Tax day in the U.S., and we have returned to Italy. For someone who loves to travel, I really hate the process. We discovered Delta's Economy comfort class of tickets which offers extra leg room, for a price, which is particularly great if you are in an exit row. The 6'1" Stoic One appreciated the space. Here is the problem with Delta Airlines. If you are not a Platinum member, you are basically screwed. Half our plane was this level of frequent flyer membership, so by the time we got to our seats, all the overhead space was taken which meant we had to take some other poor sap's overhead luggage space in the back of the plane and then when the plane landed, swim upstream, locate the luggage and then exit. Ugh! We arrived in Atlanta, change planes, go through the horrible process again, and then we sit there for an hour waiting for a "part to arrive" and then are told we need a new plane. Then we are told we need new pilots because they have passed the time when they can fly even though they have been doing nothing but sitting and then 2 more hours passed. We deplane, sit in the waiting room, and I start watching Italians. My favorite sport. First of all the Italian kids are all wild, running around like maniacs, and the Italians are all amused with them and the Americans are frowning. The Italian mothers look worried, are fretting about the planes safety and trying to make sure each family member has something to eat and drink. Next the Italian men get bored, which seems unusual since they never do much anyway, so they introduce themselves to the other Italians and start playing cards. They make as much noise as the kids. The Americans are not amused. Time passes.
We board again, same process. Eventually we took off. In 24 hours, I ate the worst food ever. McDonald's, really, first time in 10 years. (They gave us a $6 food credit. The Stoic One didn't want to eat, but I reminded him of Sarah's travel rule, "Always eat when given the opportunity" He growled his way through a dry turkey sandwich.) Note to self, we should pack a picnic like the Italians used to do on the trains!
We finally arrive in Milano Malpensa which is much calmer than the Rome airport as you can imagine. We take the train to Milan central and then take La Freccia (the fast one) to Florence. This is Italy's answer to the French TGV. This was the best part. Great train, comfortable seats, very clean, very fast, perfect. We get to Florence and then miss a good train by 6 minutes and then take a milk train to Arezzo that had 13 stops before we got there. Mercifully, I slept most of the way, but the train pasted through the wilds of Tuscany. The countryside looked like southern Umbria, green, lush, every yard planted with higgly piggly vegetable gardens, crap around the out buildings, houses build up close to the tracks (what must that be like at night?). The towns we stopped at were small. I had never heard of any them before. Only one town had a large church spire...maybe I slept through other churches. We would never come in this way again. Good experiment, but it will be back to the train station in Terontola. There is a reason everyone comes that way.
Simone, our good friend picked us up at the train station in Arezzo, and it was wonderful to see his smiling face and his arms extended in a big hug. Welcome home, he said, and it does feel like home here. I don't know if any of you are watching the American TV series "Awake". The story line is about this detective who is involved in a fatal car accident. After the accident he has created two worlds as a way of coping. In one world his wife is alive and his son has died in the accident. In the other world his son is alive and his wife has died in the accident. He has two therapists each of whom tell him the world that they are in is the real world and the other one is a dream world. Anyway, being in Italy is a bit like that for me. I know that both of my worlds are real, even though I don't have a therapist to verify that. It just seems like I am living in two different movies. My movie in California is filled with work, and all of the benefits of the 21st century. It is a stimulating, fast paced, and my life is measured by the clock. This is partly because I am a consultant and partly because I am in the Bay Area. In the beginning, I try to bring my California life here. It takes a few encounters with Italians to remind me that "time" in Italy is not the same in any way shape or form. Even their word for time "orario" seems more like a time schedule, which is generally "in ritardo" late than an actual word for time. I constantly use the word "tempo" for time because it seems more fitting. Unfortunately it also means weather, and the weather here is as variable as the time!
Now I am in Umbertide. When I walked into our apartment building I thought hello four hundred years of people. Our building looks like it has been here 400 years. It is not one of those tarted up 400 year old buildings that you see in Florence. This building looks its age. The stairs are made of slate and the center of the steps have small indentations where all of the little feet have walked up the 65 (!!!!) stairs. We went out to eat, and had delicious food with our friend Laura at the Locanda in the piazza. I had bracciola and arugula salad and tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms. It was divine. We came back up the stairs, and fell into our bed.
Since I have been gone, the pigeons have returned. They mainly use the terrace next door as their stalking grounds but sometimes they land on my window sill and make pigeon noises in the middle of the night. Why aren't they sleeping? I am going to get some of that metal stuff to put down so they can't land. God knows the name of, as I don't know the name in English, it will require more acting skills on my part. The Italians find this hilarious when I act out what I need. They try not to laugh at me. They put their hands over their mouths and look down and try to contain themselves, but by the time I have completed my pantomimes, they are usually guffawing with one another. I usually get what I want.
I am including a photo of the apartment of our dear friends Joseph and Paul. After visiting here for 15 minutes, they bought the apartment in the building next to us and are going to retire here this year. Joseph is an interior designer and Paul is a veterinarian. Their apartment has the town clock in it. Thankfully it doesn't bong the time. They will need to redo the apartment and are using the same cast of characters as we are. Another adventure to be sure.
We are here for only a week. We are hoping that we will be able to buy the dead Max (see previous posts) apartment while we are here. Knowing that I am in Italy, if this happens, it will be 30 seconds before we leave.