Month: March 2018

Healthy Changes for Heart Month

From My Heart to Yours: Heart disease remains the number one killer in the U.S. Please consider renewing your commitment to heart healthy habits for heart month and beyond.

Knowing that heart disease affects so many people in the U.S., I’m sure many of you can relate to my story. My dad had heart disease from the time I was 3 years old and died as a result just 10 years later. A cherished uncle followed, and then another uncle (my dad’s brothers). My mom had a heart attack at 80 years of age, which was the beginning of her health decline. Then recently, I was challenged with a heart arrhythmia myself. I was fortunate to have great care at the Cleveland Clinic where an ablation procedure cured my symptoms – but I am still careful to follow lifestyle habits to avoid future issues.

I’m also hitting a milestone birthday this month, and my health is at the center of my thoughts. Granted I can’t do anything about genetics or age as risk factors, but there is a lot I can do! Just because I’m a registered dietitian nutritionist, doesn’t mean that I’m immune to health issues – or bad habits for that matter! The last few years have been challenging between caring for our elderly parents and recovering from my own heart issue. But now that things have calmed down a bit, I’m committed to making more heart-healthy changes. For me, it isn’t all about losing weight; it’s about being healthy and having more energy to do the things I want to do. I was already doing most of the steps outlined below, and now I’ve added more of them into my regular routine. Steps are in no particular order. Don’t worry about making all the changes at once – just choose one step that you believe you can stick with, and go from there.

A few essentials: If you smoke, stop! Find a good program for smoking cessation. Know your numbers: Manage your weight, cholesterol, LDL, as well as hypertension and blood glucose if you have diabetes. Find a way to stay active. Follow a plant based diet, and follow doctor’s orders for prescribed medications. Some of the steps below can help you get started.

Step 1: Increase your physical activity! Exercising lowers blood pressure, strengthens your heart, helps maintain lean body mass, burns calories, and makes you feel good! Walking is one of the easiest exercises to fit into your day. Experts encourage a minimum of 10,000 steps a day (equivalent to 5 miles) – and yes, it’s possible to fit this into a busy schedule. If you are just getting started, walk at least 10 minutes at a time. Work your way up gradually to a minimum of 60 minutes on most days to meet the recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA).

Before you make changes to your routine, check with your doctor. Once you get the OK, use a fitness tracker or pedometer to count the current number of steps you take per day to use as your starting point. I’ve been wearing a pedometer or Fitbit for more than 10 years to help me stay on target. I love the feature on my Fitbit that reminds me to do a minimum of 250 steps every hour! I no longer sit at my computer working for hours on end without moving.

Step 2: Cut back on high calorie beverages. Do you drink sugar sweetened beverages every day? Just 8 ounces of most sugary beverages packs a whopping 100 calories, and most people don’t stop at 8 ounces. An extra 100 calories a day adds up to 3500 extra calories in just 5 weeks – which could mean an extra pound of weight – or 10 extra pounds in a year!

What about alcohol? Has that “healthy” 100 calorie daily glass of wine turned into 2 or more glasses a day? Alcohol calories go down quickly, and they can also loosen your resolve to control your food intake.

Eliminate sugary beverages and alcohol for at least 30 days to break the habit. Replace them with unsweetened beverages such as water, sparkling water, diffused water (lemons, limes, cucumbers or fruit), hot or iced tea.

Step 3: Cut the saturated fat. Animal fats found in meats, poultry, full fat dairy products (milk, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, etc.), salad dressings, and fried foods are full of saturated fat, which has been linked to heart disease. Reduce portions, cut visible fat from meat, remove skin from poultry, prepare foods using low fat cooking methods (baking, broiling, roasting), and read labels to identify foods with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat for better health. Skim or 1% milk, low fat cheese and sour cream, low fat yogurt, and other low fat dairy options are available – and many of them taste good!

Ready to use spray cans of healthy oils found at the grocery store can help control the amount of fat you use. Choose a healthy corn, safflower or olive oil to spray on foods so you can bake instead of frying or brushing foods with oil.

Step 4: Eat your veggies and fruits! Eat a range of colors: green, red, orange, yellow vegetables and fruits contain essential nutrients and fiber for good health. These foods are high in vitamins C, A, potassium, antioxidants, phytochemicals; and are naturally low in fat and sodium.

Fill at least half your plate with vegetables, and reach for fresh fruit for dessert or snacks.

Step 5: Reduce the sugar. I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but I’ve cut back on sweets to improve my health and manage my weight. Most of us consume much more sugar than we realize. It lurks in juices, jellies, jams, cookies, candies, cakes, pies, regular soda pop, cereals, snack bars, condiments, and many other foods.

Start with obvious sources of sugar and switch to naturally sweet foods like fruits (fresh, canned without syrup, frozen without sugar, or dried – go lightly here as these are concentrated sources of calories). And don’t think switching to raw sugar, honey or agave syrup is better – it’s still simple sugar.

Read labels: look for the number of grams of sugar per serving and choose alternatives that are lower in sugar. One more caution: some studies indicate that even artificially sweetened foods and beverages may still create cravings for sweets.

Step 6: Cut the sodium and increase the potassium. Almost 1 in 3 American adults have high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease. A high sodium, low potassium diet is linked to high blood pressure. Sodium is abundant in our food supply. Years ago it was used to preserve foods, but today we have a taste for it and think lower-sodium foods are bland. To add some zip to your foods, replace salt and high sodium spice mixes with naturally spicy ingredients such as hot peppers or jalapeno peppers (also high in vitamins and antioxidants), and your favorite salt-free spices.

Remember to read labels and avoid foods and beverages that are high in sodium.

Increasing potassium in your diet can also help lower blood pressure. Bananas, oranges, potatoes with skins, and low sodium V-8 juice are some of my favorite high potassium (low sodium) sources.

Step 7: Switch to whole grains. Focus on whole grains for nutrient dense foods that can lower blood cholesterol and improve regularity. Whole grains are much tastier than refined white breads, cereals, pastas, and rice.

Some of my favorite grains include steel cut oats, kamut and quinoa. I cook my whole grains in a rice cooker, Instant Pot or a crock pot so I don’t have to monitor the cooking which usually takes 45-50 minutes on the stovetop. Many whole grains can be used to make a simple, tasty salad or can be eaten as a hot breakfast cereal with fruit and nuts.

For quick and tasty whole grain hot cereal, I like old fashioned oats cooked on high for 2 minutes in the microwave and it’s ready to eat. Top it with some dried cranberries and walnuts to add sweetness and texture. It’s quick and easy, inexpensive, tastes great, filling – and healthy too!

Step 8: Reduce stress by taking time for yourself. With a busy schedule, it’s essential to take time out each day to relax, renew, and reenergize! Walking is my time to take a break, step away from daily stresses and enjoy some fresh air, music, or time to talk to friends and family. Choose something every day that allows you to take time to yourself: yoga, meditation, a hot bath, or anything that helps you recharge. Allow yourself at least 10-15 minutes a day – Yes, you can!

Step 9: Include some stretching and strength training. Strength training is essential for maintaining muscle mass, strength, and balance as we age. Stretching helps us to avoid injury and reduce pain. Strengthening your core will protect you from back pain and injuries, improve posture and help you look thinner – and who doesn’t want that?

Step 10: Believe you can do it. It takes time to develop new healthy habits. Try one thing that you believe you can be successful with, and move forward from there. The most important key is to believe that you can make changes that become lifelong commitments for your health.

Best wishes for a heart-healthy future!

Why You May Need To See A Cardiologist

Physician Proposal-If your family-mind specialist prescribes you see a cardiologist, do it. Try not to put it off. You’ll think twice about it.

Are or were a smoker-Smoking is a tremendous hazard factor for coronary illness. It brings down the stream of oxygen to the heart and expands circulatory strain, heart rate, and blood thickening and in addition harms the phones coating the supply routes.

Heart Agony-This is essentially guaranteed. You can see a full rundown of coronary illness indications beneath. In the event that you have any questions about regardless of whether you are encountering a side effect, in any case, get looked at.

Starting another activity program-You are beyond 40 a year’s old beginning another activity program. You may as of now be working with a specialist on being more dynamic, however a cardiologist can check your heart wellbeing and suggest practices that would be useful for your heart.

Diabetic-Lamentably diabetes can add to coronary illness. On the off chance that you encounter side effects of heart issues and are diabetic, you should see a cardiologist.

Family History-On the off chance that anybody in your family has or has had heart issues, you ought to know about coronary illness side effects and think about conversing with a cardiologist about them.

High Aggregate Cholesterol-Add up to cholesterol is the entirety of all the cholesterol in your blood. The higher your aggregate cholesterol, the more prominent your hazard for coronary illness (a cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL or higher).

High circulatory strain-You have hypertension or a high systolic number. The systolic number on your pulse perusing is the principal number. (For instance, if your perusing is 120/80 (120 more than 80), your systolic circulatory strain is 120.)

Difficult Pregnancy-The two times a lady is well on the way to create coronary illness is amid pregnancy or post-menopause.

Gum Sickness-Trust it or not, gum illness can happen when the body is aggravated. Patients with swollen gums regularly have coronary illness.

Coronary illness Manifestations

A considerable lot of us know about the indications of heart maladies like heart assault or stroke. There are different indications of coronary illness also, be that as it may, to know about:

• Extreme weight, crushing, torment, or uneasiness in the chest

• Agony or distress that spreads into the shoulders, neck, arms, or jaw

• Chest torment that turns out to be more extraordinary

• Chest torment that isn’t alleviated by rest

• Chest torment joined with the accompanying side effects:

• Sweating, cool, moist skin, as well as whiteness

• Shortness of breath

• Sickness or regurgitating

• Dazedness or swooning

• Unexplained shortcoming or weariness

• Quick or unpredictable heartbeat

• Agony in the jaw, neck, upper back, as well as chest

• Raspiness in light of weight on the vocal strings

• Trouble gulping

• Heart palpitations

• Tension

• Low circulatory strain

On the off chance that you have any of the manifestations recorded above or if your essential care specialist suggests you see a cardiologist, do it! Your heart is the most critical muscle of your body, so deal with it.

Is Running Good for Your Heart?

It is needless to say that running, as well as any other regular endurance exercise, changes the heart. Being a muscular organ, the heart, like all muscles in the body, adapts to the stress of exercise. The question is whether these adaptations are good for the heart or not.

The WHO recommends adults to moderately exercise for 150 minutes or intensely for 75 minutes weekly. They say running can help prevent obesity, high blood pressure, heart conditions, diabetes and stroke, and improve the quality of emotional and mental wellbeing. It also helps to live longer.

Of course, running regularly cannot make us immortal, but it is effective at extending life expectancy. Several studies found that a mere 5 to 10 minutes of running a day, reduces the risk of heart disease and premature mortality from all causes.

A routine of regular running is highly effective in prevention of many chronic conditions, cardiovascular diseases, and improves heart health. However, long-term excessive endurance exercise, such as running in marathons, can cause pathologic structural remodeling of the heart and large arteries.

Since human body is not meant for running long distances, excessive running can be dangerous for the heart. Instead of steady state movement, our bodies are made to do physical activity in bursts of exertion followed by recovery. In fact, almost most sports are based on stop-and-go movements, and statistics suggests that physical variability is one of the most important things to consider in running.

Physical variability is also important from the point of view of internal effects on the body. Excessive steady state endurance exercises increase the production of free radicals in the body, reduce immune function, degenerate joints, cause muscle wasting and pro-inflammatory response in the body that can result in heart attack and chronic diseases. Besides damage to all the organs in the body, free radicals damage the skin and make us look older.

Running is like a coin which has two sides, and if done improperly, it can have severe consequences. If you overdo high intensity exercise, engaging in prolonged sessions daily and over-working your body, you put yourself at risk of lowering immunity response and injuries. On the other hand, when we run, the heart beats faster as the activity strengthens it. With regular running, the resting heart rate gets lower, which extends the heart’s life.

So, how much running is good for the heart? Aim at daily exercise, performing different activities to maintain challenge and to dodge overuse injuries. Run several miles a week and aim at 9 minute per mile pace. Introduce running slowly, building up your muscles and speed gradually. Mind signals from your body. If you have any discomfort, back off and search medical evaluation.

Beauty as a Sexual Object

To fall in love — considered by some as the ultimate quest in life, and prepared by others with a constant and unending flow of fantasies, dreams, and enchanting ideas. And what we find sometimes to be so uniquely freakish of a fetish of our own, so personally vaulted and denied at every conscious inquiry — we find, in fact, that it is a secrecy of our own sexuality and our own fantasies, that disallows us from discovering that, what we find to be deviant is actually commonplace in the minds of all individuals. There is no person whose sexual ideas are unique, no fantasy of anyone that is not based on the same roots of the fantasies of others. This is sexuality, a social and emotional facet of every human. So, it must be granted as truth, that it is the repression of sexuality in our society, that convinces us that our own sexuality is a freak, a deviancy, an intolerably disgusting and improper attitude. Despite the fact that sexuality has been an intrinsic part of the lives of the hundreds and hundreds of millions of people, or the hundreds of billions of animals, there are still some puritanical ideas of people to oppose it. And, even if sexuality weren’t commonplace, one would think that the argument of “so long as none are harmed, let it be,” would be enough to justify it. I think that it was not a matter of argument, but one of shame and repression, that granted the puritan-minded people to believe and preach as they do.

If, in fact, those of the puritanical ideas had no conception of sexuality, I do not believe they could have the will to rally against sex. If it is just a fact of life, nothing that personally effected them, then it would not be something they could muster so much unforgiving hate for. Alas, I do not think these puritanical ideas have done much of anything to uplift the personality of goodness or the character of charity. The idea that sex is an evil is not a friend of the ideals of kindness, intelligence, or truth. These puritanical soldiers have done nothing but bog down the structure of civilization, waging a war against our own animal nature. By seeing their own feelings of sexuality, experiencing the desires and urges, the thoughts and inhibitions, puritans find themselves villified with their own character, ashamed and mortified. I think that people manage to put anger, passion, and strong, powerful emotions into vengeance, when it is their own personal nature that they are attacking. The puritans have allowed themselves to be cruel, brutal, and absolutely cold blooded in their war against sex. As the blood running through civilization warmed, the extent to which they were allowed to fight has been limited and limited. Tortures and murders were an intrinsic part of the original Puritan culture, when it came to their attitude about punishing sex.

It is a rather popular statement, that beaty is in the eye of the beholder. Yet everyone seems to interpret this statement differently. The fact that someone or something is beuatiful is only true because there is a critic to call it that. No artwork exemplified beauty without an onlooker, no song brought forward melody without a listener, no poem created peacefulness or rage without a reader. There can be no argument to this. We find, also, that just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is ugliness in the eye of the beholder. The same artwork that was called beautiful by one may be called ugly, disgusting, or otherwise unappealing by another. It is here that the true meaning of the phrase may be captured. The only reason why something is appealing or unappealing, attractive or unattractive, is because there is a mind in the sensory organs there to judge. The ideas of what is or is not gorgeous, enchanting, homely, or wretched are all dependent upon the viewer. Then we apply these ideas to a person. One’s voice is seen as glorious in tone or rancid in quality. The face and body become a considerable work of art or a defaced panting, or something in between or to a more extreme. Judging a body and a face, though, as beautiful or ugly, is a much different action than judging a painting as either beautiful or ugly.

A person, unlike a painting or a poem, is conscious, capable of emotion and happiness. All of a sudden, their physical attributes become subject to criticism and judgment. What is the purpose, though, of finding someone attractive or unattractive? The simple and obvious answer is for thepurpose of mating and procreation. Now that the reason for appeal or unappeal, in a person’s beauty anyway, has been uncovered, another question remains open. If a person’s outter shell can be judged as ugly or beautiful, by one person or another, and since this judgment does not help us to determine their character, should we disregard beauty and ugliness as a deterent to a person’s true self?

Of those individuals who call themselves Freethinkers, artists, independent minds, lovers of intelligence and friends of liberty, it is the typical attitude that a person’s emotions and way of thinking is in fact a part of their intrinsic self. There can be no greater proof of this than experience: beautiful people may be cruel and heartless, as the ugly people can be intelligent and meaningful, and vice versa. A person’s beauty does not determine the way they think. It does not make them more kind or charitable, nor does it instill in them attributes of vice or cruelty. This fact, I imagine will meet with no argument from those whom have experienced the world. The Freethinkers, though, have further advanced this position, by incorporating this philosophy int their personal lives. They do not judge people on their image, and accept friendship and affection from someone regardless of their looks, and they are not less scornful of a brutal person no matter their beauty. They have taken a rational position and they must be commended for that. In another way, some of them have incorporated their philosophy into their sexuality, either consciously or unconsciously. For example, they find someone attractive based on their ideas, their character, their way of thinking and personality. One’s physical body becomes esxually arrousing once they are identified with ideas of justice and goodness. They have not warded off human sexuality, so they have much more mindfulness and personal awareness than the puritans. In some cases, a Freethinker who fell in love with someone for their ideas, after the berakup, individuals they see resembling their initial love, even if socially considered unattractive, are considered attractive by the Freethinker.

So it happens, that the phrase comes to us, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and we find that beautiful and ugly are relative terms, subjective in that they are exsiting only in the mind. Our natural response to this is that a person cannot wholly be judged by their physical, since they are conscious. they are capable of thoughts, ideas, emotions. Thus we find every Freethinker and independent individual falling in love with a personality of a person, irregardless of physical appeal.

There is one fact that must be treated, though. An individual cannot have sex with a personality. As much as the idea is desired, physical affection cannot be given to a thought, an idea, or a character. It is necessary that a body is there. Admiration of an individual and their thoughts is never so pure or heart-warming as when there is a face for that individual, by which emotions and even ideas can be expressed. The look of ease, of a person laying down at the end of a long day, or a look of interest and intrigue, fascinated by the current occurrences, or a look of boldness and strength, defending what we believe in and what we fight for. The analytical expression, unsatisfied with what we know, delving through thoughts, facts, memories, to develop a more just theory — the expression of deep thought, it allows us a a greater admiration of the deep thought itself. Nothing can greater express sadness than a story one wished to levie by retelling, accompanied by tears.

This is just the face alone: eyes compliment diw th brows, a mouth given a tongue, and a nose, the rest covered with skin enveloping ten thousand muscle strands, all of which can combine to tell us thoughts and emotions. Anger and aggression, sadness and solemnness, pleasure and euphoria, exhaustion and rest — all feelings by which we can purely communicate to another by the contraction or relaxation of our face muscles. The blessing of the voice adds to whatever feeling we are comunicating, even if we are not speaking actual words. In fact, the emotion or facial expression delivers is dramatically heightened and empathically understood those vocal sounds which transcend all human language, particularly when we express a sudden pain, joy, or understanding.

Then, we are to consider the rest of the body. There are few words so reassuring, as a gentle, affectionate, and understanding touch. The idea of love can be written in a million poems and a thousand essays, which help us understand it in a reflective manner, but few things are so realistically understood as love when through the physical act of it; it is so logical to believe that experience is necessary to knowledge in this situation, just as it is impossible to know the true nature of terror without going through war, or other experiences. Lips, eyelashes, and other facial features, gently caressing, touching, or nuzzling the intimate or even common parts of the body: love-making, never so real or pure as can be demonstrated through experience. Those gentle parts, the neck, the stomach, the inner arms, find themselves also to be the most intimately felt. Perhaps it is the nature of evolution: ourselves becoming most protective of our most vulnerable parts, that they can also be the most intimate parts, because we feel that we want our lovers to feel those parts which we are most aware of. The other parts, the spinal column, the inner fore arms, the hands, though we are not only protective of them, we regard them during sex as gentle and intimate.

Understand, though, that up to this point, of the necessity of a body for physical expression and physcial love, I have said nothing of beauty, spoken no words on one’s complection as it is concerned to sex. I have only demonstrated the purity of expression when physical, when either in body and through the face. Yet there may be something rather unsettling, or otherwise seemingly contradictory about these thoughts. Those who have based their opinion on Freethought and independence, have argued that the physical complection, of beautiful or ugly, is not accurately indicative of a person’s inner character. But, on the other hand, the body allows us the most pure and affectionate method of expressing our desires.

I suppose that it must be admitted that one’s body and face is an important part of love and sexuality. Whether we find one’s body to be beautiful or not, the existence of such a body is important. But, beauty can even play a positive role in this. A body may in fact be considered indefferent, perhaps somewhat ugly or holmely. But, once that body has a personality, an opinion, an ideal, a character, these things alone may be enough for us to find them attractive physically. The same can be said of a body we initially find attractive, but then we hear a rather unintelligent, thoughtless mind speak, a rather cocky personality, and an otherwise unattractive character, and we find them ugly physically. It is not always the case, but it happens to be true often. Thus, beauty, no matter what it comes from, a physical complection, is necessary to a meaningful relationship.

Before ending this dissertation, there are still some thoughts on beauty that will not rest in my heart until I have fully explained them. As I stated before, there are many people who would find it immature or thoughtless to love or deeply care about someone just by their physical complection. But, it is almost a thing of serenity, when a young boy’s passions are enveloped around just the image of a girl. Granted, he may not be thoughtful in his quest, but he is listening to his desires. The thoughts and ideas that are spurning in his mind may be misguided, but they are gorgeous, wonderful, and even comforting. Fantasies may be pplayed out where just a kindly personality is placed in the boy’s fictionaly apparition of her. He will feel joy when he imagines her impressed with every aspect of him, and very loving and caring of him. The same can be said of a girl and her affection for any handsome man.

A Visit to Italy

With World Mission Sunday celebrated across the catholic churches around the globe, and fall season just on the horizons, I took time out to visit Italy this year as part of my vacation. My friend from Brescia invited me to stay with his family during the course of my sojourn in Italy. I was so happy to be welcomed to their home and be treated like a member of their own family. Their warm hospitality was indeed molded with a heart to love, a story to tell, and a home to share that highlights clusters of greatness centering around friendship and good interpersonal relationship.

I came to Brescia on the cusp of excitement to touch base with the family and friends, along with my plan to visit Venice, Piacenza, Milan, and Bassano del Grappa. This year’s attempt to explore Veneto came out as a window to profoundly high relative time of reconnecting with friends and confreres. It reminded me of an ancient maxim, quoted by Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council, to guide a new pontiff: “Unity in essentials, liberty in doubtful matters, and in all things charity.” I saw some shades of connections in dialogue with my everyday schedule with them.

It was both satisfying and literally suffused with good memories to hold close to my heart. I felt how the world was linked in my circle of gratitude like a powerful bridge between family and friendship. Like learning how to care for others and keep personal ties with faith and sincerity, my experience with them was indeed shared with Christ’s presence in our hearts. That was one of my favorite moments living with them at this point in time. As the Bk of Proverb says, “the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (15:3).

Brescia

My friend Dave and I drove to the city of Brescia and visited some major sights like Piazza della Loggia, the Old (Duomo Vecchio) and New Cathedral (Duomo Nuovo). We also visited the remains of the Roman Capitolium which is the Romaneque-Gothic church of St. Francis, with a Gothic façade and cloisters, the archbishop’s residence, the Biblioteca Queriniana (containing rare early manuscripts, including a 14th-century manuscript of Dante, and some rare incunabula), the Broletto (formerly the Province Hall which is a massive building of the 12th and 13th centuries with a lofty tower), and the Piazza del Foro which is the most important array of Roman remains in Lombardy. These include the Capitoline Temple, built by Vespasianus in 73 AD.

According to history, there were different mythological versions of the foundation of Brescia. It says that one was attributed to Hercules and the other was to Altilia (“the other Ilium”) by a fugitive from the siege of Troy. Another version was the king of the Ligures Cidnus who invaded the Padan Plain the late Bronze Age. However, many scholars attributed its foundation to the Etruscans.

The city of Brescia became Roman in 225 BC when the Cenomani gave in to Virginia. It was during the Carthaginian Wars when ‘Brixia’ was usually allied with the Romans. In 202 BC it was partly under the Celtic confederation that was changed later and was thus conquered. In 89 BC Brixia received its official title as civitas (“city”) and in 41 BC its inhabitants got their Roman citizenship. Augustus and Tiberius were instruments in founding the civil colony and constructing an aqueduct to supply it.

In 312 Constantine advanced against Maxentius and they were compelled to move out as far as Verona. Then in 402 the Visigoths of Alaric I destroyed the city and again was besieged in 452 by the Gothic general Theoderic the Great against Odoacer.

Brescia was made capital by the Lombards in 568 (569) as one of their semi-independent duchies. Dukes were Alachis, the future king Rotharis and Rodoald, Alachis II, a fervent anti-Catholic who was killed in the battle of Cornate d’Adda (688). Desiderius became the last king of the Lombard. Then in 774 Charlemagne captured the city and conquered the Lombard kingdom in northern Italy.

Under Louis II the Younger, Brescia became de facto as capital of the Roman Empire. Bishop’s power in those times was described imperial but gradually lessened by the local citizens and nobles. It became a free comune around the arly 12th century. Through the years Brescia expanded in the nearby countryside like Bergamo and Cremona. Then another battle broke off at Pontoglio and Grumore towards the mid-12th century.

Sporadic battles continued to arise between the Lombard cities and the emperors. One of them was the Battle of Legnano. Then followed by the Battle of Cortenova (27 November 1237). Some of the leagues from Cremona, Bergamo, and Mantua fought against Brescia by the emperor Frederick II in 1238. In 1311 Emperor Henry VII attacked Brescia for six months. Then the Scaliger of Verona with the help of the exiled Ghibellines, the battle of Maclodio (1427), Francesco Sforza, captain of the Venetians, and feuds with powerful families such as the Maggi and the Brussati, Brescia was again assaulted. Brescia this time acknowledged the authority of Venice and between 1512 and 1520, the French armies occupied Brescia. Subsequently, it shared the fortunes of the Venetian republic until 1796 when the Austrian army took over. It was followed by devastation when the Church of San nazaro was struck by lightning in 1769. It created a huge fire that caused a massive explosion and destroyed one sixth of the city.

Brescia revolted against the Austrian puppet state called Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia. It was at this time that the poet Giosuè called it “Leonessa d’Italia” (“Italian Lioness”), being the only Lombard town to stage a rally against the King of Pierdmont. In 1859 Brescia got its inclusion to the newly-founded Kingdom of Italy.

It was interesting to know the history and people’s background as I tried to discover more some important historical landmarks of Brescia. It came to my mind, too, the historical car race Mille Miglia that takes place in the region. I even went with my friend and his father to see the car race in Castrezzato.

I remembered here some native Brescians who chalked up in their chosen career such as Giovanni Paoli who brought the printing press to the new world in Mexico City under the viceroyalty of Antonio de Mendoza from Spain in 1935; St Angela Merici, who founded the Order of Ursulines in Brescia in 1535; Bartolomeo Beretta, gunsmith and founder of the Beretta arms firm; Giulio Alenio (1582-1649) a missionary called “Confucius from the West”; Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, a pianist of the 20th century, Pope Paul VI, and Giacomo Agostini, world famous Grand Prix motorcycle racers between 1964-1977.

Venice

It was a must for me to visit Venice. My friend and I took the early train from Rovato, Brescia heading for Venice. Passengers in drove mostly young people were equipped with gadgets and backpacks. They were all coming from different regions. It took us roughly two hours and a half to get there. Then a cup of cappuccino convinced us to stop by the coffee shop with matching croissant bread as part of our morning breakfast.

Venice is a beautiful capital city of Veneto in northern Italy. As of 2007, there were 268,993 people residing in Venice, of whom 47.5% were male and 52.5% were female. The largest immigrant group so far comes from other European nations (Romanians, the largest group: 3.26%, South Asia: 1.26%, and East Asia: 0.9%). It is predominantly Roman Catholic but with a heavy accent on Orthodox presence due to long-held relationship with Constantinople. Historically, it has been known as the “La Dominante”, “Serenissima”, “Queen of the Adriatic”, “City of Water”. There was a writer in the New York Times who described Venice as “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man.” It stretched across 118 small islands in the Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea in the northeast Italy, formed by 177 canals in a shallow lagoon. Its population estimate of 272,000 inhabitants includes the population of the whole Comune of Venezia.

The Republic of Venice was a major maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It was the place where the Crusades and the Battle of Lepanto took place. As a center of commerce, Venice was mainly known for silk, grain and spice trade. It was also known for classical music, history, and its renowned prodigy in this field was Antonio Vivaldi.

According to history, the original population of Venice comprised refugees from Roman cities such as Padua, Aquileia, Altino and Concordia (now the modern Portugruaro) who were fleeing successive waves of Germanic invasions and Huns. Early settlers here were known as lagoon dwellers and they increased in number especially when the Lombards conquered the Byzantine territories which had their local governor based in Malamocco.

In 775-776, the ecclesiastical seat of Olivolo (Helipolis) was established. Duke Agnello Particiaco (811-827) took his ducal seat in Rialto (Rivoalto, “High Shore”) island, the current location of Venice. This time the monastery of St. Zachary, the first ducal palace, and the basilica of St. Mark were built.

Venice had always had connections with the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim world in many ways. The governmental system was in some ways similar to what the ancient Rome had with an elected chief executive (the Doge or Duke), a senate-like assembly of nobles, and a mass of citizens with limited political power.

Relics of St. Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria were placed in the new basilica around 828. The patriarchal seat continued to develop and this led to achieve their autonomy and freedom.

We took scores of photographs in Piazza San Marco, the Basilica di San Marco, St Lucia Church, Santa Maria della Salute, La Torre dell’Orologio (St Mark’s Clock), La Fenice Opera House, and the Rialto Bridge. I loved watching those pigeons crowding through the center while tourists enjoyed feeding them.

History says that from the ninth to the twelfth century Venice developed into a city state (an Italian thalassocracy or Repubblica Marinara, the other three being Genoa, Pisa, and Amalfi). It became a flourishing trade center between Europe and the rest of the world (especially the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic world).

Venice came to grips with countless invaders like Turks (1453) and Normans in those days but remained closely associated with Constantinople. Known as orthodox Roman Catholic, people of Venice wrestled for religious heresy during the Counter-Reformation. Plagues brought devastation in Venice around 1348 and1630, respectively. Its decline started in the 15th century during the time of unsuccessful attempt to hold Thessalonica against the Ottomans (1423-1430). It began to lose its position as a center of international trade during the later part of the Renaissance as Portugal became Europe’s principal intermediary in the trade with the East. While France and Spain fought for hegemony over Italy, Venice remained a major exporter of agricultural products until the mid-18th century and by the end of the 15th century, it had become the European capital of printing being one of the first cities in Italy (after Subiaco and Rome) to have a printing press after those established in Germany.

During the Fourth Crusade in 1204, Venice became an imperial power. The Byzantine Empire was greatly weakened and great multitudes of stuffs were brought back to Venice which included the gilt bronze horse which we now see above the entrance to St Mark Cathedral.

Situated on the Adriatic Sea, we took the view of San Giorgio Maggiore and eventually rode the motorised waterbus (vaporetto) which brought us to this place. We saw many gondolas with crushed velvet seats and Persian rugs. I heard that gondoliers usually charge 80 and 100 euros for half an hour excursion around some canals. I did not bother myself to ride in one of them but just took a picture. That gave me a difference.

I took some snapshots of other churches and bought some post cards. While sightseeing the whole panorama from St Giorgio’s belfry, I thought of the high water following certain tides in Venice. I thought of flood tides which were evidently a threat to residents here. Some experts said that the best way to protect Venice is to physically lift the city of Venice to a greater height above sea level, by pumping water into the soil underneath the city. The lifting system as they claimed would be permanent. At least it would protect Venice for many years.

I really enjoyed seeing these historical landmarks with majestic architectural designs; their antiquated history and origin. Those palaces such as the Palazzo di Doge, Foscari, Grassi, Labia, and Maliperio reminded me of the emperial reigns of the rich and famous in this city. I saw in many shops different types of masks which reminded me of that musical play ‘The Phantom of the Opera.’ These are worn during the Carnival of Venice known for Venetian masks. It is held annually two weeks before Ash Wednesday and then it ends on Shrove Tuesday. It was something cultural and it could be traced back to centuries, in the 14th century when Venetian men would wear tight-fitting multicolored hose known as Compagnie della Calza (“Trouser Club”).

We took a long walk back to the train station following the labyrinthine road which made us wonder if we were in the right direction. We asked some those we met and inquired about the way back to the station. We got there quarter before 5 p.m. and the train departed at exactly 5. We arrived back to Rovato, Brescia at 7 pm and by the time we reached home it was half past seven in the evening.

Piacenza

Two days after we visted Venice, we drove to Piacenza. It is a city in the Emilia-Romagna region and the capital of the province of Piacenza. Geographically, it is at a major crossroads at the intersection of Route E35/A1 between Bologna (known as the gateway to eastern Italy) and Milan (gateway to the Alps), and Route E70/A21 between Brescia at the foot of the Alps and Tortona, where branches lead to Torino in the north, a major industrial city, and Genova, a major coastal port.

Long before the Roman foundation shaped the area of Piacenza, the Etruscans, Gauls took the entire Po valley. The Etruscans were famous for the practice of divining by the entrails of sheep. A bronze sculpture of a liver called the “Liver of Piacenza” was found in 1877 at Gossolengo just to the south of Piacenza complete with the name of regions. It has been connected to the practice of haruspicy, which was adopted by the Romans. Thus far, the liver can be attributed to the middle Roman settlement.

According to history, Piacenza and Cremona were founded as a Roman military colonies in May of 218 BC. There was a battle with the Gauls and Ligurians and cities were besieged with cruelty and violence. Devastations occurred several times but the city was always recovered and by the 6th century Procopius was calling it “the principal city in the country of Aemilia.”

Diocletian had a long reign during the era of Late Antiquity in Piacenza (4th/9th centuries AD) and remained anti-Christian. Christians being killed and massacred were rampant in those days and one of them was Antoninus in 303 AD who was beheaded (as had been St. Moritz) at Travo in Val Trebbia. The first Bishop of Piacenza (322-357), San Vittorio, declared Antoninus the patron saint of Piacenza and had the first Basilica di S. Antonio constructed in his honor in 324 in downtown Piacenza. It was restored and rebuilt in 1101. Actually, the remains of the bishop and soldier-saint are in urns under the altar.

During the Middle Ages Piacenza underwent a number of conquests by the Byzantines, Lombards, and Franks (9th century). It was followed by a gradual transition of powers from the feudal lords to a new enterprising class of the countryside.

In 1126 Piacenza was a free commune and became a member of the Lombard League. It took part in a war against the emperor Frederick Barbarossa and in the subsequent battle of Legnano in 1176. In the 13th century, Piacenza was able to gain its strongholds on the Lombardy shore of the Po River. Struggles for control were a common practice in the second half of the 13th century. Rich and powerful families such as Scotti, Pallavicino and Scoto (1290-1313) held power and leadership during this regime and Piacenza became a Sforza possession until 1499.

Piacenza was ruled by France until 1521 and under Pope Leo X, it became part of the Papal States. In 1545, it became part of the newly established Duchy of Parma and Piacenza, which was under the duress of the Farnese family.

The city underwent a series of transitions especially when it became a capital city of the duchy until Ottavio Farnese (1547-1586) moved it to Parma. Between 1732 and 1859, Piacenza and Parma were ruled by the House of Bourbon. In the 18th century, a number of edifices were built which belonged to noble families such as Scotti, Landi and Fogliani.

In 1882 Napoleon’s army annexed Piacenza to the French Empire. The city was plundered of a huge number of artworks and were also ravaged by bandits and French soldiers.

In 1848 Austrian and Croatian troops occupied Piacenza until a plebiscite marked the beginning of the city in the Kingdom of Sardinia. Then bombardment of the city occurred during World War II by the Allies. Roads and bridges across Trebbia and the Po Rivers, along with the railways yards were devastated. Piacenza was severely damaged by the bombing.

In spite of all the World War II bombings and devastations by the allied medium bombers from Corsica, Piacenza remained as one of the famous cities in Italy for the arts. Their historical palaces and edifices are often surrounded by lovely gardens.

Due to our limited time to visit some major sights of the city, nevertheless, I had the opportunity to see Piazza Cavalli and the façade of Il Gotico where my friend and I took some pictures. We passed by the Church of Sant’Antonino, patron of Piacenza and the Palazzo Comunale, also known as il Gotico. Then we also saw the Duomo di Piacenza. We wanted to go inside to pray but it was closed. So we decided to just a take a picture of its façade.

We also passed by other churches like Santa Maria in Campagna, a Renaissance church, faces Piazzale delle Crociate (“Crusades Square”), so called because Pope Urban II summoned the First Crusade here in 1095. It was built in 1522-1528 to house a miraculous wooden sculpture of the Madonna. The interior side of the church was originally on the Greek cross plan, but was later changed into a Latin cross one.

We were not able to visit the churches of St Sixtus, a Renaissance church with a precious choir, designed by Alessio Tramello in the 15th century. Another church designed by Tramello is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It has the most famous relic of the region’s pre-Roman civilization known as the Bronze Liver of Piacenza. It is very significant because it is an Etruscan bronze model of a sheep’s liver that dates back from the end of the second century to the start of the first century BC.

I remember when I lived here for a year, the common specialties which were typical Piacentini are panceta (rolled seasoned pork belly, salted and spiced), coppa (seasoned pork neck) and salame (chopped pork meat flavored with spices and wine, and made into sausages). Others eat them with Gorgonzola cheese and Robiola.

As it was already getting dark, we decided to drive back home in Brescia and be on time for dinner with my friend’s uncle. It was a lovely time we spent in the city sightseeing and window shopping. Both convinced us to combine our visit with spending for clothes or other souvenirs. That really wrapped up our day amid the stillness and welcome contrast from other bustling cities like Milan, Venice, Vicenza, Brescia or Padova. Piacenza remained like a serene image of body and soul steeped in classic speaking gifts. Oh, Piacenza! You’re still replete with serenity and precious antiquity.

Vicenza

This was my last leg as regards my itinerary here in northern Italy. I really made an effort to maximize my time visiting these places. Though at times exhaustion would knock me down and lead me to stay home, still the inner engine would draw me out and emerge on the road. I felt the twinge of being privileged to be here. The beauty of the place, its richness in history and culture; and the people themselves reminded me of what Elizabeth Kübler-Ross once wrote: “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” And I found its verisimilitude in dealing with people across cultures.

According to history, Vicenza is the capital of the eponymous province in the Veneto region, at the northern base of the Monte Berico, straddling the Bacchiglione. It is approximately 60 kn west of Venice and 200 km east of Milan.

It is a cosmopolitan city with many museums, art galleries, piazzas, villas, churches and beautiful Renaissance palaces. The famous Palladian Villas of the Veneto and the Teatro Olimpico can be found here. Other historical landmarks are: the Basilica Palladiana, Palazzo Thiene by Palladio, Villa Almerico Capra, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Annunciata, Palazzo Chiericati, Palazzo Porto, Palazzo del Barbaran da Porto, etc. The inventor of silicon, Federico Faggin, was born here. It is the third-largest Italian industrial center in terms of exports, engineering/computer components industry.

The Romans conquered this region when the Gauls were inhabitants here in 157 BC. They gave the name Vicentia or Vincentia, meaning “victorious.” When the Western Roman Empire fell, the Heruls, Vandals, Huns, Alaric and his Visigoths laid waste to the area. At the beginning of the sixth century a number of Benedictine monasteries were built here.

In 899, Vicenza was destroyed by Magyar raiders. A League was formed with Verona and Lombard to go against Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa compelling Padua and Treviso to join. There were some inner rivalries with Padua, Bassano del Grappa and other cities. In 1230 the Second Lombard League went against Emperor Frederick II that brought to the fore the restoration of the old oligarchic republic political structure.

Vicenza came under rule of Venice in 1404. But it was besieged by the Emperor Sigismund, and Maximilian I in 1509 and 1516. The period of Reformation saw the growing inclination in art especially at the time of Andrea Palladio who left many outstanding examples of art with palaces and villas in the city’s territory.

At the time of Napoleon Bonaparte in the 18th century, Vicenza was made a duché grand-fief (not a grand duchy, but a hereditary, nominal duchy, a rare honor reserved for French officials). Then after 1814, Vicenza was under the Austrian Empire. Italy was still divided at that time but as part of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, it was tied up with Italy after the third war of Italian independence.

Vicenza was heavily damaged by World War I and World War II. But after World War II, economy began to bloom slowly. And now Vicenza is home to the U.S. Army post Caserma Ederle, also known as the U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza.

Some famous people from this area are: Flavio Albanese, architect; Roberto Baggio, football player; Giuseppina M. Bakhita, saint, Valerio Belli, sculptor and engraver; Maria Bertilla Boscardin, saint; and many others.

a. Bassano del Grappa

Following this, I really made an effort to visit Bassano del Grappa. It is a place where we have a seminary. And now it is housed by our elderly and sick.confreres in the congregation. For me it was like another episode of reconnecting so meaningful that I almost shed in tears when I saw them.

It is a city and comune in the province of Vicenza, region Veneto. Its neighboring communes are Cassola, Marostica, Solagna, Pove del Grappa, Romano d’Ezzelino, Campolongo sul Brenta, Conco, Rosà, Cartigliano and Nove.

The city was founded in the second century by a Roman called Bassianus. It was under the family of the Ezzelinos in the 13th century. But it was acquired by the Visconti of Milan in 1368. It became famous in all parts of Europe because of the Remondini printers.

During the French Revolutionary Wars Bassano was the seat of the battle. It was part of the unified Kingdom of Italy in 1866. Napoleon Bonaparte stayed here in Bassano del Grappa for many months.

The original name of this place was Bassano Veneto. Because of so many casualties during World War I, the name was changed to Bassano del Grappa, meaning Bassano of Mount Grappa. This was made to honor those soldiers who were killed during the war.

My friend and I went to the Bridge of the Alpini which was designed by the architect Andrea Palladio in 1569. This bridge was destroyed many times. The Alpine soldiers, or Alpini have always revered the wooden bridge and Bassano del Grappa. It was a memorial marker for them, so significant that they would remember songs from their days as alpine soldiers.

We took a number of pictures around this area. It was so meaningful that I could not help but associate it also with our seminary. It was like a connecting bridge to sacred forces – bringing life and hope to the local church.

There were also other sights to see such as: the Cathedral (Duomo) built around the year 1000 but renovated in 1417, The Castello Superiore (Upper Castle), the Church of St John the Baptist which was built in the 14th century and restored in the 18th century.

The many facets of these places made me reflect the different set of values for defining beauty and truth, achievements judged according to popular standards like wealth of the nation, power, prestige and on the other side of the coin, achievements judged according to divine standards like service or compassion. The immense beauty and historicity of Italy have enormous wealth to share with people of all ages. As a pilgrim on the road, I will hold ever dear in my heart those works of art, people’s inner beauty, faith, and solidarity as life and memory go on through time and space.