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.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

POST SCRIPT - and a friendly gesture

As is evidenced by my previous post, I spent a couple hours sitting in the sun at the internet spot, updating my blog, working on my photos, while listening to the young men playing cards at the table next to me.  These were late teens-early twenties guys, and the old men sat outside their circle watching them.  Every once in a while one of the old men would shout ecco-lo! (there it is!) when I assume the correct card was thrown down.  Of course I am sitting alone, the perpeutal observer in this town.  A woman about my age arrived, sat her mother in the sun, brought her an espresso, and moved to a different table to read the paper.  It was very busy at the Bar Roma (not really a bar but a mini restaurant/snack spot), with young people coming for ice cream, or older people visiting the butcher next door.  When I finished I packed up and started to walk home.

Chelso - the only person who really engages me, was closing the little church just across the street from me.  He called to me, called me to his car, and gave me a bag of fresh lettuce, straight from his garned and still warm from the sun.  He said he brought it for me because the botega e chiuso (the store is closed).  The other day while I was sitting alone in the square he brought me a handful of cherries.  NOW BEFORE YOU GET THE WRONG IDEA, he is a grandfather who walks his grandbabies in their storllers every day.  Nothing goingon there, just a friendly gesture.  It was so sweet and really put the finish to my day. 

I came home, washed the lettuce and ate it right out of the strainer with salt and pepper.  It was wonderful.  Tonight I will have some with olive oil and lemon, along with my soup.  It is a lovely memory that I will take with me as I end this day, and when I leave this village to go back home.  CIAO!

Earthquakes, Pictures and Friends

To begin somewhere near the beginning, this is a photo of a plaster sculpture in the museum in the little village.  This city was renowned for its plaster work centuries ago, and there is a small museum in the center of town.  The Ghidotti's  are a pretty well known family in Grass valley, and their family is also very famous here in Coreglia.  I thought this was one of the ost beautiful sculptures.

Did I mention that my HOUSE is in the museum as well.  As humble as it is today, it was once the home of one of the lords of this village, and it is pictured and written about quite extensively.  It was pretty cool to walk in the museum and see the house I'm living in pictured up on the walls.

AS TO EARTHQUAKES, thankfully I am not impacted by them here.  I read that there was another one yesterday and that 15 people were killed.  I also heard that people are afraid to go back into homes and buildings, that they're sleeping outside, and that numerous ancient structures were either destroyed or damaged.  I feel sorry for all those people and hope that the ground stops shaking soon.

These hills and the clouds that surround them change constantly.  I never get tired of sitting on my little balcony and watching the clouds move around.  They change shape, color and texture by the minute.    It is one of the simple pleasures of my day.

Lucca is a city filled with people, shops and bicycles!  On one of my many trips there to try to straighten out my internet situation, I came across bicycles of all kinds, parked here and there.  Some all new and shiny and some quite old.
When I see bicycles, I think of Alyssa.

When jackie and Sharon were with me, we drove over to Cinque Terra for the day.  We were lucky to get a sunny day, since it was cold and/or raining almost the entire time they were here.  Although this is probably one of the most common shots of the area, it's still one of my favorite views.

Also taken at Cinque Terre, I wanted to re-post this one because I was previously only able to post it on facebook - it was during that time when I had fried my MAC cord, then once I got one I could not access the blog, blah blah blah.  But this is an amazing structure buit from rocks and I wanted to share it again.
I loved this little grandma sitting on the wall with her sassy shoes and handbag.  When she wasn't watching I took her picture.

I have a few more pictures, some pretty amazing ones of a bridge called the devil's bridge, but my internet is acting up again.  A constant here.

My friends Janet and Russell left today and I was sorry to see them go, we had fun together doing simple things like walking, having a picnic, and going to the graveyard at night to see all the lighted gravesites.  I have some awesome pictures of the cemetery as well, but better sign off for now.

Thanks for visiting.  Hope you are well and enjoying your day.  Ciao!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

FINALLY - Photo Success

I still haven't quite figured out what the previous challenge was, but it was somehow linked to the use of the PC vs. the use of the MAC.  As you know, having fried my power cord I couldn't use the MAC, and the computer store took 13 days to get me one but anyway I am back in business.

I am limited to posting from the Bar Roma, which graciously provides free internet, as the internet at my house is totally inadequate for anything beyond quick checks of email.

But here I am, day 28 of this trip, and I am loving it here.  I'm still pretty much alone, but I have friends who have been visiting for a couple days and that has been a treat.  Janet and Russell have been keeping me company but they leave tomorrow morning.

If you have a moment you might want to google the little town of Coreglia Antelminelli.  It has a proud history dating back to the 10th century.  Interesting bit of history for this tiny hilltop town.

More pictures to follow, perhaps tomorrow, and regular posts now that I have cracked the code.  I have some amazing cemetery pictures to share!  Have a beautiful day.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

(One of) My New Favorite Thing(s)

I have become addicted to fresh ricotta, with fruit jam on a slice of toast for breakfast.  FRESH ricotta is nothing at all like the stuff I usually buy in the carton at the store.  It is thick and creamy, not grainy.  Before I left for Italy I had taken to making my own ricotta and swore I would never buy the stuff in the carton again.  WELL, the little market across the street has fresh ricotta every day all day.  I am in heaven.

One of my other new favorite things is taking a walk after my dinner.  I eat earlier than the Italians do, because I am convinced that eating after 8PM makes you fat, but then they are all thin and I am, well, not.  I have a loop I make, up and around, then down and back.  It takes only about 30 minutes but is a wonderful way to end the day.  I come back, make a cup of tea and watch the people go buy, and the sun begin to set from my balcony.  As Martha would say, it's a good thing.

Lots to do today, lots of art to work on.  I want to walk down to the meticulously maintained cemetery today and sketch that sacred place.  Every grave site is decorated, or has flowers (both fresh and/or crisp new artificial flowers) or has all of that plus photos of the deceased.  These people pay tremendous respect to their dead. 

Today will be a wonderful day.  I hope yours is also.  XXOO

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

SUPREME Gratitude

I am so grateful to be re-connected with the outside world.  Grazie a lei, momma della terra.  Even if it did mean a THIRD trip to Lucca, taxing my command of the technical Italian Language, but I was able to explain myself and get my connection back.  Horray for internet and HOORAY for me.

Currently, I am fascinated by the old house across the street and down one from me.  She is an amazing structure, four stories high, with a one-room fifth story, a large outbuilding and a breath-taking view of the surrounding countryside.  Her shudders are falling apart, she is missing a window and there are huge rocks holding many of the shingles in place on the roof.  She has stood for centuries.  There is an ancient, huge veranda that is accessed by steps from the street, in front of which there are two pillars on top of which sit two, large, proud lions.  The verranda also serves as a cover for a patio below, on the ground floor.  It is obvious it was once a stately manor, but now has fallen on hard times.  There is a single table outside where a simple tablecolth has been placed.  It stays there, tied down, through rain and shine, and has faded quite a bit.  I thought it was abandoned, and then one day I saw a young-ish man exit the house.  I wonder what his story is?  I also wonder how cold it is in that house, where he lives inside, and if he stays to one floor, or even one room.  The house has so much possibility, and I like to think about what it was like when people lived there, before the plaster started to chip and fall off, before the shutters began to crumble.  I'll bet it was magnificent.

This town has a proud history dating back to the 10th century, where they defended themselves, and frequently lost, against any number of invaders.  Their claim to fame is in plaster work, where people came from all over the world to study and create plaster sculptures.  I don't know why, but CATS figure prominently in their works.

I am still challenged with uploading pictures to this blog, but I believe that when I get the cord for my MAC I will be able to rectify that.  Until then I busy myself with day trips, a little shopping, a lot of journalling and a lot of sketching.  I am still waiting for the weather to change.  The unseasonable bad weather has apparently hit the international news.

That's it for today.  Ciao, a piu tarde. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012


The sun rises around 5AM, but does not clear the mountain into bright sun until sometime later.  The larger birds begin to sing first, then the small chirping birds come out and begin their song shortly thereafter.  When the sun is bright, the doves begin their call.

The grocer opens his doors at 7AM and the women start arriving to purchase what they need for the day.  This ritual is repeated daily.  They stay a short time, get what they need, visit, and go about their day.  The family that runs the store take turns with the early shift, and the late afternoon shift.  They are always warm and friendly to me, and they are the only ones who so far, engage me in conversation.

The small two-seater trucks with open beds go up and down my street all day every day, delivering wood and who knows what else all over town.  The men obviously use these small vehicles to transport trash, plants, small building materials and the very necessary cut wood to heat the homes without heat, like mine.

CATS are king here.  They are everywhere.  Three seem to spend the night in the tall grass in my yard, then in the morning they make their way across the street to the empty house that is for sale.  A white one, an orange one and a black-and-white one are regulars.  Someone puts food out for them at the empty house.  I have yet to see the person but I have seen the food.

Cars, buses and mini trucks rumble up and down the street where I live.  It is the main road in and/or out of the village.  It makes for interesting observing but also makes for a sometimes noisy existence, especially if I don't feel like waking up at 6AM.

Whereas I throw my shutters open at the first sign of light, most people keep the shutters closed.  This fascinates me, since it's clearly not hot, the mornings are very chilly and the sun provides much needed warmth.  My landlord NEVER opens her shutters beyond one-quarter open.  But then again, she definitely has central heating and I, of course have no heat.  Have I mentioned that it's cold and I have no heat.

Everyone walks.  Young and old, everyone walks.  It;s part of the ritual of the day.  Walk to town for errands and to talk with neighbors in the morning, walk to town before dinner , take babies in strollers, and then again after dinner.  It is to "fare un giro" or "make a trip".  I like the phrase "fare una passeggiata" meaning to take a walk.  It sounds like music when spoken out loud.

In the afternoon after school, Moms, and sometimes the Dads walk with the chidren to town to buy ice cream.  Another sweet ritual, no pun intended.

This morning I am going to the post office - a walk straight uphill that taxes my lungs at 7800ft elevation, to send a couple post cards.  Thats because the ufficio  postale e aperto soltante in la mattina.  It is only open in the morning.

The jazz concert is tonight and I plan to attend.  It starts at 9:00 and I'm usually in bed by 10:00 so I hope I make it. 

I hope you take time to observe some of the small things in your world today.  Ciao

Lessons To Be Learned

It takes me awhile, but sometimes I DO learn from my own mistakes.  This lesson was one about patience and being compulsive.  I awoke yesterday feeling all energetic, did some wash, straightened up, mopped the floors (even though I just did it the day before), mastered the clothes line from hell hanging out the window I can barely reach, and settled in to do some sketching.  It was a cold and windy day, good for drying sheets.  I got myself all settled, opened the doors looking out to the village, assembled my art supplies, threw a blanket across my lap against the cold, and started.  I was about 15 minutes into a great sketch, if I do say so myself, when a HUGE gust of wind blew through the house - and right into the fireplace which of course has no screen or doors or anything.  ASH all over my bright white table cloths, pillows and my clean floors!  What an idiot.  Took off the blanket, collected all the cloths, got the mop and started all over again.  Lesson?  Don't be so compulsive about your environment, because it's going to change in a heartbeak anyway!

Lesson two - trying to find the patience to determine WHY I can't upload photos to the blog anymore.  Obviously it worked before, but not now.  I keep getting frustrated by the slow internet, I tried switching to Google Chrome but have somehow gotten trapped there, regular google sends me an error that this function is not supported by my browser.  These are things I would normally cry to David about and he would swoop in and save the day.  Not so here in Italy.  Lesson?  Slow down, find some patience and keep trying.  Not my strong suit. 

I am venturing out today.  Tired of being the hermit.  The sun is shining and there are many hill towns to discover.  I will most likely get lost but I think I have a system for finding my way back.  We'll see.

Hopefully, there will be some photos here one day soon.  Bye for now.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Follow Up

Very quickly, I went to the next town to buy the power cord for my MAC, only to find that they did not have one.  I inquired if there was another business who might have one.  No.  The closest was in Florence.  FLORENCE!!! So I asked if he could order one for me and if I could come back and pick it up.  He said he would check.  Yes, he could.  Shall I pay now?  How will you notify me that it's in?  He wants to call me, but the number is US.  Can he text?  Yes you can.  All this in Italian.  What a trip.  In ten days I will have a European power cord for my MAC and my friend Janet will bring me one for US connection.  Sto felice!

On my way back I found what was the equivalent of a Home Depot.  Not that I was going to be installing a new toilet or buying patio furniture, but it was cool to walk around.  I managed to spend a few dollars on furniture oil, special rags, some bleach and what what. 

Also on the way back, around 4:00, school was obviously out and children were arriving home.  In the town (Fornaci di Barga) when the bus dropped them on the main drag, there were police on either side of the crosswalk, at each crosswalk, to watch over them.  Kids are kids, and as the older ones exited the bus there was a lot of pushing and shoving, boys showing off for girls, girls walking arm in arm and laughing.  So very sweet.

As I wound up to my little village, there were Moms walking with the younger kids, having obviously met their bus some distance from the house and were now walking home.  I imagine that they stop to collect the mail, ask the kids about their day while they walk, and when they get home they probably start dinner.

In some ways I am missing the "ritual" things of my usual days back in Grass Valley.  Reading my mail, watching TV with David, talking to Eric and Monica, yelling at the dog, watching the sunset.  Being alone provides a great deal of time for reflection.  Especially since there is no TV here at my house, no radio.  Just me. 

SURPRISE Sunday and MAGIC Monday

Sunday, after I lit a fire, hung around and did some art, cleaned up a bit, took a nap, the sun came out and I decided I was sick of being alone with my thoughts.  So I grabbed the keys and headed out to find a town I want to go to on Tuesday for their street market.  I found a couple of surprises on the way:

  • The road out of the village is VERY STEEP with tight twisty turns.  Apparently, it is a road that cyclists train on, because as I was making one of the tight turns no fewer that 100 cyclists, in full matchie matchie cycle gear were headed up.  It was quite a sight to see.  Their legs were so muscled (OK, so were their butts but I wasn't really watching, I was looking at the road) and they worked so hard to climb that impossible hill.
  • Once I landed at the bottom of the road and began my right turn, the sound of horns rang out and cars were coming from everywhere, flying Italian flags, flying what looked like a Ferrari flag, and these black and white flags the significance of which I have yet to determine.  As far as I can tell, it was the final day of an entire week of "solidarity".  Protests about the economy and other things I haven't figured out yet.  It went on for several miles, and at one point the police had traffic stopped so this "parade of cars" could pass.  People lined the streets waving flags and shouting support.  It was totally fun to see!
MONDAY - Apparentlly, "domani" which means tomorrow to every other Italian means "whenever I get to it" to my landlord.  Four days ago he was going to install a pully-type clothes line for me so I could wash and hang my sheets. I have a washer, but no place big enough to hang them.  I got tired of waiting so I took off again to the next town.  I FOUND A COMPUTER STORE where I will be able to buy a plug for my Mac AND it will have a european plug so I won;t have to worry about the converter or burning up my american plug.  I am so happy.  BUT, like so many other businesses in this country, it was not open until this afternoon.  So at four o'clock you know where I will be!

I forgot to mention that Sunday I also stumbled upon a store that was sort of like a K-mart, and I was able to purchase a European hair dryer and flat iron for $9 US each!!  Yippee!

OK, gotta run.  I hope the internet holds long enough for this to post.  Ciao!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A walk Through The village - And my Rendition of the View From the House

Sleepy Saturday

Today I awoke real nearly with a mission - clean the house, mop the floors, do some wash, clean the refrigerator - just like home but 6,000 miles from Grass Valley.  Afterward I showered and dressed and went in search of wifi in the next town.  Although I was unsuccessful (it's hard to drive, read the signs, translate from Italian into English) and not crash into something.  However, I did find a great grocery store and stocked up on some things.  I should be able to hang around the house for a few days, study and do some art.

As I sit here thinking about how I just tried to upload a photo to no avail, I can see a pretty good sized lizard climbing up the wall of the little church across the street.  Later I am going to try to sketch the scene outside my window.  Lots going on out there.

I arrived May 2 to rain, wicked cold and a house that is only heated by a fireplace.  Just little more than a week later it is now getting hot and I am thankful that the house remains cool all throughout the day.  Last night I slept with the windows open and it was wonderful.

I am still trying to make the house my own, but I seem to be challenged by access to things.  I really need to venture out to a flea market or something - if I could only get internet to google things I would be so much better off.  I managed to find a fabric store and have begun recovering some pillows, and will make some chair covers.  I am sewing by hand, so it takes some time.

Tomorrow I will go to church, not because I am religious but because I want to respect the culture of this village.  It's not like I've never been to church.  I was, after all, raised Catholic.

I am not going to try to upload a picture, having just tried and failed.  I WILL try to find wifi and see if I can get some pictures up here.  Interestingly, I did manage to get a couple up on facebook.  Go figure.  Bye for now - off to do some sketching.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Quick Update

As quickly as I can, while I have internet albeit a slow connection, I want to provide an update as of today, Saturday.  I am settled in and making my own way now.  My guests went to Florence yesterday.  We drove to Lucca, spent a few hours walking around and touring the beautiful garden inside the city walls, then I took them to the train station and away they went.  I came straight home, did a load of wash (the washer holds a maximum of three towels), hung it to dry, then promptly fell asleep for an hour.  It was a lovely nap.

I am loving the absolute quiet of this village.  There is nothing to to here.  There are lots of opportunities for strolling around, which the locals appear to take full advantage of, since I see the same people walking each day.  It is so sweet to see the elderly couples walking, very slowly and cautiously together each day.  Many of the women appear to walk to the market daily as well.  It is a quaint place, steeped in enturies old history.  When I am able to get to a higher speed internet connection I will post pictures of the festival.

Today I am going to drive to a fairly large town called Fornaci di Barga in search of a thrift store or reasonable priced store for a couple things I want for the house.  We'll see how it goes.  I also hope to find a wifi place to upload some pictures.

After that I will finally unpack my art supplies and get busy!.  There are magnificent vistas out every window, and the village center sits high and proud right outside my balcony window.  Can't wait to relax with a sketch pad.  More later, but for now, thanks for stopping by.....

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Best Laid Plans

It's five days since arriving in Tuscany.  Everyone has their horror stories about travel, and I guess I'm no different.  From the airline giving away my seat on their connecting flight still at the gate and still boarding, to lost luggage (and no clothes for two days) and missed trains which resulted in missed buses which resulted being stranded, in the dark, late at night, with no one to talk to to ask a question.  Sounds pretty routine but very distressing when you've just flown for 15 hours.  The long and the short of it is that we made it, and I am grateful for my two travel companions Sharon and Jackie who kept me from jumping off the edge of a cliff.  I am also grateful that I decided to take my iPhone and was able to call the man who was to pick us up and talk him into driving to Lucca to get us.  He speaks no English, and insists in speaking in rapid Italian at me to the point I had to ask him to wait (aspetta), to please slow down (and I used an incorrect adjective) and speak simple Italian to me.  Didn't work.

My daughter had said to me before I left, "you know Mom, you're NOT going to just land in Italy and start talking Italian you know.  It's been a long time."  Well, wrong Alyssa, I DID have to begin speaking Italian immediately upon arrival and according to the people in the village it's not that bad.  I am critically aware that i choose the wrong noun here and there, and I am certain I am using the incorrect conjugations, but it's amazing how much you can say prefaced by "do you know" or "I would like" or "I need".  Today I had a full on conversation at the grocery store with the girl behind the counter, had a full on conversation with the butcher and then the woman in line with me.  She insisted (in Italian of course) that Italian is simple to learn, just start slowly, listen, read, then speak.  I wish it were that easy.

The village is very small and easy to navigate.  One hour here and you've seen the sights.  The people are very nice and it is very quiet  and sleepy. 

I began my cookie experiment day two, and was surprised to watch the expressions on people's faces.  Except for two grumpy old men, everyone registered surprise, took a bite and said thank you!  Today, the butcher thanked me for the biscotti (generic term for cookie) and for the card.  He said that the town all knew about me (us) now and would "always remember".  How cool is that.

Internet is unpredictable here, and I only got it yesterday by travelling to Lucca to buy an Internet stick.  Never mind that they forgot to activate it - they eventually figured it out and called to tell me.  All is well.

Tomorrow is a festival here.  Not sure what that means but it is to celebrate the chestnut, for which this region is famous.  I understand there will be food, drink and all that.  Then Tuesday there will be a procession through town with people dressed in Medieval costumes.  I will take pictures and post them, once I figure out how to do this on the tiny PC I brought.  I'm also grateful I brought this little notebook computer since my Internet stick does not seem to work on the MAC.

Life is good.  As soon as I figure out a few things I will  post some pictures.  Wait till you see how beautiful it is, albeit tiny.