Monday, August 27, 2012

Wanted: your most vivid vacation memories

Have you ever spent any time in the hills of Le Marche, underneath the commanding Monti Sibillini range, enjoying a fine glass of Verdicchio or Pecorino... at a place called Casa Chiocciola? If you've ever been a guest at our lovely hilltop get-away, we'd be grateful if you could share a few words about your experience here with others on TripAdvisor.


Why it's a good thing to stop and watch the fireflies

A few weeks back some guests who spent the week at Casa Chiocciola, our place in Amandola, left us this sweet note. I thought I'd share it with you here:

My wife described our stay as magical; the house was great, the views terrific and the wildlife stupendous. We have never seen so many butterflies in one place at one time and together with the humming bird moths we spend many an hour trying to photograph them. Unfortunately they moved so fast that many of the photos we took are completely out of focus. We did manage to get a few though. However the outstanding event was one night when there were myriads of fireflies. We have never seen them before and it was magical.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer time, and the living is easy

We're in the middle of one of those Italian summer heat waves where life in the city is pretty unbearable, sleep-deprived unbearable that is. Thank goodness we're far away from that. We're in Sant'Ippolito at Casa Chiocciola for the next two weeks where there's a lovely breeze and the trees hang low with fruit and where the girls can run around in their mutande, trudging over the grass and splashing in an inflatable pool we've set up underneath two shady oaks.  It's a real paradise for them here and I cannot help but smile as I see them shriek in delight as they chase butterflies and throw stones off the bank into the roadway, and find mischief that only two-year-olds can find in the countryside when they're allowed to run free. To see two people love this place as much as their dad fills me with tremendous pride. It will be theirs some day (hopefully, senza mutuo), I guess.

2012 is something of a landmark year for me and for this place – it's our 10-year anniversary. Amazingly, I've been coming here for one-quarter of my life. In those early years I had no idea what would become of this place. I was living in another country, living on a journalist salary, with big debts to pay. My grasp of the language was tenuous. My confusion over Italian tax law and red tape was even more daunting. I had no roots here. I had no real claim to this land, this place, these people, their history. But a lot has happened in just a few years. Xtina and I have made Amandola a true second home, a second home that squeezes in even in-laws from time to time.

The girls seem to complete this harmonious picture. They enjoy this place as much as I enjoyed another hilltop house from my youth, my grandmother's house "in the country," up in rural Sussex County, NJ. It would be a stretch to draw parallels between Lake Neepaulin and Sant'Ippolito (though there is that lake thing going for both communities) and yet I still get these vivid flashbacks of that place when, for example, I'm here listening to the breeze rustle the trees or watching the tractors bail the hay, or the shepherds corralling flocks of sheep, or watching the girls race each other up and over the crest of the hill. I now understand that I can see and hear these things because I've managed to slip into Sant'Ippolito's tranquil rhythm. The Lake Neepaulin of my youth had it too. It's a rhythm I hope my girls too will come to appreciate when they hit 40 too.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Social media and learning from the #FAIL-ings of others

Where have I been the past few months? Putting together a book, the first ever by our publishing outfit, SMI Publishing. The book is called #FAIL: The 50 Greatest Social Media Screw-Ups and How to Avoid Being the Next One and it's available on Amazon or as an epub download on Lulu for iPad, iPhone and Nook. iBookstore, Nook store and paperback coming soon.

Here's a description:

All corporate screw-ups are social. Don’t believe us? Pop onto Twitter and type in the word “#Fail” or search the word “boycott” on Facebook. Up pops the names of many of the world’s largest brands, and the latest consumer grievances and organized pressure campaigns against them.
Our new SMI book – #FAIL: The 50 Greatest Social Media Screw-Ups and How to Avoid Being the Next One chronicles another kind of digital pioneer, those brands that have made iconic, early stumbles in social media that have resulted in consequences well beyond a loss of a few “friends” or “followers.” From a lock-picking geek’s take-down of Kryptonite in 2004 to Carnival Corp’s tin-eared response to the Costa Concordia tragedy in January, 2012, the blunders chronicled here cost companies millions, bruised well-honed corporate reputations and sunk careers. There are plenty of mistakes to learn from here – or at least chuckle at in disbelief.