2nd Blog Post: Saluti dalli’Italia

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23 May 2018

Two weeks ago, yesterday, we left lovely Bellingham.  It was a journey of 11 days to reach our destination, the Italian village of Toscolano-Maderno on Garda Lake.  We came via 3 days in Iceland, 4 days in Southern and 2 days in Northern Holland before arriving in Italy.  The unexpected side benefit was traveling through other cultures before arriving at our destination.  Something the travelers of more distant times must have felt.

What I learned in Iceland was that the countryside is stark having been deforested by the settlers between 900 and 1900.  This has led to an environmental movement with Friends of the Forest planting trees and raising awareness.  This consciousness is also reflected in the art of the young people.  In general, Iceland is a young population, reportedly over caffeinated and under-rested.  They are extremely environmentally aware, creative and nationalistic. They are looking toward the future and Iceland is braced for the coming influx of people with the change of climate.  Iceland is a place on the move. Interviewing a local knitter who owns a shop located on her farm, led me to believe that Iceland comes into criticism for not being supportive of their older adults, as many societies transitioning from rural family centrist traditions to urban dwelling individuals.

We enjoyed the Netherlands, visiting Brugge while staying by the seaside of the English Channel (Wendiune. Belgium) and surviving a city bike tour (no helmets) in Amsterdam.  Brugge is recognized for being age-friendly, particularly by the pink knotted scarf symbol that designates menus and service that welcome people with Alzheimer’s Disease.  (Guardian, 2015  https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/21/bruges-most-dementia-friendly-city).  Unfortunately, I did not see them in the part of the city I was in.  While at the Van Gogh museum, I noted that his self-portrait of a skeleton with a cigarette in its teeth was self-critical of his smoking habit.  He was ahead of his time!! n Haarlam, about 25 miles from Amsterdam, I interviewed a woman in her 70s who is in a totally walkable community with friends and support.  It’s rare to find a home with all the essentials on the main floor. It seems that governmental services are directed mainly toward those with disability and in need of assistance and private organizations are the route to support during the independent years.  My exercise physiologist heart was so happy to see people biking and walking everywhere.  The cost of gas, parking, everything screams, “get rid of the car”!!

In Toscolano, we are enjoying a lovely duplex and garden of olive trees and roses near the shores of Garda Lake and with mountains to our back.  In this way, it reminds me of Bellingham with our city facing the shores of Bellingham Bay and the mountains to our back.  We are settling in, but finding our time currently consumed with planning a trip to Orkney Island of Scotland (July 4-12) and Tuscany (June 15-19).  We will otherwise be hanging out close to the shores of Garda Lake.

Here is a link to pictures on Flikr.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/141872630@N06/

Caio for now!

Elaine