Note from the editor – Here at the Canabal Chronicle we like to concentrate our editorial efforts on the lighter side of life. Occasionally, events dictate otherwise. This week saw devastating wildfires engulf large swathes of Galicia and Northern Portugal claiming lives and destroying property. The countryside will eventually recover but lives lost can never be replaced. Our thoughts are with all those effected.
To help cheer us up, this week’s author interview is with Michelle Damiani whose passion for central Italy will have you dusting off the suitcase and searching for your passport.
But first …
A Chip Off the Old Block
Warm, sunny days and cloudless blue skies make it easy to forget that winter is just around the corner. The first appearance of Jack Frost is a timely reminder of what might be in store.
For many of our village neighbours, preparing for winter begins much earlier in the year. The noise of a chainsaw can often be heard drifting across the fields on a warm summer’s evening; followed by the crack of an axe as logs are laboriously split by hand. Not everyone follows this traditional routine. Buying logs is much easier.
In this instance, stacking them neatly in the bodega (cellar) is the only chore. With the help of willing neighbours, this pile of firewood will quickly disappear.
The Autumn Collection
Shorter days and cooler nights hasten the appearance of autumnal colours.
Before long, golden leaves will break free from their hosts and float to the ground like a tickertape parade. In the vineyards, decaying leaves breathe new life into natures colourful palette.
It’s true to say that some creatures are more adept at blending into their surroundings than others. Take Slawit for example. Her attempts to hide on the back terrace didn’t go unnoticed.
The same couldn’t be said for several new arrivals to the village. Can you see him?
Later in the day two more were spotted hiding in the undergrowth. Locals were advised to mind their feet as they made their way through the undergrowth.
A Lucky Escape
For many residents of Galicia and Northern Portugal, the last few days brought anxious times as giant conflagrations ravaged the countryside. Here in Canabal we avoided the worst of it but the smell of wood smoke and blanket of ash eclipsed the sun for over twenty-four hours. The following two photos were taken on consecutive days at 2:30 in the afternoon.
During the day-long eclipse, an eerie silence descended on the village as birds took flight. Even village dogs fell silent. Thankfully, this corner of Galicia was spared and life has now returned to normal.
Messing About On The River
A trip to Galicia wouldn’t be complete without a cruise along the river Sil. Described in many travel guides as fjord-like, the Canyon of the river Sil is spectacular beyond imagination.
A number of boats ply their trade along the river but no one could ever describe the waterway as busy.
Our personal favourite and Canabal Chronicle recommendation is SilTrip. Owner/operator, Alex, provides a personal service which includes a history of the canyon, its people and their livelihoods. He even offers passengers a wine tasting as the boats drifts along the river.
The next time you’re visiting Galicia why not book a seat on this ten-person catamaran and treat yourself to an unforgettable journey along the great river Sil.
For more details of this special event or to buy a ticket, visit SilTrip facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/siltrip
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for …
Michelle tells us more about her book.
Il Bel Centro: A Year in the Beautiful Center is the profoundly moving story of Michelle and her family's adaptation to the people and culture of Spello, Italy. Part searingly-honest memoir, part celebration of Umbrian life, Il Bel Centro is a page-turner with a beating heart.
Michelle Damiani brings fresh perspective to the American-abroad story, and creates a sense of place so authentic that readers feel they, too, have strolled the pink-hued alleys of Spello alongside the Damiani family.
Vivid descriptions evoke the pleasures of medieval village life, from the scent of almond pastries curling into morning fog, to olive trees tossing glints of silver into the achingly blue sky.
At once hilarious and wise, this spellbinding journey will feed your soul and your wanderlust. Il Bel Centro will sweep you into the heart of Italy, where for bakers, pants are optional, and a good lunch will take you straight through till dinner.
"I was not prepared for Italy.
Luckily, Italy was waiting for me anyway."
To find out more about Michelle Damiani or purchase a copy of Il Bel Centro, follow these links:
And now the moment you’ve all being waiting for when Michelle’s chance to answers our ten challenging questions.
1. If a movie was made of your life, who would play you and why?
Gal Gadot would be an excellent choice. Mostly because the majority of my life seems to be spent folding laundry and typing madly on my computer and she could make both of those dull activities appear impossibly fascinating.
2. If you won a million pounds/dollar/euros etc, what would you buy?
Easy! A cottage with a bit of farm just outside Spello, Italy. We’d buy ourselves out of our day jobs and raise goats and make plum jam and roll pasta. With leftover money I’d buy plane tickets. Sometimes it makes me breathless how much of the world I haven’t yet seen. A million bucks would go a long way towards alleviating that anxiety.
3. What is your least favourite thing about humanity?
The difficulty empathizing with another person’s experience. So many times we hear about people who have cold attitudes towards the LBGT community or drug addicts, only to “see the light” when their children are revealed to be gay or struggle with an addiction. It’s wonderful that they find room in their hearts to embrace their children, I suppose, but what would be truly wonderful, what would change the world in fact, is if we could treat everyone like family. If we could instantly empathize with each other. If we could assume a person’s best. Then maybe there’d be more outrage when Boko Harem attacks on the other side of the world, or more reaching out to families fleeing persecution in their homelands.
4. If you were 80 years old and had children, what’s the most important experience you could pass on to them?
The experience of walking down a street with the conviction that the world owes you nothing.
5. You’re a new addition to my spice rack, what are you and why?
A mixtures of ground kosher salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and porcini mushrooms. Adds a kick of umami to just about anything! Insipid soup becomes nuanced, boring chicken becomes transcendent.
6. In fewer than 50 words, how does the internet work?
I don’t want to embarrass others with my vast understanding of the internet, but since you asked. There are jibs and jabs in different pockets all over the world and there’s this magic sauce that connects them and when our computers utter the correct incantation, sprinkles of information fall then rise to the screen by means of sunshine-hued magnets.
7. How can you tell if someone is a nerd?
If they know the difference between Jango Fett and Boba Fett.
8. If you could add one word to the dictionary, what would it be and what would it mean?
Solvide: The feeling of being gobsmacked with surety that we are all connected and the world is an endlessly lovely place.
9. What undiscovered technology will transform the future?
Instantaneous travel. When we are able to see up close other cultures, with less cost and bother, I feel like we’ll deepen our understanding of humanity. I firmly believe that the more flavors we try, the more our minds are opened.
10. What is the one thing you own you wish you didn’t?
Cat allergies. My cats are allergic to something, no one can say what it is, and it’s made them groom the hair clean off their legs. They look ridiculous, like cats with chicken legs. I’m sure I’m supposed to offer a profound response here, but every night I’m distracted for hours by the sound of cats licking their fur clean off and to own the truth, I feel like I can’t be profound when my sleep is laced with aggravation.
This issue of the Canabal Chronicle was brought to you by Craig Briggs, author of The Journey series of books.