Thursday, February 27, 2020

Life in Tuscany mostly normal now during Italy's Corona virus outbreak

Has life in Tuscany changed since the Corona virus outbreak in Northern Italy? I’m not in Montecarlo to observe personally, but many friends are checking in at my request.

Most of them said that after an initial period of uncertainty, there have been few changes. Some businesses are taking extra precautions to sanitize their desks and tables, and people are washing their hands more often.

Carnevale in Venezia was ended two days early because of
concerns about the virus. However, Carnevale in  the
Tuscan city of Viareggio continued as usual.

“Life proceeds normally with a few extra precautions,” Marco Lardieri said. “Some people were particularly frightened and stormed supermarkets and medical stores for masks and hand sanitizers. In Tuscany, schools have remained open even if a few families do not send their children to school out of fear.”

People continue to go shopping, visiting and dining at restaurants and coffee shops.

“In our area everything is quite normal,” Marilena Palamidessi said. “People move about as before.”

“From my point of view there are no changes,” Chiara Boldrini said. “I go to university in Florence by train and it runs on time, without problems. The panic situation was essentially created by the media, perhaps due to the lack of knowledge of the virus. Already today, in my opinion. the climate of general tension has eased.”

Matteo Bianchi, who runs a grocery store in San Salvatore, said his business has been unaffected.

Business continues as usual in the Bianchi macelleria and
grocery store in San Salvatore.
“For now, it’s all quiet,” Fausto Seghieri said. “The virus is little worse than influenza, but it’s mostly just unnecessary alarmism. Of course, there are always a few exceptions, people who worry excessively.”

Francesco Menchini said some people acted like an atomic bomb had been dropped. They rushed out to stock up on supplies. “I heard that one man in Marliana bought 4,000 euros in groceries,” he said. ‘But this was a rare case, and after some initial concern, normal life is going on.”

Gisella Paganelli said that tourism seems to have declined in Montecarlo. “I went there today during the lunch hour and it seemed deserted,” she said. However, I’ve lived in Montecarlo in February for the last four years, and that doesn’t seem particularly out of the ordinary on any given weekday in this season.
Tour guide Elena Benvenuti said that she and some of her colleagues have had a few cancellations, “some of them for July or August, which is very stupid, because by that time everything will be over.”

She said the panic shopping which took place “happened only last weekend when the news terrified people in isolated villages in Lombardia and the Veneto. Monday, normal life was back everywhere.”

Marco Lardieri pointed out that some of the publicity in Italy has been caused by extra precautions the government has taken, such as closing flights to China and testing many people.

“The high number of cases is also due to the high number of swabs that Italy made, about 5000 compared to swabs made in France (just under 300) and other European countries,” he said. “With the arrival of spring, the situation should return to normal.”

I’ll end with a comment that Salvatore Lardieri posted on his Facebook page. He pointed out that people are concerned that the bad publicity will impact businesses. “Let’s do something concrete to help,” he wrote. “Go out to eat something in these evenings . . . a plate of pasta, a steak, a pizza. We can make our contribution to the local economy by frequenting pizzerias, bars and restaurants . . . and I especially recommend, let’s drink a nice beer . . . Corona!!”

No Montecarlo for us this spring, but we're making the most of our time off

Lucy does one of her Italian lessons on
cassette tape. I make a fire every day and we
stay warm and cozy.
Right now, Lucy and I would normally be in Montecarlo, and we could give a personal report on the effects of the Coronvirus in Tuscany. However, in late January, she slipped going down the stairs in our Gig Harbor home and broke three bones in her left ankle and three more in her right foot.

She had an operation to reset the bones in her left ankle January 30. We were scheduled to leave for Montecarlo February 4, but we canceled that. We had no travel insurance, but thankfully, United Airlines refunded our tickets based on a letter from Lucy’s nurse explaining that Lucy was unable to fly.

Thinking that her left ankle would be nearly healed by mid-March, I booked a flight to go to Montecarlo alone on March 19 to check on our house and take care of some other business. Then the doctor discovered through a CT scan the broken bones in Lucy’s right foot, and she had another operation February 11. Realizing that this would not be healed before my flight, I subsequently canceled that trip as well.
We enjoy this view of our pond and the Olympic Mountains
during Lucy's recovery.

Since we work in Gig Harbor during the summer, we’ll not be able to see Montecarlo until next September or October. Normally, we only go for a month in the fall, but probably we’ll stay for two or more months this year to make up for lost time. I need to work on arrangements for our 2021 family reunion, and our home is due for an inspection of the caldaia.

Lucy is not in any pain and the bones are healing well. One of the upsides is that her Italian is improving because she has more time to do her lessons on Duolingo and by cassette tape. Meanwhile, I've been able to convert our pantry into a new laundry room and do a few projects in the yard.

As for news on the Coronvirus, I have written some of my friends in Montecarlo and the surrounding cities asking for reports—more coming on this tomorrow or the next day.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Save the date! Details on 2021 Italy reunion for Spadoni/Seghieri families

Here are Seghieri families from France and Italy (and one
from the United States) at a reunion in Montecarlo in 2016.
The dates have been set for our 2021 family reunion in Tuscany! (See Oct. 25, 2019, blog entry for background.) The event will be held from Monday, May 3, to Friday, May 7—and remember this will be in 2021, not 2020.

I realize this is not the best time for teachers and students, but I am not able to be in Italy during June because of my work. In addition, a date in early May allows us to avoid the heat and crowds of an Italian summer. 
May 3-4 will focus on the Valdinievole (Valley of the Nievole River) roots of the Spadoni family, and May 5-6 will feature Seghieri history. May 7 will be an open day, with a variety of suggested itineraries, an optional cooking class and a farewell dinner at Fattoria Il Poggio, one of Montecarlo’s finest restaurants.
Above are photos and details about the Spadoni/Seghieri reunion held in Gig Harbor in August 2019.
I anticipate that relatives from France, Italy and throughout the United States will attend. It is also possible that some relatives from South America could come as well.

Following is a tentative itinerary, with many details and exact times still to be worked out.

Morning: Road trip to Marliana, Massa, Buggiano Castello and Pescia—all places various Spadoni families have lived throughout the centuries.
Afternoon: Open
Evening: Dinner where you will be able to meet and greet Spadoni relatives. I will present information on how the various family lines are linked together along with history of the earliest known Spadonis. Primary information will be presented in both English and Italian.

This church in Stignano has a tomb for the Spadoni
family located in a prominent place.
We’ll be on the road for most of the day in order to visit the most significant historical Spadoni sites.
Morning: Stignano, Borgo a Buggiano and Ponte Buggianese. The church in Stignano is where we find the first records of Spadoni marriages and baptisms in the late 15th century. It’s also the location of the Spadoni tomb, an indication that the family occupied an important role in the town in the 1500s. In the 1600s and 1700s, most Spadonis moved into the lush farmlands that were opening up around Borgo a Buggiano and Ponte Buggianese as new canals lowered the level of the swampy Padule di Fucecchio. Ponte Buggianese still has a large concentration of Spadoni families, all of whom are descendants of two brothers from Stignano in the late 1400s. We will see the street named for Italo Spadoni, look at many Spadoni graves in the cemetery and visit the site where Italo was brutally murdered by Fascist zealots in 1924.
Afternoon: After lunch in one of Ponte Buggianese’s best restaurants, we’ll move on to San Salvatore, where Enrico, Michele, Alfredo and Adolfo Spadoni were raised (Enrico remained in Italy, while the other three all moved to Washington state). We’ll see the church where Michele met and later married Anita Seghieri. Then we’ll travel to Capannori, where we’ll visit the impressive but mysterious Torre degli Spadoni.
Evening: Dinner will tentatively be at La Favola Mia in Chiesina Uzzanese, which is owned by cousin Leonello Spadoni.

Morning: Tour of the Fortezza di Montecarlo, followed by a wine and Tuscan aperitivo tasting (fees to be collected upon entrance).
Afternoon: Tour of Lucca, with 5-Star guide Elena Benvenuti, a Lucca native and the wife of Davide Seghieri.
Evening: Dinner where you will be able to meet and greet Seghieri relatives. I will present information on how the various family lines are linked together along with history of the earliest known Seghieris. Primary information will be presented in both English and Italian.

We’ll be on the road for most of the day in order to visit the most significant historical Seghieri sites.
Morning: Tour of the facilities of the Casolare dei Fiori (family of Gilda Seghieri and Enzo Pasquinelli). Tour of churches in San Salvatore and Montecarlo and several other sites in Montecarlo with significance for Seghieri family members. Tour of Montecarlo cemetery.
Afternoon: Lunch in one of the Montecarlo restaurants that serves exquisite Tuscan cuisine. Tour of Casone di Marcucci (which once housed some 50 members of various Seghieri families), tour of family farm of Ivo, Celestino and Fabbio Seghieri. Tour of church in San Gennaro of Capannori, where Torello Seghieri was once the choir director. We’ll stop in Alberghi (a suburb of Pescia), where we will sample gelato from the best gelateria in the area and then stop at the bicycle shop owned by Francesca Seghieri and her husband Franco Natali. The final stop will be at a used merchandise store where you can buy interesting souvenirs at a great price.
Evening: Make your own plans for dinner. Recommendations will be available upon request.

Morning: Open, but with many suggestions, including: Go to the open air market in Ponte Buggianese (ends at 1 p.m.). Take the funicolare to Montecatini Alto. Go to a wine tasting (plenty of options). Drive to Vinci, birthplace of Leonardo and home to two Leonardo museums. Shop in Montecarlo, Montecatini or Lucca. Drive to the Devil’s Bridge in Borgo a Mozzano. Go to the Parco di Pinocchio. Take a train to Florence or Pisa.
Afternoon: Cooking class with Elena Benvenuti.
Evening: Farewell dinner at Fattoria Il Poggio.

What kind of costs can you expect? Airfare, obviously, is a major expense, but you can save by making reservations well in advance. The closest airports are in Florence and Pisa, each of which are about 40 minutes from Montecarlo. It’s usually cheaper to fly to the major airports of Rome or Milan. However, if you are only coming for the reunion and not planning to visit other cities, it likely won’t be worth the savings to book flights to Rome or Milan because of the time and expense required to travel to Montecarlo.

You’ll need to provide your own housing, and I’ll provide recommendations with contact information in the coming months. You’ll also need to provide motor vehicle transportation as we move from site to site. You can rent a car at any airport.
Meals at our various group dinners will be paid to each restaurant, and costs will vary depending on what you order and the menu prices.

Elena is a professional tour guide, and if you want to take the tours of Lucca or the cooking class, you will pay her set rates and make your reservations with her directly. It would be great if you could contact her prior to the reunion, but you’ll also be able to sign up when you arrive. Entrance to the Fortezza di Montecarlo costs around 8 euro and a wine tasting will cost from 20-30 euro.

Otherwise, there are no costs associated with the historical site tours, which I will lead, with occasional help from other family members. Showing people around our wonderful ancestral home is my hobby and a labor of love.

I’m a little nervous about bringing so many people together in one place, most of whom speak only one language. However, there is precedent: The French Seghieri families, with help from Davide, Elena and other Montecarlo relatives, have held some wonderful reunions both in Italy and France. Your patience and positive attitudes will hopefully overcome my shortcomings in planning and leadership.

I’ll be in Italy for 10 days in March and for longer periods of time this fall and next spring, and I’ll be working with Elena and other relatives to firm up the plans. Meanwhile, put the dates on your calendars, talk to members of your family and make sure your passports are current. It may be more than a year away, but you’ll want to be well prepared for an unforgettable reunion and vacation! Ci vediamo in Italia.