Monday, July 17, 2006
missed that gig in the Imperial Forum
Rome -- worn stone, white marble monuments that crest like a wave of wedding cake, curbs made of the same exquisite stuff, creepy guys jerking off in the shadows, gorgeous rot flanked by smart style sitting within warm and generous plazas.
Every day exhausts us.
Friday, July 14, 2006
view of San Biagio
Viale della Rimembranza
We've been wandering the surrounding hillside. To the south side is the 'Tempio di San Biagio'. To get there, you must pass through a half-kilometer stretch of road with small headstones on either side, each by its own cedar, all from WWI. It's like a found monument: a well-used road and a sacred space.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
morning in "Monte-P"
I wake up and Bea is getting dressed before she goes to the Italian language class she takes every morning. It is a little early for her to go, I think. She is thinking about breakfast: the choices are a bit of cereal and melon here at home, or coffee and croissant in a cafe by the school.
“Maybe I'll just have a cappuccino and a pasta, like they do here.”
“A pasta?” ...I'm still waking up.
“A pasta?” she says, mocking my tone.
“PASTA? ... PASTA pasta?”
“Shut up” she says, because I am getting repetitive.
“But... we're talking about a croissant here, aren't we?”
“And they call it a PASTA?”
“But don't they call Pasta Pasta?”
“But why would they call a croissant a pasta?”
Bea gets up and waves her arm as she moves to the bathroom.
“Because it looks like a big pasta to them.”
Monday, July 10, 2006
watching the World Cup in Montepulciano
The World Cup final: half the town of Montepulciano gathers in one of the plazas around four tv's and a big projection screen to watch the match between France and Italy. Cars cannot pass. Kids yell frantically at the men who are adjusting the television antennas. The half of the crowd from Germany or the U.S. has nowhere to sit. The last goal is scored, the crowd explodes, and fireworks go off INSIDE the narrow stone streets. Then the honking begins. Men pee in convenient sewer gratings, young toughs leave skid marks in the Piazza Grande, and worried mothers bustle their children home. A band strikes up, although no one can say where it is because sound travels so well here.
Florence - tourists in the picture
We spent the day in Firenze (Florence). The centre of the city is gorgeous. Full of things only seen in books. It was overwhelming, visually – I needed to stop seeing by the mid-afternoon. Truly exhausting, however, was the constant fight through the crowds to get across town. I don't see line ups for concerts like the one to get into the Duomo cathedral or the Uffizzi gallery. Legions of tourists. I can't believe that people actually live here and put up with this. I started taking pictures of people getting between me and the fabulous vistas and the famous art. Pictures of people taking pictures. It was easier than getting a good view of anything.
It made me think that perhaps Centro Historico of Firenze, with its touristy markets, jewelry shops, hotels, and cafes, is living in its own past, and is effectively a dead city. People can't live in the kind of spaces we passed through. It's a tomb, a very busy and inspiring tomb, in which nothing new will grow.
It's good to travel with Bea. Most grand pieces of culture and architecture don't impress her. She enjoyed the city, but a good meal satisfies her better – something tangible that is before her, a part of her life.
Had the worst airplane / train experience of my life getting here. Every flight was delayed by an hour -- one late flight messed up my connection to the next, and that late flight got me to Rome 7 minutes late for the last train out to Montepulciano. Poor Bea was waiting for me at 1am at the train station, when it pulled in and I was not on it. Our communication was incredibly difficult. I am amazed that we are still speaking to each other.
Now that the travel trauma is over, though, we are settling in to a lovely round of days: getting up early, having a quick bite. Then Bea goes to her Italian course and I clean up or loaf a little, before going down to meet her on her break for a cappuccino. Then I wander some more, taking pictures, getting bread, etc. She gets home and we lunch, chat, then nap. Then we get up and wander around to taste local wines, and maybe even buy some. They approach wine tasting differently than in Ontario: you get a little less, but it's free. They encourage you to sample it all – they want you loosened up quickly to make the sale, but it's also more fun for them that way too I'm sure. I think I'm becoming very partial to the Chianti.
We stumbled upon an Etruscan cellar, where wine has been kept for almost 3000 years. The buildings here seem to all have deep roots into the mountain, and are moulded around the hills. Everything extends 3 or 4 stories above ground, and also a few below. Even in small house-sized places, you can find four homes, one to a floor, and no entrances are on the same street.