AUGUST 2015

1First things first, my friend and colleague Scott Clemens is a novelist. His first book, With Artistic License, is available in paperback or as a Kindle ebook on Amazon.com. You can preview the first five chapters by going to the ebook version here:

http://www.amazon.com/Artistic-License-S-W-Clemens-ebook/dp/B011PZYWBQ/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1440441519&sr=8-1

His second novel, Time Management, is scheduled for an autumn release. For a preview, you can read the first few chapters on Wattpad.com here:

https://www.wattpad.com/myworks/47048345-time-management,-a-novel
His website: SWClemens.com

24 August a Day in Cremona
2Guy Marriott, President of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, and I at the end of our successful day in Cremona. We were scouting venues and events for the Society’s Riechenbach Falls trip that is scheduled for September 2017. We visited the violin museum and had a look at their superb small auditorium, where concerts are performed on instruments that are hundred years old.

 

19 August Dinner with a view
3AAntonio Cesari from Brigaldara (www.brigaldara.it) picks us up and whisks us to San Mattia Agroturismo (www.sanmattia.it), Giovanni Ederle’s lovely restaurant and hostelry. The view from the terrace is stunning. If you want an agroturismo holiday, this is the place!

Over dinner Antonio says: “I took you with me the first time I went to America – your book : Speaking of Wine.” I immediately warm to him.

 

3On the way home we start talking about fictional characters who inspire people to put them into a real context. Like Romeo and Juliet, Sherlock Holmes and…Mary Poppins. Antonio told us that when his brother went to London he walked around every single park in the city looking for Cherry Tree Lane, the location of the Banks’ residence. The Banks, if there is anyone in the reading world who doesn’t know, are the employers of Mary Poppins. Antonio also confessed to having a childhood crush on Julie Andrews after seeing the film. What a nice man!

 

A few days later, I happened to pick up The Collected Essays of Graham Greene. Here is a quote from that book: “Perhaps it is only in childhood that books have any deep influence on our lives. In later life we admire, we are entertained, we may modify some views we already hold, but we are more likely to find in books merely a confirmation of what is in our minds already: as in a love affair it is our own features that we see reflected flatteringly back. But in childhood all books are books of divination, telling us about the future, and like the fortune-teller who sees a long journey in the cards or death by water they influence the future. I suppose that is why books excited us so much.”

 

August 17 Tim Parks quotes
4aHere are a couple of nice quotes from my Tim Parks interview that I was unable to fit into my piece for Publishers Weekly:
“Obviously I was aware of people like [Patricia] Highsmith. I admire her a lot but I always thought that the [Ripley] books could have been much funnier. You could see that she just didn’t do humor. And Italy always seems to invite humor. Either humor or desperation because you can go crazy in this country quite easily, particularly if you have to get something done.”

Crime and Punishment was another book that I think could have been so much funnier. You feel you are morally superior to these people… so, why not.”

 

August 8 Rafting on the Adige
We go rafting on the Adige with Chievo soccer club supporters. I recommend that anyone visiting Verona in the summer sign up for this adventure. Two hours, soaking wet, a touch of competitive rowing and a look at the underside of Verona’s bridges – all this and a nice commentary on the history of the bridges from the guide. Adige Rafting website http://www.adigerafting.it

 

August 5 Cheese to the 9th power.
4Federica runs me out to Corrado Benedetti Salumi e Formaggio Dalla Lessinia (www.corradobenedetti.it) , a deli and so much more. They make their own superb cheeses and salamis, they have a fine picnic area – complete with barbeques – and a collection of animals – donkeys, deer and sheep. They also rent parking space to campers. I couldn’t help thinking the next Vinitaly (the world’s largest annual wine trade fair, which is held every year in Verona); it might be worth it for visitors to the fair to rent a camper and stay here. The drive into town is a quick 30 minutes. Usually the hotels in Verona up their prices during Vinitaly and are booked up years in advance. Humm, something to think about.

 

August 2 Re Umberto Eco.
Publishers Weekly asked me to interview Umberto Eco, who has a new book coming out in the USA in November. I, of course, said yes. After I got over my first numbing fear (Umberto Eco: medievalist, philosopher, critically acclaimed and best-selling novelist, scholar, wit, semiologist, professor), I thought: The man’s a genius, he must be used to being around people who are not.

 

After that I realized I had nothing to worry about, and should just treat his interview like any other interview assignment – except of course I read his book twice, both times with a pen and pad by my side to note the allusions I didn’t quite get. I am working on a sentence about his allusions that goes like this “…from Milton (John) to Manilow (Barry)”

July 2015

Tim Parks
Tim Parks

31 July Umberto Eco (!!!!)
I get an email from Publishers Weekly asking if I want to interview Umberto Eco for them. My reply: You betcha!

 

29 Tim Parks in Milan
I went to Milan to interview Tim Parks for Publishers Weekly about his new book “Painting Death”. Tim Parks, fit and tan in a striped T-shirt, a straw hat shading his face, rolled up on his bike in front of the subway station in the Navigali section of Milan and we set off to find a comfortable bar. Over cold beers we discussed writing, Italy and the irrepressible Morris Duckworth, who is protagonist of his new book Painting Death.

 

23 through 27 San Gio Video Festival
2Every Year – for the past 21 years – on these dates our pal Ugo organizes an international video festival here in Verona. Videos/digital downloads arrive from all over the world.

Members of the Juries this year hailed from Spain, Canada, Italy, Chile and Iran.

70 films from: Germany, Italy, Spain, USA, Ireland, Chile, Russia, Poland, Canada, Mexico, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Iceland, Belgium, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, U.K., Egypt, France, Tunisia, Hong Kong, Bahrain, Austria, Armenia, Australia, Switzerland, Iraq and Greece.
One of the many things that sets this video festival apart is that Ugo organizes Cultural Trips for the juries. By “cultural” I mean, winery visits. He very kindly lets me tag along on these excursions.

3 Ugo and Bruno in the Park of VillaIMG_2164We tasted a sparkling Gewurztraminer at Cantina Valdadige. (www.cantinavaldadige.it ) Its freshness and very lightly touch of sweetness made me immediately think of is as being a good by-the-glass drink in a cool, hipster bar.

We visited Az. Ag. Fasoli (Franco). (www.vinifasoli.it ) It was lovely. Mr. Fasoli and family are down to earth and – by gum – they make very nice straight forward Valpolicella – juicy, supple and approachable. The wines are sold mostly at the cellar door or to restaurants in zone. I urge anyone with a restaurant to give these wines a try. Franco also took us to his salami room and we walked through his orchards, eating peaches and figs along the way. It was a delightful visit.

We stopped by Tenuta Santa Maria alla Pieve (www.tenutapieve.com ) and visited fabulous Villa Mosconi Bertani. Among the wines I liked were the Pràgal Igt Verona, a Merlot-Syrah blend that was rich and satisfying (and had a very good quality price ratio!) and the Valpolicella Ripasso. I usually do not like ripasso wines. When not done well they can be clumsy and unintersting. However, the Santa Maria alla Pieve Ripasso was outstanding. It had elegance as well as jucy appealing flavor.

 

17 July Saved from the heat
JpegI get a call asking me to carry the photographer’s tripod around all day tomorrow. I thank my lucky stars that I already have an appointment and can decline without guilt. Walking around in the slick, slimy heat of summer while totting photographer-paraphernalia for eight hours is not an appealing offer.

 

16 July Vescovo Moro dinner
We have dinner at the Vescovo Moro with the organizer and teachers of courses for unemployed young-ish people. Diego tells of some of the projects they organize, one of which is a course on mixology (that’s cocktail making to the uninitiated) for people with mental handicaps. “It doesn’t matter if you order a glass of wine and they serve you a mojito,” says Diego. “It is just so nice to see them having fun and learning something new.”

 

The desserts at the restaurant are super duper! Diego and Alessandra and the crew take a tour of the downstairs area of the restaurant and are suitably impressed.

 

15 July Back at Scapin for a Slow Food dinner with Cà Rovere
Cà Rovere, located in the Colli Berici, is a sparkling wine specialist. The Colli Berici is just up the road, in a manner of speaking, from the Colli Euganie! (which, in turn, is not far from Padua.) The family owned winery has won its share of awards and is sold mainly in Italy. Alessia Biasin, owner (along with her brothers), spoke about the wines and we then all happily dived into eating the interesting dishes chosen to accompany the wines. Conversation was – of course – mainly about dogs!

 

Of particular interest was Brut Etichetta Blu 2010 (40% Garganega and 60% Chardonay). “Garganega adds complexity, with its acidity, making this wine good even with fatty foods,” says Alessia. The wine is bright yellow-gold, with a very nice weight in the mouth. Full firm perfumes – an amalgam of under-ripe pears, with an elegant line of salinity.

 

14 July Dinner at Osteria Enoteca Alcov del Frate
7 stanley photoBertie takes us (Michael, Stanley and me) to the Osteria Enoteca Alcova del Frate (www.alcovadelfrate.it) for dinner. Very impressive. Service was personable and professional. The food was exceptionally well presented: fresh, flavorful and attractive. We had a Soave from Gini to start and then a Montelpulciano d’Abruzzo from Marina Cvetic (www.masciarelli.it ) The other patrons commented on how well behaved Stanley was – when they realized he had actually been sitting under the table quietly receiving morsels throughout our meal.

Here is a photo of Stanley displaying the rawhide ring given to him by Roberta.

 

12 July Go Chievo
8 Chievo outingIMG_2016Roberta, Michael and I head up to Giorgino’s family summer house in the hills near Lake Garda. Giorgino is the life and soul of the Chievo Soccer Fan club that Michael and I (in my fashion) belong to. Plates of grilled meats, beans, polenta and an assortment of cakes are consumed. Around 5 o’clock the others go to a Chievo training camp game. I, on the other hand, choose to sit in a very nice plastic chair with a fabulous view of the Lake and read a book. A good time was had by all.

 

July 10 Tim Parks for Publishers Weekly
I get an email from Publishers Weekly asking me to interview Tim Parks. I am very pleased. I write him and we agree to set up a time and place for the end of July.

 

July 6 Walking in – Slimey, Slick – Sunshine

Stanley at Bar Stella
Stanley at Bar Stella

I spend 8 hours walking around Verona carrying photographer paraphernalia for the photographer Aldo has chosen for the wee osteria bookie. I am wilting by 7 p.m. when Michael and Stanley pick me up at the Bottega del vino (the last stop of the day). We had planned to go to the movies to see Birdman but I am too exhausted from tramping the streets all day in this heat. So we go to Bar Stella, a fine little hole in the wall just around the corner from Juliet’s House that specializes in organic and biodynamic products – wines, beers and cold cuts.

 

July 3 Loooong Lunch
I go to a 12:30 business lunch that finished at 6:15. What a surprise….there were 8 people and from 6 countries: Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Russia, UK, Italy, with Susan Hedblad and me representing the USA. It gave our host, Aldo L., a chance to feel like the director of the United Nations.

 

July 1 In the world and seeing the Veneto

Disgruntled Fruit
Disgruntled Fruit

Aldo L. takes Michael, Marta (who works for the Soave winery Pagani) to EXPO in Milan. The theme of this Mega fair, with pavilions from just shy of 100 countries, seems to be sustainability and food. We are pulled along in Aldo’s wake. This means that we visit the Italian wine pavilion, taste Veneto wines and then pick up a lunch at Saporem (4 Consortiums – Mortadella di Bologna, prosciutto San Daniele, Grana Padano and Conegliano Valdobbiadene – who have band together to present their wares at Expo. ) Off for a coffee tasting organized by Aldo at the bar. Then we set off for Verona.

 

Aldo tasting coffee
Aldo tasting coffee

Michael and I force him to stop at Vescovo Moro because the restaurant has space that could be very useful for tastings, presentations and seminars. Marta, who had not been allowed to bring her Soave samples into the fair, gave one to us and one to the barman. I taste it a few days later and am impressed with it. I will certainly keep an eye out for Pagani at future tastings. www.vinipagani.it