wanted to try it.  The ingredients were just barely mixed, rose for 24 hours, then baked in my heavy cast iron pot with the lid on.  The bread was delicious, with a nice crispy crust.  Unfortunately, you can only make 1 at a time.No knead bread

Alumni of the University of British Columbia will drool at the mention of the legendary, pillowy soft, caramelly UBC Cinnamon buns. These were made for over 50 years by UBC Food Services and sold at all of the campus food outlets.  The recipe was once a huge secret but is now available. UBC Cinnamon bunsI have wanted to make them for years, but the recipe sounded really difficult and time consuming.  It was not as involved as I thought and I will definitely be making them again.  There is even some kneading involved!  They were so good, I had to try one, keep one for the next day, and immediately arrange for the rest to be picked up so I did not eat them all.  I will try freezing them unbaked next time.unbaked ubc cinnamon buns

Freezer space is at a premium right now, so the frozen raspberries from my garden had to be used to make jam. In a few months there will be new berries to pick.

The south facing kitchen is the sunniest place in the house.  A few weeks ago -whenever the full moon was, I planted my pomodori seeds by the window.  The tomato seedlings are all looking good and growing well on the covered back porch now.

Orecchiette are not the easiest pasta to make, but they are extremely low tech. No pasta machine, not even a rolling pin is needed.  Only a knife.  Making them was very meditative, but also stressful, because this was the first time I ever made them without my Mamma. As a surprise, I delivered the orecchiette to their back porch.  Orecchiette

Forza!  Hang in there everyone!  Check out the rest of the monthly ‘In My Kitchen’ blogging community posts from around the world on host Sherry’s blog here.

A special ‘Grazie!’ to grocery store employees, farmers and truck drivers who are making sure we have food!

Ciao, Cristina.  Vancouver BC, Canada

Quarantine Selfie Collage

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Running out of things to do during this crazy quarantine? Art is a great stress reliever. Try this ‘Quarantine Selfie’, an art project suitable for the whole family. This project was my 2nd ever blog post-back in 2014, and I think only 12 people read it. If the painting looks familiar, it appeared-wearing an N95 mask-a few weeks ago in the post COVID 19 Andrà tutto bene. Stay safe and make art! Ciao, Cristina

Un po' di pepe

Autoritratto, 2013 Autoritratto, 2013

Autoritratto (ow∙tow∙ree∙TRAT∙tow) means self-portrait. Who says ‘selfies’ can only be done via phone? Try this mixed-media collage project to make your own selfie at home.

You will need:
 -3 self portraits on paper, all close to the same size
 -a hard surface such as a wood panel, cradled wood panel or board
- acrylic matte medium. This is acrylic paint without the colour, and it can be used as a glue and also as a protective coating over top of your work
- bits and pieces of old artwork to collage

selfiestuff

  1. Draw or paint 3 ‘selfies’ on paper. If you are like me, you have lots of them lying around from different art classes. You can also make 3 photocopies of the same image, and colour each one differently.
  2. Crumple each selfie into a ball.
  3. Open them up again and tear into several pieces.
  4. Find your…

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COVID19-Insieme ce la faremo

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Coffee? Martina_illustratesWhat a week it has been!  The COVID 19 pandemic has changed life for everyone. Last week, I wrote about COVID 19 and the situation in Italia.  Then the world became emotional watching videos of neighourhoods all over the country singing in solidarity from their balconies and windows.  There was also a collective round of applause at noon for frontline health care workers.  This uplifting show of resilience and community support was much needed. Rainbow paintings by bambini, and the positive messages #iorestoacasa and #andratuttobene spread positivity throughout the country in a show of mass cooperation and unity.

This week in Italia there is discouragement and low morale, with new cases going up daily.  Stats are updated here.  Things are getting worse instead of better. There are now more deaths than in China and the numbers keep rising, despite extreme social distancing measures.  We all saw the morbid images from Bergamo of a convoy of army vehicles transporting coffins elsewhere because there is no room for them.  I feel terrible when I think of all the people dying alone in ICU, without their families, not even given the dignity of a funeral.  It is natural to feel demoralized under the circumstances, and the mental health effects of quarantine and social distancing, but it is important to stay positive and hopeful.

What we all have to remember is that the COVID 19 virus can incubate for 14 days.  Knowing this, it makes sense that measures taken today will take 2 weeks to have an effect, and the increase in cases were mostly infected before the whole country was in quarantine. Now there are even stricter measures in place.

China has had 4 days with no new cases. We also need to remember they are on day 81 (since Jan 1st), while Italia is only at day 32 (Feb 20th there were 3 cases).  If all of this is correct, it should start getting better next week ……  if everyone stays home!  Movement of people will just keep feeding  the virus.

What I do not understand is why other countries are not learning from what is happening in Italia and acting sooner?  It is not if, but when. For example, the UK now has more cases than Italia did at the same point, but they only just closed bars yesterday!  Despite social distancing measures, we see videos of socially and morally irresponsible spring break partying in Florida, and a packed Bondi Beach in Sydney.  The only way to contain this thing is to STAY HOME!  Wake up and smell the cappuccino already! The super strict rules need to be stricter and need to be enforced.  This cartoon sent to me on Facebook shows what is needed to kick COVID 19.  The coronavirus says:  ‘I’m leaving, there is no one here’.

I hope the balcony singing resumes, because music is the universal language and it is so important for social and mental health. ForzaInsieme ce la faremo-together we will do it!  Stay strong everyone…and unless you are an essential service, STAY AT HOME!  Ciao, Cristina

Image: Coffee? used with permission by Martina Heiduczek IG @martina_illustrates

Coffee? Martina_illustrates

To lighten the mood I am attaching a hilarious video from Rimbamband of ‘Virus Corona’ (pronounced VEE∙roos Corona) to the tune of the 80’s hit My Sharona.  The lyrics are hilarious, but even if you don’t understand Italiano, it is still funny.

 

 

COVID19-Andrà tutto bene

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This is a blog post I did not want to have to write.  A few weeks ago, I was hoping the COVID19 outbreak in Italia would just fizzle out on its own.  That has not happened, and Italia-my other home-has been absolutely devastated.  My family and friends there are all safe, but they are worried and confused, with things changing every day.

Yesterday, I overheard a group discussing the cancellation of NBA and NHL games and how that was ‘drastic, fear-mongering because more people die of the seasonal flu’ and ‘only sick people over 80 are dying’.  Most of you readers may not know this, but my ‘real job’ is at BC Childrens’ Hospital in Vancouver.  As a healthcare professional, I need to discuss the situation and present the facts.

COVID19 stands for ‘Corona Virus Disease 19’ and is in the same family as SARS.   Some of you may remember the SARS outbreak in Asia and Toronto in 2003?  SARS was more deadly (10% mortality), but COVID19 has far more cases and has been spreading like wildfire.  The coronavirus family cause disease in animals.  The genetic code for COVID 19 has been linked to bats.  It originated in Wuhan, China and likely passed to another animal before being passed on to humans.

The death rate for COVID19 about 3.4%, much higher than the seasonal flu. Death is not likely for those under 60 and healthy, but it can be spread to grandparents, parents, friends who are immunosuppressed or have other health issues.  Children do not seem to be affected, but can spread the virus. 20% of cases will develop severe pneumonia and ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) needing oxygen therapy and possibly ICU and mechanical ventilation.

The situation in Italia-as of 13 March 2020, there have been 17,660 confirmed cases, 1,266 deaths, and 1,439 recoveries, leaving 14,955 active cases.  This data is updated daily here.

Why are there so many cases in Italia?  There are many reasons, including the fact the government has been transparent about reporting the #’s and facts from the beginning and they have tested over 60,000 people, revealing asymptomatic cases.  There is a large elderly population, the hardest group hit, and also the fact that Italians are probably the world’s most cuddly, affectionate population-which in any other situation is a positive thing.

For those of you who are not aware, restrictions started on Feb 22nd in Lombardia with the ‘red zone’ areas  being quarantined.  On March 4th schools are closed for 2 weeks.  March 8th the red zone is extended to include areas of Veneto and Emilia Romagna, Piemonte and Le Marche.

March 9th the whole country is declared a red zone. 60 million people are in quarantine until April 3rd-including travel restrictions and a ban on public gatherings.  The hashtag #iorestoacasa (I am staying home) is started to encourage limited movement and social distancing. Travel between towns requires printing an online ‘autodeclaration’ form stating the reason-medical appointment/going to work/family emergency.  Everyone has to stay 1 m apart and bars and restaurant close at 6pm.  Meanwhile, cases continue to climb. ‘Smartworking’ is the buzz word for those able to work from home.

March 11 Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte extends the restrictions to what is basically a complete shutdown.  Only essential services are allowed to stay open –pharmacies and stores selling food and other essential items. In his words:

Rimaniamo distanti oggi, per abbracciarci con piu calore e per correre insieme piu veloci domani/Let’s keep our distance today, to hug each other stronger tomorrow.

March 11 the WHO declares a pandemic.  A pandemic is ‘the sustained and continuous transmission of a disease in 3 or more different geographical regions at the same time’.  This does not necessarily refer to how lethal the disease is.  In less than 2 months COVID19 has spread to 116 countries.

At the macelleria (butcher/meat shop) in Orsara di Puglia, my Zia reports that only 1 person is allowed to enter at a time and everyone else has to stand in line outside, 1m apart from each other.  Many shops have attached tape lines on the floor 1m apart. Below is a photo from my cousin’s store selling cleaning products.  They have sold out of hand sanitizer, alcohol and mascherine-facemasks, but have lots of toilet paper left.

The containment measures may seem drastic, and I guess they are, especially since it has  been only 20 days-but it is the only way to stop cross contamination.  Without hosts, the virus cannot spread.  It will be contained if people are isolated. In epidemiology lingo, intervening to try and slow the spread and prevent the # of severe cases is called ‘flattening the curve’.  This is also to prevent system overload and ensure that health care resources can keep up.  20% of cases will develop severe respiratory distress, possibly needing ICU and ventilation.  This is not the seasonal flu and will overwhelm the system.  In Italia on March 10th there were 600 people in 55 ICU’s.  The median age is 65, meaning that there are younger people in ICU too.  An ICU physician in Lombardia calls it ‘worse than a bomb’. ICU beds in the north are full and doctors have to make decisions about resource allocation.

Many other countries are now where Italia was on February 22nd and need to follow her example and implement measures early.  Today in Canada, our Prime Minister is in isolation as his wife has come back from the UK and tested positive. This is unfortunate, but has got people listening.  There needs to be a balance between staying calm to avoid panic and hysteria, but also being proactive and prepared.

COVID19 is not an airborne disease.  It is spread by droplet and close contact with an infected person. Respiratory droplets are produced by a sneeze or cough.  They can travel up to 1.8m (6ft) and directly enter the body through the eyes, mouth or nose.  Contact refers to touching an infected person or object such as doorknob or railings directly.  Unwashed hands contaminated with COVID 19 can introduce the virus into the body when touching eyes, mouth and nose.  With these facts in mind, here are the most important things to help prevent the spread of the COVID19:

  • Wash hands! Soap and water or alcohol based hand sanitizers are both effective.
  • Avoid touching the face
  • Keep 2m away from sick people
  • Cough and sneeze into sleeve/elbow
  • If you are sick, stay home! There is no treatment for viruses-stay home, rest and drink fluids.
  • Go to the Dr or emergency department only if you are truly unwell. Call your local public health service first to ask what to do/where to go
  • Only wear a mask if you are sick. Masks will not prevent getting sick. They provide a false sense of security and may even increase chances of getting sick since you are more likely to touch face.  Do not stockpile masks and hand sanitizer-they are needed by hospitals.
  • Depending on your location and the number of cases, follow the recommendations of the local health department re social distancing, travel, etc.
  • Make sure you have 2 months supply of any medications.  There is no need to stockpile other food and supplies-and especially not toilet paper!

Autoritratto con mascherinaShort term pain for long-term gain.  There will definitely be short term repercussions to the economy, but health and safety have to come first.

Let’s hope that things settle down in a few weeks to a month.  Today, Friday the 13th at 6pm in Roma, Firenze and several other cities, balcony flash mobs occurred, with everyone banging pots and pans and singing out on their balconies!   Warmer weather creates a less friendly climate for viruses, so bring on the sun! These will be happening all weekend. Once this is all over, those of you who had to cancel trips to Italia will be able to rebook.  The economy will need you.  Remember #andràtuttobene-everything will be all right.  Forza Italia/Stay strong Italia!  Grazie mille to all of the front line health care workers!  Please read the next post: COVID19-Insieme ce la Faremo  Ciao, Cristina

Napoli Street Art

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volto di Sophia Loren Napoli street artNapoli is gritty, wonderfully chaotic, passionate and anything but boring, making it a perfect place for self-expression.  Graffiti is not a new concept to the Napoletani.  Ancient graffiti can be found in Pompeii, including ‘I was here’ type messages and suggestive notes written on the walls of the brothel.  In the historic center of Napoli graffiti, posters and murals have been elevated to a fine art form.  I was in Napoli on a search for Blub street art and ended up finding so much more.

Volto di Sophia, a colourful Bollywood inspired portrait of iconic Napoletana Sophia Loren is on Vico dei Zuroli, just off of Via dei Tribunali.  The artist is Stikki Peaches, originally from Montreal.Madonna con la Pistola Banksy Napoli street art

Madonna con la Pistola is the only work in Italia by the elusive and mysterious English street artist Banksy.  It is in Piazza Gerolamini, off of Via dei Tribunali.  The Madonna in ecstasy with a gun in place of a halo is the artist’s exploration of the relationship between religion and organized crime.  It has now been covered by glass for protection from the elements.

Street portrait of San Gennaro by Jorit AgochSan Gennaro, a hyperrealistic 15m high portrait of Napoli’s patron saint is by Italian- Dutch artist Jorit Agoch (Jorit Ciro Cerullo).  It is on Via Forcella near the Duomo.  The model is the artist’s friend, a mechanic also named Gennaro.  This could be an homage to Caravaggio, who would take ordinary people off the street to be his models for paintings of extraordinary people. There are more ginormous Jorit murals in the Ponticelli Graffiti park near the airport and in the financial district.Pizza vs McDonalds

Exit/Enter is a street artist from Firenze who paints whimsical, expressive stick figures. There are a few Exit/Enter works around Napoli, including this one which I though was an angry pizza and a clown.  Then I realized the clown looked like a skinny Ronald McDonald.  Sure enough-it is titled ‘Pizza vs McDonald’s’! I do not remember the name of the street, but it was also just off of Via dei Tribunali.

San Pio Daniele TvBoy Street ArtBeloved Napoletano singer Pino Daniele passed away in 2015. Pino with his smile and guitar is sainted by artist TvBoy in San Pino Daniele found in Vico dei Panettieri.  Grazie to Sara from My Dear Italia for the photo.Mission Possible is the colourful mural by Napoletana artist Roxy in the box (Rosaria Bosso). She includes 2 important figures in the history of Napoli; San Gennaro and Caravaggio. They are casually hanging out reading the New York Times and 24 Ore.  It is in Piazza Cardinale Sisto Riario Sforza, near the Duomo, Pio Monte della Misericordia and Via dei Tribunali.

Napoli Street Art StencilThis stencil baby is on an electrical panel is near the lineup to get into the Cappella San Severo.  The signature on the bum says Joan Aquito.

Blub Verdi, NapoliGiuseppe Verdi and a Renaissance woman covered by a shop door are the only Blub work I found on the street after visiting the Blub Pompeii inspired exhibit at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale Napoli.  I was disappointed not to find Totò, another iconic Napoletano.  For more Blub love, read Blub a Napoli and L’arte sa Nuotare.Renaissance woman by Blub

I hope you enjoyed this street art tour of Napoli Centro Storico! More Napoli information can be found in Un Giorno a Napoli. Banksy Madonna con la Pistola Napoli Ciao, Cristina