November 2011 #3
Together, crocodiles in Australia, and Leonardo...and the secret passageway of the Medicis.
But first, a correction...avanti not avante...must proofread.
Did you know that in Australia, crocodile meat is regulated by the government but kangaroo meat is not. This sounded even weirder in Italian as Antonio from Australia explained it as part of our grammar class. Today we were joined by Gladys from Brazil. I am still the only person from gli Stati Uniti. It is fascinating to experience my country as basically inconsequential.
When you follow the news in America, the United States is presented as the center of the known world. As I view the history and mingle in a world where I am the only American, I become aware of how isolationist America actually is, despite our presence all over the world.
The predominate thought I have about my country is that we are so new. So naive, in a way. We don't carry our history with is. America is the land of reinvention. But like Gasby, there's a tendency to worship the green light.
Yesterday, my art history class of 3 plus Caterina, the teacher, went to the Palazzo Vecchio where we were given a private tour through "the secret rooms." Previously, we'd toured the palace with Catarina, but this time...we entered a small wooden door and began our ascent up a narrow...maybe 2 feet wide...flight of stairs that wound round and round. All stone, cold and dark. This was the secret entry for the Medicis so that they could come and go without revealing themselves to the public. The stairs wound round into a small but elegant room with paintings on panels covering all four walls. The frames of the paintings were identical, except some opened into doors!
One was off the famed and magnificent hall adorned by the paintings depicting Florentine dominance, a massive room with paintings by Vasari all over the place.
Up we went to another room where the paintings revealed the Medici interest in all the arts and sciences. Along the way, there were small windows where it was possible to look down on the streets below. What might Cosimo have been thinking when he looked down on a November day at the streets below?
Beyond the secret passages, there is a painting of Lorenzo the Magnificent, the Medici who followed in the steps of his grandfather Cosimo and brought the enlightenment of the arts to Florence. He died too young, in 1492, just as Columbus was about to bring death and destruction to millions of those who once lived peacefully in areas that we now celebrate as the birthplace of our nation.
In preparation for my trip, I watched a series of DVDs on the Italian Renaissance. A point that staggered my wits was that those who led the age of exploration were Italians: Columbus, Vasco Da Gama, Verrazzano, and Giovanni Caboto aka John Cabot. But they all worked for other countries because Italy had failed to move forward with R & R, as it were. Italy was still using those flat bottomed ships, for example, that were primo for trading in the Mediterranean but not seagoing vessels. Big mistake. It seems that the intellectuals had gotten too caught up in discussing ideas, and the government got bogged down in power struggles so that Italy was failing to solve its problems.
But I'm off the subject...and how cool is this: What was that the secret passageway continued to wind around until we reached a space above the ceiling of the massive hall where the scaffolding of the building was laid bare. We were above the paintings on the ceiling below and could see the way the enormous palace had been constructed. It was quite exciting to think I was walking where the Medicis walked in their private moments, where no one else was invited.
On another trip, we went to the Medici chapel. hardly a chapel. The marble was exquisite...but I'm not talking about art since there is absolutely no way to describe it. I was moved touched when standing in front of Lorenzo's resting place. In the paintings of him, he appears reflective and was himself a poet. There was about him in this picture an air of tragedy. Like his grandfather, Cosimo, he ruled by walking among the people. Yeah, they bought power. That's what power is all about, isn't it. But there was a also a spirit of art and justice. A sense of leadership. When the Pazzi tried to kill Lorenzo in church (they got his brother), the people rose up against the Pazzi.
I kind of forget the actual event. But some powerful guy from Napoli was threatening Florence. In the dead of night, Lorenzo went off to Napoli alone...like, dude, this was molto stupido...to discuss the problema. In the end, war was averted. Like, dude, way to go.
Alas, today, I missed a mini trip because I am once again struggling with the arrangements for Maierato. Can you believe it...yes you can...Alitalia raised its rates 200 euro in 24 hours. Where is Lorenzo the Magnfico when I need him? It appears I will have to go to Pisa by train, to fly Ryanair...who the hell are they?...and then take a bus from Lamezio Terrme to Maierato. The return from Lamezio is at mezzogiorno...midnight...to Pisa, at which time I will have to get a bus back to the Florence train station, one of the places where Rick Steves says pickpockets love to prey on elderly Americans.
I stand in front of my mirror and say, "You have to be crazy."
Tomorrow, I am going to see if my friend Yoko will let me use her rental phone to call Polma.
I feel very insecure going to a rural village on a short trip where there is no margin for error. If were confident with the language, I would not feel so vunerable. I have always loved language. But because I was always good at it, I didn't fully realize how integral it is to one's security and wellbeing. I think it will all work out.
My two new words of late that I use quite often in my thoughts:
confondere: to confuse
So anyhow, I gave up trying to catch up with the field trip. Interestingly, I was able to get where I thought they were by going very quickly and with fiducia. But No luck. However, I did find that there is a kind of Occupy Italy thing going on in that piazza with tents. Of course there are big signs celebrating the departure of the Big B. and there's also a tiny area in the large piazza in support of the environment.
Not finding the lecture group, I did however find that for some reason I cannot explain, I had cut my finger and it was bleeding all over my hand. I had wondered why my had felt wet but was in a hurry.
After wrapping the finger in a handkerchief, I gave thanks to my mother for making me always carry and handkerchief and decided to make limonata from limone. I therefore gave up trying to find my group and stopped at the Leonardo da Vinci Museum. I asked the woman charging me 5 euro if she had a bandaid. But how stupid of me. She was in charge. I already know what that means. She gave me the look.
I rewrapped my finger in a clean piece of kleenex.
Leonardo. What a guy. All those gears and pulleys. Astonishing. a printing press, a small terrain tank, a room of mirrors where you can see all sides of an object simultaneously, and hey, for Tillamook, a dredging machine for the rivers. I have to say that after viewing the flying machines, I would not want to go off Maxwell Mt. in one.
On my way home, I stopped at Grom's for gelato. Bacio, of course, chocolate hazelnut, and who should see me there but my classmate Hyroko. She wasn't having gelato but saw me so thought she'd stop for some practice speaking Italian. So there I was with my new Japanese friend speaking Italian in Florence and thinking of my dear nipote (newphew) Brian and la sua moglie (his wife) Tammy since Grom's was a daily stop for them while they were a Firenze (in Florence).
Oh -- the dinner last night with the class was so much fun. Our waiter Tony spoke no English, and there we were, Swiss, Mexican, German, Polish, Japanese, and American, all attempting to be understood. Kazu is very positive that I need to make Japanese rice bread part of my senza glutine life and spend many minutes on his Smart Phone, showing me the GoPan for making such bread...and the way less expensive process for making it by hand. I had i fagioli con la salsa di pomodoro ed i spinaci...beans with tomato sauce and spinach...and un'insalata. A salad. This salad for the equivalent of $6 was about one foot by one foot in size. In America, you get a few leaves of lettuce on a saucer for $4.50 these days.
On the way home after my gelato this evening, I stopped at a store that appeared to sell Xmas ornaments. I was greated by an elderly woman. When I picked up a foot high tree in a packet with teeny ornaments...made in Cina...(no h in Italiano), she scooted over to me to point out the ornaments were tutti in legno...all in wood. Why would I buy ornaments in Italy that were made in China for more than I could buy them at Fred Meyer, so I left. I was reminded of The Stare, my sister Laura and Ross got when they left a restaurant in Italy. It can only be described as the stare of La Morte.
However, I remain alive and well at Borgo Allegri, N 66.
I am less homesick today. However, I know I will be very happy to back at 4540 Old State Rd.
I am very fortunate to be getting in touch with my inner Italian. But for whatever their reason, Dominico Cutuli left Italia, and Angela Serrao Cutuli, daugther of Rocco, followed him. They brought me to America in whatever their hopes and dreams might have been.
Then there's the German Smoyer and Chalmers, the Scot. Last night, insieme, together, the class enjoyed dinner, people from around the world who would never otherwise be friends, except that for some reason they wanted to speak Italian. Clearly, there are differences in culture and national character. But when there's a common language, no matter how minimal, the differences vanish. I wonder if there will be a way for more people to talk with one another from the heart instead of through politicians?
Once the powerful here all built houses like towers. Bigger is best, kind of thing. But then the towers were abolished,all were one. Interestingly, leaders in the governing body were elected to serve for a couple of months to ensure that no one got too much power. What a concept.
This is long, and the night is getting shorter.
Tomorrow's special event is the Apertivo. I think this boils down to getting free drinks some some snacks at a place with a view. Hey, I don't care what the view is, it won't beat Roseanna's. Or, in fact, watching my cats napping out back...insieme...in my garden.