Greetings from Sarnano. . .

Here is a series of essays I wrote while living in Sarnano for over eight years. Above is the view I had from my window in late fall–it is a wonder than I got anything done! Yes, I had a hard time leaving, but I got an offer for my apartment that I simply could not refuse, so I am now back in San Antonio. The essays are in reverse order–the last one first. I hope they give you some insights into the expat life. Enjoy!

The Roman Invasion

August 15, 2011 It is August in Italy and the Romans have again invaded Sarnano. Some are visiting family, having left Sarnano for better paying jobs in the capital. Others are just seeking a bit of relief from the heat, since Sarnano runs about 3ºC cooler than Rome at this time of year. The affitasi (for rent) signs that adorn many windows throughout the year have all disappeared–everything has been taken. There are over 20 camper-vans in the community parking lot. Hotels are filled to capacity, Sarnano is brimming. I haven’t driven my car for over a week since I wouldn’t be able to find a parking place close to my apartment after I returned. {more}

The Greening of Italy

October 9, 2010 Is Italy going green? Are Italians changing from la dolce vita to la vita responsabile? Recently, when I was driving out of Sarnano I saw one south-facing hillside that was covered with solar panels rather than the more typical grapevines or sunflowers. And when I was driving to Bolzano two days ago, I saw an enormous bank of solar panels that was lining one side of the autostrada. Sunny Italy has lagged far behind the rest of Europe, even cloudy Germany, when it comes to using “green” energy. But that seems to be changing. {more}

L’Estate (summer)

August 12, 2009 It is August in Italy once again and those Italians who can are heading for the beach or the mountains. Since Sarnano is reasonably close to the mountains and is about 3ºC cooler than Rome, we get a modest influx of Romans coming here for a bit of peace and quiet along with some cooler temps. The bumper car franchise has made its annual return to entertain the kids, but mercifully has moved to a schoolyard across town. I can still hear the over-amped music at night since “across town” in Sarnano doesn’t cover much territory. But the thumping is not nearly as invasive. {more}


April 6, 2009 Yes, the earth moved. I woke up for the usual reason about 3:30, but instead of heading right back to bed I decided to check my email. While waiting for the program to load, the windows in the front started banging. I’m thinking the wind had suddenly picked up but then the room started shaking. Realizing that wind couldn’t very well be moving 1-meter thick walls, I deduced that it was an earthquake and headed for a door. {more}

Living in a Snowglobe

February 2, 09I didn’t grow up with snow. In Chandler AZ, snow was something we read about, not something we played in. My first experience with the stuff was not promising, In the 8th grade as a paperboy for the Phoenix Gazette, I won a day-trip to Mingus Mountain for a day in the snow. At this time, I had two pairs of shoes, one for church and recitals, and tennis shoes for school. After a three hour drive in the back of a truck, we were dumped off at the snow-covered mountain and were told to meet back at noon for lunch and again at 4:00 p.m. to return home. Within 20 minutes my tennis shoes were soaked through and I was frozen. {more}

Yes We Can

November 5, 08Compared to Verona, Sarnano is essentially apolitical as I have seen very little political activity since moving here four+ years ago. Yet when I walked into my macelleria on Wednesday morning, the butcher’s 24-year old son all but gave me a high five, spilling out a rush of excitement about the results of the election. Pietro, who works in the office below me, conveyed his enthusiasm for the change, voicing the Obama mantra in fractured English, “eeyesuh we canuh.” After a second, I responded with the Italian version, “sì, possiamo.” After eight years of arrogance, a tough export in any market, America has delivered a president the world can admire. “Only in America possible for change like what happened” enthused Pietro, “this not possible in Italy.” Personally, one of the changes for me will be not having to change channels on the TV whenever the President starts to talk, thus avoiding the embarrassment of listening to a fractured syntax almost as bad as Pietro’s in English or mine in Italian. {more}

September Song

September 29, 08 Instead of falling leaves drifting past my window, today the sun is out and only a few clouds are scudding across the Sibillini Mountains. This is a direct contrast to the rain, cold, and general yuck of the last five days. This seems to be the norm for Italy and most of Europe at this time of year–at some point after the autumnal equinox, a storm blows in, drains most of the summer heat out of the ground and then leaves nice weather and pleasant days in its wake until late October. I can only hope that this respite from rain holds since I take off for Ireland for a week on Wednesday and it would be nice to get a few sunny pictures for the web page { more }


July 31, 08 L’estate (summer) in Sarnano is in full bloom. A 10-day schedule of daily events will begin this weekend and the bumper car franchise is setting up for the third year in a row to provide invaluable training for future Roman drivers. Two things are missing this time–heat and the constant thumping of drums. This period is usually the hottest time of the year, but this year it has been pleasantly mild. And during every other summer I have been here, the hills have been alive with the sound of { more }

Shopping (for the October China group)

July 22, 08 I am male, theoretically chromosome-challenged when it comes to shopping. Before starting BET, when I needed a shirt, I went to the store. I found shirt, I bought shirt, I went home. The concept of shopping as a recreational activity was foreign to me. Then I started organizing tours. I famously asked on the first tour: “You want to do what? Go shopping? Why?” Okay, over the past eighteen years, I have adjusted my thinking. { more }

Life in the slow lane

May 3, 2008 At some point, I became an ex-pat and I’m not quite sure when it happened. Maybe it was when my kid asked me, “Dad, when are you coming home?” After a long discussion, I finally answered “I think I am already home.” Or maybe it was when I figured out that I had a fairly decent lifestyle over here that I couldn’t come remotely close to duplicating in the states on my budget. { more }

On Tour

April 7, 2008 Spring seems to have returned yet again, and maybe it will stick around this time. The first vanguard of swallows are wheeling in the sky, to be followed in a few days by the rest of the flock. But this is the second time this year that I thought spring had arrived. For a week before the Portugal tour, the temps were closing in on 60°F and I was walking around in shirtsleeves. However, the morning I left for the Rome airport to fly to Porto, I drove through a snowstorm. There were a couple of times I was worried about seeing the road. “Global Warming” is the wrong term: it should be called “Global Weird.” Mercifully, our weather on the Portugal tour was only a bit on the chilly side, and the only time it rained was either when we were on the bus or in our hotel rooms. {more}

Right as rain

October 20, 2007 The weather has finally turned here in Sarnano. A light dusting of snow is visible on the Sibillini Mountains any time that the clouds lift. Here in Sarnano, snow had been in the forecast, but a later forecast dropped any mention. [And just when I write that sentence, I look out and see that the rain is now mixed with snow. So much for the accuracy of the local forecasts! {more}

Wile E. Coyote

September 22, 2007 Undoubtedly, you have read about the recent cratering of the dollar. Paul Krugman, a columnist for The New York Times, is wondering if this is the “Wile E. Coyote moment” for the dollar. You know the cartoon character–he runs off a cliff, stops, looks down and realizes that there is nothing between him and the bottom of the canyon except thin air–and he plunges. The dollar has been slipping gradually for six years. Is this the time it really goes over the cliff? America’s profligate ways have been supported for years by foreign investment. Is now the time that the rest of the world is going to wake up and pull out? Nobody knows. As the old joke goes, you can line up all of the economists in the world, and they still wouldn’t reach a conclusion. {more}


August 28, 2007 The temperatures here are on the downswing and Sarnano is full of Romans escaping their hot city for a few days. To entertain the invaders as well as the locals, the bumper cars are back for the younger set and live (and loud) concerts by local popular artists are being presented most evenings in the upper piazza. Even the Cinema next door has reopened for the season after being shuttered for over a year. I might be tempted to take in a movie or two if they started at a decent hour (one showing a day, beginning at 9:30 p.m.). Also it would nice if they would play the movies in the original language. But no, the Italians dub everything, I guess because most of them are too lazy to read subtitles. {more}

Return to Sarnano

July 4, 2007 After being on tour for fifty straight days, it is nice to be home for a month. I guess you can call it taking a vacation from vacationing. The long slog wasn’t that bad since I was traveling with good people throughout. There were only six of us for the first part of the Greece tour and we had a rather inauspicious beginning. Since we were coming into Athens at different times, we needed to take individual taxis in from the airport. None of the taxi drivers, not a single one, knew where our hotel was located in Athens. All of them had to call various people–mine asked at least three other cab drivers–before finally making it to the Hotel Arion. {more}

May Day

May 1, 2007 May Day is simply another day at the office in the USA but it is a holiday throughout all of Europe. The Church could never quite figure out how to get in front of this particular pagan celebration (young women dancing around the Maypole–you don’t need a Joseph Campbell to explain that one). Anyway, according to my Italian calendar which lists a saint for every day of the year, today’s saint is San Giuseppe Artigiano. And since artigiano means craftsman in Italian, this morphed into an equivalent of our Labor Day (Festa del Lavoro). Or maybe it was the other way around and the church created the saint day after the fact. Whatever.{more}


November 28, 2006 I hope your Thanksgiving Holiday was fulfilling, and that the full filling feeling is long gone, along with any extra poundage. For dinner here in Sarnano, there were two Canadians by way of Boerne (long story) and five Americans. We managed the full turkey day feast, complete with pumpkin pie.{more}

At Home, Finally

November 2, 2006 I’m finally back home after a very brief visit to Seattle, my 50th HS class reunion in Arizona, the October in Italy Tour, and chauffeuring three client/friends around Tuscany for three nights. It feels good to be back in familiar surroundings for a couple of months before the Classical Rome Tour in December/January.{more}

From Chandler AZ

October 6, 2006 I am back in Arizona for the 50th Reunion of my high school class. I’m still shaking my head as to why I chose to do this. Perhaps it was only to prove that I am still alive–after all, a number of my former classmates no longer qualify in that regard. {more}

Italian Mysteries

September 15, 2006 In the five plus years living over here, I have gradually adjusted to things Italian. I now know not to try to get anything done in August. I have adjusted to the daily rhythms of the shops closing at 1:00 and not opening again until either 3:00 or 4:00. Hey, this was an easy adjustment–what better time for a nap. I’ve reconciled to the fact that when I go out to eat, I eat at an Italian restaurant. True, in the major population centers, Chinese and Japanese food can be found. But everywhere else, it is Italian, Italian, or Italian–formal, informal, or pizza. Forget Tex-Mex, Thai, Fusion, French, Greek, whatever. Here, it is “and what pasta would you like tonight?” {more}

Carless no more

September 6, 2006 Yes, I was able to pick up my new Citroen C3 and that is the reason I haven’t written for a while -I’ve been busy having way too much fun driving all around the area! The October in Italy group will see some of the results of my explorations when we visit Penna San Giovanni (great little 17th C. wooden theater) and Urbisaglia (Roman Ruins). Not all of the driving has been BET related, of course. I found a shopping mall in Macerata which made me feel right at home. It even had a supermarket that challenges HEB. I got real excited when I spotted what I thought would be a big box hardware store. Unfortunately, it was as big as a Home Depot, but still used the Italian system: Take a number, wait your turn, tell the guy what you want, and then he goes and looks for it. Americans understand marketing, the Italians don’t. How many times have you gone into a Home Depot or Lowe’s and walked out with only what you went in for? Usually, as you prowl the aisles, you spot at least two other things that you can’t live without. Don’t think for a microsecond that this is an accident. {more}


August 17, 2006 I have commented on the “August in Italy” phenomenon many times in this space. What I have never mentioned is Ferragosto, a national holiday on the 15th of August to celebrate the middle of the month. I guess this holiday was created for the few working stiffs who couldn’t take off for the entire month. And since this year the 15th fell on a Tuesday, this created the opportunity for a “ponte.” When I first saw the word “ponte” used this way, I was clueless as to the meaning. Anyone who has had at least three Italian lessons has picked up that “ponte” meant “bridge.” But in this context it means a four-day weekend, i.e., “I don’t work on Saturday or Sunday, and since Tuesday is a holiday, I will just ‘bridge’ over Monday and take that day off too.” And since employers recognize that few people are going to show up anyway, why not just shut down? Or, why not just shut down for the whole week? {more}

Car Talk

August 12, 2006 I finally came to terms with needing to buy a car. After all, five years is a long time for an American male type to be without a car. The final straw was the August in Italy phenomenon. As I have mentioned in previous postings, August is a month that barely exists on the Italian calendar. July ends and the Italians run lemming-like to the beach or to the mountains. Even those who stay at home use August as an excuse to get out of doing whatever doesn’t absolutely need to be done. {more }

Tessera Sanitaria

January 6, 2006 Periodically I find it necessary to do battle with the infamous, though improving, Italian bureaucracy. Monday was one of those days and I finally received my Tessera Sanitaria, my Italian medical card. {more }


November 2, 2005 Thanksgiving is absolutely, hands down, no questions asked, my favorite holiday of the year. Uniquely American, the day is given over to no-strings-attached feasting. The focus is the feast, and if you are not involved in the preparation or clean up (and these activities are not nearly as sexist as they used to be), there is wall-to-wall football available on the tube. I would be hard pressed to remember a bad time celebrating this day. Okay, I’m sure that my ex, Wendy, would be able to say “Larry obviously doesn’t remember. . . ., when. . . . ,” and she would be absolutely right on both counts! I don’t remember, and it probably was awful. But as she would also readily agree, a bad time would have been an exception, not the norm. { more }

Easter in Sarnano

March 27, 2005 Happy Easter and Buona Pasqua from Sarnano where the pagan traditions mix with the Christian Easter beliefs as easily as they do in the USA. There are no Easter Bunnies to be seen as they are more of a German tradition than Italian, but every store is selling huge chocolate eggs filled with candy and other surprises for the bambini. One bakery is even selling lamb-shaped decorated cakes. Meanwhile, during the entire of Holy Week, the church bells are marking every quarter hour, even in the middle of the night, in contrast to their usual desultory fashion of only periodically announcing the hours during the day. { more }

Buon Natale

December 15, 2004 Buon natale, buone feste, auguri! I returned to my home in Sarnano after three+ weeks in the states expecting to find a winter wonderland but instead I barely needed a jacket. There was much less snow in the nearby Sibillini Mountains than when I left in November. The situation changed this morning as there was a nice dusting of snow in the mountains overnight. I can imagine that the operators of the ski resort that is visible from my apartment window are breathing a little easier now since the short ski season begins in one week. { more }


September 2, 2004 Having participated in the building of two new homes and the remodeling of yet another, I have always said that building anew is infinitely easier. But here I am in the middle of a major remodeling project which will involve installing a new kitchen, revamping the heating system, removing wallpaper and then painting throughout. And all of this in Italy, no less. I finally got enough moving-in stuff done during the { more }


August 16, 2004 Greetings from Sarnano where chaos and confusion reign. After ten days in purgatory waiting to take possession of my new-to-me apartment (the palazzo was built in 1550), the day of the closing finally arrived. At the very beginning of the proceedings, the seller requested that I not take possession until the bank paid her in full in 10 to 20 days. “Surely this would not be unreasonable,” she demurred. Naturally I balked. Spending another two weeks in a hotel did not seem at all reasonable to me since all of these details were to have been worked out during the two months since I had agreed to buy the place. We went back and forth to no avail and finally I was led into another room while the two real estate women, my lawyer, { more }

From the USA

July 23, 2004 I am nearing the end of my longest stay in the states since I moved to Italy almost four years ago. I arrived on June 1 and will return to Italy on July 25 to begin a new life in Sarnano. Here are some observations of American life from an ex-pat’s eyes: { more }

Things Italian

April 29, 2004 It is almost May, spring has arrived, the windows are open to the street, the breezes, and the racket of the daily packs of school kids walking by. In Italy it is the same as in America: If the kids haven’t learned it by now, they aren’t going to pick it up during the rest of this school year. Best to wait for some maturation over the summer and then they will come back fresh for the next year. But legislators everywhere, with parents’ blessings to be sure, dictate that the schools will continue for another month or so. How do the teachers deal with this problem in Italy? The same way they do in America—Field Trips! { more }

A Darker Verona

November 11, 2003 I have been in a funk the last several weeks. Nothing serious but not much fun either. Perhaps it was brought on by the weather. With just a month to go before the winter solstice, Verona is not getting much sun these days. And what sunshine that does come over the horizon is being filtered through rain, fog and general yuck. I might as well be living in Seattle (which might happen, but that is another story.) { more }