un’altro lezione di voce, San Valentino, e Venezia…

This week has absolutely flown by… it was overall a very busy week, but I can’t believe it’s over already! Time here flies. It’s insane. In a few minutes I’ll start packing for Venice. Let’s see… well, the night after the loud-neighbor entry, I thought surely they’d be quiet for a night, and they were, but a dog sat beneath my window and barked until about 2 am, which was funny in that not-so-funny way. So I dragged my matress in the kitchen and slept there. Great.

That is how my Valentine’s Day started, in the kitchen… as I got my things together for school and voice lessons, I realized I couldn’t find my wallet so I got nice and panicky for a couple hours. After a few very confusing conversations with various store owners, a bus ride to Carmen’s for my voice lesson, and three Saint Anthony chants (Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony please come around, something has been lost that cannot be found), it turned up where else, but in my book bag. Fabulous. Anyway, the bus ride was fine, fortunately, and the climb up the mountain to Carmen’s was, if nothing else, not rainy. We had a wonderful hour and a half together. We worked hard and she gave me a few new arias to work on, not easy ones either. It’s going really well. She is amazing. I love more than anything when she points to her photos on the wall and says, “Questo! Io!” As in, this is me singing this part. I adore it.

The day turned up from there. Anna and I had an appointment at Ranieri with the curator, Claudia (in Italy, that name is common and is pronounced “klow-dya” which is beautiful). She gave us a much more extensive history of the family, the museum and library, and its pieces… it was great. Also, since it is still a private establishment, we have the whole thing to ourselves when we want to just sit and work, and we are also allowed to go there anytime we want since we work for them. It’s really wonderful. I adore the opportunity. After Ranieri, we got some Valentine’s Day gelato (well, just gelato, in honor of Valentine’s Day) and then upon going to Practicum discovered that Anna’s boyfriend had sent her brownies through Sweet Perugia. This is a company in which our family and friends can order things like American brownies, cookies, and cakes to be made for us because one of the faculty members here special orders those things.. it’s a smart little business and if you think I need some cookies or brownies or cake, you just hop on over to http://www.sweetperugia.com and I will not complain. 🙂 Haha! We only spent a few minutes in practicum talking to our professor about our project plans and a few interviews we will conduct with the Bourbon di Sorbello/Ranieri families… yes, the Bourbons as in THE Bourbons… amazing. Every new thing I learn about this family, I just about fall over.

Anyway, there was a Valentine’s Day TANDEM which is basically a little chat mixer organized by our school where Italian students come and practice their English on us and we practice our Italian on them, but mostly there was free bread and nutella, hot chocolate, and Baci. And Italian boys. It was fun, and after that, we decided that nothing would end the day better than some Italian Chinese food. Let me tell you, ordering Chinese food in Italian is an interesting affair, but it is quite good. Anyway, this has not been the healthiest of weeks, and after I return from Venice, things must change!

So tomorrow morning we are heading to Venice for the famous tradition of Carnivale, which has been going on for almost a week already and ends on Martedi Grassi (Fat Tuesday). I’m only staying for one night, but it should be a wonderful (and probably crazy) time.

Anna and I are taking a Eurostar train at 8:45 tomorrow morning and it lasts about 6 hours… not too bad, really. Originally we planned on stopping in Verona but changed our minds. So, Venezia, andiamo!

I’m sure there will be pictures… hopefully there will be no bad situations. Some friends of ours went last weekend and were mugged and then later on, saw the guy, chased him down, and had to beat him up (in their own defense) because he pulled a knife on them… so now they have to go back this weekend to testify. I feel bad for them. So we are a bit apprehensive but we will be very careful!

Love you all. 🙂

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Here Comes the Sun, doo doo doo doo

Well, last night, the neighbors weren’t exactly quiet but fortunately (or unfortunately), it was raining so extremely hard that I couldn’t hear them. Our outside shutters weren’t closed yet when it started raining, but it was pouring so hard that I couldn’t even consider opening the windows to close the shutters, so they banged and banged… I was impressed that no water got inside, but there were little hail pellets on my windowsill when it finally calmed down enough to close the shutters. If you’ve seen Under the Tuscan Sun, the storm in it is no exaggeration… weather patterns here seem to be anything but mild. This morning, we got up and as per usual donned our sweaters, scarves, gloves, heavy coats… but walked outside to an almost-balmy morning. As the day progressed it got even warmer, and after ballet I walked home with my coat in hand and wished I wasn’t wearing tights and leggings under my skirt and tall boots. Anyway, I am sure it wasn’t actually that warm, per se, but the wind ceased for once, the sun came out, and I didn’t feel like my fingers would freeze off at any moment.

Tomorrow morning I will once again brave the Perugian APM bus #87 to the San Marco district to see Signora Carmen Gonzalez for voice lessons… this time, without Anna. I’m a little nervous, so I’m hopping in bed earlier than usual (although it’s hard to get much earlier than 10:30) to ensure proper vocal rest.

I’ve been taking it easy this afternoon on account of some more dizziness and vertigo, simply the remains of pneumonia lingering around… I watched a few of the first episodes of That 70s Show and giggled, remembering watching them with my daddy several years ago and laughing so hard together. It’s a funny show.

I also found out today that for my first weekend of spring break in Barcelona, some of my music theatre Elon friends are going to meet up with me! They are studying in Madrid, so I am so extraordinarily excited to see them. Seriously, almost cried! Also, high school boyfriend Daniel will be in Italy at the end of April for a wedding and I will definitely get to see him, as well, which is equally enthralling.

Anyway… I’m off! Buona Notte!!!

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Italian Noises

My neighbors are loud all the time and because we have brick walls covered in plaster (where it is still in tact), banging on the walls does almost no good, yet, amazingly, I still hear every word they say. However, I know this is difficult to fathom but I cannot for the life of me figure out which door is theirs, or if they are even in my building, in order to bang on the door to say “PER FAVORE! Potete non essere MOLTO MOLTO FORTE TUTTO IL GIORNO E TUTTA LA SERA E TUTTA LA NOTTE?!?!?!” which means please, can you not be so, so loud all the day and all the evening and all the night?!

I think actually right now they are arguing. Which is not surprising. I hear the girl yelling, throwing (yes throwing) things, and the occasional frustrated scream. Every now and then the man gets a word in.

They have a love-hate relationship, and trust me when I say, we hear all, ALL of both sides… so much for privacy?!

Geez, now she is crying. It never ends. *sigh*

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Observations…

I know I write a lot about what I’ve been doing, but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg in a lot of ways. The motions we go through on a daily basis are really just that– motions. I’m trying to make observations about how I’m changing, but that’s not an easy thing to do when you are the one doing the changing. I already know that I’ve changed in some big ways but I can’t put a finger on how yet. There are definitely things that strike me as interesting. Sometimes I think that I was completely unprepared for what this semester was going to be like. I was so extremely caught up in packing, saying goodbyes, and filling out forms that I did almost no mental preparation for what it was going to be like– literally removing oneself from all comforts, all vices, all loves is not an easy thing to do, and instead of dwelling on this while here, I am trying to observe my own reaction to this and adjust accordingly. It definitely brings up interesting points. I start to miss things that I never thought I’d miss. I know I’ve said this already but it is amazing what leaving behind the comforts of home can do. Now, I know I’m just gone for a semester, and I know it’s flying by already, but you have to understand what it feels like to be so far away from home. It’s such a bittersweet experience.

It’s funny. When I think of myself at home, I think of my little lavender office and I think of sitting in my desk chair and twisting back and forth, staring out the window and watching thunderstorms come in over our little field outside and thinking what’s beyond it, what’s beyond Gibsonville, Burlington, North Carolina, America… thinking how I know I’m meant for “more than this,” how “out there,” there is so much noise and action and I’m just here in my office, thinking about it. I think of driving a little too fast down the almost-too-familiar Neelley Road towards mommy and daddy’s house, my childhood home, taking a deep, satisfying breath if I get lucky and come home the week the wisteria is flourishing in the summertime or the time in the fall when the trees are on fire… pulling into the driveway and hugging Daphne and Delilah, the ever-faithful puppies… summer dinners in the garden battling bugs and wondering if the sun is ever going to set, winter vegetarian chili in front of the fireplace and hoping it snows but of course it never does… and then going back to the townhouse and once again thinking, “I’m meant for bigger places.”

So, here I am, in bigger places, doing bigger things, and I find myself thinking so often of home and wondering exactly where life sits… is it in the adventures or the comforts, or somewhere in between? Is it in the details or the big lessons? And if it is in the moral of the story, how come the moral always takes so many years to really grow and blossom until it’s so far in the past that it has become a natural part of life? We are a very goal-oriented race, often ignoring the journey, and I find myself living it so vividly here that it is a very new experience.

Why do we always want to be somewhere else? Or why, more specifically, do I?

This morning I woke up and put on my tennis shoes and decided to go on a long walk. I walked through the center of the city, past the accordion player, the little old men with their bushy white eyebrows and bright blue eyes, the women in their furs, and just kept going down, down, down and found myself at the walking track which is on flat ground (very exciting). Of course, the gate was closed but I sat on the wide marble bleachers for a long time and just breathed. Off the top of the mountain, it was several degrees warmer and sunnier. It was such a safe place. Of course, as soon as I left, I was followed by one of the sketchy guys for awhile until I took off into a jog (which worked because I was wearing workout clothes anyway) and it was such an odd, extreme few minutes of feeling completely safe and then very vulnerable until I got back to the center. The thing is, I was never in an unsafe place, or even an isolated place… there are just weird people everywhere here.

Anyway, don’t get me wrong… this place, so far away and so beautiful, is slowly becoming not so far away, not so unfamiliar. It’s becoming comfortable.

Yesterday, Anna and I decided that getting out of Perugia for the day would be a good idea. So we hopped on the first train to Assisi, which is about 20 minutes from Perugia. Once there, we found the first bus up the hill and wandered around for the afternoon. The cathedrals there were so stunning. There is a line in one of my favorite songs that says, “In the cathedrals of New York and Rome, there is a feeling that you should just go home and spend a lifetime finding out just what that is.” I never really understood this until I got here… the smaller cathedrals are my favorite. They are so sacred and suddenly you understand why the little old ladies are there that kneel in the pews rolling their rosaries over their knuckles with their heads bowed … they feel it. They feel something in there that I feel too, and I don’t know what it is. I’m not excessively religious, and I’m definitely not Catholic, but these places bring a solitude to your soul that you know you could never find anywhere else. In the first cathedral we went into, I lit a prayer candle for my sister’s birthday, and one for my family. We also went in the Saint Francis basilica, which is enormous. We saw a mass being performed, and I must say, this place didn’t do it for me as much. It was too big, it felt a big oppressive. It was beautiful, but less personal. And then, of course, we sat in a gelateria and giggled and said what we’ve said every time we’ve done this– “No, really, this time, this is the best gelato we’ve had.”

Anyway, just thought I’d throw those thoughts out there. It’s yet another cloudy day here in Perugia, but fortunately I have a lot of homework to do. Also, there is a cafe very close to here that has a piano in it and I might ask if I can play it. There’s never anyone in there.

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!!! 🙂 Kisses to you all… miss you!

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Buona compleanna a tu…

Birthday celebrations were extensive this year. They began late Wednesday night at La Tana dell’Orso, a pub close to our apartment near the Etruscan arch. It was decided that mourning the last night of my 21st year was equally as important as celebrating the first night of my 22nd, so we went out. It was a lot of fun, the first night I had really been “out” since before I was sick… so, really since the first week we were here. At midnight, the entire place sang happy birthday and I got to blow out a candle, and I headed home a little before two, called home and chatted with daddy for awhile, and then went to bed.

Thursday started off, as per usual, at 7:30 in the AM for Italian, ballet, and our first meeting at the Ranieri Foundation, the private library/museum that I’m working for. We headed over to the library which is actually in the same piazza as the organic foods market, near my apartment sort of, and discovered that it is housed in a lovely palazzo- yes, palace- with marble staircases and columns galore. The library itself is only one floor of the palazzo so I didn’t get to see the whole thing, but it is a warm place filled with ancient books from floor to ceiling in many languages. The museum doors were opened to us, as well– since it is a private museum intended for scholarly research and requires appointment for admission, this was a treat. The museum’s displayed items consist mainly of the Ranieri/Sorbello family heirlooms: things like portraits, handmade playing cards, carved chess pieces, incredible lace and pillow tassels, carved busts, and a lot of beautiful porcelain things. What we didn’t see was the rest of the collection, which is in private storage but will eventually be shown to us– the heirloom jewels, tapestries, and more art. The palazzo itself was stunningly gorgeous, complete with the family’s original furniture, frescoed ceilings, fireplaces, etc. After talking with the owners for awhile, Anna and I (and our new Dutch friend and partner Sytske) sat down and discussed our project, which is basically to create an English version of their Italian website from a “fresh” perspective, as they intend to open the library and museum to the public as a tourist site in the upcoming years. This will require some research on our part of their displays, books, and archives. Basically we will be doing some cataloging of the pieces, research on which are the most notable, and a lot of writing for target audiences, creating the text and format of the website for the tech people to implement as we tell them. So anyway, it’s a really interesting project and I love that I get to be a part of their history. I feel like I get to leave my mark on this city in a tangible way and that really warms my heart!

After Ranieri, Anna and I decided it was absolutely necessary to stop by Sandri, a gorgeous pasticceria that only recently opened its doors for the season (it is closed for all of January until Festa di San Lorenzo). It is on the big road in the very center of the city, Corso Vanucci, and we are in love with it. Its front windows always have the most beautiful pastry displays, chocolate creations, and enormous tiramisus. Their tiramisu is undoubtedly the best in the city. Inside, the shelves and bar are a heavy, dark mahogany. The walls are lined from about head level up with liquors and wines up to the ceiling. On the right, under the liquors and wines, is an entire wall of glass cabinets filled with petits-fours, chocolates, and candies, and on the other side is the bar with antique cash registers, brass caffe machines, and beyond that, more cabinets with freshly made pastries. Beyond the pastries is yet another case that usually contains a tavola calda– “hot table”– a much classier version of the American cafeteria set-up. You just ask for the pasta or meat or whatever it is you want. Also, they have things like sandwiches that they heat up for you, but my favorite is the line-up of pans filled with their tiramisu, which they cut for you according to how much you ask for. And above your head during all this are the most beautiful crystal chandeliers. Anyway, we limit our visits there because they are dangerous, but it was my birthday, and I wanted chocolate, so we got it. Haha!

I met up with my roommates on the walk home and we discussed our plans for the evening. We decided to eat dinner at a “secret” restaurant called L’Osteria dell Tempo Pranzo, the Osteria of Lost Time. We showered and dressed and several hours later, headed over there. This place is delightfully anonymous and not noticeable if you are not specifically looking for it. It is off of a side street, sort of in an alley, and its door is covered in wood with the restaurant name hand-scrawled in black cursive. Upon entrance, you find yourself in small room, about twice the size of my bedroom here, but two stories, with a staircase leading to a small loft. To your right is the kitchen, and at your feet is a fireplace burning hot. We were shown to our table (actually, she pointed and said, “this one”) and we sat and ordered a liter of wine, which was brought to us in a handmade ceramic pitcher, which we poured into handmade ceramic cups. There’s something very special and authentically Italian about drinking wine from clay cups. The service is remarkably slow, which is warned about on the menu, and foreshadowed in the name of the restaurant… lost time. Definitely. We got there around 8:30 and left a little after 11, and we didn’t even order all the courses– in fact, we left out 3 courses. We each started out with an antipasti of incredible bruschetta… I am consistently confused about bruschetta here. This time, it was a plate of two large pieces of crunchy bread piled high with soft, fresh, warm tomatoes and a touch of basil and olive oil. It was amazing. About forty-five minutes and another liter of wine later, we received our primi piatti. I ordered pennette with gorgonzola and it was simple and incredible. Pasta here is typically served “al dente,” or a bit harder than we would eat in the states. Some of the other girls ordered pennette with an interesting cream cheese and pumpkin, which was also amazing. Only one of my friends ordered a second course, which took about another hour to receive. We all ordered side dishes instead of the second course and decided to split them. A few of us ordered breaded, fried mozzarella which is nothing like the frozen cheese sticks you get in America at places like Applebees. These were small balls of mozzarella, hand-breaded and lightly fried in olive oil… they were so good! The roast potatoes were really roasted– they actually wrapped them in foil and put them IN the fireplace we saw when we first entered. Finally we were full and headed back to our apartment briefly… the girls said they wanted to brush their teeth so I followed along, delightfully tingly from the couple of cups of wine I’d had. As I brushed my teeth and chatted absentmindedly and loudly from my bedroom to the other girls in the kitchen, they called me in and had gotten me a beautiful cake!!! It was so gorgeous… layers of chocolate with thick, glossy icing and fresh fruit and pieces of thin white chocolate around the outside. I squealed a bit and then insisted we saved it for after our outing. They were so sweet to do that! So we headed over to Elfo’s Pub, a bar that is usually filled with Italians and usually has great music. Unfortunately, that night, there was an absolutely horrendous Italian band playing American music, and playing it terribly. I’m not being a snob here– they were just bad. But American songs get lots of applause here, no matter how poorly performed. Anyway, Michele and Umberto (some of our Italian friends) showed up and we decided we couldn’t handle the music, so we headed to La Tana where our gypsy music friends were playing. Here we met a few of Umberto’s friends, Lorenzo and Gabriel, who are sweet Perugians that discussed American and Italian stereotypes for awhile with me. After being at La Tana until a little after 2, we headed back to our apartment for cake and finally went to bed a little after four.

It was a delightful birthday, and yesterday morning I got up to have my eyebrows waxed, walked through the rain, and promptly went back to bed when I returned and slept til about three in the afternoon. For dinner we went to our favorite pizza place, Etruschetta, for a meter of pizza and wine, came home, and went to bed again.

Today is a mystery thus far; we want to get out of Perugia but finding a place without rain is going to be a challenge. So, we shall see…

Happy birthday to my dearest and greatest friend, my sister… I love you so much and I miss you so much and I’m thinking of you constantly!!!

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Miscellaneous banter.

First of all! Pictures from Firenze! Finally!!! Just click here.

This week has flown by already… Sunday was a great day. I woke up and the sky was that most beautiful Italian blue that only skies here can have. I literally almost leapt out of bed to throw open the shutters; I even opened the windows! However, I was fooled… for some reason, the air didn’t feel too chilly. I was so grateful for an almost warm day that I didn’t put on an extremely warm sweater. The first Sunday of every month here is the organic foods market in one of the piazzas behind the duomo. As soon as I left my building though, I realized the blue skies and lack of chill up here on the whatever-floor-we-are-on were lies… it was cold and windy, as per usual… the air here is very damp and just in general usually feels like a cold headache, after you eat ice cream too fast. In addition, Perugia is very compact here in the city center. I guess that’s part of its charm; it’s just a very well-preserved medieval town, and we are fortunate to have apartments in the center (as I learned yesterday… but that’s another story). Anyway, its compactness, in addition to its chilly, stone composition contribute to a general chill that right now is a bit oppressive; spring needs to come soon. I’m off track though– the organic foods market. I’ve been so excited about it ever since we got here… it was wonderful! Booth after booth of homemade marmalades, spreads, pastes (black truffles are an incredible delicacy in the world that happen to be grown in Umbria… they cost over 1000 euro per kilo, and you can buy them in paste form), cheeses, produce, handmade items… it was wonderful. So I bought some bread and produce (I bought 2 kilos of oranges and have already eaten ALL of them) and some little things for my family. It was just fun to walk around… I can’t wait til it gets warm out for this market. So it was wonderful. Because Perugia has several thousand students and in general is a fairly liberal and leftist town, there are a lot of hippies and health gurus that really go for the organics and what not… Perugia is such an odd mix of people.

What else is going on this week… well, Monday was cool, we got in the dark room in photography class and learned printing… so now we pretty much have free reign of it. I really enjoy it… it’s such a nice mix of art and science… it can be frustrating but really cool. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to learn. My pictures are turning out really great so far so I’m excited to get better.

Yesterday was a crazy busy day… in addition to my normal classes, I also had my first voice lesson and we had an extra practicum class to learn about politics in Italy (which, by the way, are extraordinarily confusing– since their liberation, they’ve had over 50 governments since the mid 1900s… eeeek). So we were supposed to go to this restaurant that is genuine Umbrian food but we didn’t, so we went to free pizza night instead.

But my voice lesson is the important part. Carmen Gonzalez, my voice teacher by reference while in Italy, has sung at the Met, La Scala, etc… she is incredible. She is your classic ex-diva. Anna and I found the bus that went to San Marco, a district of Perugia, not at all close to here, actually out in the country a bit. Carmen does not speak a lot of English so finding her house was hard, and we felt like we had been dropped off in the middle of nowhere (which has sort of become the story of my life here)… finally from her broken English and our broken Italian over the phone we found her house, way up a hill on Strada dei Cappocini. Her house was gorgeous, complete with balconies, spiral staircases, tile floors, plaster walls, and a view to die for. Above her piano are many, many pictures of her in various operas when she was younger and goodness gracious, she was incredibly beautiful… black and white photographs of her in these amazing costumes with feathers and beads and headdresses… Anyway, the lesson was great… she is a wonderful teacher, just very different. I had been warned about this before I came here. Italian teachers are not careful with their words, they do not sugar coat things, they don’t blow smoke for no reason. At first I was a bit caught off guard by this; it’s a bit intimidating and you wonder if any moment she will just tell you to give up, until her eyes light up, she touches your cheek, and says “bravissima” quietly. (On a side note, my cheeks have been pinched by more Italians since I’ve been here… every day, they get pinched by Italian friends, strangers, baristas, butchers…– I guess Italian girls don’t have fat cheeks like me???) She also wouldn’t let me speak any English, so that was wonderful. I love her, and I really think she’ll teach me so much in the few months I’ll be here. When she gave compliments, I would say “Grazie” and she’d say, “Non, non grazie…” as in, “I’m not complimenting you, I’m telling you the truth” which is so interesting. She said it’s very interesting for her, as well, to hear our voices and listen to us tell her the way we learn in America. There are definitely some differences, but it’s great to get so many opinions… confusing, but good. Of course, singers here are trained for classical only, no music theatre… so somehow I’m going to need to figure out how to retain a music theatre sound while learning her way, and return to an improved old way when I get home… eesh!

Today there’s not a lot to tell… I finally found a Frutta e Vedura place that has spinach and I bought a kilo… which is a grocery bag stuffed with fresh spinach. I’m so excited!!! I will absolutely eat all of it… the place is owned by the cutest little old people. And then I finally also found ground beef (this is sort of rare here) in another frutta e vedura place near my apartment, so I’ll have my first red meat meal for lunch or dinner. Tonight we are going to a bar called La Tana because at midnight, I’m mourning the end of my 21st year… I’m turning 22 tomorrow which to me seems kind of gross! What else is there to look forward to, other than renting a car… and here, I can rent a car at any age, so it’s not that great (not that I want to, or know how to drive a stick shift, or care to drive alongside the ridiculous Italians). So tomorrow, we’re not sure what our plans are yet but I’m sure I will recount them in here at some point.

I’m also going to do laundry today which is a terrifying affair; sketchy Senegalese and Albanian and Italian people leering at you and asking for change and asking what language you speak. The little Italian lady that owns the place is hilarious though.

By the way (actually, totally random), grapes here are amazing, and huge! I can’t stop eating them!!! I guess better grapes than gelato, though, right?

If you want to talk to me for free, download Skype (www.skype.com) but you have to have a microphone. Okay? Bene bene bene… Voi amo! (And happy early birthday, sissy)

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Statues and Stories

Well! I just got home from Firenze… wow. We only spent one night there but don’t worry, we got a lot done, although we did not do the typical Florentine weekend.

So, let’s see… from the beginning, as per usual… there were no bus or train problems this time, thank goodness. We got into Firenze around 11:00, and finding the bus to the street our hostel was supposedly on was not easy. But we found it, after a lot of walking… fortunately, my Italian has gotten good enough to find out where things are and understand the response, so the bus driver let us off where we needed to be. We found the hostel, but actually, it was just the office. Giovane, the owner, spoke no English, but fortunately, somehow, I was able to chatter along with him as he walked us to our “room.” I was so focused on chatting that I didn’t even realize that where he was walking us to was the center of the historical district. He unlocked a door and we started walking up the stairs in a nice building, and I kept wondering if he was in the right place… but we came to the top and he walked us into a beautiful, spacious, sun-filled apartment that was clean, and had a bathroom with a shower with a DOOR, and MIRRORS! This, by the way, was the first time I’d seen a full-lenth mirror since I’ve been here… anyway, so we go into our bedroom and look out the window, and what’s outside? THE DUOMO. I could have thrown a baseball and hit it. Well, maybe not me, as stellar of a baseball player as I am… but someone who actually is somewhat experienced with a throw-able object could definitely hit it. Amazing. 20 Euro a night. Giovane was sweet; a bit on the flirtatious side but almost in a fatherly way… he hugged me and wouldn’t quite let go when he left us there. Kind of weird, but… whatever. He was nice. And he gave us a beautiful, cheap room. And don’t worry, no credit card problems- they only take cash.

Moving on… we dropped our stuff off and walked about a block and found the doctor’s office. Dr. Kerr, a British man married to a Florentine woman, was very kind and obviously brilliant, but took one look at my symptoms and called up a neurologist friend of his, who said he would see me that afternoon. Anna and I found a bus and took it way out of the city to the hospital, where, through a lot of question-asking, we found him, and he did some basic tests and then said he thought I was homesick, and asked me if I wanted to go home, to which I gave him a somewhat disgusted look and said, “Uh, no…” and then he mentioned that my blood tests indicated a bit of anemia. Which could explain all of my symptoms. Duh.

So he gave me a creatine supplement to help me get stronger, and today I actually felt better than the whole time I’ve been here. He said I need to start eating meat again. Great. So anyway, after the doctor, we found our way back to the city and walked around a bit, shopped, got dinner, and by that time, we were exhausted.

This morning, we got up early and got a latte and croissant and found the market in San Lorenzo. Wow. I loved it. So much to look at, and buy… I got a cute black peacoat for pretty cheap, and bought some gifts for people who have birthdays soon (that being my sister), and then we continued on to the Ponte Vecchio. It was beautiful, and so was the River Arno, but it wasn’t as stunning as I thought it’d be. I don’t know. The history is neat, and the fact that it is the only bridge in Firenze that Hitler spared is interesting. The view from the Ponte Vecchio is gorgeous though. Anyway, as soon as you cross it, it is much calmer… we found a sidewalk cafe and had a good lunch, if a bit overpriced, beside the Palazza Pitti museum. I didn’t know what to expect in this museum; we just wanted to go to the costume gallery, mostly.

So we go in and we see that there are some gardens, and we’re trying to use up some film for photography class, so we decide to head up and see them because they’re probably cool. Well. Oh. My. Gosh. This was my favorite part of Firenze… in fact, it was my favorite part of ITALY. I cannot WAIT to return here with my family and even spend an afternoon maybe. These gardens just went on and on… they were exactly what you think of when you think old, old Italian wealth… palatially enormous, green, marble stairs and statues that are so artfully dirty that the dark streaks on them could easily be their very tears… and they just kept getting better. Just when you think you couldn’t possibly go any higher, you climb another set of steps and find yourself in a new courtyard. Finally we come up to the highest point and my eyes filled right up. We were on the edge of the world.

Tuscany in all its glory was in front of me. The green, rolling hills; the hauntingly secretive cyprus trees; a few well-kept manors and castles with smoking chimneys… it was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen since I’ve been here. It was hard to leave. I will go back. I cannot wait. And I cannot wait to see my mom and dad and Liz and Grant see this place. I thought of them the whole time… it just… gosh. I can’t even describe it. I have some pictures, they don’t do it justice.

Anyway, finally we found the costume gallery (no easy task– the palazzo has 6 or 7 different museums IN it)… this was incredible. There were original, real Medici family clothing items… granted, they were very deteriorated but they gave an excellent ideal of medieval clothing. Incredible. And it was just room after room of the most exquisite dresses, worn by exquisite people. It was hard to take in.

We had to tear ourselves away and headed back to the city center. No, we didn’t see the David (I want to do that with my family) or the Accademia or the Uffitzi… we had a unique trip that I wouldn’t trade for anything, although I do plan on going back and seeing a lot more things. However, I left out something cool that happened last night. We were walking home and saw this church with open doors… no famous church, just a pretty one, and we heard music. It was quite dark inside but we wandered in anyway. There were a few people praying, but mostly there was just this incredible organ player and this wonderfully warm candle light. There was a donation jar for the organ; I think they wanted to restore it. And even though I’m not an excessively religious person, and I’m certainly not Catholic, this church just affected me. I can’t really put it into words, but I know I will never forget it. What is it about the churches and Cathedrals here? Why can’t I walk into a church in America and get that feeling? There is something so historical, so honest about them here, it is almost tangible. You can almost inhale spirituality. In fact, in Italian, the word “spirate” means “breath.” Isn’t that interesting?

Anyway, this is totally cheesy, but the show The Light in the Piazza is based in Florence and is about a girl from Winston Salem, NC… anyway, check it out if you never have before. The rest of this entry is the lyrics of two of the songs in it that really capture the way I’ve felt since being here… and particularly in Florence.

THE BEAUTY IS

These are very popular, in Italy.
It’s the land of naked marble boys.
Something we don’t see a lot in Winston-Salem,
That’s the land of corduroys.

I’m just a someone in an old museum.
Far away from home as someone can go.
And the beauty is I still meet people I know.
Hello.

This is wanting something, this is reaching for it,
This is wishing that a moment would arrive.
This is taking chances, this is almost touching, what the beauty is.
I don’t understand a word they’re saying,
I’m as different here as different can be.
But the beauty is I still meet people like me.

Everyone’s a mother here, in Italy.
Everyone’s a father, or a son.
I think if I had a child, I would take such care of her.
Then I wouldn’t feel like one.

I’ve hardly met a single soul, but I am not alone.
I feel grown.
This is wanting something, this praying for it,
This is holding breath and keeping fingers crossed.
This is counting blessings, this is wondering when I’ll see that boy again.
I’ve got a feeling he’s just a someone, too.
And the beauty is, when you realize, when you realize,
Someone could be looking for a someone like you.

THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA

I don’t see a miracle shining from the sky
I’m no good at statues and stories
I try

That’s not what I think about
That’s not what I see
I know what the sunlight can be

The Light, the Light in the Piazza

Tiny sweet
And then it grows
And then it fills the air
Who knows what you call it?
I don’t care
Out of somewhere I have something I have never had
And sad is happy
That’s all I see

The Light in the Piazza
The Light in the Piazza

It’s rushing up
It’s pouring out
It’s flying through the air
All through the air
Who knows what you call it?
But it’s there
It is there

All I see is
All I want is tearing from inside
I see it
Now I see it everywhere
It’s everywhere
It’s everything and everywhere

Fabrizio
The Light in the Piazza

My Love

Okay, well, even if you just scrolled down and didn’t read them, they’re there for you to appreciate if you want. We ate our share of gelato in various piazzas… it was warm and beautiful and we couldn’t resist. Tomorrow here in Perugia is the organic foods market and I am officially on a diet!!! Haha, if I weren’t walking so much I would have gained about 15 pounds. Also, now that I’m well, I can go to the swimming pool here to stay in shape. Yes, I climb hills all day every day, but you can’t run here… it’s just impossible, you’d get hit by a car inevitably, or break your ankle on a cobblestone. So, pool it is.

Well, I’m off to bed… I will get some pictures added online tomorrow and throw a link in here. Look for it!!! Thanks for keeping up with me. Please shoot me emails (nataliekstephens@gmail.com, nataboo9@aol.com, nstephens@elon.edu)… no matter who you are, I’d love to hear from you!!! Miss you all so much. Love you, buona notte.

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