Last Day In Italy… For Now, At Least!

Can’t talk long… but just wanted to let you all know that we are coming back home tomorrow.. finally!  We fly from Pisa to NYC, and then down to Virginia to see my parents for a bit.  I will write more about the joys of traveling when I get a chance!

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Mt. Etna And Some Thoughts About Being An American Abroad

So our second-to-last day in Sicily we had a really nice trip to Mt. Etna.  We decided to go with a group this time, even though we usually prefer to figure things out on our own.  Seems to be more of an adventure that way.  Anyway, we got a nice group, a half-half mix of Italians and foreigners.  Our guides took us to see several lava rivers from more recent eruptions (in the 70’s, 90’s, and 2000’s), including a chapel that had been in the direct flow of lava but had miraculously escaped destruction, the river only burning a hole in one of the walls.  We also got to hike up to one of Etna’s many lateral craters, from which the most dangerous eruptions occur (when there is an eruption), saw this gorgeous canyon that had been a huge flow of lava and which water cut through and split into hexagonal basalt columns (a little difficult to explain, but basically the water cooled the lava very quickly, which made it split into two, thus forming the canyon.  The colums are perfect hexagons, just another example of Mother Nature’s perfect geometry.).  We also climbed through caves formed by a huge gas bubble “bursting” after lava had formed a crust around it, in which the pre-WWII people of Catania used to store snow that they would bring down to the city in the summer so people could keep their food cold (pre-refrigerator).  They also prepared a wonderful lunch of delicious local breads, salami, cheeses, and wine for us, including several Italian salads of sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, olives, artichokes, eggplant, etc. etc.  There were even pistachios, the most famous of which grow near Etna in a town called Bronte.  Delightful, indeed!  We met some really nice people from all over the world and all in all it was a really wonderful day!

I just wanted to say a few words about being an American abroad.  I must say that there is a huge difference in sentiment towards Americans since the last election and no matter where your politics may lie, that is something.  One thing that really sticks out in my mind from all of the time that I have spent abroad is the love-hate relationship that Europeans seem to have with America.  They love the American Dream, American fast food, American technology, and American clothes.  Yet among all these glistening portraits of what they think America is really like is The American.  This is where, more often than not, the “hate” part comes into play, and to be quite honest, I can understand where it comes from.  Bear with me for a moment.

The Americans that they see are tourists, who (though they may keep their economies afloat) bombard their towns, demand American coffee in bars, go to McDonalds instead of traditional Italian restaurants, and make no effort to understand the culture, the language, or the people.

Now, I have been a “tourist” for the last several years, and I must say that what they don’t quite understand is that traveling in a foreign country can be extremely stressful.  Of course it is also fun and exhilirating, but when you are in the middle of a completely foreign environment, you often seek comfort in the familliar, whatever it may be (language, food, etc.).  I also must say that nearly everyone is a foreigner at some point in their lives, and therefore we should all be a bit more sensitive to other foreigners than we actually are.  So I guess my point is just that I understand both points of view.

I am a naturally helpful person, so when I see an English (or Italian)-speaking tourist on the side of the street, map in hand and looking confused, I am compelled to ask if they need help.  What usually follows, however, is a short exchange in which I not only feel totally used and underappreciated, but offended and defensive.  Its not that I am looking for gratitude in any form, even a simple “thank you” is unecessary in my book.  But when the person whom I am trying to help is scathingly rude, my only response is to withdraw inward and stop offering any help at all.  It’s a real shame, but that is precisely the attitude that many (definitely not all) Americans communicate abroad.

Case in point: In Italy it is customary to order at least two courses when you go out to eat at a restaurant, and in fact many Italians will order three or four courses.  I know this is a lot of food to us (and the bill definitely adds up), but I will add that the portions are much smaller here and that Italians typically do not eat out like we do.  Going out to a restaurant is a special thing for them, a time to be with family and friends, to linger over every noodle of pasta, every sip of wine, every inside joke and bit of friendly banter.  A meal, especially dinner, is not just a means to an end, but an experience, sensory, familial, even somewhat spiritual.  There is no “in and out” dining in Italy: you can typically expect to spend at least an hour and a half at any given meal.  This is not only because you really take your time to enjoy it, but also because everything is prepared with such care that it really takes much longer for the kitchen to prepare each course than is typically considered acceptable in American restaurants.  I think it is difficult for us Americans to relate to that because food pleasure does not really exist in our culture.  We tend to eat on the run or prepare the quickest packaged meal possible, scarf it down, and continue on to more “important” things.  And this is exactly where the American lady we met in Palermo was missing the mark.

So there we were, seated in a wonderfully cozy little restaurant near the main market of Palermo, chowing down on the wonderful collections of appetizers we carefully chose from the buffet.  It was a family-owned place that only opens two days per week.  On the menu it is clearly stated that they do not serve single plates (in Italian, French, English, and Spanish), that if you would like to sit and eat you must order at least two courses.  W and I each chose the delicious buffet of various seafood and vegetable concoctions, and a pasta dish.  We overheard a rumber of confusion on the other side of the wall, as an American woman and her two daughters had sat down and wanted to just order the the buffet, which cost all of 5 Euro.  That means that for a restaurant that only opens 2 days a week, they would be giving up a table to earn only 15 Euro, which according to them was not acceptable.  I thought that perhaps there was just a mistake of the language barrier, so I popped on over to see if I could help explain things a bit.  The owner was infinitely grateful, and I set out trying to clarify the cultural differences to my fellow Americans, only to find out shortly thereafter that in fact she had understood, but wanted to argue about the philosophical implications of the “house rule” with the owner, when they did not even speak the same language.  This basically involved her yelling at him in English, and him staring back blank-faced, and then responding to her in Italian.  Add me to the mix, me, little miss infinitely helpful, and you’ve got a real spectacle on your hands, between her telling me what to tell the owner, the owner telling me what to say to her, and me trying to explain the cultural differences without stepping on anyone’s toes.  But boy was she rude!  I could not believe the way she a) treated the owner of the restaurant; b) treated me; c) used her daughters as leverage in the conversation; and d) refused to leave and refused to order anything!  After about 20 minutes of arguing back and forth I finally returned to my table to rejoin W and our own delicious meal, and she and her daughters left.  I was completely embarassed to be associated with someone with that kind of superiority complex, who used such ugly language to speak to complete strangers.  And I am afraid that these are the foreigners who stick out in the minds of the Italians.

I don’t know how well I have communicated any of this, but I guess in the end all I really want to say is that when we travel abroad, we are all ambassadors of the United States whether we realize it or not.  All it takes is the tiniest amount of respect for the culture, the people, and the language to make all the difference in the world in the way in which we as Americans are perceived abroad.  Yes, it does still have a lot to do with our politics and whether or not they agree with them, but more so than that it has to do with our daily interactions, our choosing to accept that there may be some differences that we really don’t like or agree with, but that you have to take the bitter with the sweet and realize that it all contributes color to the greater canvas of whatever place we are visiting.  It just takes a little patience and an open mind to see the bigger picture, but isn’t is so much more beautiful that way?

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Climbing A Volcano!

So there was a bit of a hiccup in our plans, as W got pretty sick the other day and we had to rest for a bit before we could continue on.  I guess it was nothing serious since it passed quickly, but he went from totally fine to looking like an undertaker in less than an hour!  Scary!!  But we finally made it to Catania, from which we are flying out on the 21st, and before we do, we are going to “climb” Mt. Etna, Sicily’s highest mountain and active VOLCANO!  We are going with a guided tour group, so hopefully we can meet some nice people!  I will let you know how it goes!

It last exploded in 2002! Amazing!!

It last exploded in 2002! Amazing!!

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Recount

I am so sorry for my lack of blogging recently.  Really, I am.  As you all know, traveling can be a really exhausting experience, however fun.  However, I thought I would share with you all a quick recount of some of the places W and I have been, as seen through HIS eyes!  This way you can get another person’s point of view on things, which may or may not be in accordance with my own (read: disclaimer).  Apologies in advance for typos and spelling errors… he types like a storm!  Also, this is an email that he wrote some friends of ours, so double apologies if it reads like it!

An update message is long long long overdue so I thought I would send one the second I had the chance. Believe it or not, this is the first moment I have really had to write an email. I sincerely think that in the last 6 days we have walked about 60 miles. Quite literally in one day we walked about 14 miles… hahaha so I have been exhausted at the end of the day, but today you have my undivided attention!

Italy has exceeded my wildest expectations in terms of beauty and culture. I really did not know what to expect, but I have come to realize that for some unknown reason I had a negative impression of it and/or bad attitude toward it. Why else would I have come to Europe several times before, only to miss Italy every time? I think it was because karma was waiting to provide me with the gift of Trish as an interpreter and inspiration… and punish me for her ability to walk a drill sergeant into the ground!

Soooo…. Highlights!

The food is pretty amazing. I am not sure what you all experienced in Rome or in Florence or further north, but for me the food has been a revelation. We have had too many good treats – from fresh baked bread and jam to full dinners with pastas and sauces that are so simple yet so unexpectedly delicious. The dinner we just had this evening (in Palermo) had shrimp in it that I swear were caught about 50 feet away in the ocean… 10 minutes before they were cooked. Haha I think what is different here is the freshness of the ingredients. I am just finding it far more interesting and enjoyable than I’d have previously thought possible.

The drinks!!!! If I thought the food was good, I think alcohol is unbelievable!!! I am absolutely addicted to a coffee drink called shakeratto… they literally put hot espresso in a martini shaker w/ a little bit of sugar and a lot of ice and shake the hell out of it. Then they pour it into a martini glass and it is cold and frothy… I simply can not get enough of them! Coffee aside, we can’t leave out wine. Wine is always good, I mean… c’mon… its wine!  They have a dessert wine here called Vin Santo (which I had never heard of). It is basically a sweet desert wine served with Biscotti. You dip the biscotti in the wine until it is soaked through and then you eat it… bang, that’s dessert. It is outrageously delicious and perfect for the end of a long or particularly rich meal!

Now, this last drink gets a paragraph all to itself! The Spritz!!!! This is my new favorite drink and I am afraid I am developing a problem… along with most Italians over the age of 14… old people… day laborers… professionals… and basically everyone. Everyone is looking at their watch waiting to see when it will be appropriate to say, “Hey, anyone want a spritz?” even though it is 9:30am and breakfast was 15 minutes ago. Hahah so, a Spritz is a 60/40 mix of Prosecco and Aperol, over ice, with a spritz of soda and a wedge of orange. It is bubbly, semi-sweet but more bitter, cold and very refreshing. We have found ourselves saying, “God, I am exhausted and dehydrated… lets get a Spritz!” Which is like saying, “God I am tired and dehydrated, lets get more tired and dehydrated!!!!” But somehow magically this drinks just makes you want to continue the day with a bigger smile than before.

The Places!

Ok, lets just get this out of the way before we go on to the good stuff! Naples, Italy is an absolute hellhole filled with cutthroats, shifty eyed undertaker looking criminals, trash, more trash, illegal Algerians and Tunisians, stray dogs, cats, dead animals and more criminals. We spent roughly 6 hours there and it was six hours with a wallet clenched in one hand, a knife hidden in the other and me randomly spinning in a circle every 3-4 minutes to see if we were being followed into alleys or stairwells, or simply stopping in place while the guy ambiguously following us passed by. I felt safer at 2am in the alleys of Istanbul than 3pm in the main streets of Naples! Fuhgeddaboudit…..

Now that that is out of the way… Italy is wayyyy cooler than I expected it to be!

Florence:

Florence was naturally awesome, because I had Trish to show me everything! Her fluency with Italian is really amazing… as in, she misses nothing and can say anything. So, getting around Florence was a piece of cake, as well as finding all of the museums and getting through ticket issues and basically all of the annoying stuff concerning traveling. In Florence we went to the Duomo, the Bargello and the Uffizi… in addition to about 20 gelato places and places to get a good Panino (sandwich). It was really a relaxing way to get used to Italian culture .

Modena:

Modena is where they make true balsamic vinegar. I guess most of the stuff we call balsamic is red wine vinegar with brown sugar in it. The real stuff is amazing and thick and an explosion in your mouth with one drop. It is also expensive!!! Anyway, the town of Modena was pretty bucolic – and the town piazza was a big parking lot… but the vineyards were awesome. Trish and I went out to a vineyard and we seriously were given a private tour of their entire facility by the owner and their two dogs… it was like touring a winery in Napa in 1960… It was absolutely incredible. The pictures will do most of the talking, but this was a fourth generation company. Our tour guide was the great granddaughter of the founder and the balsamic we tasted was over 100 years old… and the grapes it came from were picked by the great grandmother… two generations neer even tasted the final product. It was just unforgettable. The 100 year stuff sells for $2000 per liter. The stuff that was 25 years sold for $100 per 100ml… so that is what we are bringing home.

Montalcino:

Montalcino is where they make Brunello and Rosso Di Montalcino – Italy’s most famous wine. We told the people at the Balsamic place we were heading to Montalcino and they laughed and said, “Montalcino! It is easier to get land on the moon than in Montalcino!” It was a fortress retreat for the soldiers and nobility of Sienna and when Sienna fell to Florence, Montalcino never surrendered. When we arrived we realized why. From 10 miles away you could see a mountain shoot straight up out of a valley with near vertical cliffs on 3 sides and a steep winding canyon up the back side. It was absolutely beautiful and absolutely impregnable. So, the top of the mountain was a small town and the valleys below were the wine lands. In the main castle there was a wine bar and Trish and I had a flight of Brunello wines. It was a real experience and these wines… WOW… we have not had them yet together because A) they are super complex and B) they are $60 a bottle for the cheap cheapest… in my opinion the best red wine in the world. Anyway, the town was quaint, the heights beautiful and the vineyards splendid… if I ever want to get away from everything, it will be to Montalcino.

Cinque Terra:

Cinque terra was just too cool to describe! Pictures will be far better.  It was a bunch of small villages set along the coast that tourists could walk between and it was a long day, but beautiful!

Rome:

Rome was so much more pleasing than I thought it would be! I always had this image of it being a gritty dirty town, full of smog cars and pick pockets. It was anything but for us. We were SOOOOoo lucky in that this was the time in which Andrew (whom you met briefly) came to meet up with us. He had been laid over in Rome about 40 times and knew every single street, bar, restaurant and hotel… literally. SO we never even looked at a map… we had a private tour guide who liked to stop roughly once every 5 blocks for a coffee or a spritz or BOTH J Pictures will do more justice to our adventures, but it was just great to finally see the ruins and attractions of such an ancient city. I will never forget the Pantheon!

Hahahaha OK, so this email is going ON and ON and ON…. But we are really getting to the good stuff! Sicily!

I don’t know what to say because I have not had a ton of time to process it all. However I can say that Sicily is one of the most interesting and amazing places I have ever been. You should be getting a whole gaggle of post cards any day now and you will see some of the places we have been in Italy and Sicily. I know that we will all get here together someday and it will be amazing. Sicilian culture is seriously at half speed. Everything closes at noon and at 1pm you would seriously think Zombies had attacked because everything is closed and a city the size of Berkeley is dead quiet, no one about and nothing open. Then, at 6pm everything opens and by 9pm everything is raging as though it was 4pm and time to buy groceries… it is very strange!

Sicily is seriously a fascinating mix of 1st and 3rd world living. One neighborhood has all of the designer stores and a nearby neighborhood honestly has dirt streets flowing with a broken water pipe and stray dogs eating trash. It simply feels like a different country than mainland Italy and to hear Trish say it, it sounds as tough Sicilian has little in common with the Italian Language. It is just fascinating.

Now, with all of that said, I will wrap up this email! Tomorrow we head to Mt. Etna and if it does not erupt with us on it we will be back in the States again soon!

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My My My! It’s Been So Long!!

Hello hello hello! Well good golly, the time has gotten away from me… it has been more than a week since I last wrote to you all! I am not sure if anyone still checks this blog or not, but I still have so many exciting things to share that I will write anyway! So as you know, W arrived last Thursday and we have been having a blast ever since! We rented this really sweet little apartment in Florence for a week so I could finish up class, he could get his bearings and sleep off some jet lag, and I could show him the fruits of all my culinary and cultural “research” in Florence! Many of you have been to Florence before, so you are aware of how many treasures it holds. I tried my best not to overwhelm him with all of my excitement and passions, but I have to say that it was quite difficult to restrain myself! There are just too many restaurants, museums, piazze (squares), gelato, favorite streets, pretty walks, fun shops etc etc etc… As you all know, I really enjoyed being in Florence for the past three months, discovering all of her secrets andsoaking in as much of her history and culture as possible. And of course I wanted to share everything with him… poor little thing barely had time to breathe! But at least we had a nice and comfortable “home base” to work from, and I finally got to satisfy some of my desires to cook. The apartment was a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Mercato Centrale (Central Market) in Florence, so I was in heaven cooking up lemon risotto with fresh peas, asparagus, and mint, tomato-bread soup, potato quiches, zucchini pancakes, and so many other things. Between my cooking and the amazing food to be found in Florence, we are certainly not malnourished! It was fun to watch W react to all of the new sights and sounds and smells, to see him enchanted by the statue of David and the treasures of the Bargello and the Uffizi galleries, and consume with a virgin palate the pastries and the pastas, the breads and the cheeses, the sauces, honeys, chutneys, chocolates, cakes, ice creams and granite… Needless to say, we had a grand time together, and instead of boring you with all the details, I thought I would simply share a few of the highlights.

  • Attending Mass in Santa Maria del Carmine, one of the most amazing churches in Florence, and then getting a chocolate-banana-strawberry smoothie at a swanky little chocolate bar across the street (both equally religious experiences).
  • Listening to a free organ concert in a random little church in Via del Corso.
  • Splitting a 4-pound mixed grill between the two of us, with rare-as-rare-can-be Florentine steak, chicken, ribs, and sausage at this great little family-style restaurant (complete with whole cured hams hanging from every inch of the ceiling, an enormous carving board just for bread, tapped barrels from which they pour the house wine, a meat-slinging grill master, a foul-mouthed yet incredibly talented sous chef, and a sassy little, no-nonsense waitress) with Alex and his friend Pepe.
  • Watching the wonder on W’s face as he sipped his first caffé shakerato (an iced espresso drink that they shake to death in a martini shaker until it is frothy and cold), and the first time he tried a panino (sandwich) with truffle sauce and mortadella, a delicate cooked ham studded with pistachios, shaved paper-thin (our sorry American attempt at copying this culinary wonder is Oscar Meyer bologna).
  • Shopping at the grandiose Mercato Centrale (Central Market), carefully choosing the best produce and salami and fresh eggs to cook back at home.
  • Hearing that he loved the Bargello museum as much as I do.
  • Making him walk 2 miles to get the best pastries in town. Did I mention it was raining?
  • Walking up in the hills of Florence after having a nice glass of wine– the night was mellow but a little humid, the scent of jasmine cascading down the side of every wall was strong and sweet, and the view from the top took our breath away.

All in all, it was a whirlwind of a week, but quite memorable indeed. An unexpected difficulty that I encountered (if it can even be called a “difficulty”) was that I may or may not have been sensitive to the fact that 1) W had only just arrived; 2) that he was on cultural overload and I was not; 3) that, though we do have a lot in common, he is a different person than me, with different interests and he may not love everything that I love or find significance in everything in which I find significance; 4) that that is okay and is not a comment on either of us! 5) that I could be more patient; 6) that I can have an unbelievable amount of energy when I get excited and for a poor jetlagged companion that might not always be so charming. But like he has always done, W stuck by my side, pulled himself up by his boot straps and tried his hardest to keep up, to take it all in, and to not kill himself or me in the process. And seeing as we both are still here, I would call it a success. So right now, on this early grey morning, we are on our way to Rome to meet Andrew for a few days. It has been nearly four years since I went to Rome for the first time (I went alone for a week while I was studying abroad in Venice), and I would say that it is about time we meet again! I am looking forward to reconnecting with the city that holds so many of the treasures that I have been studying for the past 10 years, one of the only cities in the world that embraces its place in the modern world, but does so under the weight of an enormous history, a sexy sexy city full of stiletto heels and mini skirts, which literally surrounds the very heart of Catholicism (the Vatican): ahh, Roma, how I have missed you…

PS: Did you know that Roma is “Love” spelled backwards? “Amor” is Latin for “Love” !!

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And This Is The Life I Lead

Wow.  My three beautiful months here in Florence are coming to a close.  Three months!  As is so often the case in life, I feel like I have been here forever, and yet sometimes I feel like I have only just arrived.  Living in Florence has been an incredibly moving experience: utterly life-changing.  Of course with every day that goes by we learn something new, we change a little bit, we adapt, we (hopefully) become better, more well-rounded people.  However, living in another country really exaggerates that process, and though you are still fundamentally the same person as you were when you started out, so much about you has changed.  You become more astute and aware, more worldly, and, what’s most important, more accepting and open-minded.  I have learned so much since I have been here.  So much indeed.  The past two times that I have lived out of the US, I never fully realized all of the things I had seen and done until much later, in silence and solitude, back in the comforts of my home.  I am sure it will also be the case with this experience, but I have really been trying to absorb as much as I possibly can (even to the point of complete exhaustion) while I am still here because it only just feeds my curiosities.  I know more about Florence than many of my Florentine friends, and in fact they often come to me for advice on restaurants, favorite churches, museums, and upcoming events and festivals.  And even though I now know this city like the back of my hand, it is still so surprising, so welcoming and familiar, yet so foreign.  I may know many of its secrets, but I do not know them all, will never know them all.  I have known this for a long time, but am just now coming to terms with it.  It’s supposed to be that way.

And yet every time I walk by the Four Seasons Hotel (on my way to and from school everyday), the doormen recognize me, salute me, wish me a good day.  The boys at the coffee bar I always go to know me so well that on a mild day they will make me my normal coffee drink, and on a rather hot day they will shake it with ice without even asking.  I know where to find the best pastries in Florence, and if you tell me what flavor of gelato you are in the mood for, I will tell you where to go to get the best example of that particular flavor.  I lament every Monday that I cannot go wander the cool halls of the Bargello museum, or sit and do my homework in its sunny courtyard, because Monday is their day off. The guards at the Uffizi always smile at my now-familiar face, knowing that while the tourists crowd into the Botticelli room, I prefer to haunt the hallways, gazing at each statue with an intense curiosity, trying to personify whomever is portrayed.  However, I will always stick out of the truly Florentine crowd because I find wearing 4-inch heels everyday much too painful, my purse is not by Louis Vuitton, and my sunglasses cost $15 at a vintage store.  I am not high-maintenance enough to care about perfect hair and make-up, and would most often prefer a cozy trattoria (family-style restaurant) to the elegant new cocktail bars popping up all over the place.  I don’t like to interrupt people when they are speaking, which is typical Italian behavior.  Sometimes two people will talk at the same time for minutes, each too eager to express his opinion and sentiments than to listen to the other.  I prefer to wait my turn, which oftentimes means I don’t get a word in edge-wise.  I will never, ever get used to shop-workers looking me up and down with that awful sneer on their face, as I were not good enough to set foot inside.  Oh yea, and sometimes I like to eat alone in restaurants.  I will never really fit in here.  And that is okay.

All things considered, I am pleased with my Italian skills.  I am trying not to be too hard on myself, because I only had three months.  I am conversational, not quite fluent, and with that possibility looming in the not-so-distant future, I am a little sorry to be ending my proper lessons at school.  Honestly, though, it is just going to take practice, which means fearlessly talking to people instead of being all self-conscious and holding back.  But you all know me… I want to be perfect!  Now!!  I am learning to accept that it takes time, patience, and persistence.  See, I told you I am growing!

These have been exciting days for me!  This past weekend my best friend Andrew (by some miracle) was assigned to a flight (he works for Delta) to Pisa and had a 2-day layover!  So I hopped on a train, took a day off from school (the first time I have missed class), and went with high expectations of a great time.  I swear it doesn’t matter how much time passes that we don’t see or talk to each other, we are always able to just pick right up where we left off.  We spent a lovely afternoon in Lucca, a gorgeous little city about 30 minutes from Pisa.  We just sort of wandered around, stopping often for refreshments, and then caught a train back to Pisa for dinner when night fell.  We went to this wonderful little pizza joint that Andrew had discovered on one of his many layovers in Pisa, and shared a half liter of red wine.  Then we took a leisurely walk back to the center, had a gelato, and watched the college crowd gather in one of the Piazzas near the river.  We reminisced about being in college, and finally turned back to the hotel.  The next day Andrew slept until 2:00pm (poor thing was so exhausted!!), which was actually kind of nice because it gave me a lot of quiet time to think and rest and doze and think and rest and doze again.  We had originally planned to go to Cinque Terre, about 2 hours away, but since it was so late in the day we just stopped by the supermarket, packed a nice little picnic, and headed to Viareggio instead (15 minutes away).  We sat on a park bench and ate our little picnic lunch, and just talked and talked an entire bottle of wine away!  After that, happily fuzzy, we walked on the edge of the sea, thankful for a bit of breeze on that hot summer day.  After awhile we just sat on the pier and watched the fishermen catch that night’s dinner.  It was an intensely local moment, and we smiled at all the lovely characteristics of Italian people that we have both come to know and love: the wild gesticulation, the fluid, song-like speech, the old men huddled over a deck of cards, the young men recounting their latest girlfriend troubles.  Facing into the sunset we talked about everything and nothing, like good friends often do, until we decided that a coffee was in order so we could work up our strength for dinner.  The air got surprisingly crisp as evening fell, so we traded our places on the terrace of the coffee shop with those under the covered porch of a little seaside restaurant, called “Seagulls.”  We chose to split a seafood Paella, skipping the wine this time around, and enjoyed our food, the evening, and the company.  I have seldom felt so at peace with the world.  We returned to Pisa sleepy and content, took cold showers to wash off the day’s stickiness, and stretched out in our generously-sized single beds, ready to dream until the morning.  The bus didn’t pick Andrew up until around 12pm, so there was plenty of time for a long shower, a coffee, and a bit of friendly bantering.  I accompanied him downstairs where the rest of his co-workers were waiting, and boy did they give me a look when they saw us together!  It was actually quite funny because I never in a million years would have thought about how it “looked” to outsiders, but indeed it must have seemed a bit strange.  Anyway, I left Andrew to explain that one (after a goodbye hug, of course), and wandered across the street to the train station, shielding my eyes from the bright sun.  I bought a piece of fresh coconut from a street vendor and then boarded the train and an hour later was back in Florence.  A lovely little weekend, indeed.

Tomorrow W leaves San Francisco to come visit!  He will arrive Thursday morning in Pisa, and I am so excited I can hardly stand it.  After three months apart, I really do miss him!  But we have some lovely little adventures in store, indeed indeed we do:

  • A week in Florence
  • 6 days exploring other parts, such as Chianti (wine region) and Cinque Terre (along the sea)
  • 3 days in Rome with Andrew
  • 1 week in Sicily!!

What do you think?  I am lucky to have met someone with an adventurous spirit to match my own.  I will give you more details as we figure them out!

So now I have stayed up much later than I should have, considering I have school tomorrow morning!  But there are so many other things to tell you!  I guess they will just have to wait until tomorrow…

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I’m Alive!!!

Dear Faithful Reader,
I have so much to tell you all!  I promise to return later this evening and tell you all about everything that is happening as my time in Florence comes to an end!  For now I have to run back to class, but more details are a’comin!!!

Love,

Trish

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