Monday, December 29, 2008
Christmastime in Napoli is something special...the presepi, the outdoor music, festivals, the lights, the fireworks...the profumo of cibo everywhere, the parades, the rituals, the masses., the sfougliatelli! All of Napoli comes out for days before and after Christmas to delight in the passion that swallows up this city of diverse contrasts.
Giancarlo, along with his mom and friends, welcomed me with open arms. Together we took in several museums, the underground excavations, numerous churches and castellos, as well as having dined with his mamma, whose food was something out of my grandmother's kitchen....brasiole, panzerotti, carcofi, melanzane, meatballs and.....her true work of art.....struffoli! On the second night we dined with his friends...4 couples with whom I made an instant connection. The next day, we visited his beach house in Pozzuoli and had mussels and wine on the sand before dropping me off at the ferry which I would then take to Ischia....where I would spend my Christmas with Maria, Franco, Celeste and William.
Christmas in Ischia
As Giancarlo saw me off at Pozzuoli, I boarded the ferry to Cassamicola, Ischia, where Maria was to meet me. I spent the hour ferry ride re-living every moment of that day last September when I first traveled to Ischia in search of my great-grandparents' birthplace and birth records. Ischia has drawn me back to its shores, to its sea, to its people. I was on my way back again to Ischia to celebrate the festivities with the family of Maria, who I met in Lacco Ameno during my search last September.
To Be Continued (just haven't had time to write)
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Much of the conversation tonight focused on the squad's program for 2009, including an organized trip to climb the Ghisallo in early May, as well as trips together to follow several of the stages of this year's Giro d'Italia.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
After eating more pasta than I deserved, I wondered how a country that is so good for my soul could be so bad for my body. I'm sadly out-of-shape and anxiously await the opportunity to ride in San Clemente.
I also received today, a note from Debbie Myers, with photos of the OCW girls making quilts together, in anticipation of Christmas. It was sweet, and made me miss some very special people.
This will be a very new and different Christmas for me. The streets are filled with a wonderful Christmas feeling, which is actually complemented by the cold weather.
I will be back in San Clemente exactly one month from today.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
I've pondered the why's and have come up with a few theories, including the fact that this culture doesn’t see the point in unnecessary pain and sweat, and they don’t like to be controlled by machines. It threatens their freedom of expression, and forces them to restrict the movement of their hands. Asking an Italian to keep his hands on the bars of a machine for ½ hour is like asking an American to put a gag in his mouth.
The Palestra is a quiet, empty place that nobody goes to. It’s always empty, with a little old man sitting behind a counter, reading or talking to a neighbor, passing the time away. But today, I discovered a little palestra, hidden in a back alley that nobody knows about except the shop keepers, less than 100 meters from my apartment.
Party time. The music goes on and the room is transformed into some combination of a 1970's Jane Fonda/Richard Simmons aerobics class....but with a passionate Italian energy that is contagious. I actually had fun, and eventually broke a sweat. When we got down for the floor exercises I was amazed at the sounds, the dramatic grunts of pain, the panting, the superlative expressions of exhaustion, the tears, the groans and sighs. We in America would never let our guard down. We swallow the pain and keep a straight face. But here, no feeling is ever hidden. If they feel pain, they express it, they exaggerate it, they dramatize it. The very essence of the Italian spirit that I've been yearning to reincorporate into my life.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Then I met my conversation buddy Filippo and Ksenia, his girlfriend who is visiting him from Russia for the holidays... for pranzo over an animated conversation in a Tuscan trattoria in centro. Ksenia has been offered a one year internship to work for HSBC's London based Private Banking division and the discussion revolved around the the all-too-common female struggle between deciding whether to follow one's career dreams or to settle down with the man she loves....and is there a balance? Can you do both, without sacrificing these sometimes conflicting values? I could feel the struggle they are facing in their new relationship and felt like a counselor, telling my story and hoping that they could get some value from it. My realtionship with Filippo is evolving into a friendship to be treasured...I am truly finding some special people here. I feel blessed.
Then I walked to the government office of the Comune di Firenze, to pick up a very important document...my "Codice Fiscale"... that I've been waiting to receive for 10 weeks! This document is the Italian equivalent of a Social Security Number. I am finally "official" here!
Then I returned to my apartment to cope with a clogged drain in the bathroom which innundated the bathroom with a flood of water. I am definitely "adjusting" to the "system", and getting used to the nuanaces of living in a 600 year old building!
Finally, this evening, I went out with a new friend, for opening night at "Quantobasta", http://www.quantobasta.eu/ where I danced all night and enjoyed with tremendous gusto and passion, the people, the food, the ambience, and the feeling of being a part of this culture.
My experience living in Italy has been another step towards self-discovery and actualization. I arrived in Firenze 3 months ago. Besides Cynthia, I didn't know anyone or how anything works here. I was afraid of making this dream come true...some dreams are meant to be dreams....why take the risk of letting your bubble burst? From the moment I arrived, it all seemed so natural.. Tonight I realized how far I've come. And how well I'm just melting into the culture. And how I never expected to meet so many wonderful people who want me to stay.
Friday, November 28, 2008
One week ago I discontinued going to school full time because I was overdosing from too much "grammar" and not enough practical conversation. So, instead, I increased my time with Lucia... who is now coming to my apartment on a daily basis for private lessons. Lucia is also something special...not only is she a great teacher, but she is also becoming a friend. I am very lucky.
It's really cold now, and it rained all day. There are times when I really struggle with feelings of missing my sister, friends and loved ones.... in California. Today was one of them. I don't want to lose them, but I don't want to give this up either. I just feel so "at home" here...so comfortable and natural. Florence is the perfect combination of city and country....it has so much to offer, yet it is compact and very manageable for a city. Italy has accepted me in a way that I didn't really expect. Especially being a woman, at my age....I didn't know if it would "click"....I considered it an experiment....but the experiment is feeling more like the road to a new life. I don't know how this will end....or if it will end...I only know that I am discovering many beautiful people and emotions and a spiritual peace that makes me sing.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Florence is only a train ride away from several of the proposed stages, including Lerici, Bologna, Padova and Milano, Benevento, Mount Vesuvius, Avellino and Napoli! What a great time to be living in Firenze!
Today's ride took us through Chianti, to Strada. The vineyards have turned bright gold...the weather is really starting to get cold. And most of my winter cycling clothes are in California?
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I still don't know how to say "shit happens" in Italian, but it's on my list.
Of course, things do go wrong. Statistically, they must. In spite of the fact that Italy is fitting me like a glove, or more like a silk stocking, I will tell you about 3 "shit happens" experiences that have occured to me since I've been here - and how the two big ones became miraculously resolved.
1. I've gone through four macchinettas already! Can't get used to making espresso on the stove. I walk away for a minute and the pot spits coffee all over the kitchen. This time I caught it just in time to avert another complete rubber handle melt-down. Resolution: Don't leave the room. They don't call it "espresso" for nothing.
2. A month ago, I lost my wallet. Credit cards, drivers license, cash. I filed a report at the Carabinieri, the American Embassy, and of course, had to order all new credit cards. Non problema. I can't believe how calm I was. I didn't get the least bit upset, a sure sign of old age. The people I told about it were more upset about it than I was. Resolution: My wallet was recently found on a train in Piombino and it was turned in to the Carabinieri on the island of Elba (How did it get there?? Non lo so.) Nothing was missing....not a Euro. The wallet was delivered to me today.
3. I had a bad experience at the local Palestra. They charged my bank 168 Euro for one session, instead of 12 Euro! I approached them twice calmy, eventually spoke to the owner, but they refused to reimburse me. Upon realizing that the owners were obsinate thieves, I just "let it go". Forget it. I have too much to do and can't waste my time polluting the positive energy that is all around me. Resolution: In a casual conversation with Filippo, (my conversation buddy who is a lawyer here in Florence) I told him about the experience. Filippo told me to give him my bank statement and receipt. He wrote a letter to the Palestra, and today, at our conversation meeting, Filippo surprised me with a reimbursement check from the owner.
Ok, so what does this mean? Che significa? How did these last 2 issues become resolved on the exact same day? It's the positive energy that's winning out for me here. And somebody's looking over my shoulder.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Tuscany in its bucolic and sophisticated elegance, feeds my thirsty intellect, yet it is Campania that intoxicates my soul, my senses, my instincts. It is Campania that sings to my roots, that provokes my sense of humor, that unleashes my passions. It is Campania to whose people and customs I relate. How do I merge this cerebral vs. sensual dichotomy? Does there exist a middle ground?
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
But Italy won't let me go right now. I want to experience Christmas in Italy......and so much more...but for now, I stay.
He was delighted..I was fortunate to find Niccola, this apartment, this situation, this opportunity. Nicola is one of many people and experiences that are, without provocation, validating my instinct to stay....at least for now. Before he left, Nicola invited me to dinner with his family and friends at his home in San Casciano the week after next. His good friend and opera critic, Cesare Orsini will also be there. This has to be a dream. Pinch, pinch.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Lucia comes to my apartment every Tuesday and Thursday to focus only on conversation. And I see Filippo every Wednesday and Friday. With all these resources, I should be speaking Italian very quickly....right?
Lucia just left my apartment, and some of our conversation revolved around the dynamics of aquiring a new language. I expressed my frustration of not acquiring the verbal skills as quickly as I want. "But Barbara", she said, "the Italian language is like wine....you must drink it slowly, or you get drunk. You must decant it, let it open up, expose it to the air and let it breathe. You must smell it...you must taste it little by little". She was suggesting that I am expecting too much, too soon, and that I need to slow down just a little bit. She was suggesting that I might be getting drunk.
The echo of the Duomo bells signaled that our session was already over. I think I will close my books for the night, and watch Il commissario Montalbano over a glass of wine.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Today I participated in my first "raduno", or charity ride, which took us to Montelupo........4,000 cyclists participated. No Gatorade or Powerbars here....but...bruschetta, pasta, pecorino, prosciutto and dolce at the post-ride festa, and a bottle of wine each to take home.
It doesn't get better than this. But with the way things are happening here for me, it will.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Sunday, October 5, 2008
This is opera the way I remember it as a child...in the local church with local performers and a small, intimate audience. However, this church is part of an old Medici Palace that was owned by Machiavelli and renovated in a neo-renaissance style. This week I saw a triple treat of Rigoletto, The Marriage of Figaro, and tonight, Tosca, with Charlene.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
As luck or destiny would have it, the day before I left for Florence, I received in the mail, Ciro's death certificate from.......... It was signed by my grandfather. Was it fortune or fate? The day before I leave for Florence I have just what I need to find the original documents.
As the ferry approaced Lacco Ameno, I could feel my eyes swelling up and at once they broke into a burst of tears. There in front of me, on that gorgeous little moon-shaped white beach, was Lacco Ameno. It is 2.30 in the afternoon, and the City Hall was closed, so I took a walk around the town and looked for a room. I found a very nice hotel just a few blocks from the beach and the town hall. And that would be my first stop in the morning.