September 28, 2011

A Fish from Seminara

Once upon a time, there was a big big fish from Seminara, he was green and blue. He looked ugly and was too big. The fish was a ceramic art work. He was created as a jar but now, on top he had large lamp shade. First, I did not bother what my mother-in-law had standing on her window sill. You can't argue about taste. But when I heard that it belongs to my husband, I started to not like him - the fish ...

a fish from Seminara

Apparently, CC went to Seminara once I wasn't in Calabria. Seminara, a little village around 7 km from Palmi, is known to "insiders" for its pottery and ceramic art work. When you google the site, you do not find much. Maybe something about a battle in 1495 on wikipedia. If you search further, you might find something more interesting about Seminara's golden age during Renaissance here.

Nowadays, Seminara is known in Calabria for it's interesting unusual and sometimes bizarre pottery. The fish above seems just harmless among some grotesque faces and babbuino masked objects. The scary faces originally were supposed to protect from evil. Similar like it is found in some Turkish and Greek art work. Due to trading around the Mediterranean sea the styles influenced each other. Therefor, you find egg. in Seminara and Sicily these ceramic heads, influenced by Arabic Moors. And I guess, that's why it's possible that Seminara craft men might have influenced Picasso (France) and Dali (Spain).

Calabrian jar from 19th century with bubbuino mask via Christie's  (!)

Interesting are also the jars that are imitating by the look of sea urchins (ricci) and artichokes (carciofi).

Seminara jars via flickr

artist Paolo Candurso in his shop via flickr - in the back ceramic heads, even more popular in Sicily

market day in Seminara with its typical ceramics

Seminara jars and vases in form of artichokes, urchins - and more fishes

When we finally moved into our house, I realised that the lamp - the one with the big ugly fish from Seminara - would actually look not bad on the chest of drawers in the living room. The next day it was delivered... and - surprise - the fish was not too big anymore in our big living room! It looks even rather small! And with the sea under the windows, the fish suits very well. It even does not look ugly anymore. It is a piece of art!

Seminara fish jar modified into lamp stand

The not so big and not so ugly fish found its place into a house at the sea.
A perfect match.

Another more detailed source about ceramics from Seminara is cultura italia in italian language.

From what I know, two of the most successful artists in Seminara are Paolo Candurso and Domenico Ditto.

If you have more information about Seminara's pottery and its artist, please leave a comment.

September 19, 2011

Can you trust Google Affiliate Network? - A bad experience with SIXT

When you blog for so many years like I do, slowly your blogs move up in the page ranking and advertisers become interested in your page. That is as flattering as getting comments from readers, I have to admit. So I had some advertisers over the years and made some pocket money on the side. When Google Affiliate Network came up with advertisers that could match, I never joint any program until I saw SIXT, the German car rental company from Munich.

Every tourist who comes to Calabria rents a car at the airport, unless they drive all the way down to Southern Italy. So I thought, why not give it a try with my Italian blog.

Just this summer holiday, my friends needed to rent a car. They decided to do it online in advance rather than on spot at the airport. They compared prices and thought that SIXT is competitive. This is when I suggested to them to book the car via my blog. I said this is the best way to find out how the Google Affiliate Network Program with SIXT works.

And I found out: It does NOT work!

When I asked the agent who was indicated by Google Affiliate Network for help, he seemed customer oriented in the beginning and asked for my customer ID etc. But then I never received any explanation. And another month later, when I asked again what he found out I got this reply by email:

Mark DeBenedetto from Direct Agentsthe agency that handles SIXT via the google affiliate program, did not give any explanation why there was no commission for an online booking. He does not even bother or apologise. - Why is he an agent? What for? - Oh, here no more answer at all.

I do not see any help center at the Google Affiliate Network site where I could complain directly about this agent. And I have no interest in waisting my time to search for any SIXT contact person.

The only way I can complain, is to blog about it.

Usually, I do not abuse my blog to talk about bad experience with restaurants, airlines or other public entities because my personal experience might be coincidence. But in this case, I write about it because I have no other voice. Also it is in the interest of other bloggers who trust these programs which are not directly under their control.

I assume that SIXT was too new to the program and I was a victim of a technical error.
But then, at least I want an apology.

Today, I removed the banner of this company from my blog roll. Never again I will sign up for any other affiliate program (beside the one from amazon, the one I know and trust since many years).

Please leave a comment if you have any good or bad experience with affiliate programs. It is an interesting topic.

September 08, 2011

Summer with Friends (part I)

The evening of our friend's arrival was near. When I had to describe how to arrive from Lamezia airport with the rented car to our home, I came until where they would need to turn left into the piazza - which is NOT allowed after 6pm. Every evening there is this barrier you see in the picture (below) and two traffic police ladies ensuring only residents sneak through. Some evenings before their arrival I took that photo and emailed it. At least they would not miss the turn. Also I talked to the charming traffic police ladies and explained the situation.

turn left into the piazza

I arranged with our friends - and very first guest - that they would call me as soon as they had left the rental car company. Then, I would walk slowly from our house towards the piazza, checking out what's up in Pizzo and end my stroll here at the barrier talking to the charming traffic police.

Around 20 minutes after my friends call I looked excited into every small car that looked like a rented car filled with German tourists. There were many. My son came waiting with me. When we spotted them, we waved them over. My friend got out of the car and walk with son the short way home, while I would co-pilot her husband through the narrow alleys - a fun ride.

The plane was delayed and we arrived around 9pm at home. We decided to go for a pizza in piazza, although Saturday night in August you better cook at home. The tables outside in the piazza were crowded, and we had to wait long to be served. But life just starts now. Most life you will find around 11pm in piazza. This is when people queue for a table at the Gelateria Belvedere.

The next morning - and this is one of my favorite parts of this holiday with friends - before everyone else is up, T. would go and find a bakery to buy fresh panini for breakfast!!

When I would come downstairs, breakfast would be ready! Ah, what lovely guest! Danke ! Danke! Danke! (Lately, I got guest in Bangkok that were jet lagged the whole stay and didn't come out of their rooms until 11am!!)

Usually, in Italy, I never have breakfast, just a coffee, an expresso with some milk. I never liked the hard bread down here. But T. managed to find the right things. We even had a delicious bergamot marmalade (that I even brought back to Thailand). And he would make me smile with his shopping tour observations early in the morning across the piazza that seemed only inhabited at that hour by elderly and old men, drinking espresso at the bar and chatting. The sales woman in Lo Biancho would always be in a grumpy mood and not having change. And every morning he came up with some other details.

I was pleased to see that the simple life down here was enjoyed by my guest as much as by myself. It is easy to consider life in Pizzo as boring if someone prefers fast exciting city life.

So, slow and pleasant, finally, my vacation started. I enjoyed the company of my fellow countrymen - speaking German for a change was so relaxing! Since it was the first holiday our families spent together, we were lucky to see that we follow a similar "rhythm".

After the very nice breakfast, we would pack for the beach and leave the house never earlier than 10.30. We would walk through the village, pass by all the gelaterie and walk dawn the alleys towards the marina.

Beach of Pizzo Marina

Mothers would lay in the shadow under the blue striped umbrella, chatting and reading. Kids would be constantly in the water, swimming, snorkeling, playing. T. would do it all.

A couple of hours later, around the same time, we would all have had enough from the sun and the heat and walk back home to prepare a late and light lunch.

"Spritz" my favorite Italian aperitif

Preparing food altogether in my beautiful new kitchen was even more fun when everyone was having a drink. The orange colored Spritz, originally from Veneto area, become my favorite summer drink.

Mix a Spritz:
1/3 Aperol
1/3 prosecco
1/3 soda water
just fill it in a prosecco glass, don't shake or stir, add ice cubes and a slice of lemon.

It is so light - like lemonade !
I admit, I use more prosecco and less soda ;-)

After lunch, that we finish, almost like Italians, just a little later, at 3pm we would have a break, like Italians. T., R. and E. would read, LC and A. would play or draw and I would just enjoy the house and having the house filled with life. Sometimes T. would even go with the kids a second time to the beach in the late afternoon and come back before sunset.

our "house beach" in walking distance

Soon we figured out that two times cooking per day for 7-9 people is just too much, even with a dish washer. So when we would have had lunch at home, we would have dinner outside.

my favorite pizza "Tricolore" by SPQR

In piazza there is more competition since the pizzeria SPQR with its good looking and dynamic staff opened directly next to La Ruota. It is difficult to say which one is better. We visited them both by turns. The pizze from La Ruota might be slightly better cooked, but SPQR has a better choice of pasta dishes and the best prices. And their pizza "Tricolore" (prochiutto, ruccola, parmesan) was my summer's favorite.

Paradiso del Sub Beach

Another day, another beach. 35 Years ago, this beach was only accessible by boat. 15 years ago it was still a secret bay. Now, you can find it even printed on postcards: Paradiso del Sub, a few km North of Tropea. I can't believe how many people, young and old, would walk through the heat all the long and steep way to access this "isolated" bay. The water is still beautiful though. For this beach we prepared panini - picnic lunch on the beach.

preparing dinner at PP

Preparing dinner at home might be interrupted by sunset watching and photo shooting. Here, I count 9 covers on my 4 meter something table cloth from the market featuring chili and garlic. This was when CC was still in Italy and we invited his parents over for dinner.

beach below Tropea's balcony

Another day, another beach. Since we had two cars, we used them from time to time to discover new beaches. One day, after a visit of the old town of Tropea and a pizza slice for each, we went down to the beach to cool off in this crystal clear water.

orechietti (little ear pasta) with sweat cherry tomatoes from the market by R.

Tropea's famous beach

another tomato salad for lunch

So we went on and on.
Beach, lunch, siesta, dinner.
Beach, lunch, siesta, dinner.
A real Italian vacation.

Six month later, I finally compiled "summer with friends (part II) and you can read it here