Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Italian National Championship Tournament of Women's Flag Football: Day I

Saturday, 29 June, 2019

Game Day was upon us once again in the city of Catanzaro located near the toe of Italy's boot-like peninsula in the region of Calabria.

We were here with our Skorpion squad to play in the Sixth Annual Women's Flag Football Italian National Championship Tournament.

Even though the stadium was only a few hundred meters from the Ionian Sea, it was still sultry with temperatures in the low 90°F range that was magnified by the ancient artificial turf that was installed by Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus in 12 A.D.

Still we played on . . .

It was to be a two day tournament

Saturday would feature the top eight teams in Italy each playing three games in Pool Play. Based on Saturday's results, each team would play an additional two games to determine the final eight places in the tournament.

In a P.C. mode, even the three other Italian teams that did not qualify for the championship bracket were here to play each other once on Saturday and again on Sunday.

Our all-inclusive governing body

Our young Skorpion squad entered the day with the #3 seed in the tournament. No mean feat for a team playing in their first year as a team with at least half of the nine woman roster playing their first year of flag football ever.

The day started with a good
breakfast in the team hotel

About four other tournament teams were staying in the hotel with us.

The Grosetto Cudere squad at the near
table with the Skorpions behind them

Go Skorpions GO!

Everything was going smoothly until I noticed this woman in the hotel's lobby that just kept staring at me no matter what I was doing or where I was standing.

She creeped me out

The Grosetto Cudere's
cool logo

Game fields

The Tournament Board

Our Pool B was made up of the #2 seeded Catania Pink Elephants, our #3 seeded Varese Skorpions, the #6 seeded Trieste Ranzide and the #7 seeded Palermo Mustangs.

Getting ready for the
all-important document check

Catania Pink Elephant Coaches
Valeria and Peppe Strano
wearing cool socks as always

GREAT people who we got to know when we coached the Catania Elephants back in 2008 and 2009.

Team photo

Enzo imparting his final
words of wisdom

I was on top of my game as the
team's Head Hydration Specialist


First up was the experienced squad from Trieste, the Ranzide. They finished second in this tournament last year but we had beaten them two weeks ago in the qualifying tournament in Bergamo.

That's a lot of hair

Tex with a catch

Sofia slinging the rock

Tex again with the reception

Marta had a good day


Arianna pressuring the Ranzide QB

We just did not play well in our first game as the Ranzide's experience and poise in the heat equalled a 33-7 loss for our Skorpions.

Skorpion Coach Dario D'Adelfio
with a gift basket from his old team
the Palermo Sharks to the Skorpions

What could it be?

Arancini for EVERYONE!

A Sicilian specialty that Laurie and I love! The flag teams here are all friendly and go the extra mile for each other.


Time to re-group for Game Two vs. the Palermo Mustangs.

 Arianna again on the blitz

 Laura going for the flag

Tex with a tough catch

 Always steady Agnese with a grab

Vito shows GREAT promise in
the field of Hydration Science


Sofia rolling out

Tex yet again with a catch

Is anyone going to cover Tex?

The heat was getting to our feet
and was definitely in our heads

We picked a bad time to be playing our worst football of the year.

We lost to the Mustangs by a score of 39-15.

We had one more game to play and it was against the #2 seeded, defending National Champion Catania Pink Elephants.

During the break, we did a lot of things as coaches to settle our girls down and re-focus our efforts.

Catania Pink Elephants
Head Coach Peppe Strano

 Into the breech one more time!

 Tex was open in the middle

Catania DC Valeria Guglielmino with
husband and HC Peppe up the line

 Sofia under duress

Laura with the catch . . .

. . . she could go . . .

. . . ALL THE WAY!
Six points Varese!

Sofia pitching the ball to Laura

 Laura had a great game against
the Pink Elephants

 Sofia throwing with hair in her face

Four Verticals

We played our best game of the day vs. the Pink Elephants but it was not enough as the Catania squad prevailed 25-12.

Going 0-3 in Pool Play was definitely not what we planned on doing today.

On Sunday we would be playing in two games to determine fifth through eighth places in the tournament.

Laura's feet after the game
prune like from all of the
unusual shoe watering on the
hot artificial turf

In the evening we put the disappointing day behind us the only way Italians can, by meeting as a family for dinner to enjoy each others company.

What a nice, park with cool
temperatures making it a
"Good Evening!"

FIDAF had organized a huge team meal for all 11 squads at a nearby outdoor ristorante in a large park.

Any park with a Darth Vader
statue is a good one, yes?

A good meal with friends and friendly opponents was the right way to end a long day.

What will Sunday bring?

Back to the Mainland and an Amazing Day in Herculaneum

Friday, 28 June, 2019

We bid a sad farewell to the beautiful island of Ischia early in the morning and boarded the hydrofoil for the 50 minute ride back to Napoli.

Once there, we walked to the nearby port office of Hertz to pick up our rental car for the weekend.

Once we got it, we would head to the Parco Archeologico di Ercolano or Herculaneum as it is called in English.

After seeing this amazing site, we would head farther down the Italian boot to the city of Catanzaro in Calabria to root on our Skorpion Women's Flag team that was playing in this weekend's two-day, five game Italian National Championship Tournament.

It all sounded so easy.

But, then again, we were in Italy.  

Waiting in the Napoli Harbor Station
that houses the Hertz Office

We arrived at 11:00 a.m. and were told that we were too early to pick up our car which I had indeed reserved for 1:00 p.m..

We would have to wait an hour.

At Noon, we were told that it would be another ten minutes.

At 12:10 p.m., we were told it would be another 20 minutes.

At 12:45 p.m., we finally had our car.

At least there was a nice Norwegian
Cruise Line ship in port to ogle

The drive south of Napoli to the site in Ercolano to see the ancient Herculaneum was only a 20 minute excursion, so even with all of the delay at Hertz, we still had a lot of daylight left to burn.

Who stole the E?

Before we enter this fascinating spot, let's talk a little history.

This city was the brainchild of Dyonisus of Halicarnassus in about the. 6th-century B.C. It was a built on a volcanic plateau, on a shear cliff over the sea at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius.

Ancient Herculaneum in the foreground
with the modern city of Ercolano
in the background

Where I am standing taking this picture today would have placed me about 50 yards off shore and a hundred feet in the air 2,000 years ago. Where we are standing and the new coastline several hundred meters behind us are all a result of Mt. Vesuvius' famous eruption.

Severe earthquakes in the area in 62 A.D. should have been a warning to the area's inhabitants but, it was prime seaside real estate after all.

These arches were at the water's edge
on that fateful day in 79 A.D.

So were these

In 79 A.D., Mt. Vesuvius quite literally blew its top.

The more famous site of Pompei was smothered in ash instantly but Herculaneum was spared at first due to the direction of the winds.

About 12 hours after Pompei's demolition, the winds did change towards Herculaneum. The resulting superheated avalanche of ash and hot gasses killed the city's 4,000 inhabitants and buried the site under 60 feet of ash.

Herculaneum remained buried until initial excavations began in 1748 A.D.

Even today after nearly 300 years of excavation, only about 25% of this site has been unearthed.

Let's descend into this ancient and amazingly preserved city.

The long look up Cardo III

A column that didn't make it . . .

. . . and some that did

This entryway into a home
had arrows to help citizens
figure out how to get into the home


Fast Food Ristorante

Each of these pots that survived Mt. Vesuvius' rudeness were used to serve hot food to patrons two millennia ago.

These dining places were called thermopoliums.

Many homes had interesting
fountains in their courtyards

Rock solid construction

Beautiful mini-altar to a
god in some one's home

How did these murals
even begin to survive?


Someone had a nice garden
back in the day

A public bath's changing room

Laurie and a honeycombed wall

Laurie liked this dolphin

Frescoes in the College of the Augustali

These frescoes depict Hercules, for whom the city was named. This College belonged to an association of freed slaves who were working together to improve their lot in Roman society.

We really need to renovate our
kitchen floor in Camarillo

I just liked the way the light
played on this fountain

More frescoes of Hercules . . .

. . . and a close up of another

The College's nameplate survived!

It was a big city

More art that survived the blast

The Bottega ad Cucumas'
drink list, now under glass,
is another survivor

Frescoes heavily in black

There were Goths in Herculaneum?

Who knew?

In front of the garden
of a random house


I like this tile work but I . . .

. . . LOVE these three heads above the
tile work more

Let's take a closer look at the detailed
work of some long lost artisan

In Roman times, mosaics were
THE in thing!

A women's public bath

Where the women would sit
waiting for their turn in the baths

I have no clue what this large stone's
purpose was in the women's bath

How dis this one survive when we
need to repaint our walls every
ten years or so depending?

More mosaic floor art

Beautiful art above the arch

Neatness counts, even in
ancient Herculaneum

Just another brilliant piece of
floor art

A good looking entryway

A nice capital on this brick column

Water for human and/or
animal consumption was a MUST!

The entrance to Herculaneum's
Palestra or sports complex

"Marble" columns in Herculaneum
were made of rounded bricks
and then plastered over to
look more like marble . . .

. . . like the ones you see here

The Seven Headed Hydra of Lena
defeated by Hercules in one of his
Twelve Labors

Laurie on a HOT, HOT
day in Herculaneum!

It was well into the 90°F range as all of Europe is suffering from a heat spell this week.

Note the men in the background
hauling materials down a ladder
to continue with the never
ending preservation projects

Sure, why not?


Dante's Tavern
Seattle, Washington
ca., 1968 A.D.

Hunting dogs doing their thing
to a frightened deer

Across that moat was the seashore,
a great view of how much
of Mt. Vesuvius was deposited
creating today's shoreline far away

I like red columns

The guy on the left is being charming
while the guy on the right is being deadly

Bones of some of inhabitants of
Herculaneum who were on the docks
waiting to get on boats
to take them to safety

Often time in life, timing is EVERYTHING!

The excavations found gorgeous
jewelry like this golden bracelet

Laurie was NOT happy when she was told that it was not for sale.

Another surviving fresco

Loving that beard

Amphoras and . . .

. . . this boat make sense in
a seaside village like Herculaneum

Mt. Vesuvius in the distance

Remember, 2,000 years ago all of what you see back there was just one massive, volcanic peak. What is missing is what proved fatal to both Herculaneum and Pompei.

It is just amazing that anything at all survived much less all that we saw today and years ago when we visited Pompei.

Our archeological curiosity satisfied, we drove on to Catanzaro and our Skorpions Women's flag team. 

This traffic jam in one of about 50
tunnels along the way slowed
us down a bit

We finally made it none the worse for wear and met up with the Skorpions who flew down from Varese earlier in the day for some pizza, wine and fellowship.

What a Day!

Bright and early on Saturday morning our ladies will take the field for their final five games of the 2019 season.

Go Skorpions GO!