Jardin Tropical in Andalucia, Spain

In mid-April, I grabbed an EasyJet flight from Milan to Malaga and then took a bus to Almuñecar to stay and work at Plácido's WWOOF farm, Jardin Tropical. With red poppies blooming on the sides of his valley, views of Andalucian mountains in the distance and over 100 varieties of fruit trees, the setting was quite idyllic.

When I arrived in Sicily in early March, my Spanish was sneaking into my Italian mixing me up when I spoke.  Now in Spain after six weeks in Italy, my mouth was speaking Italian while my brain tried to speak in Spanish.  The inside of my brain felt like the swirled poppies above. 
For much of his citrus fruit, Plácido waits for it to ripen completely to the point that they fall off the trees and the next year's flowers bloom again.  Thus, in April, his orchard was still full of many varieties of delicious oranges.  

This area of Andalucia near the sea has a unique environment, being the zone in mainland Spain that is most nearly tropical.  Plácido maintains a couple greenhouses to encourage his tropical experiments like this pineapple above.

Plácido's diet is nearly all vegan and raw.  Above is an example of a typical lunch split between the two of us: papaya, banana, chirimoyas and nisperos.

Plácido removes plastic from some successful tree grafts on a pear? tree.  

Close-up of two grafts


Plácido is passionate about his mango tree cuttings from Thailand.
In one of the greenhouses
The top of a mango cutting shows new growth.

Jiaogulan, known as immortality tea

Some fig trees

Plácido took me to a beautiful spot to do some rock-climbing outside Granada.

And I accidentally knocked a rock down into his forehead while he was belaying me down the rock face.

In Milano

Nicola, a friend from Bassano from my AFS study-abroad some 14 years ago, in the courtyard of the Church of Santa Maria della Grazie

Part of a design expo in the courtyard of a university in Milan...

Sant'Ambrogio War Memorial

Nicola in front of Milan's Gothic cathedral

E.T. suicide street art

Some of the new development in Milan's Porta Nuova Isola district, which includes an urban vegetable garden, a field of corn and the world's first "Bosco Verticale" (Vertical Forest) on two residential towers.


Damanhur: A Spiritual Community in the Italian Alps

In April, I went up into the mountains north of Torino to volunteer in the community of Damanhur, a spiritual eco-community based on the teachings of Oberto (Falco) Airaudi with nearly 800 residents in the foothills of the Italian Alps in the Piemonte region.  Based on a mix of neopagan and New Age beliefs, some call Damanhur a school of magic.  Best known for their truly amazing Temples of Humankind, which have been under continual construction beneath a mountain since the late 1970's, Damanhur is composed of 25 sub-communities that have nearly taken over the local valley.  Unfortunately, photos were not permitted inside their temples, but you can take a virtual tour giving a sense of the different rooms, wondrous mosaics, stained glass and murals on their website

The Spiral of the Magilla community...Every small nucleo or sub-community has its own spiral.  During the anniversary of Spiro, (an entity that visited and taught alchemy and magic to Falco, the founder), we walked the spirals in the evening and residents carried selfic-paintings in the spiral to evidently suffuse the paintings with more energy.

Magilla and its solar panels
Damanhurians, as they call themselves, have created their own culture, with their own language, art, currency, dance and worldview.  Is Damanhur a cult? A visionary utopia?  An Italian response to their xenophobic culture and spiritual repression by the Catholic church?  "A laboratory for the future of humankind?"  Comprised of many individuals involved in some of their own unique projects, Damanhur is a complicated amalgamation of many things, the least of which is fascinating...

In Damjl
At Damanhur, they offer a multitude of courses for self-transformation so that one (with sufficient funds and time) can learn about one's past lives, learn how to travel through the cosmos or through time or how to communicate with plants among many other topics.  While I personally perceived no "magic" while attending some of the rituals that I was permitted to observe, (without being charged even more money,) I did meet wonderful people and appreciated their beautiful and interesting community.

Working in the greenhouses at Dendera with Cavallo and other volunteers

Planting lettuce seedlings...

Axelina and Rebecka share a blog that details some of their experiences as New Lifers at Damanhur.

While staying in Dendera, I slept in this camper.  It once belonged to Falco, the founder, and was painted with the animals whose names belong to the residents of Dendera, the sub-community where I stayed.  Each resident of Damanhur is given two names: one from the animal kingdom and one from the plant kingdom.

Beverly, an Australian farmer, has recently committed to the attempt of making Damanhur self-sufficient in its food production.  You can watch a video of her vision here.

Inti taught me how to make these adobe bricks from clay, straw, sand and water for the expansion of his house.

Dendera's air altar

View from Loranzé Alto, a small village walking distance from Dendera   


Catania, Sicily

View of Mt. Etna and Catania from the terrace of Ostello degli Elefanti

Horse meat!

In the nearby fish market the vendors shout in incomprehensible dialect rather than Italian.

Statue of a lava elephant in Piazza del Duomo

On Mt. Etna, Sicily

I signed up for a group day excursion to snowshoe up Mt. Etna.  It was beautiful - and amazing to ti be swimming in the Mediterranean one day and to be tromping in deep snow the next.

With a view of the sea in the distance

Geology lessons were part of the tour. Here we checked out the interesting basalt outcrops in La Garganta de Alcantara. These rock formations reminded me of Devils Postpile in California.