Monday, April 30, 2012

At the fuel station

The soldier, the donkey, the child. And Afghanistan on the background…

Leaving Afghanistan

Yes, this place is a mess. But can’t deny I remain fascinated by it every time I visit it. Even better: every time I return, I discover something new or get to know something better that makes me appreciate more and more this country and its peoples.

During this trip, I appreciated the Afghan warmth, and, at the same time, their polite restrained style. I enjoyed their lavish (almost overwhelming) hospitality. Discovered that behind their beards and fierce aspect, a strong sense of humour hides. And even got an Afghan name

And while leaving to the airport, I discover myself already thinking, perhaps unconsciously, to the next time I’ll be back…

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

(From now onwards) Call me Zilmay

In zoology, camouflage is a method of defense that allows otherwise visible animals to remain unnoticed to their predators by blending with the surrounding environment. Camouflage is obtained not by achieving actual invisibility, but by not being noticed.

A particular form of camouflage is mimesis (or masquerade), in which the animal does not hide itself, but resembles to something else of no special interest to the predator, thus not being noticed.

Simple but effective, this is the form of defense I was advised to adopt by my counterparts in Nangarhar. As my North Face shirt made me too easy to spot, I was offered a typical Afghan outfit.

And to make my mimesis into an Afghan complete, I was given an Afghan name: Zilmay, young.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Matteo goes to Afghanistan

Not even last week's Taliban attack (the so called Spring Offensive, or Spring Campaign - almost a ritual by now) could stop our hero.

Matteo is leaving tonight to Afghanistan to bring the Afghan rural poor out of poverty.

It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it…

(See you on May 1st. Bye for now...)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Au revoir, Macha

Merci d’être venue à nous voir, et à bien tôt…

Monday, April 16, 2012

The perfect workplace

Imagine the perfect workplace: five minutes walking distance from home, an amazing cafeteria with a breathtaking view on the Circo Massimo, the Palatine Hill, and the Caracalla Thermae, and - since we are at it - your child’s nursery just across the street… 

No, this is not an imaginary place: this place exists, it is FAO. And well, this is going to be Mathilde’s workplace from now on. After almost six intense years with Conservation International, Mathilde in fact moved to FAO, and today it was her first day of work. 

Congratulations to Mathilde to have succeeded in being recruited in an organization where it is almost impossible for a European to be recruited. But - we all know it by now - for Mathilde ‘impossible is nothing’… 

(Ps: a marginal note to this. When two years ago we chose Rome over Fiji and Johannesburg, our idea was to stay here for three-four years before moving overseas again. Now, with both having a job in Rome, chi ci schioda più da qui*???) 

(*) Who will get us away from here? Qui nous reste cloué d’ici?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

In the club (of those who made it)

Under a torrential (and freezing) rain, on roads that looked like mountain streams in flood, and puddles as big as lakes, I run today my first (and as of today last) marathon, in Milan. Probably not the ideal day for my baptism in this discipline, but, with hindsight, I can say that the fury of the elements made this race epic.

And as the epic poems, I could write pages and pages on today's adventure.

But my first words are words of thanks instead. When I first started preparing for the marathon, an experienced marathon runner told me ‘Mindful: preparing a marathon does certainly require a lot of commitment on your side, but it requires even more commitment from the people that surround you, and that do not necessarily share or understand your motivation’.

True, and for this reason I would like to thank Mathilde for having presented me with the time for training.

Thanks Mathilde, when I faced ‘the wall’, the stretch between the 30th and the 35th kilometer, I thought that if I had given up, I would have wasted your present. And I clenched my teeth and continued...

(And now, what will the next challenge be?)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Orecchiette alle cime di rapa

We could not conclude the reportage of our trip to Salento without a food-related post.

Not ‘orecchiette ai broccoli’, as I erroneously referred to in one of my past posts, but ‘orecchiette alle cime di rapa’ (turnip tops orecchiette) is the local speciality.

Does this picture need any further comment?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mathilde’s bundle

To be fair, I have to say that Mathilde carries her share as well. Sometimes…

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Otranto, Lecce, Gallipoli. Alberobello and the Trulli. The Ionic Coast, the Adriatic coast… There is little to say, in one week we have visited the Salento high and low, far and wide. 

All very nice.

But if we have to pick our favourite place, we choose, without a shadow of a doubt, the Natural Park of Porto Selvaggio.

This is a stretch of rocky coast between Gallipoli and Porto Cesareo on the Ionic Coast of Salento characterized by a thick pine grove and a typical Mediterranean bush, and blessed by crystal clear waters…

If you have ever looked for an image that could represent the Mediterranean, well, that should have been Porto Selvaggio…

Thanks Chiara for the hint

Grotta Zinzulusa

To the fishermen who saw them from the sea, the stalactites at the entrance of the cave looked as rags, zinzuli in local dialect - thus the name of the cave: Grotta Zinzulusa (Ragamuffin Cave)…

Monday, April 9, 2012


The Castle of Otranto, the massive fortress raised in defence of the city. Imposing and gloomy, the natural inspiration of what is considered the first gothic novel in literature, The Caste of Otranto precisely, by Horace Walpole.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Discovering an Easter egg...

As for the Christmas tree in December, there is always something almost magic in the excitement of a kid that discovers for the first time something new…

The Kinder Family

It has been a while, and precisely from the end of our Baby Moon, that we haven’t spent a week in a row all together, 24/7, only the three of us, tight tight... 

That’s all we need. Happy like in an advertisement… 

Buona Pasqua, happy Easter, joyeuses Pâques!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Blues Brothers

She caught the Katy, and left me the mule to ride…
She caught the Katy, and left me the mule to ride

Friday, April 6, 2012

A few more pictures of our ‘cottage’…

Breakfast on the patio*

Indeed a pity, Marieclaire and Fabio, that you could not join us… 

And after the rain of yesterday, today the weather was gorgeous! 

(*) Yes, what you see on the background is the sea…

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Apulia or Scotland?

Today we were caught in a heavy rain.

And while driving along the Litorale, the road that skirts the jagged coastline, we wondered whether we were in Apulia or in Scotland…

At the bottom of the heel

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lo zainetto di Silvietta

I have been waiting this moment since my excursion to the Gran Sasso last August, and today, finally, I could fulfill my little dream: I could finally slip Leonardo in my backpack, and carry him around.

A new phase in my fatherhood blooms today: mountain peaks, do quake, starting from today none of you could sleep easy: whichever of you could be our next target…

(Ps: Thank-you Silvietta for lending us the zainetto).

Foto per le mamme

Lu mari du Salentu

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

La storia dei trulli - Appendice

In the XVIII and XIX centuries the trulli became legalized, and the farmers started using the mortar to build them, and the know-how of building them ‘a secco’ (dry-stone) progressively got lost. A peasant of Alberobello, the capital of Trulliland, told us that the last person who knew how to build a trullo died in 1975, and with him the art of building trulli has been lost forever.

Today, because buying and restoring a trullo has become extremely fashionable, many young architects ventured themselves in trying to understand the secret of the conical roofs.

But the results are not quite the same…

La storia dei trulli

The story of the trulli is a very Italian story.

Italy is, regretfully, worldwide known, beside for its history, art and culture, for its tax evasion. The story of the trulli is a story of tax evasion.

They say that in the middle age the farmers of the area, in order not to pay the taxes on property (the equivalent of the ICI, or, now, IMU) created these dry-stone constructions, so that they could immediately dismantle them in a pile of stones when the king’s tax inspectors were visiting the area, proving that they did not own houses.

According to the legend, the roofs were built in a conical shape so that they can be rapidly dismantled by removing one single stone.

Brilliant, isn’t it?