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Locked down but not out in Italy

Singing from the balconies! One nice thing about this crisis ... solidarity! “Guess you’re not living like a tourist anymore,” was the funny, truthful and somewhat gut-wrenching message of a friend the day the lockdown in Italy began. Today is day 6. My beloved Italia has been hit hard with the COVID19 epidemic. With the second largest elderly population in the world, the epidemic has meant a disproportionate amount of deaths in the country. So though I haven’t been worried about contracting it myself, this isn’t about me or someone like me who, if contracted it would probably have a sucky couple of weeks and then recover. It is about if someone like me contracted it and then spread it to a person with a complicated health history or an elderly person with a weakened immune system. Eerily orderly: Lines for the grocery store, each person one meter apart In a country with no concept (and no physical room really) for personal space, and in a city with reproachable hygie

Two Nights and a Day .5 in Calabria

My last post was about the tumultous and stressful journey, but perhaps like a good metaphor, the difficult ride brought me to a place of peace: in this case, Calabria.

The two nights and day and a half there were precisely the defaticamento I needed- the medicine to return me to un-tiredness as I recently put it. 

Calabria reminded me of three important lessons:

1) Sitting still. The entire weekend was about sitting, talking and eating. It wasn't about sightseeing. It wasn't about discovering a new city or about any one event or physical activity. It was about being happy sitting perfectly still in one of two places: at the house or on the beach. And I was indeed that: perfectly happy.

2) Enjoying good company: In the world of a type A personality and endless lists, sometimes spending time with friends and family as part of a community gets overlooked; it doesn't always make the list. Though this wasn't my family, I definitely felt a part of it, temporarily adopted for the weekend. We were welcomed, hosted and included as family members and it was a nice reminder about why reunions and family get-to-togethers are so important for balance. 

3) Being present: It tends to be a habit in most environments, certainly in the most of the conversations I have gotten into in the U.S., to talk about the future: plans, career direction, where to live, what to do in the coming years etc. This weekend, I noticed that the questions about my future rarely came up. The ratio was 10 adults to 2 kids so it wasn't just that everyone's hands were full. I think there is something about having small children around that generally makes talk of the future not as omnipresent. Who knows: maybe it is because people intrinsically realize that being a baby has a time limit. Watching children grow for the couple years of their lives physically embodies the feeling that "time flies." So perhaps people don't want to talk about the next year because the newborn  will be gone. The baby will be walking. The toddler will all of a sudden be in school. It is nice to be fully in the moment: not to seize the day by doing everything humanly possible within those 24 hours, but to just be present and enjoy that particular, August 13. 

(In truth, one topic about my future did come up: "Quando farai bambini?" i.e. "When will you have kids?" I let this one slide... after all I was with a southern Italian family. What could I expect?) 

Other Lessons from Calabria

  • A fruit called cedro: The big, fat wrinkly lemon/limes here are a different type of fruit altogether called a cedro. One blog elucidates that the main difference, aside from some physical aspects, is that lemons (limoni) grow on trees and cedri grow on bushes.

  • Sea Urchins are tasty: Apparently you can eat the inside of a sea urchin. I did not. I'll blame it on the fact that I am a vegetarian instead of blaming it on my cowardliness. The others vow it is delicious though.
  • Speedos are still king: Though generally speaking, speedos are quickly disappearing off of the face of many Italian beaches, in Calabria, they are still distinctly popular. You know what, why not? If girls can wear boxers, why can't guys wear speedos? I would put boundaries on this particular right however. Running on the streets in a bright red speedo and nothing else but running shoes, as we saw one man do on the streets of Guardia, is a bit over the line... rule of thumb: speedos should generally remain in the vicinity of water.


  1. Hi Karen,

    Really great Posts! I've enjoyed reading through your blog because of the great style and energy. I have a blog on travel theme. It contains hundreds of great stories from travelers who love to share their journey with the world. If you're interested, we would love to have you on as a guest blogger. Please send me an e-mail and I can give you more information. Looking forward to hearing from you.


  2. Hi Rachna,

    Thanks for your note. Yes, I am definitely interested. Could you send me the address of your blog and any other details of what you are looking for to I look forward to learning more about your blog!

    Thanks again,


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