Thursday, July 31, 2003

Blogging Vacation

The internet lab where we have been checking email and updating the blog is going into hibernation tomorrow for a month. Therefore, we might be taking a bit of a blog-break starting tomorrow. We are searching for other labs to check email and blog, but please don't be alarmed if you don't see our daily quotes every day (those of you who are avid readers of them)!

This is really just an excuse, of course, to travel to distant towns and sunbathe on Italian beaches. But, with our luck, it will rain.

Frescoes in Fretta

Hurrying home yesterday, Corrie and I saw a building with its windows torn out, being remodeled. At first it didn't warrant much more than a double-take: a palazzo with empty, glass-less windows letting the breeze flow through seemed like a nice summer remedy. As we got closer though, through the windows you could see the ceilings of the rooms inside. They were no ordinary ceilings: decorated elegantly with brilliant frescoes--circles of light and angels, clouds and flowers, pinks and golds.

All of this hidden behind a plain-front facade, behind pane-less windows, in the dining room of an old woman's house.


Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Checking It Twice

Well, it's winding down. Somehow I just have 3 weeks left today. Corrie and I are going to try and get some more travel in--next week we want to do some sort of Veneto tour (senza Venice), including the beautiful villas of Andrea Palladio. Right now it's just a dream, but we are planning!

As the end of the tour begins, it's getting to be list-making-time (anyone who has traveled extensively with us knows our list-making habits), so over these next days you might see a few lists on our site. I'll start with this one:

Top 10 Cities I Want to Visit MOST In Italia
(but have still not had the chance)

10. Taormina (Sicilia):for the simple fact that it is Sicilia, like Napoli is Napoli.
9. Gallipoli (Puglia):for an old city like an island in the sea, clear-blue water, and for Puglia, which I love.
8. Orvieto (Umbria):for the Duomo, a fortress-like wall, and a ski lift.
7. Torino (Piedmonte):for the back of the two cent coin and some remarkable views of the mountains.
6. Trieste (Friuli Venezia Giulia):for its gateway into other places.
5. Padova (Veneto): for Giotto.
4. Verona (Veneto): for a dream I had to study there, a winding river, and a fairy-tale gone wrong.
3. Matera (Basilicata):for the South and Matera's Sassi district.
2. Mantova (Lombardia):for lakes, Andrea Mantegna, and grand piazzas.
1. Napoli (Campania):for pizza, an underground city, pure (Italian-style) chaos, and the capital of the Mezzogiorno.


Tuesday, July 29, 2003

The Quotes Keep Coming...

"We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds."

-Anton Chekhov

Monday, July 28, 2003

Pieces of Light

Antonello and I drove up to Ravenna on Sunday, leaving a sun-burnt Macerata at 10 in the morning to drive--windows wide open--2 and a half hours up the coast to Emilia Romagna, Italy's food-lovers region. Ravenna is definitely one of the gems of Emilia Romagna, of Italy--of Europe one might say--hiding within its quiet streets one of the finest collections of mosaics in the world. And why not? Ravenna was once the capital of the Western Roman Empire, causing a flood of interest and a Byzantine explosion within the city walls.

But Ravenna barely looks the part. It's streets are defined by cute shops and sidewalk cafes, soft pavement and an almost sea-side feel. It is a charming city, its buildings washed with shades of green and pink and yellow, its piazza much more friendly than foreboding--a sort of wistful place.

It is only once you reach the churches that you notice an overwhelming change in the city. The same colors are there--rich yellows, greens, blues, pinks--but they become the tesserae for mosaics instead. And they are everywhere. Churches were filled, from ceiling to floor, with golden star and blue sky-ed mosaics, or puzzle-pieced doves sipping from birdbaths. Ravenna's San Vitale, a messy circular Basilica of mosaics and frescoes, was the model for one of the world's most famous mosques (once a Catholic church itself), Aya Sofya in Istanbul.

We spent most of our time in these ancient churches whose mosiacs glowed brilliantly from the light of alabaster windows. Some churches had mosaic floors or some sort of other hidden wonder--a surprisingly convincing Baroque chapel, a Napolitan-style cloister, Dante's tomb.

One church, that of San Francesco, was unimposing and simple, until you reached the altar. There, hidden beneath the steps, was a crypt halfway filled with water. We put in 50 cents to light the space, and columns of stone emerged from clear water--a small pond underneath an ancient church. There were goldfish swimming around and a mosaic was pressed into the floor. Antonello and I tried to guess what the pool was once used for--an old cistern for the city maybe? We didn't know.

As we were leaving, I noticed that people had thrown coins into the water. The pale floor was littered with them--small discs of gold and silver. They shone brilliantly, reflecting the pool light at different angles. It was as if they had formed their own mosaic, and I could barely tell them apart from the tesseraes already there, in the pool's ancient floor.


Lillies and Callouses for Roma

Giddy at the end of our summer camp gig, I happily headed in the opposite direction of the Adriatic coast early Saturday morning. No sand between my toes this weekend...just some sore, but happy, feet. A lifetime of Saturdays couldn't be enough to experience every aspect of Roma but I walked this weekend as though it were my last.

The major sites I'd seen before, but is it possible to come to Roma and not walk by the Fontana di Trevi at least once? So to fulfill both desires - to make the token stops but also experience a new aspect of the Eternal City - I dodged through viccoli and shady side streets between Piazza Navona and San Pietro. Sure it added several steps to the route from Trastevere to Piazza del Popolo, but as they say, the joy is in the journey.

I snuck into a lovely couple's wedding ceremony where the incredible ornaments and paintings of the church were complemented by the red tapestry draped over each pew and sprays of white lillies flowing from nearly every flat surface. The dome of San Pietro popped into view from between the columns on the south side of the piazza and was even more impressive from this acute angle than from the breadth of the main corso just steps away. Cold watermelon after a long day in the hot city made even this ragazza feel like a Roman Empress. (Somebody please tell me if there's still a watermelon seed stuck in my laurel wreath.)

Returning to Macerata under the last rays of the day's sun, the temperature was dropping and the breeze cooling. I walked (again) from the train station to our apartment, but this time took the more direct route. Major sites of that tour included the dimmed lights behind the locked door of one of our favorite pizzerias, ladies in too high heels trying to keep up with slick gents late for the Sferisterio's performance of La Treviata, and the skinny orange cat who lives in our neighborhood with about three dozen fellow strays. Not much compared to the spendors of the past 48 hours, granted, but they were the sights of home and so brought about a similiar feeling...from a dominion slighly less grand but ever so dear, I felt like an empress all the same.


Today's Quotational Gem

Is quotational a word? Anyway...

"The young do not know enough to be practical, and therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation."

-Pearl Sydenstricker Buck