Friday, January 06, 2006

Comic Relief

Tuesday morning I woke up at ten till six to catch the train to Faenza. Lori had come down from Milan, and we had picked Faenza as a halfway point to meet up for a day trip, since both of us had never been there before. Also, since my friend Cyndi lives near Faenza as well, she and her husband Danilo were going to join us for part of the day, to show us around. Tired and cranky, rain pouring down all around us, I kissed my husband goodbye and hopped onto the train in Macerata.

The rain stopped halfway up the road to Faenza, and when I arrived, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. I felt like I was suddenly transported from Kansas to Oz. Danilo and Cyndi were just finding a place to park, and when they found one, they seemed as surprised as I was about the change in weather. I wasn't going to complain--with our luck so far, Cyndi and I have always had sunny days when we have met up: from Fano to Lake Como to Faenza. Within ten minutes, Lori's train had arrived, and three-kiss-greetings were shared by all.

We decided to head to Brisighella for sight-seeing and lunch. Brisighella, one of the Borghi Piu Belli d'Italia (prettiest little villages in Italy), is up on a hill to the west of Faenza, and I was eager to see a hill town in Emilia Romagna, a region known for its flat towns and bicycle riders. We weren't disappointed. After a few minutes' drive, we arrived in the picturesque little borgo, with its colorful houses and a clock tower and imposing castle on opposite cliffs, as if they were ready to battle each other, I smiled in the sunlight. This was better than Oz.

After a climb up one cliff to the clock tower, we discovered it was closed (Lori had already admitted being bad luck when it came to shops closing down whenever she was around, so we weren't surprised). Lori tried to climb up the stone cliff to scale the wall to the tower, but she stopped after a short bit, turning for a photo op and that was all. We took some photos from the cliff, looking down at the town below us, the castle before us, and the mountains all around. It was gorgeous under the pale blue sky, as the day continued to put on the best show she could.

I do have a comment to make, though: I don't know how Lori does it--she was wearing all white and, despite her cliff climbing and hiking in the grass, she never got a bit dirty. I on the other hand was capable of messing up the only light-coloured thing I was wearing--my khaki pants--with dirt and grass stains by lunchtime, and I never climbed any rocks! Not fair! I guess it's all black from now on.

Lunch in Brisighella is supposedly legendary, and people come from all over Italy to enjoy Romagna at its best. While we decided against the most expensive (and most well-known) restaurant in town, we found a place that seemed equally charming and settled in. Lunch was fine--I had a mushroom appetizer and a beet-coloured gnocchi first plate--but I was more impressed by how Italian the lunch was, with us staying seated and chatting until early afternoon. I guess I noticed it now because I was just in the states, where the waitress would easily shoo you out before long. Instead, we laughed and chatted, taking pictures and telling stories, until we all felt ready to go.

Leaving Brisighella, we made our way toward Faenza, but we decided to stop at a ceramic store in between. Faenza is famed for its ceramic and is one of the most important ceramic cities in Italy. While a lot of it has become industrial, central Faenza is still filled with craft shops where ceramic is still an art form, practiced as in old times. Cyndi and Danilo knew of a great little ceramic store off-the-beaten-path. For their wedding, they had received a set of two ceramic cats (if you didn't know, Cyndi loves cats), and Cyndi wanted to find another one to match. We wandered around the little house-turned-shop for the good part of an hour, marvelling at the beautiful sculptures and little animals. It was clear the artist was crazy about cats as well, as most parts of the shop displayed some version of a cat--from little coat hangers to simple statuettes. There were other animals too (but no porcupines!).

Cyndi bought a little yellow cat and asked if, the next time she came back, there might be a light blue one available. We convinced Danilo, who looked on stunned (what? you want ANOTHER cat?) that there were plenty of occasions to buy her one: why, both Cyndi's birthday AND Valentine's day were right around the corner! He sighed, we laughed, and everyone left the store with their purchases (I bought a necklace). We got in the car. It was time to visit Faenza.

Our time in Faenza was actually a bit of a mess. First, I almost broke the necklace I had just bought (I was opening my backpack looking for something, and it jumped right out, onto the road. This sent Cyndi into hysterical laughing, and no one, as of yet, has discovered why). Then, Lori's bad luck with closed shops hit us again, as every "cutesy" (a term coined by Cyndi, meaning non-traditional ceramics) shop that Danilo and Cyndi knew of was closed, and we ended up perusing the more traditional (read: expensive) ceramic stores.

But the worst was what happened at sunset. While trying to take a picture of the sunset, I placed my camera atop a parked BMW. I set the timer (it doesn't move the camera, meaning it can take a steady picture), and as I stood waiting, I heard the front window of the car open, and a man stared up at me, half confused, half angry, wondering what in the world I was doing with my camera on his BMW. I waited a moment, panicked and hoped that the timer would expire and the photo would shoot, and I could make my getaway. Seconds passed, and, since it wasn't taking the photo and the man was still staring, I grabbed my camera, said sorry, and ran, with great speed, across the street and into hiding. The camera shot the photo in the process. I have a great photo of the road as a result.

After that, Cyndi and Danilo decided it was time to head home (fearing for their own car and someone taking a photo on it, I assume). We said our goodbyes and promised to do this again--on another sunny day in between Milano and Macerata. After that, Lori and I just had a couple of hours before our train ride, so, after searching more ceramic stores until I actually bought something, we sat down at a little bar outside of the train station and munched on aperitifs. Chatting, telling stories, and laughing, it was the perfect end to our sunny little day of laughter and fun. And, despite Lori's bad luck, the little bar stayed open until it was time for us to go.

Thanks to Danilo and Cyndi for putting up, I mean, meeting up with us! We had a great time with you guys and hope that your new cat is a great addition to the family!



At 1:22 PM, Blogger Cynthia Rae said...

We had so much fun with you guys! I hope we can do it again soon. About the laughing.... it just struck me as very funny because it was something that I would have done! I never touched the yellow cat and that is the ONLY reason it made it home safe.


At 9:35 AM, Blogger Stelle In Italia said...

Cyndi: I know what you mean about the laughter. I'm the same way. I'm just glad the necklace made it home safe! Antonello's present on the other hand... :)


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