Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Keiko's visit

Keiko left this past Sunday to return to New York and her cats. We had a lovely visit with her, albeit a bit hectic as we both attended language school everyday and my promise to her that we will speak only Italian at home for two weeks was quickly broken. Four hours of class in the morning and then homework of thinking about and in Italian seemed to give us a brain drain. We did some other fun things though that gave up plenty of exposure to the language, including a corporate party (courtesy of a friend) at an ex-monastary that is now a four star hotel in the hills, a weekend in the Marche to celebrate my friend Philippa's birthday (she just had a beautiful inground pool completed, some friends from their hometown of London even came, and Ray roasted his first marshmallow), and a sunset aperitivo on the roof of one of Bologna's medieval towers (pictured above and now a b&b What a climb that was.). We also had a vegetarian lunch at an

agriturismo which was better than expected, and I think Keiko enjoyed getting around Bologna on the back of my Vespa. We also attended the theater to see an English/Italian version of The Vagina Monologues (we know now how to say the v-word in Italian, among others we wouldn't learn in class). The weather was quite hot while she was here, so we kept mostly to the indoors until it cooled down in the evenings. The cinema festival is in the process of showing films on the big screen in Piazza Maggiore, but so far we haven't managed to see any (the Kubrick segment begins this week - every year they show 2001 but this year they include a number of others - Andrea is looking forward to seeing the beautiful women in Eyes Wide Shut on the huge screen).

By the way, James and Philippa put up all their guests at a hotel in a small town in the Marche that was bought in its entirety and renovated into something of a resort yet still sits at the end of a dirt road. A great place to stay if you are planning a trip through the region:

This photo is for SusieQ.

Monday, July 7, 2008


During my first summer here in Italy, just before I became pregnant with Ray, Andrea took me on what my friends called "the kidnapping" - a two week trip to Sicily via ship (Ravenna to Catania) transporting our scooter and without any hotel reservations. This was unlike any vacation I had been on, it was to be the last big ka-bang before parenthood, and I was stubborn and reluctant to "rough it" (a.k.a. no hotel reservations) and with only the amount of clothing that could be crammed into the container attached to the back of the scooter seat. But, naturally, in spite of all my reservations, the trip was amazing and I will always remember it as one of the most beautiful and fulfilling vacations. The ocean coast and internal desert scapes in addition to the amazing number of Greek and Roman ruins made every new region and town a treasure, and the scents of the land and sea (and dust) inhaled from the back of the scooter could never be experienced from the interior of a car.

But the most unexpected discovery were the Sicilians - we were approached with outstretched hands regularly and given tours and recommendations. They were extremely friendly and hospitable (and rather petite to us!). The only downfalls of this beautiful island are the areas that are heavily polluted with trash, the high number of stray dogs, and the vulnerability of the more isolated homes - many of them were obviously vandalized and our idea of perhaps one day buying a former shephard's hut for retirement was quickly shot down - if you don't live there full-time you run the risk of losing all your possessions; even the plumbing and water heater might get ripped out. But in spite of her thorns, Sicily is beautiful, mysterious, enchanting and raw.

This article appears in this weekend's NYT and reminded me of the beauty of the land and the history of her people:
(that is not me adjusting my bathing top, unfortunately)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th

Happy Independence Day to my American and stateside friends. For some reason, it is always this particular holiday that gets me down while living abroad - perhaps because it is celebrated by the majority of (patriotic or not) Americans with a bbq and beer (two wonderful things) and it slips by here as just another summer day.
These photos are of a past bbq with the American/Italian offspring playing soccer and a slew of Italian meats on the grill.
We have been having a heat spell - temps in the 90s with 100% humidity. If we thought last summer we could survive without air conditioning in this apartment on a hill, then this year we have changed our minds. Keiko arrives on Sunday and we start language school the next day. I will attend for a month and Kei for the two weeks she is here. This language hurdle is to be overcome now or never for me - I am throwing myself into it 150% or else....

Ray started camp - he seems to love it. In true Italian fashion, we learned on Monday that he would be unable to begin summer camp on that Tuesday for logistical reasons (we had registered two months earlier and paid in full), but Andrea was able to be such a pain that they placed Ray elsewhere and he is doing full days at a camp run by a convent without any obvious trauma.

Here are some photos of how we are cutting through the heat: