Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Perfect Spot

Maybe the beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts isn’t considered a global escapade, but it has its cultural rituals to observe. The natives build temporary structures on the shore, each mapping out a territory. When choosing one’s territory, careful planning must be carried out. First one must find an empty piece of beach, suitable in size and smooth in texture. Nothing is worse than sitting on a piece of driftwood or pile of rotting seaweed. But size and texture are not the only criteria to be considered. Do the neighbors have, a. screaming children, b. blasting music, c. marital problems. While listening to a couple discuss how they live separate lives now, can be great materiel for a novel one is writing, it can also be a big downer. Once the perfect spot (not near the chattering lifeguards) has been found and claimed it is time to make camp. The blanket must be smooth, the chairs placed at strategic angles, as to discourage others from moving into the two foot by two foot square left next to you. The cooler must be placed in the shade and all reading materials laid out within reach. Once this is all achieved, the day at the beach begins. On occasion you may find that the couple next to you thinks it is funny to feed the seagulls, and has attracted a huge crowd of the vultures to your neck of the shore, but for the most part, if you have planned and prepared, your day should run smoothly. In Cape Cod, as well as other beaches on the eastern coast, the view from above must be spectacular, colored umbrellas, tents, and blankets, all creating a wild pattern on the sandy shore. In comparison, the beaches in Italy were all preplanned. Beach chairs with coordinating umbrellas were lined up in rows, one section of blue, one section of red, one section of green, and on and on down the shore. Simple, form, function and comfort. You are given what you need for your stay sulla spiaggia. In the US, it is a race for the spot, planning, and a hodgepodge of contraptions, coolers and beach tents. What does this all mean? Nothing, really, just another day, ruminating and packing for the beach. As long as I don’t forget my Cosmo Italia this time.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Coming Home

Usually when I am out of town I hit a point where I am ready to go home. This was not the case this time around. Yes I missed my friends, my family, my dogs and my boyfriend, but I was also beginning to become attached to a new landscape, a new language and the history that is Italy. Is it because one of my grandparents came from Milano? After all I am also attracted to Celtic art and believe I have some Irish blood in me as well. It has taken this week to become reaclimated to my home, the time difference, the different pace of living, the accents. I longed to say "grazie" to the store clerk at Cumberland Farms, and "scusi" came out of my mouth more than once. Italy is made up of music, the language, the stories, the harmony of the artwork, the opera. I was born in the U.S., love the trees, the lakes, the critters of the Berkshires, but also feel a connection to a new place now. This past semester I wrote a final paper on the concept of "home." Where is one's home? I wrote, "Home is a place of connection, of beauty, and of simplicity, the place where the birds flock to eat up all of the safflower seed before the bear decides he needs a snack. Home is what is left after the walls burn and the relationships die. Home today is the edge of Barbieri Pond." Now I don't know. Do we have a permanent place that we can call home or is the concept an ever changing idea? Non lo so.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Last Train to ???

Between trains, a whole world, nameless faceless people. The bathroom was up to a euro at this station, a marked increase from Padova’s .80! Inflation perhaps? Lessons learned on this trip. Make a schedule of where one wants to go before booking the plane. This way you will not have to backtrack to catch your flight. Check all train schedules before leaving to save on internet costs from your cell phone when you get stuck. And beware of a gorgeous Italian man trying to carry your bag for you. I guess offering to carry a bag means they can accompany you to your hotel! Don’t think so. The train station is a world in itself. In Roma there was a mini mall, complete with shoe store (ah, Italian shoes). Even the smaller stations, such as Assisi have restaurants and lounges. These in between places serve an important function in society, and sometimes can be scary and overwhelming. Until I know exactly where my train will come in and where the car I am assigned to will stop, I am nervous. I am also between school and an internship. Next Monday I will begin as a teacher’s aide at an art school. The transition period is necessary though, to gather energy, change gears and understand exactly where I will be going. This week I plan to continue writing my novel, in which the first scene took place on a train, with a woman going to a place of uncertainty. Today I have a little more clarity about which direction I wish to head. Back to Italy, yes, Sicilia, Toscana, Umbria and of course, back to Caorle. On this trip I gained another home, another destination that I can head back to. What happens in between is still a mystery.


They say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Well, big lesson #1. When traveling, pack very light, and don’t buy up entire bookstores. They will stay in business without you. My last class was today, and I left my safe little Hotel Fabris for distant shores, or rather Assisi, which is a bus ride and two trains away. Train stations in Italy do not have elevators, or, if they do they are invisible. Since I have finished my journey, I have my entire set of luggage with me, all 2,000 pounds of it. From the hotel, a ¼ mile jaunt to the bus. From the bus stop to the train station, down a flight of stairs, up a flight of stairs and into the train, where I lift said 2,000 pounds onto a luggage rack. I will be stacked when I get onto the plane for home. But I am heading for Assisi, where I will have a full day of prayer and meditation, with focus on gratitude for this amazing trip. I left behind my friends from the hotel who take care of me, fed me amazing food, and were very patient as I asked to take an afternoon instead of a walk and humored me while correcting my pronunciation. Thank you Thomas and Olsie, among others. So here I sit, in a beautiful air conditioned train, an hour respite before I begin a second set of bicep curls, tricep extensions and squats.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

San Francesco

Where does one find God? This question has been following me through Italy as I explore churches and sacred sites. Today I am in Assisi, at the basilica of Saint Francis, which is, to put it bluntly, the most beautiful place in the world. High vaulted painted ceilings (dark sky with stars), painted frescoes adorning the walls, marble floors, mosaics, and a lower chapel that houses his tomb. Sitting on a pew in this place I cannot help but be overwhelmed with awe, wonder and tears. Taking the train from the coast the landscape visually changes from flat to hilly, with little villages tucked up into these hills. From the basilica, the view is, well, it is unexplainable. I am speechless again. One has to walk uphill to get anywhere her, and maybe it is the physical exhersion that makes this a magical place, the sweat releases some kind of endorphin perhaps, or the heart is racing and forces joyful hallucinations. Whatever it is, the pictures don't do this area justice. I got in last night at around midnight, the churches were lit and a moon hung in the sky. Today, seeing for miles, on top of the world, I find God. In the basilica, where I can see art that people have been seeing for at least 800 years, I find God. I guess the answer to my question is everywhere. Leaving this place on Monday will be sad. I have been embraced and welcomed by this country's landscape and people. I will be returning as soon as I can, to a step back into history, to the hills, the sea, the music of the language and the sacred places that fill me with grace.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Hot-Looking Italian Goose

On why Italian geese are so attractive…

Just look at the photo and you will see. Why are Italian geese so much more attractive? Maybe because, being from the U.S, they are a novelty. Italian geese don’t leave messes at my door, or keep me awake during migration. I get to see them, take a photograph and continue along the way. Everything is new and fresh in a different country. But would it all get old after a while? I don’t know, I think I would like to find out. Usually when I am on vacation I start longing for home after a certain period of time. While I long for friends, family and furry critters, I am also feeling an impending sense of loss when I step on the plane to go home. The other day I grabbed a flyer for the area apartment rentals. Why, because I feel as if I am starting to form a bound with this place, this country, the people, the water, the land. And everything is attractive, eve the pigeons, the homeless man who sleeps on the beach, and the graffiti (although sad). What does all this mean? Just that I simply like the goose, the goose we all thought was a cat for a brief moment in time. And maybe that says it all, the cat, the land could just be a creature that leaves at some point. I just don’t think that point will come anytime soon.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Verona is For Lovers

Entering the alley that leads to the balcony where Juliet called down to Romeo, surrounded by mobs of people carrying dangerous weapon (umbrellas) we entered into the world of Verona. This cute little town is home to many different architectural styles and a Medieval Art museum/castle, where you can see pictures of Jesus in the same room as a painting of a man’s head on a platter. Gotta love that time period. But I do enjoy the devotional art and have decided that I am officially a fresco girl. That is fresco, not fresco. I know this because I have succeeded in photographing so many frescoes that I could open my own shop. No geese here, but the cobblestone historical center made up for the lack. I see no reason, other than the influx of zillions of tourists, for Romeo and Juliet to have to die. After all, there are numerous shoe stores and plenty of gelato (price is up to 1.50 here!) Verona is for lovers, Romeo and Juliet lovers, people looking for love and lovers of historical architecture and art.