One Hundred Years Later in Florence
After finding my roots in the tiny fishing village of Lacco Ameno, Ischia, I became a dual citizen and was beckoned to live in the country that my family had to abandon in 1904. They would never live to know that their dream would be fulfilled through their children. They would never live to know that a century and three generations later, the circle would be completed, returning one of their children back, to love as they never could, the land that was once theirs.
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Friday, January 31, 2014
Rain in Florence
Rifiuti, Spazzatura and all that Trash!
Italy has changed me in so many ways, it would take a book to describe them all. Ergo, I will address them one at a time. This is the first of my series: "The Stuff I Gladly or not so Gladly Left Behind".
My first topic entitiled: Garbage, rifiuti, spazzatura, in other words......TRASH!
Today I discard an average of two 4-gallon garbage bags of waste per week plus two containing wine and water bottles. Add a cardboard box or two per month. This means that I carry four tiny bags of refuse to the cassonetti each week on my way to the market. Nulla. This equates to 16 gallons of trash per week versus 100 per week in California.
In America I thought of garbage differently. In fact I didn't really think of it at all, just like we don't think of taking a poop in the morning. It's just a part of our hoard-it-in, dump-it-out routine. You stuff the SUV with over rated, oversized crap from COSTCO, Big Lots and Sam's Club and then you roll out the gargantuan garbage cans on Monday and Thursday nights. Clockwork. That's how you get to know your neighbors. Over garbage.
In California, you buy a house depending on the number of cars, bikes and garbage cans, not the number of human beings in your household. Easy formula: If you have 2 cars, you buy a house with a 3 car garage, 2 spaces for the cars and one space for the garbage cans.
Is that the American mentality? I never realized that I was one of "them". When I came here, I perceived my endearing Italian ancestors to be overly-anal about conserving, packing, storing and avoiding waste of any sort. Mamma mia, I am now one of these "them", not those "them" anymore! Most people here don't even buy garbage bags, we use the bags that our merchants give us at the daily market.
I was in New York for Thanksgiving and my brother sent me to the supermarket to help with the shopping and he told me to pick up some large garbage bags. I was aghast to see the overwhelming array of choices. When I returned, he proceeded to give me a lecture on garbage bag characteristics. I quickly told him to quit,I don't give a damn.
So what's to blame? Obviously American garbage is the result of American consumerism. We "have to have". More stuff, more is better, until we quickly tire of it and have to dump it and replace it with new stuff. For me it was an illness. Spoiled by my own success, I perceived consumerism as a positive result of my labors...after all, I was entitled. I have happily overcome this compulsion. I buy less, use less and discard less. I spend the money and the time stroking myself by being with the people and doing the things that I love. What a sense of freedom!
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Italians Discover Calories
You would never have seen this 5 years ago. No doubt the Italian pasta industry is suffering as it reluctantly gets dragged into the calorie-counting era after 30 years of living in denial. Here's how we save our ass. Bravo.
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Opera in Florence
I've always been very fond of Teatro Comunale. It is a humble neighborhood opera house and epitomizes the Florentine culture in many ways, which I described a few years ago in my post: The End of a Musical Era. When I entered the opera house for today's matinee, I noticed the 80 year-old poster (see above) advertising the first time that Nabucco was performed here in 1933. This opera house is a landmark of Florentine musical history.
The performance was much to my liking, the new production pure and realistic, the conductor spirited and precise, and the singers quite good. Nucci carried himself strongly but without the same presence and force that he used to command. I was hoping the performance to be emotionally riveting, but it lacked the drama of La Forza del Destino and Un Ballo in Maschera, but nevertheless I fully enjoyed it. This, the third opera of Verdi is one which Italians even today identify with through the familiar choral piece Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate / believed by some critics to have been the anthem for Italian patriots during the Risorgimento.
Teatro Comunale is home to Zubin Mehta's Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, which produces excellent opera...thanks to its maestro who stands among the best of recent decades. Teatro Comunale isn't the Met. Its humble walls are not worthy of Zubin's grandeur. Despite these issues, there is something I appreciate so much more about this small homespun opera house in spite of its acoustical defects and production limitations. The theater is perfect for the Florentines and Florence, the match is perfectly in-tuned with their habits and tastes. It doesn't, however, suit the great Zubin, who should probably be conducting in a more prestigiously recognized opera hub. Lucky that we still have him, he's excelled and brought us great opera when he could have chosen a city and opera house much more fitting for his status. But he loves Florence, and I do not complain. Having seen him countless times over the years in countless cities, it sure feels good to know that he hangs here in Florence like I do. After all, he can be wherever he wants.
The audience tonight was pure unsophisticated down-to-earth Florentine, not a single tourist at this time of year, and the theater felt as always, more like a piazza, a local gathering, an extension of my home.
Teatro Comunale has gratified the Florentine community for 150 years, having played host to some of the world's greatest musical geniuses including Callas, Abbado, Strauss, Muti and Mascagni. A Florentine landmark, it is rich in history, having been originally built as an open-air amphitheater in 1862, since then having been thrice reinvented after surviving devastating fires, WWII bombings and the great flood of 1966.
Rumor has it that Teatro Comunale has found a buyer to help it fund the unfathomed expenses required to complete the Teatro Nuovo, which has so far been an economic and cultural failure of poor planning, designed by over-zealous politicians and architects. Sadly, Teatro Nuovo will be the new home of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, which other than being a tribute and gift to Zubin himself, means we pay more to travel further to an ugly, cold modern building that lacks history and parking spaces. But its protagonists insist that it will allow the opera house to offer world-class opera and expand its repetoire by 40%. Somehow I just do not see it. If I were Zubin and if I loved my homeland, I would build the Taj Mahal Opera House in India and conduct my guts out among my people. I remain content with what we have now and don't forsee Florence as a destination for world-class opera from both economic, demographic and market demand perspectives.
So, every time I go, I go with a bittersweet feeling of appreciation, knowing that this might be my last time, before the opera house becomes victim to the political dreamers who insist upon something more grand, at any cost. The rest of the 2014 opera repertoire will continue to be performed here, but this is likely to be the last season. Tickets are still available for subsequent performances of Nabucco. Stand-by for Madame Butterfly next month.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
My Palazzo Vecchio
Palazzo Vecchio is a sacred place in my personal world. The epicenter of Florentine life for 700 years, it remains the political and cultural hub of the city. Beneath its grounds lie the ruins of Roman Florence, its amphitheater and evidence of life dating back to the Stone Age.
The first time I beheld Palazzo Vecchio I was 15 years old. At the time, I was only beginning to understand its historical significance. I can remember the Piazza being empty and eerily silent, not the active tourist destination it is today. Little did I know that many years later it would be the community center of my life and that within its walls I would one day be awarded my dual citizenship. Fate knew it.
I have been spiritually drawn to this place, not just over the years, but continuously, in my daily life. When taking a walk, even before I enter the piazza, I become taken with feelings of energy, strength, awe, tranquility, wholeness and roots.
I have read about the concept of a "vortex", and this perhaps describes the energy that grabs me in this spot, filling me with a spiritual lightness. Could it be the earth's kinetic energy that oozes from below? Is it the result of centuries of life, death, grandeur and history that emanate from its ramparts? Or is it the result of the voyage I have taken
to find a sacred, natural spot where I encounter an energy so much larger than myself?
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
5 Years in Florence
My perspective was changing. I was completely seduced by my new life and as I grew into the culture I became less driven to comment on my new life from the outside looking in and wanted to spend more time in the reality of the inside.
I resolved to turn my energy away from my old American perspective and to get my ass off the computer and on to the street, into the piazzas, where finally feeling comfortable with the language, I could confidently melt into the community and revel in the culture that I love. My lifetime was a spiritual pilgrimage on the road to my destiny in Italy. And here it was, baby. You are here now! It was time to kick it up.
I had reached a turning point in my life in Italy. I had overcome the major challenges of cultural adaptation, none of which I hadn't anticipated. I got slaughtered, battered and beaten by the bureaucratic gods and survived Italian boot camp with flying colors which included plenty of black-and-blue marks.
I had lost the desire to visit the States, even to stock up on my annual hoard of American vitamin pills and Vicks VapoRub. I had my church and my macellaio, my shoemaker, my favorite market vendors, bars, lampredotto stands and cycling destinations.
I voted in the primary elections and acquired a general grasp of the (no adjectives here) political scene. I understood the good and the bad and had met Americans who made it here and those who threw in the towel. There were no more surprises, or at least nothing that would shock me. I learned how to navigate the health care system. I had a bicycle team, an adopted family, a dream retirement job guiding bicycle tours in the hills of Chianti. And I had recently negotiated an 8-year contract to live in an elegant renaissance palace that I don't ever want to leave....ever. I was ready for the next big bang.
So I abandoned my blog for good cause. In 2013 I broke through many barriers. It was the year in which I stopped feeling like a newbie in transition and started gaining an identity in the community. It was the year in which my grasp of the language really started kicking in and gained exponential momentum. So very satisfying to have superceded this point.
I finally felt culturally and linguistically competent enough to join a local volunteer organization, the Angeli del Bello, a group of Florentines who dedicate their time to maintaining the splendor of Florence. For me, it meant removing graffiti from the walls of our buildings and monuments and then restoring the surface. Not only did this give me the opportunity to mix with born and bred Florentines who share my passion for this stupendous city, but it led to a great friendship with a fellow volunteer. Not to mention that I love to dedicate my time to make Florence even more beautiful than it is, if that is possible!
I was blessed last year to find four new girlfriends, two of which are exceptional women and fellow cyclists, and two of whom I met by chance while shopping in the market. These friendships are so dear to me that I am shedding tears just thinking about it. They are Florentine, Sicilian and Pugliese who don't speak English. They love and accept me despite my cultural deficiencies and notwithstanding that they cannot imagine my pre-life in the U.S. They judge me not on my status or title, but for who I am now, who I am on the inside and the passion and energy that I exude on the outside.
To have conquered the language well enough to develop such intimate relationships is about as good as it gets for me. After this, everything else is icing on the cake. And what a cake.
In 2013 I left my blog to spend the precious time planting my soul into the culture, diversifying my interests, studying Italian politics, truly learning Renaissance art and renouncing to a great extent the social network scene because outside my door lies the greatest city, the greatest social network that I can possibly ask for.
You'll start hearing from me again, but I will be concise, in the interest of being out there, not in here!
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
O Christmas Tree
I cannot wait to see you again when I come to Siena to celebrate Pasqua. It will be spring. You will be shooting new branches with exuberant birds chirping and playing around in your branches. You will live and live forever, way longer than me, in the beautiful countryside of Tuscany. Buon viaggio bello. Ci vediamo presto presto ! .
Thursday, January 3, 2013
I Propositi per L'Anno Nuovo
Be incorrect more
Be me more
Be here now more
Spend more time with friends
Non preoccuparmi cosi' tanto!
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Buon Anno Nuovo
This will be my last post of the year. After 4 years of living in Italy, 2012 was the year that I accelerated from 2nd gear into a steady and comfy 3rd gear. I'm ready for 2013 to rev it into full throttle overdrive.
It was a year of confirmation, with a diversity of moments ranging from sad and brutal to those of astounding joy....and discovery. I sadly lost my best friend to a tragic accident, one of the worst losses of my life. I also had days filled with rich moments, smiles and surprises. A few special new people entered into my life who I hope will stay or enrich my heart from afar. I am in the perfect place, where I can be exactly who I am and who I was meant to be.
I feel very lucky to have discovered this life so full of joy, wonderful friends, and a passion for life that has been fueled with love. Hopefully 2013 will be a year in which I will finally find a way to share and spread my happiness and to give it back to the universe that has perfectly aligned itself with me.
So, I put my heart out there, ready, ready, ready.....full of coraggio, esperanza e l'amore.
Buon Anno Nuovo a tutti voi.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
I love the word prego for so many reasons. First of all, it sounds so simple and positive. I’ve never seen anyone say the word without a smile on their face. It is a friendly word that conveys a sense of harmony and agreement. I think it is a pure expression that reflects the Italian culture and the gentility of the people in many ways.
Prego…. you hear it everywhere and it means many things. It is so simple and subtle though often used, it communicates a sense of openness, a state of harmony, an attitude of tolerance and gentility, of apology, courtesy, refinement If I had to pick one Italian word that embodies the character of the Italians, it is the word Prego.
This one little word means more than just a word. "Please, may I help you?" "What can I do for you?" When I approach another rider in front of me, instead of speeding up to stop me from passing them, they wave me in front of them while saying "prego". "Please, pass me on the street" (even though you just about ran my 4 year old over) "I am sorry!" "Of course you can get in front of me on the grocery line, please take my place" . "Please you almost killed me but I am still alive, so prego". "What would you like?" "No problem". Every time I accidentally bump into or offend someone, they never get irate, but always apologize saying" prego….e la colpa mia".
If I had to select the Italian word that I love and hear the most during the day, it is the word" prego".
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
The Day After
Family, food and escapism is in full bloom at this time of year and nothing gets in the way of this virtual hibernation from reality....at least until after January 7th. Then the whole country goes into "shock" mode, everything goes on sale and people return to the other temporary illusion called "work".
Today, the day after Christmas, we celebrate yet another saint's feast day (St. Stephen) as a convenient national excuse to take off and recover from Christmas just to continue the feasting for another 10 days. On Capodanno the entire peninusla enters into explosion mode, (it used to be so bad that the whole country used to throw their furniture out the window along with the fireworks on New Year's Eve) just to continue another few days of fantasy binging and recovery, while wandering in a continual coma until the ultimate orgasm of the year when the whole country crashes into its final "Epiphany".
The whole process of feast and recovery seems to be somewhat of a bipolar process here in Italy. The all-out feasts (but how many a year?) are planned and executed with more commitment and WAY-HEY-HEY more enjoyment than an American wedding. But the day(s) after are equally as contrary. Here a recovery day means sleeping late, waking up with a stomach ache and a prosecco-grappa headache. It means walking around the house all day in a comatose stupor, eating panettone for breakfast and watching the third repeat of Christmas Mass at the Vatican (or worse yet, Bambi) while picking canellini beans and Tombola cards off the floor and scraping pork and capon drippings off the 4th load of dishes. It means drinking tonics, seltzer and bitters and eating digestives such as fennel to remedy the afflictions of the previous day's excess. Then it's back to the table for leftovers. (I wonder if this custom has its origins in the ancient Roman culture when binging and purging in vomitoriums were practiced by the aritstocracy.)
Christmas at the "Mazzella" house this year was a milestone...the first Christmas since I've been living in Italy that I was the hostess instead of the guest. A new home, lots of preparations including a real tree, lots of friends with more and more native Italians becoming a fixed part of my life, way less English spoken and continuously feeling more integrated.
Buone Feste! There's still alot more to come!
Some photos of my Christmas in Florence this year.
Monday, December 24, 2012
Preparations....the Essence of Christmas
|Home Sweet Home|
Everything happens here on a local level, in your own neighborhood, at the market, in familiar places with familiar faces. No malls, no chain stores, no franchises, no lines, no road rage, no parking lot acrobatics. Pure. Simple. Friendly. Organ and choral music emanating from churches, bells ringing, accordians and violins playing in the streets, lights everywhere. Artisan merchants selling their wares, their handmade clothes, their handmade jewelry, their antique book collections. And oh, the lights!
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Nothing like Christmas in Florence, (well, maybe Napoli)....it lasts for a full month, concerts, lights, presepe, choirs, theater, many many celebrations and dinners with friends, music in the streets. Despite the tough economy, Italians know how to live in fantasy and put life's problems behind, at the table and with friends. Heaven is here.
And......my first "real" Christmas tree in my new home. My new living room furniture was received in time for Christmas, didn't expect it!!! Hosting Christmas Day with an abbondanza of food, wine, prosecco, grappa, dolce, the whole day to be spent cooking together, then Michele plays the flute for us, we play Tombola and cozy-up on my new sofas to watch a classic Italian film....maybe Totò, maybe Eduardo De Filippo? Maybe Sophia and Marcello?
Life is good in Florence. A few photos...living in the moment does not leave much room for taking photos...but here are just a few clips, with many, many missing, but many, many wonderful memories in the making....
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Still Pinching Myself
It is 0˚outside, and even colder in this room. But I am warm. My eyes are closed and my ears are filled with heavenly choral voices as Florence's illustrious orchestra performs Mozart's Requiem. I am drifting somewhere between reality and fantasy, lost in space and time. Surrounded by an audience of 700 Florentines wrapped in heavy coats, scarves and boots, we are all connected by an inexplicable, magical bond. Heaven couldn’t be closer. This moment, this place, this space in time is exactly where I want to be. I’m frozen in this miraculous moment, mesmerized by the music, my heart which is full of love, and this magnificent space.
And then I open my eyes. I gaze towards Vasari’s Battaglia di Marciano, (behind which once existed Leonardo's Anghiari), and Michelangelo's famous marble group, the Genius of Victory. I look ahead at the elaborate theatrical stage setting ordered by Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo l and then lift my head up to see the grandiose gold-laden panelled ceiling. Over the past few years I have sat in this room dozens of times attending community-related functions. And here I am again, sitting in the magnificent Salone dei Cinquecento, still not believing that this is my city hall, enjoying an elaborate celebration of the anniversary of the death of Mozart among my Florentine neighbors.
I love my city and I love my life in Florence and I will never take it for granted. Even after four years, moments such as this seem to happen on an overwhelmingly frequent basis, too often to write about. And I cannot stop pinching myself, because this all seems too good to be true.
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Il Giorno del Ringraziamento
After 4 years living in Italy without a sign of Thanksgiving around me, I finally took it upon myself to buy a bird and spent 2 days preparing a typical turkey feast for my Italian family (four adults, two kids), which was enjoyed by all with tremendous gusto. We chose to celebrate today, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, as of course nobody is off on Thursday. It was the first time in many years that I made a turkey and all the trimmings, and although I thought I would have forgotten how to make the perfect stuffing, it came right back to me in a flash. What fun, and at the same time how strange it was to prepare for Thanksgiving in this setting.
Nicoletta, (a thoroughbred Fiorentina) and I collaborated on the menu the week before. We decided that no Thanksgiving among Italians could ever succeed without a primo piatto di pasta. While brainstorming on the pasta, her eyes lit up as she declared "penne al cavolo nero"! (A typical Florentine pasta dish made with black cabbage). It was exquisite and complemented the meal perfectly.
The secondo piatto and all the trimmings were foreign to them. Not understanding what turkey "stuffing" is, I explained it by calling it "Panzanella Americana" and then it clicked! They never had turkey gravy before (it was rich with pan drippings....the best I've ever made...this time the roux was perfect). They loved it! I got a kick out of how crazy they went over the cranberry sauce (which I spent 2 days hunting down and spent a fortune for)....they practically licked it off the plate and and asked to take home the leftover berries.
It was especially fun explaining the story of the Pilgrims and the Mayflower to them and sharing the history of our greatest American holiday. The kids soaked it right up and asked alot of questions about the Indians. They were star struck. I led the meal by having everyone hold hands and said a prayer of thanks....it was very emotional.
The kids are amazing in the kitchen, just like at their house. Setting, unsetting the table and following me all over the kitchen asking me what they could do next. What a great day. Roasted chestnuts, fruit and Nicoletta's masterpiece tiramisu, topped off a very nostalgic day as little 7 yr. old Costanza performed for us all on the violincello.
This was a momentous day for me. After 4 years spent making Florence my home, I'm able to look back on my American life with a lifetime of memories, and am now able to integrate my past and my present in a new and meaningful way. It marked another new Italian/American tradition that will be the first of many to come, spent with a precious family that has become mine. I am so grateful on this day of Thanks.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Voting in Two Different Countries
Yesterday, as the world watched the American presidential elections and having already cast my absentee ballot, I began preparing myself to vote in the Italian Primaries on November 25th. It was uncanny that I was juggling thoughts of voting in two different countries on the very same day.
This will be the first time since receiving my dual citizenship that I’ll have the opportunity to vote as an Italian citizen. After all the complex steps I’ve taken to establish myself as a citizen, resident and community member, when I step into my local electoral office to vote, I will truly feel arrived. I’m proud to have the privilege of being able to vote for the leaders of the two greatest countries in the world.
When I first received my jure sanguinis Italian citizenship and Florentine residency in 2009, I expected to steer clear of Italian politics, given its complexity and my lack of first-hand knowledge. I certainly didn’t expect that I would be as enthusiastic to vote as I am now.
Over the past few years, my relationship with Florence has become precious like a friend. Thus, I have become engaged with social, economic and political issues, eager to understand the forces that drive the vitality of my city and the country of my roots. Here I feel more involved and connected with city politics than I ever did during a lifetime in the U.S. perhaps because in spite of the complexities of the Italian political scene, the feeling of community is so much tighter here, where I feel like a member and not a number.
I’m not jaded yet and doubt I will ever because I think so differently than I ever did before and have eliminated expectations from my life. I’ve embraced and am fully committed to my future here and equally invested in preserving the integrity of Florence and Italy. Having a voice and a right to vote is more important to me now than it ever was before because I feel like a valuable member of this big crazy family called Italy.
I’ve actually been surprised that many Fiorentini and Italians don’t get politically involved beyond musings on the communal level. I have kept my opinions to myself and my blood pressure from bursting, although this attitude is contrary to my New York City breeding. Hence, I’ve developed some strong political inclinations and am thirsty to express them. I'll have the opportunity to do so at the polls on November 25th.
Other than what I read and hear around me, I’m ignorant of the system and have a lot to learn. But I sure know my gut. I know which candidates I like and who I despise. For me, this is enough.
Today I visited my local Arco Circoli to register to vote. They asked me for my voting card, which I do not have. I thought all I needed was my Carta d’Identità. They told me that I should have received my voting card when I first got my residency in 2009. Of course I never received it. So now it is a mad rush for me to get this card subito, in order to vote by the 25th.
Learning all these new ways of living is so exciting. There is no book written on the subject of how to navigate the voting system as a new citizen. So like everything else, I continue to pioneer my new-founded territory, an adventure of somewhat solitary but intimate self-discovery that has been endlessly rewarding.
I know that when I have my voting card in my hand, it will feel like a treasure that I've waited a lifetime to earn.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Redefining Beauty: It's Not About the Belly Button
|Miss Italia 2008|
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Zucchini Flowers for a Hot Day
Now you can serve it plain, or over some toasted Tuscan bread rubbed with olive oil. You can also plop a dollop of ricotta on top. Sprinke more parsley over the eggs and enjoy.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Liberation of Florence
I felt a great sense of pride as an American participating in the ceremonies as it unites me closer to the Florentine community in celebration of a mutual victory.
In order to attend the ceremonies in Palazzo Vecchio, one must receive a private written invitation from Mayor Renzi.
Below is an amazing video taken in the streets of Florence as Allied Forces liberated the city on August 11, 1944. One minute of vintage history-in-the-making!!! Viva Firenze!! You must plug in your headset as the audio quality is poor! Don't miss it!
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Celebrating the Silence
I love it and I hate it. August in Florence. We are expecting our 7th heat "wave", but since June, I cannot tell where one has ended and the next has begun. We are enduring a persistent drought unseen in years. Merchants and residents alike have left the city behind in pursuit of cooler destinations, clinging to a vacation tradition that has it roots in ancient Roman times. A tradition that is slowly fading as Italy is forced to become more competitive and fewer Italians can afford the luxury of vacations and time off from work.
While the tourist trade never sleeps in Florence, in my little world, nearly everything is closed and I am the only tenant left in my building. I've learned that anything you need in August, you better buy in July. As I gaze out my window, my neighbors' shutters are closed, there are no clothes hanging on the lines and my plants are almost dead from the heat. An eerie solitude hovers over my empty courtyard at night.
But I too, am clinging to my own "tradition" of heading south after the panic has ended, to enjoy uncrowded beaches, no traffic, no lines and better service. I've again chosen to remain in my beloved Florence, even when the going gets tough. For more reasons than one.
I love this city even in its heat and its silence. The roads are empty. I can spend mornings enjoying traffic-free bike rides in the northern hills and passeggiatas in the city. The duomo bells resonate with a richer tone and a deeper echo since there is nothing to absorb the sound. My girlfriends seem to be taking turns going away, so there's always someone here with whom to share an aperitivo on Florence's rooftops, overlooking a quiet and peaceful city. Or at Las Palmas, my favorite open-air niche. I've found a little oasis in the Cascine, where a local piscina allows me to run or ride in the morning and swim in the afternoon. In August, even the Duomo looks lonely, but it feels like it's all mine, as it stands silent against the backdrop of a naked city.
I spend more time indoors, doing things that I would typically find boring, but love it. Like watching cultural films on T.V., reading, writing, tending my plants and refining my goals for the rest of the year. And taking time to lay back, have a glass of wine, and enjoy il "dolce far niente".
Sunday, August 12, 2012
A Big Find in a Little Museum
The tour took us to Arezzo, Cortona and Castiglion Fiorentino, where we spent a short but concise amount of time in each of a few museums. I found it to be an effective way of avoiding "Stendhal Syndrome" because it was focused, clear and expertly guided by a passionate, animated scholar. Calling it a "tour" is a misnomer. It was rather a scholastic expedition among a group of well-heeled Florentine art afficionados.
The highlight of my day was the mind-blowing "gift" that I received at the end of the tour. While we were in "Collegiata e Museo della Pieve di San Giuliano" in Castiglion Fiorentino, my eyes caught sight of a painting that I knew from my distant past, but never knew where it came from, or who the artist was.
Pictured above, is the painting, "L'Adorazione" by Lorenzo de Credi. It was the very image from a holy card that I cherished as a kid for many years, and used as a bookmark. The image disappeared from my memory until I saw it today, connecting yet another link between my past and my present life that was simply meant to be in Florence.
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Coping with the Heat, Italian Style
These are my two most recent acquisitions, made by a local artisan. Now all I need are sandals to match.
In spite of their vulnerability to stiff necks and sore throats, the Italians are slowly surrendering to air-conditioners. Their tolerance to the heat is admirable. Today in 41 degree heat, I chuckled insidiously as I caught glimpse of a woman wearing short shorts, flip flops a see-though short top, and a heavy scarf frivolously wrapped three times around her throat.
However, for me, it is still a challenge to take a passeggiata in Florence without some creative way of keeping myself cool. A gelato cools the body, a bike creates a breeze, and so does a ventaglio. I never thought I would ever own a ventaglio (fan), no less a seriously fashionable one. But I just had to break down.
Ah.....living the Italian life has changed everything about me. And I love it.
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
A Spiritual Encounter with Dante
Following the series was akin to following some of the worlds' greatest events, like the Olympics or the Giro d'Italia. You don't want it to end, and when it does, you feel like something is missing. Last night, Benigni made his final presentation of Canto XXII, ending two weeks of profound, mind-boggling emotional entertainment.
Monday, August 6, 2012
My Apartment in Florence.....Moving On!
|View From My Living Room|
Florence can cook my brain and physically break me down as much in the summer as it can feed my brain and fulfill my soul the rest of the year. This season has been especially difficult for me to survive without air-conditioning. This has given me the incentive to search for another cooler, larger apartment in Centro.
Air conditioning is not really the reason why I am searching for a new place to live, but it has been the catalyst. The truth is that I have been living in the same apartment that I rented for 3 months when I came to study here.....4 years ago. My life has grown and now I want a long-term lease in a more residential palazzo, with an extra bedroom and bathroom.
|View From My Bedroom|
I must quickly reminisce! I found this apartment while I was planning to study in Florence for 3 months in 2008. It was advertised on Craigslist as the former art studio of artist Pietro Annigoni. Little did I know just what that meant! It featured an enormous, romantic bedroom with high chestnut-beamed ceilings, two walls of tall windows, a living room with a stunning view of the duomo, a fireplace kitchen and a terrace laced with jasmine and gardenias. In the bedroom where I sleep, Annigoni painted his portrait of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth! Yes, she sat in my bedroom!
Destiny, timing and instinct collided at once, leading me to my final doormat….this apartment in Florence.
During my 3 month stay, a series of successive miracles occurred, one after the other, begging me to stay. Life came together for me, and all of it happened from this special apartment, the home where I’ve spent my first 4 years living in Florence.
|My Front Door and One of my Bikes|
As if that was not enough, the greatest miracle of all was yet to come: After an unsuccessful attempt to find my grandparents’ naturalization papers (with no intent other than to proudly frame and hang them on my wall), I discovered to my utter shock that they (who immigrated to New York in 1909), never became American citizens. Discovering this exactly 100 years later in 2009, was an unmistakable act of God. This entitled me to be an Italian citizen “jure sanguinis”. My destiny: two passports, Florentine residency and a life in Italy that has allowed me to rediscover the “lost” traditions and comforts that I learned as a child growing up in a neighborhood of Italian immigrants who held strong to their Italian roots. My life in Italy was always meant to be, but it had to evolve.
But I am ready for a change, a larger space, to embark upon Chapter 2 of my life in Italy. The right place will appear as naturally and as certainly as this little piece of heaven appeared to me 4 years ago.
My Apartment Photo Album