Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Love A Parade

Well, the weather has finally changed. Last night and most of today it rained solidly. The sky is still overcast, the air cool and refreshing and it looks like it will continue for a while. I am very glad. I was really sick of the close humid heat, especially at night. My bedroom has been over 26 or 27 degrees most nights since I arrived and frequently 28+!

I credit it all to the Madonna of Lourdes who showed up here on Wednesday night. She was dragged through the streets at the head of a huge crowd, probably over 3000. She got to ride in a sled of course, with flowers at her feet and wearing new duds, natch, but they made her visit nearly every church in town while all 3K of them sang and prayed constantly. I spotted the line coming out of the Duomo on my way home around 9.15P and walked at speed to find the head of the parade. I passed nuns and nurses and brothers and monks and lay groups in costume (including those scary proto KKK hoods) and ambulance drivers (ambulance drivers?) and EMTs. There is some connection between Lourdes and physical debilities, as I recall. And when I got to the front of the 2 K line, there she was up on the shoulders of several monks on her pallet. All the followers carried candles with little paper wind shields and rosaries and each group has a tapestry identifying them and their city. Seems they came from all over. She’s very popular, you know. They even had bishops and monsigniors with VERY fancy outfits. There was a fantastic sound system broadcasting the prayers and songs and every 500m or so there was a set of portable speakers on wheels being rolled along so the latter saints could keep up. I left the group at my favorite short cut to go home only to find them in my piazza when I arrived. The church doors were open and the lights on and the bells were ringing. It was a lot better than the noisy, drum accompanied, drunken, litter festival that usually appears there most nights. But then she went to check out another of the branch offices in Piazza del Carmine. Thanks Madonna, for the visit and the cooling rain and all the fish. And for a more charming experience than that other Madonna.

The Concert

We went to a concert. My friends Andrea and Fawn have rented a house by the sea in Tonfano on the west coast of Tuscany. A friend, Claudio, organized a grand musical evening with dinner for a crowd of us, maybe 35. Everyone was commanded to dress up. We drove off towards the mountains. You can see the “caves” where the marble has been quarried but much of the area is green with pine tees and olives or scraped raw to the crags. The site was an old mill now a restaurant with all the old grinding stones still in place. We had bits of food out on a ledge with a view of hills and orchards and the tiny river that once ran the mill dribbling over the edge of a former dam. There was a woman singer and a guy with an electric piano. The music played and the sun set and we began to regret that we had dressed for the beach climate and we were in the hills. A bit of prosecco and more music and it got colder. And then we began to share jackets and collect car blankets and one even put on the hiway orange emergency road trouble vest required of all cars here. He even lined it with newspapers! Finally after almost 3 hours of music and long discourses in Italian about the origins of the songs and their meaning we were able to sit down for dinner. (Italians NEVER eat before 9PM!) But outside! I sat next to Fawn’s daughter-in-law Alexia, Luxembourgeois with French, Italian and English! She has an adorable 9 month old baby girl. We talked babies and education. The road vest guy handed out newspapers, David, the Italo/Brit, spent much time talking to me, we had plenty of food and coffee and dolce and sambuca and more conversation. The party was finally over around 12.30 and we rolled home. But I think I’ve had all the Burt Bacharach music I can hold and I don’t think I will ever get those songs out of my head.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Music in the Piazza

There’s a tango concert this evening with a flutist and a violin and a cello and an electric piano and the air is warm and there are dozens of people lounging in chairs and watching and the music is very nice unlike the last few concerts which were either loud or inharmonic or LOUD. I have a first row freebie seat for these concerts since my windows overlook the piazza. But when there is music, I prefer to observe the party from the square itself. More autentico. I think these concerts will continue for the month of September and possibly into October if the weather holds. We are warm and comfy just now but the man in the military uniform on TV says that the forecast for tomorrow is for changeable weather with a chance of showers. Actually I don’t mind if there is some variation in the clime since this resolutely bel tempo is getting a bit boring. Being from the SF area which changes weather from morning to evening, consistency is my hobgoblin. So soon I will order another G&T and dissolve into simple audience mode. It’s a nice night.
Music in the piazza v2.0. Last night a different group played. This time it was up tempo New Orleans style brassy jazz. Loud but good loud. The crowd was very appreciative with many more dancers than the tango group. Well, this music allowed a more free form style of dance. They even had some playful tricks with a balancing act and some schtick with water. Then one of the crazy denizens of the piazza accosted me and tried to lecture me on using a computer in the area reserved for paying customers (but I had a G&T, natch) and my Italian was no match for his fractured English. He sat with me for a bit and plied me with odd questions until the music ended and I went home. All the way to the other side of the piazza.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Well, things are starting to happen. It has been a dry week what with everybody away for the August holidays. I was caught between ennui and depression, starting to develop heroic buyer’s remorse. But. I was swept into the drama of a displaced Georgian violinist who is reduced to home healthcare for the aged, one Nino. “Is boy’s name here,” she said in her fractured English. I stopped at a particular bar on the Arno which has a lovely view of the Ponte Vecchio as it turns a lovely series of earth colors during the sunset. Then you can turn the other way and see the windows of the Palazzi turning gold and the upstream bridges mirrored in the now relaxed stream. And they make a great gin and tonic. She was smoking and NOT buying the pricey drinks. She asked me a question about telephone cards, a ploy maybe. But for the next hour and a half, I heard her story, long and desperate. A violinist, she plays an Amati, once for the Moscow symphony, now she feeds elderly Italians whose kids only call weekly, weakly. “Be my friend, my sister, you go to Georgia, you need only ticket, after, my family take care everything!” I could not help but be affected and I told her I would do what I could but I was new here myself, blah, blah. She showed me her credentials and her clippings and told me her story and we talked about music and opera and travel and as tragic as she was, I was glad of the conversation and the interest. Maybe it was the romantic venue or the sentimental atmosphere but I truly wanted to be of help. I just have to get my own thing going here.

Italian Rigmarole

Italian rigmarole is not a dance. It is the life blood of people with little else in their lives but making others' lives complicated. I have been to the Quaestura to report myself as required in all of the documents in my possession. After several hours in different offices, they aren’t interested. They sent me to the post office to fill out a set of forms which they freely admitted would only be returned in time for my departure. I have obtained a codice fiscale which is supposed to permit all manner of financial transactions except the ones I want to execute like resurrecting the telephone line which ostensibly lived in the apartment so I can install broadband (forget wireless, just give me a connection!). I have been advised by David, intrepid Italo/British pal, that I should install a targa (nameplate) on the array of bells at the downstairs door so the phone co will find me but I am concerned that the landlady will be compromised since she hasn’t registered the lease, so I pause, wondering. Do the post office types rat to the lease bureaucrats? Well, maybe it will get better when the entire world comes back from vacation tomorrow or Tuesday or Wednesday or whenever. At least tomorrow I can go to the school and take advantage of the expertise of the ladies there, even if I have to sign up for a conversation class to make it legit. Parlo molto Italiano adesso! But apparently I need to learn curse words.