Monday, October 01, 2018

Italian journal 2018 -- part II


July 28, 2018

We're experiencing un caldo tremendo which I’m exacerbating by drinking too much wine and eating too much everything. I am actually ‘carb-loading’! Something I rarely do. Pizza/pasta/even taralli, which Mike bought and which I normally swear off.

Plus lots of morning biscotti! (We bought a bag of galletti at the store).

As I write, we're on the train to Sesto to see Ilaria and Rosario. Wondering what funny things Rosario will say to Leo – he’s very funny with children! (Editor's note: especially "funny" with children who misbehave)
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Dexter works now at the Scottish pub – in Corso dei Tintori. I learn this by leaving the apartment rental and bumping into him two blocks from Santo Spirito. He’s on his bike, biking to work. How long has it been since I’ve seen him? Not sure. Could be two years. Could be 10.
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Orario for the trains to Pistoia:

18:47 à 19:03
19:10 à 19:21

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Vicki says we can take the #2 bus to the Giardino all’Orticultura. Also the #57 bus.

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Children can turn any event into a time for play. We went out with Ilaria and Rosario tonight and afterwards when they took us to the train station, I think Leo simply liked waiting on the platform for the train. 

It’s also amazing how much can be communicated without words. Leo doesn’t speak but a few words of Italian but he definitely “met” Ilaria and Rosario. He knows them now.

Writing? Almost nothing. Translating? Little, but I did buy a new copy of the Di Lascia text so I feel (mistakenly) like I’ve actually accomplished something (I’d kill for a version in hardback).

I have to restrain myself in the bookstores. There’s a new one here in Florence – IBS. The Internet portal turned brick-and-mortar store. It’s enormous. On Via Cerretani.


Angelo e Vicki's boys -- David (9) and Kristian (12) -- are learning English in school but they were shy about speaking it when we met up with them today! I love talking to them in Italian. I like the way they enunciate so clearly – I think all children do. It’s before the mumble stage that the rest of us carry on in.


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I pay a visit to Roberta, the scarf store I once patronized. But the viscido salesman from so long ago whom I’ve been trying to drop into a short story isn’t there anymore.
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I fear I will totally have to re-write “Polly’s Guide to Italian Men.”
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On the train again, this time headed to Pistoia to see Giovanni and Veronica. It’s one of the appuntamenti that mean the most to me during our trip.
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July 31, 2018 -- Da Giovanni

Two nights in Giovanni’s mansardo. Quiet, peaceful, an outpost of generosity. We wake up in the morning, there are three kinds of biscotti, coffee, hot milk, marmellata, homemade bread and a willingness to help in any way. Giovanni and Veronica are the best kind of Italians. Plus they have a veranda where you’ll find an olive tree, a lemon bush and two planters full of basil. An oasis, a house full of love and all of the mementos a loving life produces.
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(Back in Florence) Leo and I visit the private park at the Four Seasons hotel behind Irene's house. Irene said we should just tell the concierge that we are going to the cafe. When we walk up, there are two doormen out front and I dutifully tell them that we want to visit the bar (but not without some trepidation), and one of them looks at Leo’s shirt – a Fiorentina soccer jersey – and says, “Con quella maglietta lui può andare dove vuole!” With that shirt, he can go wherever he wants.

The private park – or the hotel grounds, you could say, but they are large enough and grand enough that the word park seems to fit – is exquisite, with sculpture and perfectly manicured landscaping.

But also confounding. This is Florence? So manicured, so pristine. An oasis tucked away that it would appear only rich foreigners can enjoy, while outside the walls of the hotel property a heat wave broils the city.
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Ode to the iconic Italian coffee bars: a refuge, un appoggio, a democratic venue, culinarily speaking. They are communal spaces where most people consume their coffees side by side at a counter, unlike at Starbucks where many retrieve their coffees and then retreat alone to a table. (Retrieve and retreat). Italian coffee bars are mini town squares -- in small Italian villages, they function practically like town hall where anyone and everyone comes at some point in the day. They open in the morning for coffee and pastries and often remain open until midnight, serving wine and beer and just about anything else you can think of. 

But mainly they serve company, they serve interaction and community. Chitchatting with the barista about soccer or politics is a time-honored Italian tradition (and one of the best reasons for an expat to master Italian).

It’s the real bar “where everyone knows your name” (though unlike the bar in "Cheers," visits there often have nothing to do with alcohol, especially for Italian patrons).

I’m moved to write this ode for several reasons, or really due to several bars I visited this trip where the barista – who might have been just some young kid – cheerfully greeted every single person who walked in the door. Not the fake chain store greeting but a genuine welcome, with a tone that suggests, ‘Oh good, you’re here.’

Aug. 1, 2018
Still staying at my friend Irene’s house in Florence (my old roommate!). I’m having one of those moments that seem inverosimili. How did I get here? Oh sure, it’s not like I know the Queen of England but I know someone whose gorgeous apartment overlooks a private park attached to a hotel that's so grand the Queen of England might actually stay there.

Unrelated: Would the Accademia della Crusca care to collaborate?! (As if) I’m driven to jotting down instances of English I see in Italy for airport parking. Specifically, it’s signage for an off-site parking lot – presumably open to all, including, ahem, Italians! – and it’s simply called PARKING. Like that’s some internationally-known word or brand, along with Coca-cola, OK and computer. Um, not really.

(As I transcribe these notes, I see an article in ITALIAN trumpeting “foliage” tours near Torino. Because only in English do we have foliage. Leaves and especially leaves that have turned Fall colors are clearly NOT NATIVE to Italy (!!!), hence they must use an English phrase to describe the phenomenon. Poveracci! No word, apparently, for foliage. Despite thousands of years of actual foliage).

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