Beauty

The view from the bus stop near FBK.

I keep thinking I’ll get used to the mountains, the valleys, the vinyards, but with each new season’s turn, I find myself looking out the train window and thinking to myself, “but it’s so beautiful, after all!” It must have been Fate who wrote that my life should lead me here, for only Fate could think up such a clever trick– the mountains are all around me, and yet, they are so far away. The seasons turn, the trees change from gold to grey to green once more, and the train comes with regularity.

The scent of jasmine flowers fills the air, covering up the obnoxious cigarette smoke that otherwise seems ubiquitous. Their sweet perfume hangs so heavy that you can smell it even inside the bus, its windows open, as it follows the winding road down the hill. The forested hilltop gives way to vinyards, which themselves turn to cobblestone streets. The Earth has been changed by Man, and so too has my life been changed. The course of the river that would have carried me to the ocean’s wide expanse has been altered. It carries me now to the waterwheel instead.

The rain comes. The rivers fill their banks, rushing swiftly towards mountain lakes nestled amongst the hills and mountain tops of this ancient landscape. I want to climb those cliffs, to feel the sweat on my brow, to reach the top, and breathe a sigh of relief as I survey the valleys below. Once the heat becomes overpowering, I want to jump in the river and play in the water. But the waterwheel that once turned grain mills, now turns factory centrifuges and mixers, so the water has become polluted, and a swim is not recommended.

The sound of the noontime bell rings out over the town, echoing off the valley walls in a low bass. The bell stands for peace, but its booming voice breaks the calm of the summer’s day, while the clickity-clack of the clanks that raise it punctures the tranquility brought here by the gentle breeze. The bell calls out its warning to all who live in the valley below, but none answer its call. The bell keeps sounding at the same hour every day, as though one day, it will make all the difference.

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Campana dei Caduti (The Bell of the Fallen) in Rovereto.

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Officialization 13: Going to the doctors

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They were randomly giving out free watermelon in Rovereto the other night (no strings attached, not even an advertisement), and storing the watermelons in the fountain!

Officialization TOC

  1. Officialization 1: WTF comes next in Italy?
  2. Officialization 2: Apartment
  3. Officialization 3: Internet
  4. Officialization 4: Stay Permit, part I
  5. Officialization 5: Picking Courses
  6. Officialization 6: Stay Permit, part II
  7. Officialization 7: TV Tax
  8. Officialization 8: Stay Permit, part III
  9. Officialization 9: Residenzia
  10. Officialization 10: Health Insurance
  11. Officialization 11: Thesis Registration
  12. Officialization 12: Stay Permit, part IV
  13. Officialization 13: Going to the doctors <– You are here

TL;DR

The process for getting national health service benefits is a hassle. The fees are pretty low though, even compared to the ones in Germany, and certainly compared to the fees in the US.

  • Process:
    1. Get your stay permit (i.e. at least 4-5 months after arriving in Italy), so you can sign up at Anagrafe with a general practitioner, and receive your “tessera sanitaria” (national health insurance card)
    2. Show up at the GPs office hours exactly when they open or you’ll have to wait. There’s no formal queue– ask who is waiting for your doctor; you are behind the last person.
    3. Get a normal medication prescription if needed, and pick it up at a pharmacy.
    4. Take initiative to request a prescription for special tests if needed.
      1. Show up at the hospital exactly when they open.
      2. Wait in one line to pay. Wait in a second line to get the test.
      3. Go back to the hospital/ your doctor after a week or so to receive your results. (They can only call you to tell you that they’re ready if you have an Italian phone number.)
      4. N.B.: Blood work can be scheduled via Telegram (info here) so you don’t have to wait.
  •  Insurance Fees:
    • US: $10-15 / month (but my employer paid the larger share, otherwise it’s hundreds of dollars per month)
    • Germany: €90 / month
    • Italy: €150 for the calendar year
  • Synthetic thyroxine medication:
    • US: $10-15 / month
    • Germany: €5 / three months
    • Italy: €15 / three months
  • Doctor’s appointment with blood work:
    • US: $100-150
    • Germany: €0
    • Italy: €35

Going to the doctors

I’ve had to go to the doctor a few times now in Italy. The process has not been as smooth as last year in Germany. I admit that after all this time, I still haven’t fully understood how the health system is supposed to work here. There seem to be two classes of health care, public and private. As I understand it, though I haven’t tried, for the private health care, you can call any doctor you want directly, and set up an appointment, and just pay for the meeting out-of-pocket. However, so far, I have used the public services, using the “tessera sanitaria” (national health care card) that I received earlier in the year.

The way the public services work is first you pay for the insurance and then you sign up with a general practitioner who will be your doctor. They will be the person you first visit for any issue, and they can send you along to further specialists. The way you visit with them is just the same as the way you do anything in Italy… by getting to their office before everyone else. All the public doctors seem to have open office hours on a first-come first-served basis. I cannot stress enough that you need to arrive immediately as they open, or a couple minutes before, in order to get to see them in an expedient way.

So you arrive as they open, and just walk into the doctor’s office. In terms of the queue, if there are already people waiting, you should try to ask who is waiting for your doctor; some may be waiting for other doctors who share the office (if you don’t speak Italian well, you can just say your doctor’s name, and people will probably understand your question). Then, remember who you are behind, and take a position in front of the doctor’s door after they go in.

You tell them your problem. If you have pain or something that requires antibiotics, they write you out a prescription for ibuprofen or antiobiotics or cream or whatever, and you take it to the pharmacy. Otherwise, they tell you to wait and see. Usually, that’s your entire appointment. It’s rarely very helpful. By the way, if you don’t have a tessera sanitaria, they aren’t supposed to write you a prescription, but my doctor seems to be pretty willing to bend those rules.

If you actually know what your problem is, you can ask the doctor to request tests to be done if you need them. In my case, I am hypothyroid. The first few times I went, I just asked for the same medication that I always take, and my doctor just wrote me a prescription (the very first time I didn’t even have my tessera sanitaria yet, but he just said not to worry about it). Recently, though, I decided I should check my blood levels again, to make sure everything is still on track, since it’s been a while. Note, that I decided this. In the US, my doctors would know me as a patient and they would know my history, so they would occasionally suggest that I get such tests done, in particular if I had other problems going on as well, or if it’s been the requisite amount of time since the last one. Here, although I have been with this doctor since the start, he doesn’t suggest such tests at all. It’s up to me.

So I asked him how to get the blood work done. My doctor doesn’t have a lab in his office and I believe most public doctors don’t, at least in small towns like Rovereto. So he gave me a prescription and told me to go to the hospital for this, where they have the labs to do it. You can apparently schedule blood work appointments via Telegram (info here), but I didn’t know about that at the time.

Thus, I went to the hospital in person. The procedure there was not at all straight forward. The first day I went, I couldn’t find the correct place to go. I entered through the main entrance and tried to understand the signs for the departments (things like gynecology, cancer, and so on). None of them suggested to me that they did blood work for normal issues. I went to the Segreteria (secretary’s office) to ask them. The lady there was one of the first people I’ve met in Rovereto/Trento that didn’t make much of an effort to make herself understood. If I can’t understand someone right away, I always tell them that I don’t speak Italian that well, and this usually gets them to speak slower or use simpler words. This lady really didn’t care about that. It took me more running around, and asking of other workers (at random) to finally understand that the office was only open from 7:30 till 9:30am, but I still didn’t fully understand its location. In any case, I had to come back another morning.

When I came back, I very fortunately ran into a friend coming out of the hospital. She explained to me that the entry for the blood work was in a different place on the side of the building. I finally found and entered the secretary’s office for outpatient procedures such as blood work (“prelievi del sangue”) around 8:15am. As soon as I entered that room, I realized I had come too late. I knew right away that I would miss the last train to work before the morning break, which comes at 9:37am. This is because the room was filled with people waiting in seats. A number queue monitor called numbers from different needs categories, and the blood draw category was definitely low priority (I think pregnancy-related issues were highest priority). Still, I was already here, so I decided to wait.

Around 45 minutes later, I guess, my number was called. I went up to the secretary, and found out I would have to pay around 35 euro for the blood draw, before getting it done. I did this, and received my receipt. She sent me along to the next room. To my chagrin, I realized that all those people that had just waited in front of me, were now seated in this second room, awaiting their blood draw appointments. I would have to wait again. Not only that, but if I left, I would have to get a refund for the cost of the blood draw, and then re-do this whole process later. So I decided to wait.

Maybe half an hour later, I was finally called in. The blood draw was done by a skilled nurse, and it took all of 1-2 minutes, as usual. Nice and fast.

For getting the blood work results, the hospital will call you– that is, unless you don’t have an Italian phone number, in which case, like most government offices, they can’t understand how to call you. In my case though, the results were thankfully sent to my doctor electronically. He also doesn’t seem to be able to call non-Italian numbers, so I still had to go to him another morning to find out the results. Why not use E-mail you ask? Good question; I have no answer.

By the way, I didn’t manage to catch my 9:37 train, however, there was one more train coming at 9:43. This was the German train going up to Munich, and it would cost me some 6.30 euro or so, if I could catch it. However, by the time I got to the platform, I couldn’t pay for the train anymore, neither at the machine, nor on the train apps, nor at the counter, because the hour the train should arrive was past– even though the train itself was also late (fortunately for me). The lady at the counter told me to pay on board, which I’m sure would have been pretty expensive. Still, I decided to risk it. Sometimes they don’t check tickets. I caught the train, and indeed, no one checked tickets that day.

What a hassle this day was!

 

 

Officialization 12: Stay Permit, part IV

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View from La Sacra di San Michele, near Torino.

Officialization TOC

  1. Officialization 1: WTF comes next in Italy?
  2. Officialization 2: Apartment
  3. Officialization 3: Internet
  4. Officialization 4: Stay Permit, part I
  5. Officialization 5: Picking Courses
  6. Officialization 6: Stay Permit, part II
  7. Officialization 7: TV Tax
  8. Officialization 8: Stay Permit, part III
  9. Officialization 9: Residenzia
  10. Officialization 10: Health Insurance
  11. Officialization 11: Thesis Registration
  12. Officialization 12: Stay Permit, part IV <– You are here
  13. Officialization 13: Going to the doctors

Stay Permit, part IV

It’s been 11 months since we arrived in Italy. You might be wondering why I am writing about stay permits now, so much later. Yeeaaa. It’s because my husband still hasn’t gotten his.

Last I wrote about this, a lady at Cinformi helped us submit his documents to Questura, even without the  proof that our apartment was larger than the minimum for two people of 45 meters squared. We did eventually need to get that proof. We had to walk up a hill a kilometer to the east, to a municipal office different from the main municipal office, which was located in a very strange place. It was near a fish hatchery, and after a very creepy parking lot… a place that is very difficult to find, even with the address, because Google doesn’t even send you to the right spot. Inside the building, it was also difficult to find the correct office. I had to ask a random worker to help me find the “segreteria” (secretary’s office), who was then able to assist me with my issue.

The secretary was able to look up our apartment in the archives, where they had a physical repository of apartment architectural specifications. We had to come back a couple days later to pick up the documents, and we had to pay another 32 or so euro for the tax stamps (marche da bollo). We submitted these documents to Questura (immigration) many months ago, and waited.

Questura had to send police officers to our house to ensure that my husband was, in fact, living here. They decided to do this on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. We were gone on vacation that weekend, and it took months for them to send more officers. They wouldn’t tell us when the officers were coming, I guess so we couldn’t fake anything.

In the meanwhile, Questura lost that apartment document.

Since Questura apparently can’t figure out how to call non-Italian phone numbers (in fact, most government offices here can’t), we didn’t find out about this for a little while. When we went back to them to ask what was up, we were pretty annoyed, but there wasn’t much we could do. So we had to go back to the weird place to get another copy and resubmit it (paying all the costs again), and now we are waiting on Questura again.

I’ll be done with my master’s thesis soon (in October if all goes well), and we had wanted to go traveling around Europe for a few months, but if the stay permit doesn’t come through, that might not be possible. Looking at the time we have left and how long each of these steps seems to take, I don’t think my husband is going to get his stay permit before I’m done.

Ridiculous.

Torino

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The lid to a huge sarcophagus of a high ranking vizier, painstakingly carved of a very hard, nearly black stone.

Last weekend we visited Turin/Torino, the capital of the Piemonte region, and the first, original capital of Italy. It took around 5 hours to reach it from Rovereto (by the cheaper regional trains), so we left on Friday night. The weather was lovely almost the whole time. The first day, we wandered around the town, enjoying the sights and delicious food, before eventually heading into the Egyptian Museum. The top couple floors of the museum were alright, but all the cool stuff was on the bottom.

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The Book of the Dead. Osiris presides over the afterlife ritual, in which Anubis weighs the heart of the deceased against the feather of Ma’at, while Thoth records the result. If the heart is heavier than the feather, it will be consumed by the hippo-lion-crocodile monster Ammut.

The second day, my husband had a Netrunner (card game) tourney, so I headed off on my own. I took my stuff with me so I could head back home in the evening. It was Sunday, so my plan was to take a tour bus out to Sacra di San Michele, an abbey at the top of a cliff overlooking Torino, around an hour away. From my research online, it seemed that this place was a little annoying to reach by public transport on most days, involving some confusing combination of bus/train connections and hiking, but on Sundays in summer they run a tour that goes straight there, leaving Torino at 8:30am, and going back from the Sacra at 13:00. This sounded way less confusing, so I booked that.

I arrived at the bus stop a few minutes early. I found a large Pullman/Greyhound type of bus, and asked the driver if he knew which bus I should take to the Sacra di San Michele. He said it was his bus. I showed him my phone ticket, which he glanced at, and waved me through. We headed in the direction of the Sacra, gathering a few more people along the way, and I tried to rest a little since I hadn’t slept that well the night before. We reached the town of Sant’Ambrogio di Torino, when the bus driver alerted me that this was my stop. I could see the Sacra way up on the top of the hill nearby.

This was confusing, since I had been under the impression that this bus went straight to the church, not to the town nearby. But from doing my research earlier, I knew that there should be a path to get to the church from here. As I was getting off the bus, the driver told me he was returning around 17:40, I think, from the stop across the street. Again, I had been under the impression that the return bus was at 13:00. When I asked him about this, he said yes, I should wait at that stop at 13:00. Okaaay.

It was only once I got off the bus that I noticed a missed call on my phone, and some text messages. Apparently, the driver of my original tour bus had been unable to reach me, and had left without me. But if the driver of the tour had been unable to reach me, then what bus had I ended up taking? And why had the driver of this bus let me on with a ticket for a different bus?

I was looking at my phone, pondering these questions, when an old lady, who had been on the bus with me, started talking to me. She had heard my conversation with the driver, and she really seemed to want to help me. She described to me how to reach my destination, which was the same way I expected. I would have to hike up the Antica Mulattiera (Old Mule Path), 600 meters straight up. The path was well maintained, laid with stones, and though I was carrying a bit too much on my back, and the weather was a bit too warm for hiking, it was still a nice walk. It took me about 1.5 hours to make the hike, and the views at the top were definitely worth it.

For the way back, I was no longer very confident that the Pullman which I had taken here originally would actually come at 13:00, since the old lady that had helped me earlier, who was from the area, said it only comes in the evening. I had a plan to hike back down and then keep walking until I reached a train station to go back to Torino. However, I also texted the tour operators from the morning again, asking them how to reach their actual return bus. They were helpful, but not very good at explaining it. Anyways, long story short, the road up to the abbey stops at Colle della Croce Nera. That’s where I finally found my bus (which, by the way, was meant to leave at 12:30, not at 13:00 as I was originally given to understand). The driver realized that I was his missing passenger, and seemed annoyed at the situation from the morning, but I think he understood that something had gone wrong on their end (and I made plenty of apologies to assuage him). In any case, he was happy to take me back, and this was much faster.

When I first arrived in Italy, before I could speak some basic Italian, I would not have felt comfortable making a multiple train/bus connection journey like this one for fear of exactly this happening. But now, I know that if something goes wrong, I can probably find someone who is willing to suffer my poor accent to help me find a way back. Additionally, having hiked a ton over the last year, I feel comfortable walking longer distances now as well. I was nervous about this trip from the start, since I knew the destination was a bit harder to reach without a car, but in the end, the skills I’ve gained over the last year helped me feel more comfortable traveling around.

Weeks 93 through 97

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View of the castle in Malcesine.

The last month has been a whirlwind of work! I somehow managed to submit nearly everything that was due. I never quite wrote the outline for the thesis for my UniTN adviser. Instead, I sort of started rolling all the reports I had written into a preliminary thesis outline, and then worked on fleshing parts out while my models were running. It’s still not entirely clear to me how much detail I should go into on certain aspects of the thesis, so I am just writing what I can in the meanwhile, and hopefully, I’ll manage to flesh it out better once my results are in.

Unfortunately, I’ve hit some snags in my code (i.e. nothing runs!), so I haven’t been able to get the type of results I’m looking for (i.e. any results!). I still have results from the internship portion of my work at FBK, but they aren’t well organized or complete. I think because of how long it takes to train models on our hardware, I’m going to have to sacrifice having an interesting and novel work to present, since I have to finish running all the baselines and the different data combinations. Basically, I won’t have any time to play around with two thirds of the things I would have liked to play around with, and that’s just sad. I guess I could theoretically extend my thesis until December, but I really would prefer to graduate in October.

I don’t want to drag this out, partly because I am looking forward to moving elsewhere. It has been a good learning experience to live here, but in the end, there are certain aspects of life here that I find incredibly exhausting. Bureaucracy is, of course, the main thing. It’s possible that I would become accustomed to it over time, and there are certainly aspects of life here that are wonderful, so I’m not totally against staying, but in any case, I would want to move out of Rovereto, which is simply too difficult to travel to/from.

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Light show on a building in Nancy.

The LCT meeting happened last month in Nancy, and just like last year, it was an absolute blast to meet so many awesome people. Nancy was practically impossible to get to from Rovereto, so I actually traveled back to Saarbrücken for the week. I met with my University of Saarland adviser there, to present to him the proposal for my master’s thesis. I had a lot of slides prepared on the math and the models and such, but, of course, he is an expert in my field, and so for those, he just said “skip it.” I was happy to hear that, because I didn’t want to talk about it anyway! Overall, I think the meeting went pretty well, because I was able to anticipate most of the questions that came up, and he did have some good advice for me as well. Apart from that, I got to see a bunch of folks from last year, which was of course the best part.

After that, I headed to Nancy for the LCT meeting. Although Nancy was nice, it didn’t compare to last year’s destination of Malta, of course. Also, unfortunately, we couldn’t all have a nice dinner together either, due to some organizational issues. But we still managed to hang out a lot. The city had a nice vibe, with plenty of buildings decorated in the art nouveau fashion. There was a river that we hung out at one of the evenings. They also had this awesome light show at around 11pm on the buildings in the main square. Actually, it was probably the coolest light show of this type that I’ve seen.

In any case, this year, the meeting was shorter. As a second year, I had to present a poster on my internship/thesis work. It wasn’t that great, because I don’t really have good results or conclusions to make from my thesis work, but it was still a good experience. I had to present the same poster at a mini-conference at work the next week, so I was happy to have the whole thing down pat by then. There was one pretty good invited speaker, and the others, I don’t know, because this time around, I had the good sense to sleep instead. However, I still got pretty sick at the end of the week. I guess travel, and late nights will do that for you. The worst part was that one of the days I was walking home, late at night, like around 2am, and suddenly, from a window above me, someone threw water, and it hit me. I got splashed with dirty who-knows-what water, out of a French window– just like in the movies, but in a bad way! Anyways, I spent the next week coughing and sneezing, but luckily got better in time to enjoy the next few weeks of summer.

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View of the Dolomites from Kolbenstein, a small town above Bolzano.

So then, apart from work, I’ve had a nice summer, full of aerial silks performances, and friends visiting. More friends are scheduled to visit soon, and I’m very much looking forward to that. The only trouble is that I haven’t had much time to travel to the places I would like to travel to, since every time friends visit, we go to the same big touristy places that they haven’t seen yet. Maybe it will be possible for me and my husband to plan something over a couple of weekends in the next month, but time is wearing thin to make plans; the rest of Italy is going on vacation in July and August, and things are basically getting booked out. In any case, I will be very busy with work, besides. So I’m not really optimistic about getting to see much more of Italy this summer, I’m afraid.

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Ducklings in Lago di Garda, at Malcesine.

Nevertheless, I’ve very much enjoyed spending time with friends! Last weekend, we went to Malcesine on Lago di Garda. The weather was lovely, so we walked around the town, and then rented some stand-up paddle boards. I managed to get on my feet on the thing a couple of times, but I found that controlling it, and especially, having any power to move against the wind and the waves, was pretty difficult while standing. I was able to move easily while standing on my knees though, and it still felt great to just be on the water. It reminded me of the times I used to go to the Columbia River Gorge near Portland, Oregon. If I have a free day again this summer, I just might come back here.

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Little birds (swallows?) were swooping all around the castle in Malcesine.

Costs:

  • €225 – rent
  • €55 – internet
  • €85 – phone (for 2 months)
  • €320 – travel (including some tickets and food)
  • €260 – clothes (including new sandals)
  • €60 – medical expenses, including routine blood check for hypothyroidism levels
  • €8 – video games
  • Total: €1,013

Weeks 84 through 93

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How long has it been since I’ve posted one of these types of updates? There’s been a lot going on. Spring and summer, for one! Everything is green and beautiful now, and there are flowers everywhere, although it has also been raining a lot. I wish I had more time to enjoy this season, but things have been more than a little busy. A massive family vacation took a chunk of time, but was, of course, very worth it. Then, as soon as I got back, I learned that I had many deadlines, and all of them were due around the same time:

  • a poster presentation for the LCT meeting
  • a master’s thesis proposal for the “master seminar” course at Uni Saarland
  • a presentation on the thesis proposal for my adviser at Saarland
  • a report of the work done at my internship plus a ton of documents for Uni Trento
  • a master’s thesis outline for my adviser at Trento
  • edits on a paper for a conference that my group at FBK wants to submit to

This all, by the way, in addition to normal work, which should theoretically continue as usual. In practice I had been focusing almost exclusively on the reports and presentations, and very little on actual work, which is a problem because I really  need to make progress on my master’s thesis research if I want to actually be able to write the thesis.

Speaking of the thesis, I had a bit of a heart attack last month, when I found out from a friend, who found out from a friend, that I had to fill out a “Title Registration” form for University of Trento. This was a simple form with some basic information, but we needed the signature of our thesis adviser on it. The problem is that my intended adviser was gone at a conference that week. He had told me he would be hard to reach, and he had warned me ahead of time to check deadlines and get signatures from him. I had checked the deadlines I knew to check, but not this one, because this was a situation of “I don’t know what I don’t know.” I got lucky and was able to contact my adviser after all, but I if my friend hadn’t told me about this requirement, I would have gotten all the way to September, and wondered why I couldn’t graduate on time for no apparent reason.

It’s hard being a foreign student, but I get the feeling that this is a difficulty even local students have to deal with. No one sends any emails about these deadlines. We have coordinators here at UniTN who should theoretically be involved with us, but they don’t seem to care that much about us. They don’t know our detailed situation, they forget some basic details about us as well, and they seem more concerned with their own work than anything else. It doesn’t feel like there’s anyone who is actually there for the students, in particular the LCT students, who are on the outskirts of the program at UniTN.

I’m also a bit upset because now that summer is here, my aerial classes have been cut down to just once a week, so I need to find an alternate form of exercise to avoid losing too much muscle. I’ve worked too hard so far to let myself atrophy.

On the plus side, the weather has warmed up, and we managed to get three hikes in, all with beautiful wildflowers, breathtaking views, and lovely company. These have certainly been the highlight of the season.

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Costs:

Ok so I’m going to cheat, and lump everything into one big pool over the last few months. I’m sorry I fell behind keeping track of this here by month.

  • 705 – rent
  • 165 – internet
  • 100 – phone
  • 600 – travel
  • 300 – dining (also during travel)
  • 300 – groceries
  • 160 – sports
  • 40 – fixing glasses
  • 120 – clothes (for hiking)
  • Total: 2,490

 

Spring Hikes

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The weather has gotten warmer, and we’ve been able to go hiking. I’ve done three hikes in the last couple months. The first was a wine walk organized by a few of the PhD students from CIMeC. This was a hike including four wineries along the way, one of them in an old castle. It was a nice ~7km walk down the hill, with great wine and food (parmiggiano reggiano, salami, and other small bites) along the way, although it turns out that a steep downhill hike through narrow forested paths and twisty city alleyways is a bit challenging when you’re with a group of fairly drunk people. Still, the views were lovely and it was a great way to spend an afternoon. My favorite white wine from the walk was the Gewürtztraminer from Cantina d’Isera, and my favorite red was the Lagrein from Castel Noarna.

The next hike went up to Cima della Marzòla. We did this one with a friend we made in the last year at Saarland who was visiting, and the hike was much longer than we expected. It totaled in around 18-20km, with approximately 1000 meters elevation difference, first up through forest and fields of wildflowers, and then down around the side of the mountain. It took around 6 hours to complete it, I think. Needless to say, my calves and thighs were hurting on the way up, and my knees on the way down, but we survived, and the views were well worth it. The whole way up was covered in these beautiful trees, whose yellow flowers hung down like willow branches. And just as we were at the peak, a rainbow shone over a smaller hilltop below. How lucky! Most of all, I enjoyed spending time with friends. I miss that wonderful community we had at Saarland, as well as the relatively decent education/organization there as well, for that matter (which is not something I expected to say at the end of last year).

The last hike went up Monte Stivo. This one was the longest. We left from the base somewhere near Passo Bordala around 10:00 in the morning, and returned, I think, around 19:30. I’m not sure how many kilometers we walked, but it was a hell of a lot. The way up was winding through some forest at first, but after the first peak, it became rather steep. Amazingly, at one of our stops, we saw a group of 30 horse riders taking a break before continuing their climb to the top. I wouldn’t have expected horses to be able to make it up there, but I guess they are more nimble than I thought.  The path up to the first overlook wound its way through wooded underbrush, and grassy cliff sides, dotted with lovely yellow, white, and violet flowers, where bees and butterflies buzzed and fluttered around us– and it only got better from there.

As we climbed over the last rocks along the steep path, we saw a wide grassy hilltop covered in beautiful wildflowers. The top was breathtaking. I think this was my favorite hike out of all the ones we’ve done here in Trentino (or maybe ever).  In each direction we turned, we saw a landscape of valleys and mountain tops, many of them lower than Stivo, though some in the distance were much higher and snow-capped. The sun was hot, but the breeze was cool, and it brought with it wispy clouds that occasionally obscured the view of Lago di Garda in the West, far, far below us.

We had climbed around 900m in elevation to get up Monte Stivo, and so we had to go the same distance down, this time around the back of the mountain. As we walked along the ridge of the mountain, over a path flanked by wildflowers, we encountered a small farm with cows, sheep, goats, turkeys, and a dog guarding the little house. The farm was literally just on the side of this giant mountain, barely even fenced off.  As we made our way through the farm (that’s the way the path went), a curious baby goat bounded up to us, getting so close that we could pet it, and feed it a bit of grass. What kind of a life must it be to lead a farmstead in such a remote, and beautiful place? I bet it’s really cold in the winter, when the snows cover Monte Stivo, along with all the mountains and valleys surrounding it. We continued our descent back into the forest.

The way back, was much longer than the way there, since it didn’t cut straight down the mountain, but looped all the way around back. Much of it took us through the somewhat wild underbrush. We had to hike through deep mud, clay, and leaves, and some parts of it were actually fairly tick-infested as well. One of our party members ended up finding 9 ticks on her that day! Somehow, the others of us didn’t get any biting into us at all, just a few that we managed to brush off before they took hold.

The whole thing was pretty crazy, but I can’t deny that it was breathtaking (both metaphorically, and literally)

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