Sunday, July 29, 2012

Preparations - Sweet Sorrow

The elderly men walk with hands clasped behind them, in the small of their backs.  I've tried it, and it provides some balance for the steep climbs.  Grandfathers and grandmothers walk their grand babies in their strollers, greeting their friends, sharing gossip and stories.  Their voices fade in, up and then out as they pass my little yellow house.  Young people gather in the park at night, play their car radios, laugh and create a playful sound that cuts through the quiet of the night.  The "Dr. Seuss-like trees" that so fascinated me when I arrived, have sprouted leaves that completely block my view.  Seems somehow fitting that the view has left just as I am leaving.  The pull of community is so strong here - celebration of life and death, beginnings and endings, history, family, sharing stories, sharing coffee, walking, always walking and greeting - is something I will miss, since I don't have the opportunity to observe this from my house, so far out of town in Grass Valley, sitting by itself on the hill.  Isolation is so, well, isolating.  The group of young men who play cards each day, the sounds of "echo lo!" from the older men who watch; Chelso sharing cherries with me, or salad still warm from his garden; the way the butcher shouts "Brava" when my Italian is correct; the way I am asked "Come stai?  Tutto bene?" by people; the simple greeting of "salve" from a stranger; the way the air smells so clean, cool and crisp in the early morning; the sound of the annoying scooters, like a far off bumble-bee on approach, then like a science fiction spaceship on arrival; the sound of Italian being spoken, rapid fire, but like music with all those vowels, rising and falling; the sight of 100 cyclists outside my window on Sunday morning, or the 200 runners training on the hills that take me out of the village; the street markets, with the best bargains to be found in the "heaps", like 3 Euro linen shirts, new, with the tags still on them - if you're patient enough to paw through the heap; the killer-strong coffee that keeps me running all day; the quiet of the early mornings, with nothing but the birds and the rustle of leaves in the air; my little rental car, which took me to the most unexpected places, small hidden villages.  ALL THIS and more, I will miss more than I am able to articulate.

I have said a thousand times, that I am so grateful for having had this opportunity - to step away from the realities of everyday life and live a short fairy tale existence.  I return home with a renewed sense of self, and anxious to see friends, family, my house and my dog again.

CIAO ITALIA.  Grazie Mille!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

After a Long Absence

It's been a long time since I've been able to sit and add to the blog.  In that time, we have been running all around Italy, and then to Nice, France and back.  Lots of people have come to visit - as of this day, a total of 20 people have crossed the threshold of my little yellow house.  We have seen some great sights, and shared some stories, shared some meals, laughed and sometimes cried.  It has been an amazing summer.

While in Nice, I grew tired of the sun and went up on the promenade to watch people walk by.  Here are some of my favorite pictures:

More interesting people:

There have been so many interesting things to do in this tiny village, and so many shared experiences.  There was the most touching funeral, which began in the center of town at the old church, wound down through the village and out to the cemetery.  The entire town walked behind the casket and the priest, praying the rosary.  It was so moving.

There was also a wedding, celebrating a new beginning simultaneously as another life ended.  Alyssa and Eric photographed the wedding - the entire town was invited.

I am challenged by the slow internet at the moment, I will try to load a few more pictures before I leave Bar Roma to start dinner - chicken and vegetables, polenta, baked zucchini, salad and bread.  A nice, simple Italian meal.

We had dinner and stayed in Sanremo (on the border between Italy and France.  It was magical, and we were treated like family by the restaurant owners.

My village, with weather brewing.

My little friend Virginia.  Her brother, Jacapo has been really kind to me here.  He is also 27....

Lastly, a trip to the river on a hot day, where I used a rock to write on some other rocks.  I think I will use Vistaprint and turn them into postcards.  That's it for now!

I hope you're having a wonderful day and that you are taking note of the beautiful things all around you.  CIAO!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Routines of Life - and Tom Petty

Everything has slowed down to a comfortable pace again.  David arrived a couple days ago, and  despite TWO round trips to Pisa to get him (the first only to find out too late about an 8 hour delay) and now we have settled into life in the village.  There is a lot of sleeping in late, lazy breakfast, and lazy days.  The other night we sat outside with 100 others and watched Italy beat the hell out of Germany.  I wish you could see and hear the crowd.  They wait in tense anticipation for whatever it is that's happening on the field (I'm not a soccer fan) then literally ERUPT, leaping from their chairs, screaming and yelling and waiving their flags when Italy scores.  It is very sweet.  I think I've mentioned that when Italy wins, they drive out of town honking horns and waiving flags.  Sometimes, they circle my house making so much noise it's unbearable.  Crazy Italians.

Last night I took David to a concert in the walled city of Lucca  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  It was a great concert in an amazing setting.  Alyssa and I have been to a concert there before, years ago.  Alyssa and I are going to see Nora Jones at the same place later in July.  Can't wait.

Sunday night, the five of us (David, me, Alyssa and two friends) will join the entire town at Bar Roma for some important soccer match.  It should be CRAZY - and we better get there early to get a seat.  Extra chairs are being brought to the site as I write this post.  It should be a fun and exciting night.

Monday we leave for Monaco.  I have never been, and I expect it will be totally foreign to me (no pun intended) since it is the home of the rich and famous.  David wanted to check it out since he has family there.  I want to see Positano, which is the opposite direction, so maybe Alyssa and I will go there after David leaves.

I have more photos to upload and edit, and will do so perhaps tomorrow.  For now, I will just post a couple of my favorites.  Ciao for now!!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sights and Scenes - Butt Cracks and all - Friends and Family

WELL - it has been an amazing few weeks.  I have had a house full of friends for two weeks, girlfriends I have known since I was five years old.  We are a diverse group and we travelled about Italy in two cars, running from place to place like crazy women.  Everywhere we went we were SIX, creating quite a stir.  This is a photo shot outside Sienna - a typical laundry day image.

I wanted to share my love of this country with my friends.  I hope they enjoyed their trip,  I know they went home quite tired.

BUTT CRACKS.  Viareggio is an amazing town on the ocean.  There are umbrellas and beaches as far as the eye can see.  It's quite magical actually.  Unfortunately, not all the sights are beautiful, as evidenced by this man sunning his backside, unaware, or not caring that his butt crack was on full view.  YUCK

One of the trips my girlfriends and I took was to Sienna.  It's a long twisty drive through the middle of Tuscany, and not on the highway.  Beautiful drive but LONG from where the village is where we are staying.  Outside the Duomo there were artists painting beautiful watercolor pictures.  I wanted to sit down and paint with them.  I was, of course, not invited to do so!

AND NOW:  The weather has turned very warm, but the nights remain cool, thankfully.  It makes sleeping easy.  My house is literally in the middle of the two streets in and out of the village, so it can be very noisy at night, especially with the windows open.  These people party till the wee hours - the village is always swarming with people.  If it's not the 100 cyclists outside my house getting ready for a race, it's a wedding, or an entire town of runners congregating outside my windows.  If there is a soccer match on TV, Bar Roma is ALIVE with people until well after midnight.  Then they all come down the street past my house hooting and hollering.

Alyssa and two friends are here now, David arrives in a few days, and others will come and go all throughout July.  today we went to Castiglioncello where Alyssa and I went to school 7 years ago.  It was like stepping back into a dream.  It was that summer at the language school, days spent learning and afternoons spent swimming that started my obsession with wanting to live here.

For now, I am just going to enjoy this experience, and "live in the moment", being grateful for the opportunity to step away from my life for three months, and live this dream.

When time comes, I will also be grateful to return home to things familiar, friends and family.  I have a scheme in mind to turn my home into a B&B, welcoming artists and writers to a quiet retreat in the mountains.  Imagine the PEOPLE I might meet!!  I can't wait to see how that goes.  I think it might just be a new chapter in my life..... CIAO!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Checking in - And New Friends Arriving!

I have been busy with my friends Nathaniel, then Mona, running around, getting lost, finding markets and eating picnic lunches and exploring.  Tomorrow, the rest of my "kindergarden girlfriends" arrive, and the there will be 6 women wandering around the village.  I'm sure we will cause some talk around town.

Here are some of the most recent discoveries, and some of the beautiful places I have encountered just walking or driving around.  I hope you like them.

OH YES - my daughter Alyssa arrives next week sometime as well.  Let the party begin....

Right next door in the next village, Ghivizzano, Mona and I crawled ALL OVER their inner town and castle.  It was awesome and we found the most amazing things and simple beauty.

A simple yet inviting doorway.  I met the sweetest young girl named Angelica riding her bicycle around the village.  She greeted Mona with a "hi" instead of CIAO!  She must have known were American.

An AMAZING old doorway.  The homeowner of course has a new door as the entrance to their beautiful home, but I love that they kept the original door to preserve the history of the home.

Another inviting entrance.  This was a really interesting village.  It literally is a castle, inside which a small town has emerged, inside which there are many converted places which are now private residences  Of course this took place over many many years, as it was once a castle.  It is one of the most interesting finds so far, and right next door!!!

I hope you find amazing things to look at where you are.  CIAO!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

All About Me - Briefly

My friend Nathaniel is visiting and we've been running around to street markets, having a Tuscan lunch by a stream, walking around Barga and having a grand time.  But for right now, I am simply going to post some pictures of things that occupied my time while I was alone.  Some I stole shamelessly, others are entirely my own.  Enjoy!

Variou sketches.

Some pieces of silly art I created for my guest rooms..  The Johnny Depp phrase was stolen from Pinterest, but the scribbles are my own.

Have a great day! CIAO!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Birds, Bells and Blankets

Well, another very Grass Valley-like sunset last night.  I almost missed it, but managed to catch it before it went down.

BIRDS:  When my friend Janet and her husband Russell visited me, she made the comment that being here was like living inside an aviary.  She was right.  The birds sing and chirp from the instant the sun breaks until the last minute of sunshine is gone.  I don't know how many different types of birds there are, but there are seemingly thousands of them flying around.  Big and small, loud and not-so-loud, they are everywhere.  I've said before that cats are king here.  It should be the birds.

BELLS:  I have NOT cracked the code on the church bells yet.  The obviously easy ones to figure out are the bell chimes on the hour and the half hour.  By the hour, it's the count - eight chimes for eight o'clock, etc.  On the half hour, one chime.  But then, at other times, the bells just seem to go crazy.  Sometimes after announcing the hour, they ring out like three-four-three-four rings.  Other times they ring like some kind of alarm - ring ring ring ring.... one time it went on for so long I was certain that it WAS an alarm and looked out to see if we were on fire.  I have got to figure this out before I leave.

BLANKETS:  I have gone from sleeping with four blankets and one thumb-tacked to the outer door, to sleeping with only one.  The weather is very much like Tahoe.  Warm days, comfortable nights.  It is so much better than sleeping with your head under the blankets.

I leave you with some more cemetery shots.  Tomorrow I'm going to look around for some more things to see and photograph.  CIAO!

A headstone ornament

another one

My favorite little simple gravesite.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pictures are Worth a Thousand Words

Cinque Terre on a sunny day.

An old old walkway

A welcoming entrance

A magnificent, old abandoned building.  She sits high on top of a hill by herself, falling apart.

Another view of her.  Can't you just see how beautiful she could be????

The devils bridge. Check out that reflection!

Religious image from the botanical garden and house INSIDE the walls of Lucca.

Another view of the same mountain - same balcony - different day.

A cemetery headstone.

Same cemetery.