Friday, January 31, 2020

Presentation Friday

Friday, 31 January, 2020

It was the last day of the month so the first order of business was to head down to the Varese train station to renew my Lombardia Transportation Pass for another three months.

An interesting old business sign
across from the train station

Vergani was once a store billing itself as a haberdashery that also sold yarns and knitwear.

At lunch, I tried a new pretzel place
that had opened just as we
were leaving last Summer

The prosciutto pretzel panini
was savory

In the evening the Skorpions were hosting the annual team presentation to the fans and media.

At this meeting we would review the previous year's  accomplishments by our three tackle teams and four flag squads. We would also be discussing our goals for the upcoming 2020 season for these same seven units of the Skorpions American football project.

We were meeting in a large
lecture hall at the local university

The first person that I met tonight was . . .

Gabriele Ruggiero
Our newest Skorpion

Gabriele plays Defensive End on our new Skorpion U6 months team. Proud parents Nicola, aka Baffo, and Vanessa are both great people who are quickly becoming wonderful parents as well.

Gabriele was extremely cooperative this evening despite all of the noise and people at the meeting.

The stage was set

The crowd was arriving

By the time that we started the hall was packed.

Our highlight video and slide show presentation plus the speeches by the various coaches and staff members lasted about 50 minutes.

Then, suddenly, it was Prosecco Time at the university.

Coach Cristian "Bumba" Bianchi
with RB Alessandro Brovelli

Alessandro spent last year abroad studying, playing football and running track at Gloucester H.S. in Virginia.

He is definitely proud of his letterman's jacket and is ready to have a breakout season with the Skorpions in 2020.

Raffaele Nardi and his
new fashion statement

All in all, it was a good day.

A Challenging Day

Thursday, 30 January, 2020

My day started off with a smile from our days living in Lyon, France . . .

Today was
National Croissant Day

Call them croissants or brioches or anything else that you desire, I've had more than my share of them over the last dozen years of living in five different European countries.

I assure you that they were all both delicious and . . .
oh, so good for me too!

Over my morning cappuccino and,
in Italy, brioche I realized that
Zlatan Ibrahimović is again
playing for AC Milan

I thought that he was still playing out the sunset years of his illustrious career with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

I'm going to the AC Milan-Verona match this coming Sunday at Stadio San Siro with Skorpions do-everything man Pietro Caprioli, aka, Mr. AC Milan. It should even be more fun watching "Ibra" in action for the red and black.

Simple errands were the main call of the day.

 I rode the P line bus to this shop
for a new ink cartridge for my printer

Gelateria Dulce Argentina

Across the street from Viras is, arguably, the BEST gelateria in Varese that is, unfortunately, closed until Spring

This hardware store is a great
source for hammers if you are in
the market for one or eight

It was Thursday, so from 9:00-11:00 in the evening, we hit the field with the Prima Squadra one last time on the synthetic field that we've rented this month.

We'll be back at Skorpion Field for workouts starting this Saturday afternoon.

We had about 40 Skorpions
in attendance tonight

Team periods were better tonight
but still not good enough in my opinion

Zone Reading

Pass Protection holding up well

After practice, we were faced with a challenging but not completely unexpected decision.

Omar Passera was our excellent
QB in 2018 and our outstanding
Offensive Coordinator in 2019

Last season, after sustaining a serious season ending knee injury playing flag football in the Summer, Omar became our choice to take over the Offensive Coordinator duties for 2019.

He did a great job, was highly organized and was easy to work with all season long.

Much of the success that the Skorpions have enjoyed the last two years has been as a direct result of Omar's efforts.

Tonight, after practice, he informed the team that he will not be able to continue to work with the Skorpions in 2020.

It is a big loss for us all but we must move on . . .

Finding this picture of Mike and Mary
in a Facebook message when I got
home helped for sure

Thursday, January 30, 2020

A Nice Walk and a Birthday

Wednesday, 29 January, 2020

It's always good to be a tourist in your town town, thus I enjoyed my stroll through Varese while doing a little shopping.

Interesting colors of the building
across from my bus stop

The Bell Tower looked
as majestic as ever

Fascinating old brick work
underneath new stucco

This sign drew my interest
in case American visitors arrive

Varese, like most Italian cities,
loves art work in public spaces

Carabinieri Power!

The Carabinieri are an Italian national police force with a military bent.

Federica Nardi told me that
the panini here were good

Being a bit hungry,
I just had to try one

It was a roast beef panini
that hit the spot

It was a good one to be sure but a cut below the class of Varese's two best panini shops Dorigo's and the Golden Egg.

Men contemplating their work

Varese has an art workshop located on a side street that includes a small enclosed front garden to display recent artistry.

Today's art pieces did not disappoint in the least. 

A "ghost" cow with a monkey

The chicken wire used to construct the cow especially gave this sculpture an eerie feel.

Grazing in the Grass

Dismantling an indoor ice
skating rink in the mall

The typical Italian artistic flair
even extends into market displays
of vegetable mixtures

In the evening, we had a little celebrating to do . . .

. . . it was Raffaele Nardi's
21st birthday

I was invited over for dessert and no, Raffa did not eat the entire tray of blessed Italian dolci treats.

Good times . . .

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

An Unfocused Night of Practice

Tuesday, 28 January, 2020

It was an uneventful day up to the moment that we headed out to practice in the evening.

Before the Prima Squadra's practice on our rented synthetic turf field, I had to attend a meeting at our beloved home practice facility, Skorpion Field.

We have been at our new practice site all of this month in anticipation of the typical Alpine foothills' inclement January weather that wreaks havoc with our natural grass home field.

Of course, it has not snowed once since my arrival and we've had but two inconsequential, short rain episodes during the last 17 days.

We are moving our practices back to Skorpion Field next Tuesday. Look for a snowstorm of biblical proportions too hit Varese at about noon that day.

When I arrived at Skorpion Field, our Women's and U17 flag football teams were hard at work.

Defensive MVP of the 2019 Women's Team
Laura Latera working on her
back peddling and . . .
. . . hip turn

At the Prima Squadra workout,
the numbers at practice were good

Interestingly the physical effort
was good, I my opinion, but . . .

 . . . mentally we were not focused,
especially at the offensive skill positions

With only nine more practices until our opening game of the DII season on February 29th, we simply can not have any more nights like this one.

Thursday night needs to see all of us give a much better mental and physical effort.

Reading Is FUNdamental!

Baldacci's fifth installment in his
Amos Decker series was a page turner

Tuesday, January 28, 2020


Monday, 27 January 2020

Before reliving the day's adventure and this season's first road trip, we need to check out the response in Italy to the shocking news of Kobe Bryant's tragic death.

Italy took his death hard

Besides being a basketball loving country in general, Italy has a special relationship with Kobe Bryant, his family and his youth.

Kobe's father, Joe, was also an NBA player. When Joe's NBA career ended, he moved his family to Italy to play in the Italian league for another seven years.

At the time of the move to Italy, Kobe was just six years old and over the course of his Dad's final playing days he learned to speak fluent Italian and fall in love with the Italian culture.

Thus, besides his obvious basketball skills, Kobe gained further notoriety in Italy because of his ability to give the occasional interview in near perfect Italian.

It sounds to me as if Italy and Kobe had a beautiful ongoing love affair over the many years.

Meanwhile . . .

As for me, I felt that it was time to take a road trip via train using my travel pass that is good for all types of public transportation in the region of Lombardia.

Today's city . . .


I had visited this charming city two years ago and I felt that it deserved further exploration.

Pavia, population 72,000, was founded by the Romans as a military garrison more than 2,000 years ago.

Pavia is a college town whose historic university was founded in the 14th-century.

 In memory of two Sicilian
judges who fought against, and
were eventually executed by, the Mafia

 Pavia is full of interesting
statues and architecture

The 15th-century
Palazzo Carminali Bottigella

It is built of brick with stunning terra-cotta designs added which display Renaissance designs.

A closer look at the terra-cotta designs

And a much closer look

The Palazzo is a solid,
cool looking edifice

Down the same street I
found this brick tower

Also from the 15th-century,
it is the Torre Bottigella

I'm not sure that I like the stucco that at some point was added to the lower half of the Torre.


I don't recall having entered a church in the past two weeks.

I was due.

It was the
Chiesa Santa Maria del Carmine

I entered.

St. Christopher fresco

St. Peter of Verona with
his usual meat cleaver in his head

What price martyrdom?

Colorful side chapel

I liked the 3-D crowns on
Mary and Jesus

St. Onofrio

Is that a fur Speedo he's wearing?

Why is this man smiling?

Beats me?

Lots of frescoes in this church
to be sure

These silver busts of prominent
Popes and Cardinals are popular
in Catholic Churches all over Italy

Is that the Sforza family snake
crest at the bottom?

I was hungry but had not found a place yet that caught my eye for lunch.

 Now I had!

This is a Spanish fast-food tapas chain that is both inexpensive and good.

I felt like a break from tomato based sauces with pasta, so this worked for me.

So did the glass of refreshing Tinto de Verano.

I was ready to move on to view more of Pavia's sights.

 Pavia's Duomo

Work on this Duomo began in 1488 at a site that was previously occupied by two medieval churches.

It was closed for lunch.

The Piazza in front of the Duomo

No clue as to who this man
on horseback might be 

Another view of the Duomo

Random religious street art

 How old are these bricks?

Probably not as old as this
Duomo window

Same Duomo but from its
rear side

The Piazza della Vittoria
on the back side of the Duomo

This piazza had an
ice skating rink . . .

. . . with so-so skaters

Leonardo da Vinci

First-century Roman Emperor
Caesar Augustus
 Nice architecture

Pavia's version of soccer hooligans

What if this archway
could tell us what it's seen?

Pavia's covered bridge
spanning the River Ticino

 A look inside the same bridge

There's the Duomo again
in the distance

I wonder if it will re-open later today?

A one-time doctor's home?

 The entryway to Pavia's
famed university

This university's roots date back to 1361!

There are currently 20,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students attending this historic university.

Who are those two gentlemen portrayed on either side of the entrance?

 A King and . . .

. . . another important man

The Halls of Knowledge

 A statue to honor Pavia alumnus
Alessandro Volta

Volta was the inventor of the electric battery.

Honoring Pavia Faulty and
Alumni who have died defending
their country over the centuries

Honoring the students and faculty
who died due to their beliefs and
morals during WWII

 Another of many tributes
to the luminaries who have
walked these hallowed halls

Paying attention

 Getting bored

The grounds of Pavia's university are interesting to be sure but it was time to move on.

How old is this massive door?

No, NOT a church

I'm sure that at one time it probably was at least a chapel but today it is a book store.

It was getting close to the time for me to leave Pavia as I still had about a two and a half hour trip home via two trains and a bus.

Still, I wandered back to the Duomo one last time to see if it was finally open.

It was!

Laurie would have loved this

The Duomo's interior was nice but nothing out of the Italian ordinary thus the paucity of photos.

At happens from time to time, this cathedral was much more interesting from the outside.

When I finally returned to the Villa Scorpion II, son Michael had sent me the following article from the Newbury Park H.S. student newspaper.

Mike and a fellow teacher Rich Bradley
coach special needs students at NPHS 
to enjoy the unifying aspects
of playing different sports

I for one and extremely proud of Mike's efforts in this worthwhile endeavor.