Tuesday, 28 October 2014

This persiflage has been mega-idle

Feeling at least partly full of virtue, having done my Italian homework for tomorrow, I remain at the computer to see what else emerges from my brain. Although I have been back home for over a week, the jet lag has been severe, the sleep, haphazard, the energy low, the efficiency not anything to boast about, and the mind rather fuzzy.

My topic for tomorrow is the visit I made to Carrara, which has made me look at all the photographs, read what I wrote on the blog and the emails, and to recall what a great day it was.

It is, of course, good to be home, and to start retracing the steps of everyday life. My clothes are all washed and everything has been put away, and all the photographs put onto the computer. It will require hours to add all the details of what and where they are are.  As normal life takes over, details tend to recede in the memory. So I had better get a wriggle on. The growth of the garden has been rampant, so some pruning has been necessary. Aphids have multiplied and need to be exterminated.

Wild winds raced through Sydney yesterday, and my power went off for a couple of hours. There is nothing much to do when the power is off. Apparently it was far worse everywhere else. I have caught up with all the bills to be paid, gone back to choir practice, changed the bed linen, swept the floors,  crocheted even more squares for the next wrap. I need about another five or six and then they can all be joined.The next group meeting is not until Friday. Can it be finished by then? Or would it just give me RSI?

Partly I am still in travel mode, feeling it is time to be catching a train somewhere. But mostly I am getting back into the usual grooves, and working out which bills need to be paid, going to the local shops, to pay bills, buy a few groceries, and to gaze at the fences put up in the blocks which were blown up and burnt and where everything had to be demolished. Flowers and cards have been placed along the fences, and the local horror and sadness seems palpable. It makes me shudder at those who inflict violence on others, and seem oblivious, or even glad, to inflict disaster and suffering on the innocent.

Friday, 17 October 2014

The last supper, the last day and thoughts and body flying off for the long haul

Thus is my last full day in Italy. I leave for the airport in the middle of the day, and the flight departs in mid afternoon. That flight will not be so bad. The second is most likely to be dire, and real time will stretch into what will feel like twice as long.

Today I hoped to go to the Janiculum, but despite making careful enquiries, I could find neither the bus stop, nor the bus. But I did do something I had never done before, and it was great. I ascended the Vittorio Emanuele monument, firstly to the balcony, and then in a lift right to the top. The lift fits only eight people, so there are long waits to ascend and descend.

Once up, you could see, in all directions, the most wonderful views, with photo information to point out what can be seen.  I stayed up there for ages. Perhaps in other cities there are such views possible, but I have really only seen views from New York. They were spectacular, but nothing to rival the views from Rome in all directions. It made me realise what a testament Rome is to the Baroque period, with amazing domes on all directions. Not to mention all the remains of ancient Rome, which are stupendous.  And when you go inside the buildings, mostly churches, with domes, you realise how amazing their envisaging and their construction was. Not to mention painting all the frescoes. Talk about occupational health and safety issues !

 Having failed to go to the Janiculum, I revisited old haunts, such as Piazza Nsvona, Santa Maria degli Angeli, and Bernini's sculpture of an elephant balancing an obelisk on its back, ( I think the obelisk is a real one) and from there the Pantheon, and then straggled my way to a bus stop, having had to work out which direction my bus was taking. By this time of day, buses are very very crowded.

 I have had my last evening meal in Rome, which was quite good, and am now sitting typing this in the hotel sitting room. There are two American women here discussing their marriage breakups and the financial settlements, the chairs are more comfortable than the one in the room, so as I write I am perforce eavesdropping on their conversation and pondering the matrimonial financial arrangements of Americans. However (like me)  they are able to travel.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Resting quietly in the hotel lounge

Here  I sit in the hotel lounge. Hotel rooms give you a straight backed chair, or sitting on the bed. But here there is a lounge, which is rather more comfortable. There is another woman in the lounge, but we have not spoken to each other. She too is working on her iPad. There are computers here too, which I have not yet investigated. As a solo traveller, there are only so many travel experienes for a solo  that I can cope with in a day.

I have another day in Rome and then I go home. I have to admit that travelling alone is hard work, and I yearn for company. I am quite good at falling into conversation with fellow train passengers, diners, and other casual  acquaintances, but I do yearn for a companion. However, lacking a companion, I make the best of it.

 I  went by bus to the Vatican.  I cannot face the queuing and the crowds to go to San Pietro and to the Vatican Museums, but I went to St Peter's Square. There I fell into conversation with a group of Australians, who had a party of schoolchildren on tour. We had a pleasant
conversation and exchanged email addresses.

Tonight, as I dined alone,  I talked to a young Swede, a cancer nurse. The Swedish government changed at the last election, and this man told me that cancer patients now have to travel quite some distance for their cancer treatments.

I am ready to go home now. Travelling solo can be stressful, and I do wish I had a companion. Dr P waa too old and unfit to travel with me, but he did, kindly and generously, make it possible for
me to travel, and my solo travels are a constant reminder of how he cared for me in this way, and so, as ever, I think of him constantly.

I caught a bus into the centre, and walked around revisiting places, and then, in the period when nothing is open, I walked along the Tiber. I love doing this, reflecting on the construction of the embankments, to prevent the disastrous floods of the past, and looking at the river, the Isola Tiberina and the Ponte  Rotto, through the extensive branches of the trees, now changing onto their autumn colours.

The buses are very crowded and it is not easy to get a seat. I visited Piazza Navona and allowed the ubiquitous pigeons to feast on the crumbs from my panino. They do clear up a lot of mess. Piazza Navona was not very crowded, as most shops were still closed. I revisited Campo dei Fiori, which is where my sister and I stayed on our first visit. The market was finishing, and so I walked through Piazza Farnese and then through to Via Giulia and then to along the Tiber. I would like to go to the Gianicolo but have not worked out from where to catch the bus, and so, I expect, will allow the day to unfold itself.

 I have one more day here and have not yet decided what to do. Probably I will wander, and make it up as I go along. There are churches and art galleries to explore, at will. I do so love tbis city.

And then I have a half day before going to the airport, and enduring the long flights home.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Show me the way to go....

At the end of a long day, I droop over my bed, doing my one finger typing and wondering how many people can touch type. I never could, and it seems that little iPad keyboards impede any attempt at touch typing.

I am now in Rome, having travelled by bus to Camucia, and from thence to Roma Termini. Being a kind and gentle person, or so I claim to be, it occurred to me that some of my fellow passengers might not know how to work out which platform they should be on. And so it was, and we all caught our trains.

You have to be impressed by the Italian road and train system. Perhaps it was easier for European countries, being smaller and more densely populated than Australia, to build a good network. There are some very impressive engineering feats, over often very difficult terrain. (I keep wondering however people found their way across precipitous snowclad mountains.)

Having walked from the station to the hotel, and settled in, I went out to explore, snd to test my deep conviction that whatever direction I take to a place will turn out to be mistaken. And so it proved to be yet again, but I did at least get there and back, and so, presumably, did most of the milling hordes.
In Rome I like to revisit places, so I found the Triton fountain of Bernini, and the Palazzo Barberini (where you can see lots if Caravaggio paintings, which are fiercely protected from the likes of tourists and art lovers by the ever watchful but grumpy staff).

I like to revisit via Rasella, the site of an Italian resistance group during the German occupation of Italy. They managed to kill about 33 German soldiers, and in retribution the Germans rounded up, at random, ten times the number of those killed by the resistance, took them all to the Ardeatine caves,
shot them all, and filled the entrance with cement. Those massacred are now remembered.

Via Rasella runs off the street where the Palazzo Barberini is, and , as I stood contemplating history, tourists, traffic, gelato, and tired feet, my attention was caught by a large gathering of uniformed police and sundry helpers, who hooked up and then removed first one sleek and large black car, and then an inoffensive and microscopic car, and tow them both away. Don't even think of parking here! I was entranced and took many photos, which I would try and load if I had the strength, the will, and the know how.

However, i managed to have a meal, not very good, and to get the hotel to show me how to work the airconditioner, and to replace a light globe. So I think I will take to my bed, soon, instead of just sitting on it doing this one fingered typing.

Goodnight, goodnight, to who ever my readers might be. Buona Notte. Tomorrow is time enough to work out what to do next.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

On the move

My hotel bill has been paid, and seemed very moderate for a pleasant room with a double bed, a walk in shower, and a spectacular view to the valley below. Despite the mistiness, it is very beautiful.
Yesterday I went to Arezzo, by bus. Apparently the train journey would have been quicker, and once I had run out of steam there was quite a long wait for the bus.
My photos all look very grey and dark, what with so much mist. The sun peeked out only briefly. The interiors of the churches are very dark. I walked up to the park, which my sister and I had done on my first visit here, and enjoyed the beautiful views and the cloudy sky. The sun came out  briefly.
I am now waiting for the little bus to take me to the station at Camucia, and from there travel by train to Rome. My hotel is within walking distance of Termini, but it will be easier to take a taxi. I am hoping that someone will help me get the suitcase onto the train. The train I cuaght here had three steps up, rather daunting.
I could swear that despite sending a parcel home, and despite exercising great restraint in buying things, the suitcase is heavier. How can this be?

Monday, 13 October 2014

Mozzie bites, and steepness

This is Cortona, a hill town made famous by Frances Mayes. It is very steep, and climbing up one of its upper parts wiped me out this morning. Being  popularised by an American, lots of her country people are here. Overall, I prefer Montepulciano, where the hotel and all therle were lovely and kind, and, here, because I think I have run out of things to see and do. And there are mosquitos. I am supposed to avoid being bitten, because of the lymphodoema, but I have been bitten on the afflicted arm, and the bites itch madly.

I am rather terrified it will flare up badly again.

Which is not to say  Cortona is not lovely. It is very misty. It stays that way all day. The man at the hotel desk shrugged and said, "it is October."  My window faces the direction of lake Trasimeno, site of an historic very bloody battle centuries ago. I cannot remember whether it involved the Etruscans, or Hannibal. But The Etruscans do not interest me much. All their things are rather tiny. Give me Greeks and Romans any day. The view is lovely and there is a long road, so straight it must, surely, be an old Roman road. Although it is autumn, there has not been much change in the colour of the leaves, but notwithstanding that, they are falling. The Piazza Garibaldi, where the hotel is, has fabulous views, and there are many holm oaks, an evergreen oak, which are just now dropping their acorns. I cannot  take any home, though. We have strict quarantine laws in Australia, rightly so.

And the internet connection is very, how shall I say, episodic, if I go down to the lobby, it works, but in my room, it falls out. And it just did, so the temperature in my room is rising. These things cause  some angst and distress, seething and fuming, although basically I am a gentle soul.
 In one years from now it will not matter.

I managed to buy a half bottle of local wine, and having found a glass, of plastic, in the bar fridge, I can sip away. But I would quite like to leave tomorrow, and managed to buy my ticket, at the tobacconist's. The woman there was very helpful. And I now have a ticket pasted all over with stickers, but what they all mean I do not know. I am sure they must be something obligatory.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

The bells are ringing...

But they stopped just now. Bells are everywhere, up high, and yesterday I climbed up lots of stairs to get the fabulous, though misty, view of the Tuscan landscape. It is breathtakingly beautiful. Misty in the mornings (two, so far) and from the top of the very steep hill upon which Montepulciano is built, you can see in every direction.

The city has a lovely calm and grace, as well as beauty. There are fewer churches, and a small art gallery, bell towers, and heaps of birds, which perch in holes in the bricks. I wonder whether holes were purposely msde for the  birds? There are little lanes leading from the main street, leading to panoramic views.

And the hotel is just lovely, pleasant relaxing and comfortable, and my room is large with a double bed (letto matrimoniale) and there is a separate shower. Bliss! I am much more comfortable here, and have found some people to talk too, Canadians.

There are cats everywhere, many looking very alike, perhaps quite a lot of inbreeding has gone on, although this afternoon I saw a tabby with a gingerish tinge. There are a lot of leather products, and I confess I bought a new purple handbag.

Tomorrow I leave for Cortona, and it will probably be a complicated trip. I hope less complicated than getting to Montepulciano.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014


Pistoia is somewhat off the beaten tourist track. Apart from my solitary self, this morning there were a couple of tourist groups about. Whereas Florence is open for most of the time, Pistoia closes down quite convincingly, and then springs back to life in the late afternoon. There are lots of people riding bicycles, not with the ideological intensity of many Australian cyclists, but with the air of cycling being a normal and everyday activity, a way of getting from point A to point B.

Alas, my hotel is very basic despite its Ritzy name. A very small room, an uncomfortable seat and cats cannot be swung with any ease. A mosquito bit me on the lymphoedema arm last night, which puts the arm at risk, despite all my care in wearing the pressure sleeve all day.

Tomorrow I go by train to Montepulciano, a journey of about four hours, but the countryside should be enjoyable. I have to change trains twice, which will be challenging, especially if the stations lack lifts and stairs need to be gone up and down with the suitcase. A kind young man carried it down all the stairs for me yesterday, so here is hoping for such luck snd courtesy tomorrow.

Yesterday I posted home the books I bought in the Czech Republic and Austria, so there is less weight to heft about. The woman at the Post Office here was just lovely. It took wuite a long time, with all manner of complicated things to be done and forms to be completed, but, ecco fatto, it got done and the package has gone. I have told myself not to do any more shopping.

Things cost less here than in Tourist Heaven cities, coffee, panini, etcetera. This device wants me to spell in Italian, and it does not like my insistence on overruling it. And the hotel wifi wants you to reconnect with infuriating frequency.

However, I must not whinge. There was a gorgeous almost full moon last night, and a lovely sunrise this morning. And I had a lovely personal guide of the silver altar piece in the Duomo. The sky was grey and cloudy this morning, but the sun came out, which helps with the photography. And I had a good meal last night.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Marvelling at marble

Yesterday I went on a guided tour of the marble quarries of Carrara. For years I have wanted to go there, having had a great interest in stones, since my childhood. I used to pick up diiferent chips of rocks at the local monumental mason, and frequently walked through the cemetery, on my way to the creek. For years I kept samples of granite and marble, and wanted to be an archaeologist. This ambition was thwarted by my lack of scientific ability snd knowledge, but the interest in stones and rocks remains.

Carrara is a bit off my usual beaten track, and somewhat complicated to get there. But hotels have lots of leaflets advertising tourist opportunities, and one kf them had a tour of the quarries of Carrara. So I have been and gone. It was a long day, but satisfying and fascinating.

The tour people picked me up from the hotel, and a busload of people gathered outside Santa Maria Novella station. Only six of us were going to Carrara, the rest were going elswhere.

When we arrived at the meeting point at Carrara, we tranferred to a jeep, rather uncomfortable, and with no seat belts for the four of us in the back. We sat facing each other, clutching whatever we  could, and it was not easy to see much of the landscape. The other three people in the back with me were an Australian family from Perth.

The road by no means resembled the splendid road system of Italy, and is mostly used by trucks and workers in the industry. Our guide, a German who married an Italian, drove the jeep with panache, and spoke in detail about the history of the marble mountains, the Apuan, and the quarrying industry. Apparently, due to privileges granted some centuries ago, the quarries are privately owned.
Eventually we reached a working quarry. As it was Sunday, there was no work going on, and we had a splendid view of the mountain, the quarry, the view to the sea, and all the working equipment. Naturally we all took many photographs, and the sun was so bright that it was impossible to see what we were photographing. Whoever got rid of viewfinders in cameras?

I am so glad I went, but wish we could have seen something of the city itself. Instead we drove back to meet the bus and then visited both Pisa and Lucca. Both very interested, with hordes of tourists, and eventually we arrived back at the station and I walked back to the hotel.

Now I am about to pay my bill, and go to the station again, to travel by train to Pistoia.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Things seen and done

Briefly resting in the hotel room, sitting on the bed, resting my weary and sore feet before going in search of food, I find there is much to reflect on.

There are many more really large and fat people to be seen, including children. And there are hordes of smokers, keenly puffing it into your face. Probably recent research shows that smoking doesn't cause cancer, or anything else nasty. Older women must learn to keep out of the way of all others. Here the footpaths are extremely narrow, so when someone comes from the other direction, I am the one to give way. Why is it so?

The traffic is interesting. You cannot take your eye off it for a second. Lots of bicycles, and motor scooters. There seem to be receptacles for rubbish permanently in the streets, and my two days here have not been enough to work out the intricacies of when the rubbish is collected.

Yesterday I visited the pietra dura museum, l'Opificio di Pietra Dura, which was wonderful. I am totally entranced by this art form a of making tables and pictures out of intricately  and precisely carved stones, marbles, granites and semi-precious stones into wonderfully beautifal things such as tables, and the decoration of churches and public buildings, and private palaces and homes. (In fact, I lust after it.)

I packed a lot in today, and my mind was on that and not on watching what I was doing when preparing myself to go out.  After arriving back at the hotel, I realised that I had my top on inside out. At last, I must have looked trendy. As I am about to go out for dinner, I readjusted reality.  And I deleted most photographic evidence. My mother used to say (and I repeated it to my own children, ad nauseam) 'You can't go out looking like that!' But I did!

When I set out this morning I intended to vist some gardens, I Giardini dei Semplici, which apparently meant plants useful for various remedies and purposes. Alas, they were closed, due to damage from a tornado in September. I did not think Italy had tornados, but there was one some years sgo on Isola Bella, and now this.

It was a very active day. I found myself at San Marco. So I made a leisurely tour, seeing the cell used by Cosimo di Medici, and aldo Savaronola's quarters they were all austere and their life seemed to have few comforts.

The piazza has a pottery market this weekend, but I resisted not so later in the day, when I lashed out and bought a tea towel and an apron, all Tuscan cotton and linen blend, blue and white with a deisign of bees. I wended an accidentally circuitous route to San Lorenzo and the markets, resisted all the enticements(?) - around Ponte Vecchio is much better value. I have indulged myself by having a small raspberry gelato each day, but finding somewher to eat each night is not easy. Tonight I found quite a good place and fell into pleasant conversation with an American couple from Oregon, celebrating their silver wedding anniversary.

Tomorrow, very early, I am going on a bus tour to Carrara. i love marble, and have always wanted to go to Carrara and the marble quarries, but it is not an easy place to get to. I am going on a bus tour, and hang the expense! I may never get another opportunity. The crack of dawn awaits me, and I am being picked up at 7.30 am. Eek