Abruzzo and Rome

Just a quick update . . .

This weekend we went to Rome and got to see so many things – the Colosseum, the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica

Soy gelato made my day!

Soy gelato made my day!

, Piazza Navona and silly street performers, and some good food.  We also saw hordes of the most ridiculous tourists I have every seen.  I couldn’t believe how many people were touching and climbing on the priceless statues in the Vatican museums, and just  how much people didn’t care about the rules against photos and talking in the Sistine Chapel.  Overall the city was beautiful, quiet, and full of things to do, and we had a great time.

Last weekend we stayed with Antonello, his family, volunteers, and the other visitor’s at his farm in the Abruzzo region.  The area was beautiful and we got to hike to a great waterfall in the mountains, undisturbed by anyone else.  But maybe better than the natural beauty around us was the hospitality of the volunteers and family at the farm.  Every night we had a delicious meal (they had no problems with vegans, yay!) of fresh food straight from the farm with the owner’s family and the other visitors.  Antonello’s father brought many bottles of his homemade wine during our wonderful after dinner conversations with the other guests.  Everyone was so friendly, and it was interesting to hear about everyone else’s travels around Europe.

July 28, 2009. Italy. Leave a comment.

And we’re off again

Since my professor has been away for about a week and will be away for all but 2 days of my remaining time here, and since the only other person in the lab who can help me is going to be gone until Thursday, we’re taking another trip! Since I’m stuck on a problem and can’t move forward without someone’s help, I’ve decided that my time will be better spent seeing more of Italy than sitting in the lab scratching my head for three days. We are going to the Abruzzi region, about 2.5 hours away to camp on a farm. It sounds wonderful – you can pick and eat as many of their fruits and veggies as you want, help out with farm chores, go hiking in the nearby national park, and they even serve a dinner of fresh products from the farm that can accommodate vegetarians and vegans! We’re very excited, and will post pictures and stories when we return Wednesday evening.

July 20, 2009. Italy. Leave a comment.

Vacation in Amalfi

Just a few hours ago Kyle and I got back from a 3 day weekend on the Amalfi coast.  We hopped between the coastal towns of Positano, Amalfi, Maori, and Minori during the day – visiting churches, walking down little streets lined with shops and restaurants, swimming at the beach, and doing a little hiking.

We stayed at an interesting Bed & Breakfast in Agerola, a little hill town far above the coast.  The town was beautiful, with lots of farms, vineyards, small-town-Italy grocery stores, and people who said “Buona Sera!” to everyone they passed in the street.  Even though taking the 40 minute bus ride up from the coast was a bit of a hassle, it was also an adventure, and I loved staying somewhere so quiet.  It was such a sharp contrast to the busy traffic and noise of Napoli.  In Agerola we heard cows mooing, dogs barking, and roosters crowing instead of honking cars and sputtering vespas.

To get to Agerola we took the SITA bus up the windy roads from Amalfi.  The roads along the coast are extremely narrow, with hairpin turns the buses can barely make with their wide turns.  It was amazing how close the bus came to cars, pedestrians, and vespas driving by.  We even got stuck at one point, and after a while of the cars not knowing what to do to let the bus by, several drivers got out and started directing traffic, having some cars back up, some wait to approach, until the bus could fit.  The first ride watching the cars scrape by us, and the huge drop to the sea below was a bit scary, and the zig-zagging turns were a little nauseating, but by the last day we were riding standing up like pros.

When we initially arrived in Agerola we were a bit lost (as usual!)- we had no specific directions to the B&B, just an address.  But luckily, an Italian man riding the bus with us noticed our confusion and took us to Paolo, a very friendly man who ran a youth hostel and camp ground in town.  He spoke English, and invited us in to look up the address on his computer, and then drove us a few kilometers to the B&B.  This was another one of those times where a kind stranger went out of his way to really make a difference in our trip.  We even took him up on his offer of a hiking map on Monday, and he explained how to find the trail we needed.

On the hike from Agerola to Amalfi we walked down many, many stairs around the homes built into the cliffs above the coast.  As we walked by some small hillside farms, we started to hear the tinkling of bells amplified by the imposing cliffs above us.  Looking up to figure out where the jingling was coming from we saw a procession of sheep and goats walking in a neat line along the hillside, herded only by two dogs.  We spent a good 15 minutes or so watching the dogs working to keep the sheep in line, and even saw one sheep get left behind as it seemed to fall a bit and injure itself on the rocks.

Overall we had a great trip with beautiful weather, gorgeous views, nice people, and a relaxing few nights in the countryside.  Pictures of all the fun should be up on flickr sometime tomorrow!

July 13, 2009. Italy. Leave a comment.

Doing More for the Environment

Kyle recently found this blog, which is all about a woman who is trying to eliminate/drastically reduce her use of plastic.  I think her goal is very admirable, and alot of the ways she is reducing her plastic use seem like really practical, easy steps that can help the environment.  Some things I’ve already been doing – like making lots of cloth grocery bags for my family, using re-usable mugs for coffee, tupperware for take-out at school, saving glass jars for leftovers, and re-using the little plastic produce bags from the grocery store (my Mom’s idea actually).  Of course, I also always use my Nalgene rather than buying water bottles, which interestingly has been the subject of conversation her in Italy.  My fellow American REU student and I are the only ones at the university who seem to bring our own water bottles every day, while the Italians always buy a plastic bottle of water.  A co-worker commented on this and said that he thinks that more people should bring water bottles since he sees just how much waste is created each day from buying all of the plastic ones.

I think there are some more things I could be doing though, like trying baking soda deodorant and no ‘poo.  I’m a little nervous about it, but I think it’s something I’d like to at least try for a while.  I’ve heard read about many people who say it works great, so I think I’ll see how it works.  I’ve also really fallen off the wagon lately with writing to my representatives and companies about environmental, social, and animal rights issues, and the post on the Life Less Plastic blog about writing to grocery stores asking for bulk bins reminded me that I should start writing letters again – about bulk bins and other things!

Anyway, here is the list of things Life Less Plastic has been doing to cut down on her consumption.  I’ll post updates on things I’ve tried and how they work out, and if any of my readers try to cut down on their consumption post a comment about how its working out for you!

Edit:  I was just thinking about how I’d like to replace my old toothbrush with a recycled Preserve toothbrush, and came upon this – apparently the company will recycle all of those plastic containers you can’t normally recycle at home (yogurt and humms containers . . .) because they make their toothbrushes out of them.  Neat!

July 5, 2009. Environment. 1 comment.