Saturday, April 30, 2005

Cafe near the Lake

Cafe near the Lake
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

Garden by the Lake

Garden by the Lake
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

Lago Trasimeno

Lago Trasimeno
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

The Crumbling Castle

The Crumbling Castle
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

Approaching Isola Maggiore

Lago Trasimeno and Isola Maggiore - At the Lake

Friday, April 29, 2005

Lago Trasimeno is the largest lake in Italy and it is surrounded by the hills and mountains of Umbria. It's less than one half hour away from Perugia by train, so yesterday, at the suggestion of Professoressa Anna Commodi from the Universita per Stanieri, we took the trip. When we saw her at the University on Wednesday (she is helping us get our class all arranged), she asked if we had been there and even assisted us with train schedules. She told us where to go and how to get there - how nice for us! So, at 9am we were on the bus at Piazza Italia for a 10-minute ride down to the stazione (the main train station) buying our tickets and getting on the train. We traveled out of the city passing the apartment buildings below and into the outlying countryside with its farms and rolling hills. By ten we were walking along the beautiful lakeside. There is a ferry that takes you out to the island, Isola Maggiore (Big Island, basically - there is a smaller one called Isola Minore and a third, Isola Polvese, but Maggiore is the only one inhabited). We bought our tickets for the ferry and then decided to explore the little city of Passignano sul Trasimeno first. The streets nearest to the lake are filled with restaurants and shops - the ever-present gelaterie, cafes and souvenir shops. Some of the houses had little gardens and window boxes with geraniums spilling out. Growing wild were purple iris about to bloom and these wonderful clusters of yellow bouquets bursting out of the stone walls. Climbing above the shorefront, the ancient town rises, with 3 stone towers, and the twisty, turny streets that bring you to the summit of the village and breathtaking views of the lake. There is a plaque on one of the crumbling walls with words like "bombardamento" and the "Guerra" (bombardment and the war) with reference to World War II and the 1940s and the names of the local boys who had died. It's hard to imagine what those years must have been like for these people, their precious ancient cities being destroyed before their eyes.

We continued on, exploring and taking photos and then around noon got on the ferry to the Isola. A lovely, tranquil journey, our fellow passengers were almost entirely from a German tour group so the language around us was even more foreign than usual and became a soft blurr of background noise as we sailed away from the harbor out onto the lake. It is about a 20-minute leisurely cruise and I felt comfortable enough to take out my journal and do a quick watercolor sketch of the approaching island with the clouds above and the water below. Lost in my painting, I watched the island come closer and closer.

The weather was warm and sunny, as these past few days have been and I honestly think I appreciate it more having had so many cold and rainy days. We followed the path out to the Church of St. Francis. History has it that in the year 1211 he spent his Lenten season here and they erected a church and a monastery in his name. Many years later, they built a castle around the complex of buildings. Today it is in complete disrepair, with crumbling ceilings and the painted canvases on the walls (like wallpaper) hanging in shreds. It's like a lost little city. The feeling was quite surreal, like the prince in the fairytale coming upon the castle of Sleeping Beauty amid briars and brambles, a shadow of its former self. An old woman tends to the place and in Italian explained to us that the church was indeed molto vecchio (very old - ancient, in fact) and much in need of restoration. The other churches on the island had been restored, so our hope is that they will eventually get to this one. It was incredible really to be left alone to explore the dark and mysterious castle and see the vast rooms and little corners, the huge vaulted ceilings. Piles of rubble and broken tiles lay everywhere, window frames hanging in front of the most breathtaking scenery, as the lake appears below.

We met an Australian tourist and wandered around chatting with him for a while. We laughed when he said we shared a common language - and he meant Italian, not English - although we understood each other very well. We shared our stores about why we were both there. I told him about Jessica's trip to Australia and that we had friends in Phoenix from his country. He was an archivist from Sydney and had recently been offered early retirement and was traveling around Italy.

Back on Passignano by 3:30 or so, we had a slice of pizza and a coke and then watched 3 young Italian boys jump off the pier and into the lake. One of them - the one with the longish curly hair who had run, bare-chested down the path towards the water, jumped in over and over again. His other friend (the one who had his jacket on and walked slowly, made one valiant and beautiful dive and immediately came out of the water, once being enough for him. The third fellow landed somewhere in between.

By 5 we were on the train headed for home, exhausted as we used to be after a day at the beach, but very content and happy. A truly buona giornata.

Rosemary & Bob

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Making Rope

Making Rope
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

A House in Corciano

A House in Corciano
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

Ye Olde Blacksmith (Fabro ferraio)

Liberation Memorial Ceremony

Antique Car Show

Antique Car Show
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.
These are all Fiat Cars made between 1936 and 1966.

Painting like Vermeer (not)

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

What a gorgeous day today was! The weather was absolutely perfect and my whistling street sweeper, Paolo, and Signore Francesco who lives next door both agreed that it was indeed a beautiful day and that perhaps La Primavera had finally arrived. We spent a lazy day at home, doing some laundry, not going anywhere special and sitting in the yard, drinking a glass of wine after lunch and a cup of espresso later in the afternoon. There is a patio at the far end of the lower part of the garden where the tulips and geraniums are, a part of the garden that Giovanni, the gardener tends called the "Orto" - the vegetable garden - although there are as many flowers as vegetables. There is also a series of metal arches where the grape vines grow. We watched him one day clipping and trimming in such a casual way as only someone who has gardened for years can do. Bob took some wonderful shots of him that day that we should post to the blog. Anyway, I gathered up a bunch of my pens and pencils, watercolors, brushes and miscellaneous paraphernalia and situated myself on one of the chairs in that patio that sits on the edge of our world and sketched and painted and drew for a few hours today while Bob went off to find some things to photograph. It wasn't a particularly satisfying day as far as the end results are concerned ("I suck" I believe are the exact words I said to Bob) and I don't feel that I came away with anything I want to show you but the weather was so perfect it was wonderful just to be out there. I do feel that I am still shaking off the rust and need to just keep doing it and doing it and hopefully my skills will improve. I told a few of you a story about how when I first began to study painting one of our assignments was to copy an old master. I chose Johannes Vermeer, the Dutch master who I admired so much. I became really frustrated that my paintings did not look enough like his and it really discouraged me for a long time from attempting to paint. Imagine! I could not paint like Vermeer, two semesters out of the box! So now I have to remind myself that it takes many years of practice, that I have to keep at it and keep at it and maybe, maybe, eventually, I may feel that I have achieved some of what I want to achieve. But that probably, most likely, for darn certain, I will never paint like Vermeer and that I have to be satisfied with that and just keep trying to be the best I can be. I'm not there yet. But I'm working on it.

Wish me luck,

1945 - 2005 The Anniversary of the Liberation of Italy from Fascism

Yesterday was a holiday in Italy. All the stores (except for the restaurants, the little coffee shops called "bars," the pasty shops (pasticcerie), oh, and of course the gelateria! Where would we be without ice cream (not that gelato in any way should be confused with Baskin Robbins or even Breyer's but that's another story). We got up early to go wander around and see what the Italians do on this day of Independence, of Liberty and Freedom for all, of unity and solidarity, etc. etc. We found for starters that Italians do what Americans do on a holiday weekend. They gather up the kids and the assorted relatives, get on planes, trains and automobiles (and buses) and go on vacation. Some of them came to Perugia yesterday. You can tell the Italian tourists. They look like all the other tourists, with their digital cameras and camcorders, except they are the ones speaking Italian.

There was a wonderful display of antique cars from the 30s to the 50s (absent were any cars from the 40s because, we decided, they must have been too busy with the war and fighting fascism to be making cars. All the cars were tiny and shiny and really terrific looking in shades of green, brown, black and burgundy with a few drop dead gorgeous red ones. Some were convertibles. The Italians were having a good time posing in front of the cars pretending each beauty belonged to them. We did the same thing. And we noticed that the cars in Italy have gotten larger through the years. We have been amazed at some of the larger cars we see. Although most are smaller than American cars, the attraction for SUVs, albeit smaller than the ones in the U.S., is definitely part of the scenery here too. And with the price of gas, not to mention parking and driving on these narrow roads, it's really surprising.

Around 11:30 we walked over to the Memorial Ceremony, commemorating their liberation in 1945. It was a relatively simple affair with a small cadre of soldiers carrying flags, a few trumpet players wearing these amazing hats with a giant display of what looked like ostrich feathers and military people in their dress up clothes. There was a fair number of older men in attendance who I'm sure were there on the first liberation day, most likely as soldiers themselves. The mayor gave a speech and a woman spoke - a very heartfelt and impassioned talk. We understood some of the words and it was clear that it was a very patriotic theme That as Italians they must think of themselves as belonging to one country - not separate places, not North, South, East or West but one people, united. Flags were raised; a wreath placed on the wall next to a plaque with the names of those from this area who had died in the war and taps was played. The troops were put at ease and the ceremony ended. Everyone dispersed and the moment was over. We wondered if there would be fireworks and just what they would be doing later - gathering in their backyards, or balconies as the case may be, drinking beer and watching football (soccer)? We couldn't find anyone who knew anything about fireworks - not even the folks at the Information Office or the bellman at the Hotel La Rosetta on Corso Vannucci - but late last night we thought we heard the sound of explosions in the night air. I laid in bed thinking someone was dragging a suitcase down the stairs outside, bang, bang, bump, bump, bang, bang...then I thought perhaps the neighbors upstairs were hammering something. We eventually got up and decided that maybe there were fireworks after all but by the time we realized it, the noise had subsided and all was quiet. We decided to call Chris and enjoyed hearing about how Kyla is walking all by herself and leads him around by his finger and plays peek-a-boo with him. And how maybe she said "Daddy" the other day and isn't that cool. She turns One Year Old tomorrow, April 27 and he will be there to celebrate it with her. I can't believe she is one year old already. Where does the time go?

Happy 60 years of Liberation to Italy! Happy Birthday to Kyla!
Tanti aguri!

Rosemary & Bob

Monday, April 25, 2005

New faces for ancient Italy

Making "paper" from lambskin

Primavera dell' Artigianato

Primavera dell’artigianato

Today was wonderful. We had planned to take the number 87 bus to a little town just outside Perugia called Corciano. According to the brochure we picked up at the Information office here, there was to be a “Mercato Medievale” a festival of arts and crafts, with the artisans dressed in medieval costumes and demonstrating their crafts. The very kind man at the bus station informed us that the number 87 bus does not run on Sundays but that we could take the number 9 which would leave us around 3 kilometers away from Corciano and we could then walk the rest of the way. We thought about it for a few minutes and decided to give it a try. The walk was a gentle uphill slope, very easy with lots of beautiful scenery and lovely homes along the way and within around 40 minutes we were heading into Corciano. I even found a bench along the road with a beautiful view of the city and spent about an hour lost in my sketching and painting. Bob took some photos, then settled down and read his book while I finished my sketch.

The town of Corciano, referred to as a “hamlet” is one of the prettiest little towns we have seen. It reminded us of Cortona, with the soft golden stones, the stained-wood doors and shutters and all the flowers spilling out of window boxes, along staircases and walks leading up to the houses. There is a tower and a church and all the twisty, turny streets we love so much. We wandered around, enjoying the exhibits – sort of like a Renaissance festival with the artisans spinning silk, doing calligraphy like the monks of old, demonstrating weaving and lace making, and another group showing how ropes were made with a complicated arrangement of laying strands of cotton back and forth from one side of the piazza to the other, 4 separate groups of thick threads and then turning the cranks on both sides to twist the whole affair into a single strand of rope. We bought a plaque that had been made in a mold of the goddess of fortune with the word “Fortuna” carved into it.

We had lunch in a restaurant called “Ristorante dell Convento (in a converted Convent), spending too much time and money and then wandered back into the streets to see what else was going on. By then the crowds had thinned and the sky was growing darker so we decided we had better head home. Keeping our fingers crossed that we wouldn’t get caught in the rain before we got back to our bus stop and we were fortunate that it didn’t (I guess our little plaque was doing its work for us!) We waited a short while for the bus and met some teenagers who were having a little weekend in Perugia and talked with them, answering their questions about Centro Storico (the historic center of Perugia where we live and where apparently now we can give some advice about!)

We just finished our dinner – I cooked chicken cacciatore with fresh asparagus and we drank a glass of red wine. All in all a very satisfying day.

Buona sera,
Rosemary & Bob

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Friday, April 22, 2005

It’s around 9pm in the evening. We are playing our tunes on the laptop, while the washing machine chugs along. It should be done washing soon I hope because we don’t want to disturb our neighbor Catherine with the noise. This is something you have to keep in mind when you live in a “Palazzo” (translation: apartment building). There are others right on the other side of the wall and you must be respectful of their need for quiet as much as we hope they will be mindful of ours. We are staying in this evening and not going out for a walk as we have done most nights. Bob is reading his book as I write here at the kitchen/dining room table. Today was a beautiful day. Still I wonder when spring (la primavera) will finally arrive. The trees are leafing out and flowers are blooming – we walked through a park today and there were wildflowers growing down the side of a hill and flowers are blooming right out of the ancient city walls. But the weather is still cold (low 40s when it is raining and mid-50s with the sun shining) and I am still wearing my winter coat believe it or not. To think that I almost left it behind! In fact, I have worn it so much that I had to sew a button on today that had fallen off. When the sun is shining it is lovely as it was today with no threat of rain whatsoever.

We decided to take the escalator down to a lower part of the city and explore one of the churches there, Santa Guiliana, which unfortunately was closed (until further notice the sign said). There are a series of these escalators situated around the upper part of the city but their locations are mostly obscure so that they don’t conflict with the historic look of the centro. They are very convenient in getting people up and down with much less effort than climbing up or downhill or climbing the many sets of steps it takes to get down. It hasn’t stopped us from doing our share of climbing anyway! Perugia is very high – about 1600 ft above sea level – with the centro (where we live) at the top of that and the city spilling down along the hills surrounding. It is a city of views and a city of “portas” or gates of the city. Some of these date back to Etruscan times (pre-Roman) and are very impressive. There’s a museum of the city walls and gates in one of the towers that we visited last week that shows the development of the city walls and how the gates connected to it and where the portas were originally and how the city grew from ancient times. Fascinating. And one of the best views in the city!

Getting back to our morning’s travels, one of the cool things we found on our wandering is a little shop that creates handmade, leather-bound books. They have a website if you want to check them out. It’s The woman who runs it is named Sylvia and she said if I want to stop in again next week she’ll give me a lesson in how to do it! These are incredibly beautiful books, some with leaves pressed into the leather and you know how I love this sort of thing. I’m going to try to go if it doesn’t conflict with our meeting at the University next week to be sure we are all registered properly for our language class.

We went into another wonderful museum yesterday – the Nobile Collegio del Cambio with the most amazing frescoes by Perugino on the walls of this intimate space. It’s absolutely breathtaking to stand so close to these larger than life figures in all their glory. These are some of his finest. And with not much fanfare, we had to search for the door to get into this place but it was definitely worth the search (after which we saw there is a small banner above the door that says Perugino’s frescoes were inside, which we completely missed!)

That’s about it for now. The laundry is done and since it’s nighttime now we won’t be putting it outside. We’ll just clip them on the drying rack and set it by the radiator to dry. If the sun is shining in the morning we’ll put the rack out in the yard to finish it off. I’m pretty tired so I’ll call it a night.

Missing you all,
Rosemary & Bob

Dite Cheese

The Rocca Paolina (the Pauline Fortress) was built by Pope Paul III in the mid-1500s to show his power over the city of Perugia. To build this giant fortress he took down one-fourth of the city. The Perugians were not amused. So, after the unification of Italy in 1860 (for which Vittore Emmanuele is given great honor and regard – every Italian city we have been in has some sort of memorial to him) they tore most of it down and built the lovely Piazza Italia, a pretty square with trees and benches and flowers surrounded by beautiful palazzi. Part of the Rocca remains fortunately but mostly it is underground, below the Piazza and you descend by means of the escalators (remember the escalators?). It is this amazing labyrinth of rooms and the remains of ancient city streets built of stone and bricks with gigantic high ceilings and arches everywhere. In the summer it is very, very cool down there. Parts of the exterior walls of the fortress are still standing and I have included a photo that shows an exterior view. I’m telling you all of this because today we went to a cheese festival (the name of the festival is “Dite Cheese” which is funny and it took me a bit to realize that the name meant “Say Cheese” although really, if it was written completely in Italian it should have been “Dite Formaggio” (the Italian word for cheese!). It was great fun to walk through this ancient space and wind your way through the rooms and underground streets tasting all of these incredible cheeses and sampling wine and olive oil. We bought some pecorino and wished we were more knowledgeable about the whole cheese thing. I have never been a big fan of cheese but I think it’s because I had never really sampled these incredible fresh Italian cheeses. Yumm.

The first thing I did today actually was to get a haircut! I have been trying to let it grow for the longest time now and trying to be patient with the process. But I finally lost my patience finally and asked our landlady to recommend a good hairstylist and she gave me hers. She told him I might be coming too and he seemed to be expecting me when I went in! I am delighted so far with the result but I am including a photo (taken only moments ago) and you can form your own opinion!

After exploring the Rocca and Dite Cheese we went back up to Piazza Italia and they were having an Antique Fair (it seemed like a big rummage sale to me, except with lots of antique things – from furniture to books to all sorts of things for the home – glassware and silver, porcelain statuettes and old photos and coins etc etc. It was fun just to walk around and see what they had on the tables and try to have some little conversations in Italian. As I have told you, it’s amazing that they know automatically that I am not Italian even though I try my hardest to say “buon giorno” rolling my “Rs and everything! And, they never fail to apologize for their poor English and then manage to do quite well with it.

So now we are back home. We threw together a light lunch of salami and cheese, fresh tomatoes, some bread, a few strawberries. Bob has fallen asleep on the couch and I may take a little nap too. Maybe we are sort of getting the hang of this.

Buona sera,
Rosemary & Bob

My new Italian haircut

My new Italian haircut
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

Rocca Paolina

Rocca Paolina
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

Dite(say) Cheese Festival

Cheese Festival in Rocca Paolina

Antique Fair in Piazza Italia

Friday, April 22, 2005

Technical Difficulties????

I am starting to think that technical difficulties should be my new name.

Today I discovered that my digital camera is having problems, the Nikon D70. The flash is not firing and I cannot find any info in the manual. I have contacted Nikon and a local camera shop, here in Perugia, by e-mail but don't expect to hear back before Monday or Tuesday. I guess I just can't shoot anything that will need flash until I hear.

In case you haven't figured it out yet, this is Bob writing. I am in the chat room trying to add some new posts to the Blog. Again, I am having technical problems. I had to create a "work-around" to get what Rosemary had typed as Word files on the laptop, yes it is working. Of course, the formatting is not quite correct so I will apologize to thoes of our friend are graphic designers and having heart attacks right now.

We are having a great time and just love this City. We especially enjoy the moments when we realize that "we don't have to go to work". Every day is an adventure and that is a big part of what we were hoping to find by coming here.

You can tell why Rosemary usually writes the Blog, she is much better than I am .

Love Bob "Roberto"

(p.s. Of course you know I had to go in and fix the formatting (this is Rosemary writing this postscript!), so the posts that follow should look correct now and not all jumbled as they did before! Sorry Bob, I couldn't help myself!)

The Laptop is back!

Yesterday we got on a bus at 9 in the morning, which took us to our computer shop to pick up our laptop! All is well I am happy to report and the laptop is working just fine. Here I sit in my own kitchen composing my blogs so that I can save time at the Internet Cafe, by just posting what I have written and not sitting there writing and using up my time. I am happy about this!

Unfortunately, the ipod was not so lucky and we will need to take further measures to repair or replace it.

I wanted to tell my friends at P.S. Studios that we found a cafe that serves illy coffee! Some of the grocery stores also carry it so that was nice to see. The cafe is right next to where we got the bus yesterday so upon our return we went in and ordered two latte machinatos (just to try something besides cappuccinos!) and they were delicious. Illy does seem to be a higher priced product compared to some of the other local brands but it really is a wonderful coffee.

We have been here now only two and a half weeks but it seems much longer. There are times when I feel very disoriented and sort of lost. Just trying to read a newspaper or museum plaque is challenging and takes a lot of time and energy. We are watching TV and seeing some movies and I must confess that most of the time I am clueless as to what is going on. When I do understand, or at least get the gist of it, it's very exciting. I am optimistic that it will get better and easier as we go along. I feel strange not having my job to go to or any kind of routine and it still feels as if we are just on vacation, but not really. I am thrilled to be here, don�t get
me wrong, but there are moments when I really miss my old life and all the people and things in it. I guess it�s a bit of homesickness, that's all.

We are trying to plan some trips outside of Perugia, taking the bus to other cities like Gubbio and Todi and one called Corciano where we have found out that there is a major arts and crafts fair that looks interesting. There are endless possibilities and adventures that await us. I cannot believe our good fortune at having found this terrific little apartment with its and view in this amazing city, in this beautiful country and I hope to make the most of this journey. I have painted a bit and hope to do more. I'll post some things from time to time for you to see.

We start our Italian language classes on May 2 and that should be interesting. I'm finding that I can communicate on a basic level with shopkeepers and bus people and when asking for directions and having simple conversations. There is a lot of English spoken here and there are a lot of American students, so that is to be expected I suppose. And, they can spot you in a crowd. Before you even open your mouth they know you are American. We have found everyone to be friendly and helpful and enjoy the people we have met very much.

Today, who knows. We will do some exploring and I hope to do some painting. There is a bit of blue sky but the wind has picked up and I believe it might rain. I�m bringing my umbrella.

Rosemary & Bob

Meeting Barb & Art

Monday, April 18, 2005

On Monday we met Barb and Art. Barb and Art also have a blog that describes their adventures in Italy. We found them through the Ex-pats site and have been corresponding with them as we were getting closer to our arrival in Italy and they offered to get together so that we could meet. They have made more of a commitment than we have; they actually bought a house in a small village and have retired here pretty much permanently. They were kind enough, since they have a car and we don�t, to come to Perugia (around 20 miles away) to see our apartment, have a cup of coffee and some pastry with us and then to drive us back to San Vernanzo to see their house and village. It was so nice talking with them and hearing all the stories about how they found their house and are settling in to their neighborhood, becoming part of the community they have chosen. We went to the market in Manciano with them where once a week you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers and clothing and basically everything from soup to nuts and taste the most delicious roasted pork you�ve ever had! They introduced us to their favorite pizza place and we agreed that it was marvelous and then drove up the hill to their town which sits high on a hill in Umbria and overlooks green fields and rolling hills and valleys dotted with vineyards and olive groves and farms as far as the eye can see in all directions and it is breathtaking! The play of light across this panorama is ever-changing and completely incredible. You could see Assisi in the distance just glistening in the sun as clouds in the sky darkened other areas. I was speechless.

Barb and Art are about to go back home for 6 weeks to visit their family in Kentucky and we wish them Buon Viaggio and look forward to getting to know them better and spending some time wandering around Umbria with them from time to time.

Here�s to following your dreams.

Rosemary & Bob

A New Pope

Yesterday afternoon we were in the National Gallery of Umbria with works by the famous Umbrian artists, most notably the Renaissance master known as Perugino (his real name was Pietro Vannucci (for whom the Corso Vannucci is named), Piero della Francesca, Caporali and Pinturicchio. This is mainly medieval and Renaissance religious art � crucifixes and altar pieces etc. There were also a few pieces by Luca Signorella worth seeing. After a while your eyes sort of glaze over on this theme but the museum itself is worth seeing, especially the terrific way the Italians have of taking these wonderful ancient buildings and showing off the space and the art in modern ways that complement both. Crucifixes painted on crumbling wood are held in place by metal forms that outline the art and almost disappear. Artifacts are held aloft in this cavernous space and the effect is quite stunning. Some of the walls of the museum still hold frescoes that are partly deteriorating. The vaulted ceilings are made of this pinkish brick and are incredible against the pristine white walls and the often faded and still brilliant colors of the art.

We had only made it through about half of the museum by around 6pm (the museum is open from 9am until 7:30pm) when we heard bells pealing. On our phone we get these instant news messages from Reuters, which indicated that a new pope had been elected (remember the phone is Italian and while all the functions etc are in English, these text messages come through in Italian!) But it was clear to us that something was happening and so we left the museum to see if we could find out what was going on. The entire city vibrated with the sound of bells. It felt as if every campanile (bell tower) was chiming at the same time and it was amazing. We tried to call our family on the cell phone but couldn't reach anyone and decided to sit on the steps of the Cathedral to just listen and watch. It was quite surreal. The sky was turning stormy and huge black clouds circled and swirled with the sun peaking out and streaming down every now and then with the sound of the bells pounding and people everywhere on their cell phones and mostly just
wandering around. For some reason there was a large open area in front of the church and 3 dogs were chasing each other around and around a large Irish setter leading the pack, looking back to see if the other two were following and still the bells went on chiming and chiming.

The bells rang for a full 30 minutes and by then the weather was becoming very threatening but we didn't want to just go home. We walked around to an Irish bar called Shamrock near our apartment, down a tiny side street, in a dark little nook owned by an Irish woman named Marty to see if we could catch some of the goings on on her satellite TV (it broadcasts in English). And sure enough she had the TV on and a few others straggled in to watch with us and we saw the new pope introduced to the world, Pope Benedict XVI, broadcast live in front of us in an Irish bar, drinking Guiness in an Italian city!

The skies opened up and poured down as we made our way home complete with hail, thunder and lightening. Someone upstairs was expressing an opinion one way or another. The reporter on the news said that the new pope would be called PapaRazzi (Papa is what the Italians call the Pope and Razzi for Ratzenburger) (ha-ha). No one in the bar laughed, except me.

Today the sun is streaming through my kitchen window and we are trying to decide what we will do. I hope you are having a great day, wherever you are.

Buon giorno
Rosemary & Bob

Saturday, April 16, 2005

A very nice weekend

Yesterday was fun. We followed a tour in one of our guide books that led us on the path to several churches in the area. Some little tiny chapels, others large and cavernous. One in particular, San Francesco del Prato appears almost completely restored on the outside - beautiful white and pink stone from Assisi with marble detail and soaring to great heights. The workers outside told us it was Chiusi (closed) but we wandered around outside anyway, trying to peak through the scaffolding when they motioned us inside the gate and allowed us to see inside the church. What we saw amazed us! The sky is visible through the roof and inside is completely destroyed and empty. You can make out some details but mostly there is nothing inside and we wondered if there ever would be. It will be starting from scratch really and I can't imagine how much work it will take to remake the inside.

I have been doing a bit of painting finally. These past few sunny days I have been carrying around my journal and little watercolor kit and made a few entries there. Once we get our laptop back we'll try to post some of them for you to see. I need to get my confidence back as it was quite a while not painting while we were on the road and I feel rusty. One of the places I painted was the Tempi di Michele Arcangelo. Michael the Archangel is a pretty popular figure here, with this 5th century church (in the round, it is a very impressive chapel) and one of the city gates (the Porta Sant'Angelo) and the area around it by the same name. There is a beautiful expanse of grass in front of it and there were a few small groups of young people sprawled here and there enjoying the lovely day, while I painted away and Bob read his book and wandered off to find us a little snack.

Last night we decided to eat out. We've been cooking at home every night and think we might eat out once a week if we can afford it. We tried a little place not far from our apartment and it was lovely! The food was really good - I had penne and Bob had the lemon chicken - we shared a liter of wine (too much wine for us and we were pretty sauced) and shared a fruit pastry before heading off into the night for a stroll down to Piazza Italia to see the view. The way the centro is situated, our area around Porta Sole is at one end, you descend into Piazza Dante and Piazza IV Novembre, where the Fontanna is, and down the Corso Vannucci - the glamorous shopping street that is the place where everyone walks (passaggiata). At the opposite end of the Corso Vannucci is Piazza Italia. Here there is a garden where Victorio Emmanuele's statue is and beyond that, the view over the other side of the city. At night it is spectacular with the lights below sparkling and usually you find lovers smooching there.

As we started walking, we heard the sounds of live music and saw that there was a gathering around the stage at the far end of Corso Vannucci and it was filled with students dressed in these costumes that consisted of pointed hats like Robin Hood covered with all sorts of buttons and pins with things hanging off the back even and wearing capes with various insignia on them. We found out as much as we could understand that these were high school students who had finished their studies and were heading off to University (I think!) and that each group had it's own colors and symbols to indentify them. They come from all over the region (one group told me they were from Pisa). The singing went from songs by The Doors and U2 to old childhood songs that these kids were singing along with. There was dancing - the arm in arm round and round kind of stuff (we even got into some of that!) and forming of long lines of dancers, like a conga line weaving through the crowd. There was such a feeling of fun and happiness in this crowd we stayed on until we were just too tired to watch and then strolled on home and up the hill to bed.

Today it's raining and we are catching up on email and writing in the blog. We hope you are all well. We miss you all and hope life is going well for each and every one of you.

Rosemary & Bob

Formiche (ants)!

On Thursday, we discovered ants in the apartment! They were making a bee-line (ant-line?) from the living room wall to the bedroom and appeared to be camping out under our bed! We frantically pulled the suitcases out from under, took them outside, thinking perhaps they had crawled in them at some point during our travels and were setting up home under our bed! We swept and washed and cleaned (none were IN our bed, thankfully) and we also wondered if they were coming in from outside. We are living right next to a big garden after all and there are ants out there. But we could not find any entry point, just that they had clearly made their way indoors. So, we called our landlord, Signore Romizi and I left him a message in my best Italian explaining that we had found ants and asking his advice for taking care of this problem. He called back and told me he would send his wife over later with a technician to help us. We continued to clean and upon moving the umbrella stand, located the source of the problem. The day after the rain I opened up the umbrellas to dry them out, setting them on the ground next to our door and then, without looking at them carefully, closed them up and put them back in the umbrella stand. Apparently the ants had crawled into the umbrellas and were crawling out once inside the apartment, making themselves quite at home in our bedroom! Once we discovered this, we took said umbrellas outside and washed them out thoroughly and bought some anti-ant stuff from the hardware shop and considered the problem fixed. I called Signore Romizi to tell him that his wife did not need to come and didn't give it another thought. The next day, the Signora Romizi showed up at our door with a technician for the antenna. We were quite puzzled and explained that our problem was not with the TV but with the ants (I described as best I could what we had found and what we had done) and it seemed that Signore Romizi had mixed up our problem (the ants) with a TV problem his other tenants in the country house were having and sent the wrong technician to the wrong apartment! It was kind of funny and we all had a good laugh about it. I'm happy to report that we are ant-free now. And that the TV works fine too.

And, by the way, in case I confused all of you with our piano story - the piano went into an apartment down the street and is not ours! We just thought it was an interesting story and wanted to share it with you.

Buon giorno,
Rosemary & Bob

Whistle While You Work

The other day I was out doing laundry - hanging my wash on the little folding clothes hanger and I heard whistling coming from the steps that lead down from our apartment on Via Dell'Aquila. I looked out from between the ivy that is growing on the fence that obscures our yard from these steps and there was the man who was cleaning the steps, whistling while he did his work. He used the Italian word (which escapes me at the moment and which I will look up later!) and when I said I didn't understand, he whistled again and said the word again. I understood and we both agreed that it was a beautiful day and why not be happy doing your work. It was such a sweet moment and it amazed me that this man out cleaning the streets, cleaning up after other people's messes could be happily going about his business and it seemed a much better way of approaching life.

This city amazes me. There are, as I have said, many students here. They hang out in the piazza until late into the night and frankly make quite a mess of it. The night that we went out to find a telephone at 2 in the morning, I was quite shocked to see what a mess they had made, with plastic cups and bottles etc, all over the beautiful steps of the cathedral. But in the very early morning, at dawn really, out comes the cleaning crew for the city, picking up after them and washing and cleaning everything - including what the dogs leave behind - so that in the morning you would not know that any of this had transpired. The city is once again clean and neat and ready for another day. It would seem to me that all of this messing up shouldn't be permitted but perhaps it is a simbiotic relationship in that it provides work for the cleaners who do the picking-up after the messer-uppers. I don't know. I am glad that these workers at least seem happy at what they are doing and that, more importantly, they do such a good job.

Here's to finding joy in everything you do even if it is cleaning up the messes!

Rosemary & Bob

Internet Cafe, Tee-Voo and Hilly Perugia

It has been quite a few days since I have written. Partly to blame is the fact that we still do not have our laptop back from the Technician who is fixing it and partly to blame is the fact that we have been exploring the city and not sitting in front of the computer. In addition, the Internet Cafe has also been experiencing technical difficulties with the computers running very, very slowly. The very kind Giovanna who owns this little place is having some new faster lines put in and by next week things should be up and running. She seems to be frustrated with the slow nature of this change-over but nevertheless she is still open. She does her best to service the customers who often fill every computer station here (there are at least a dozen stations plus the area where you can bring your own laptop to work) with everyone needing her help, which she patiently gives. Many of these users are American students at the University for Foreigners and it is disconcerting to hear so much English whispered in this ancient Italian city. We like this woman who is probably around 40 we guess (only because a young man who works here is her son)- she looks younger. She speaks English very well and has been a source of explanation and information for us at different times when we have encountered something we don't understand or a location we cannot find. I think we have been a source of amusement for her too as we fumble along trying to find our way.

We did receive a call from the computer technician, Andrea, yesterday afternoon that the laptop is ready and we will go on Monday to pick it up. I failed to tell you in my technology tirade that we are also having problems with our i-pod. For some reason it will not play and Andrea is also trying to see what he can do to get it up and running. We are not really sure what can be the problem and hope he can figure it out. The telefonini (Italian word for cell phone) is wonderful, although the manual is all in Italian and we are still trying to download and print an English version from Nokia's website so that we can program the darned thing. We'll keep you posted on all of this.

Our landlords, who are so lovely and kind, have provided us with a television (TV is pronounced Tee-Voo) so that we can watch the news and even if we don't understand everything, we can at least see what is happening in the world. Plus we get to watch some of the silly game shows and tell-all shows which are as ridiculous as the ones in the U.S. We hope this will help us improve our language skills but not sure what kind of words we will be learning!

In the meantime we climb up and down the hills, several times a day, trying to get the lay of the land and strengthening our calves and thighs! Too bad we didn't spend more time going up and down Squaw Peak or Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. It would have been good training for this.

That's all for now. Thanks for checking in.

Rosemary & Bob

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The further adventures of the Technologically Challenged

Rain is not good for your computer.

Today the sun is finally shining after days of rain. Not just rain, but torrential downpours, really strong wind and cold cold cold temperatures!! Of course that hasn't stopped us from going out and walking around in it, just to see what the sights and the view look like in the rain. We have already determined that part of this trip requires a bit of insanity and I suppose this is demonstrating that once again. During a little break in the weather we went out to use the chat room and post our latest blog entry. On the way back however, the heavens opened up and down came the rain. We have been working on the photos on the laptop, composing the blog and then coming down here to post it all on the internet. It appears that the waterproof backpack that we bought at the Gap had not met a stormy day in Perugia and water did in fact seep into the backpack and therefore, into the laptop, therin. Which made the screen do all sorts of shivery things at which time we thought it prudent to turn it off and stared at each other in disbelief. What do we do now? All of our photos (except for the ones we had downloaded to an external drive) were on it! We have back up lists of the phone numbers and email addresses and the CDs with the applications but having to replace our laptop was not something we had planned on doing.

The Cell Phone (telefonini, in Italian)
We had purchased one before we left the U.S. that they promised would work in Italy. It took us a week to find out how to get service and decide which one to go for and ordered the SIM card (that actually is a little chip that provides the service you sign up for that goes into the phone) and went down to the little shop because we couldn't figure out how to even open the back of the darn thing. The very nice young man inserted the SIM for us and we excitedly went back to our apartment to make a call and niente! nothing! No service! We didn't know if it was the phone or the SIM or the old building and upon going back down the hill to the little shop and having them test it, we determined that it was the phone and not the SIM or our location in an ancient building with stone walls!

To make a long story short, we ended up just buying another phone. We have been finding our way around the bus system which so far has worked very well for us and found a shop that fixes Apple products where we left our laptop (miraculously it booted up and things seem to be there although the wet, spoiled appearance at the top of the left side of the screen was still there). They are going to look at it and see what they can do. Keep your fingers crossed!

The new phone works, we are happy to report. Now we need a nap after our exciting morning of finding our way around Perugia. At some point we are hoping to be able to just enjoy the city leisurely. But we are getting there. My Italian has been getting us by and helping us find our way and for that I am grateful.

Thanks for reading. It may be a few days before we can put photos up but bear with us and keep your fingers crossed that the laptop is easiy repaired and we are back in business!

Rosemary & Bob

Monday, April 11, 2005

It was a dark and stormy night…

It is 10pm and as I sit at my computer in my cozy kitchen, the wind is howling outside. The trees are being blown so hard I wonder what the world here will look like when the storm subsides. I fear that all the daffodils and tulips that were blooming will be torn to shreds by this ferocious wind. Here inside it is warm and calm with Mozart playing. I just did a little painting while Bob slept on the sofa. It’s very peaceful in our little apartment and I feel safe and sound even with the storm raging outside my window.

Tonight we braved the weather and went out to take part in a memorial service – a high Mass actually – for Pope John Paul, who died last week. The irony of our being here in Italy, less than 2 hours drive from Rome is that since we arrived on Saturday, the day of his death, we have not seen or heard much about it. We did hear that there were something like 2 or 3 million people who had gone to Rome to be part of this week of mourning and that people were actually being turned away from the city and not being allowed in. Those of you in the states probably have seen the endless line of cars and heard all of this on your nightly news. We did not have a TV or radio to watch and have been so busy with all our settling in that we really have missed everything. So we wanted to be part of it in some way and this seemed a good way to do it.

The Cathedral of San Lorenzo was built in the 1400s with various pieces of art and architectural detail added in the 1500s and later. In fact if I am correct, there even seems to be a newish stained glass window completed in the year 2000 commemorating and celebrating the people from all over the world who visit Perugia. It was beautiful to see it with the chandeliers lit and the lights on, illuminating the elaborate ceiling and all its frescoes. I adore the colors of this church – the soft greens, pinks and gold of the marble and stone. The frescoes are faded shades of reds, greens and blues and overall the feeling is serene and peaceful. Tonight the choir and the congregation sang hymns in Italian while the organ played – filling this space with music. The church was filled to capacity with standing room only and it was quite moving to be there among so many local people and intermingled with “Stranieri” (foreigners) like us. At the beginning and again at the end there was a procession of priests and bishops from all over the region I suspect and even some out-of-towners dressed in their priestly finery, hats and all. These guys know how to put on a pageant and it’s quite impressive to witness. I haven’t been to a religious ceremony (except for weddings and funerals) recently and I must say I enjoyed myself very much. I even joined in on some of the alleluias and hymns I recognized or just hummed along.

We are expecting a few more days of rain so we will probably be spending more time indoors and in the museums. We are trying to slow ourselves down and not have to be on the go every minute. A different kind of travel for us but one we look forward to very much.

Buona notte,
Rosemary & Bob

Perugia in the rain

Piove a catinelle - (It’s raining cats and dogs)

Sunday, April 10, 2005

It’s been raining since yesterday, Saturday, around midday. When we got up in the morning it was cloudy and Bob had gone off to pick up something at the market. When he returned he was breathless and insisted I go out to our “view” to see the way the clouds were lying in the valley below us. His excitement was justified. The sky was dark and stormy all around us and we were up above the rain clouds that hovered below. The sun would periodically peak through the clouds lighting up one little group of hills or houses nestled among them. We could not take our eyes off it. We went back inside and had some breakfast and by then it was raining. Which seemed a good reason to go back out there and see what it looked like now! An ever-changing panorama of light and dark, white cloud masses and swirling sky. At some points the valley was completely obscured by clouds and we could only see as far as the streets directly below us.

I realized yesterday too that our private garden sits right up against the ancient city walls. Just below us is another row of gardens and we watched the gardener work, pouring fresh earth over his new plantings, tidying up and pulling out plants that had died. This is the part of the garden that has rose bushes and gardenias along the edge of the wall and the newly planted seeds I mentioned before. He is elderly – molto vecchio – and a bit stooped from bending down to tend the gardens I suspect. He was wearing a dark blue jacket and his shoes were caked with the earth he tended. His hair was white, but there was a tuft of it. He looked up at one point and we shared a “buon giorno” with him and agreed that it was a cold day “fa freddo” with a shiver. I so want to be able to speak this language well enough to converse with this man!

Yesterday afternoon we took a walk in the rain down Corso Garibaldi to Porta Sant’Angelo. There is a sign there before the wall that says “fuori le mura.” Soon flowers will be spilling from the cracks in this wall and we saw the first signs of it. Just inside the arch at the end of Corso Garibaldi there is a little specialty shop called Il Tempio that sells regional wines and foods. The proprietor came down (clearly we had disturbed his lunch but he was so gracious and welcoming) and invited us in to browse as much as we wanted. He apologized for his poor English (as the Italians so often do even when it’s pretty good!) and I tried my best to speak in Italian to him as much as I could and he seemed impressed (imagine that!) at my language skills. We bought a box of pasta and a jar of “Salsa Tartufata” which is made from truffles and is like a pesto that you spread on toasted bread (crostini). We promised him (and ourselves) that we would return again and try some other specialties and to converse with him in Italian. Later that afternoon I toasted some Italian bread in the oven and we spread this amazing salsa on it. We shared a bottle of Peroni and a bunch of grapes and the feeling that this is really an amazing adventure.

Buona giornata
Rosemary & Bob

Blue Hyacinth in our Kitchen Window

Our Garden Neighbors

Our Garden Neighbors
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

Our View at Sunrise

Our View at Sunrise
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

Panorama from Giardini Carducci

Another view of the Garden

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Permesso di Soggiorno and the Questura

Friday, April 8, 2005

We did it! We got up this morning at 5am and threw on our clothes, dressing warmly since the mornings are still cold, called a cab – I had planned what I would have to say in Italian on the phone and it worked perfectly. Within minutes the taxi was zipping along the dark streets towards the lower part of the city and the Questura (the police headquarters). There were already at least 20 people waiting when we got there all huddled together blowing in their hands, looking cold, smoking cigarettes and clutching folders containing what I’m sure they hoped were the proper documents to get them whatever official form they needed. There are many reasons for going to the Questura: work permits, passports for Italian citizens, filing a police report in the event of an accident, burglary etc. The way this works is, you get there early, around 5 is best. At 7:30 the door opens and an officer hands out numbers (like you get at the post office from a machine but these are torn off a big roll). When the door opens it becomes a mad rush to get a number. You have to be really firm and stand your ground or these guys will push right through you. They let you into a big yard where there are a few tables and some chairs – most of us sat on the curbs with our papers in our laps and filled out the forms. We were happy to find that some of the terms were in Italian and in English. We have a 3-ring binder with plastic sleFeves where we put multiple copies of all of our documents so it’s easy to see what’s there and get at it. Last night we put little post-it tabs on the pages so it would be even easier. (fyi to weloveitaly: we didn't have & hadn't heard of the rental agreement stamp! It's really an adventure isn't it.)

Thanks to Dee and her staff at Wachovia for coming through for us with a fax and to Michela at Atena for being so helpful, warm and friendly. We were able to access the other papers we needed online and then made copies of everything at our Internet Café, Internet Train, where Giovanna has been both helping us and laughing at us as we made way more copies than necessary to take with us.

They don’t actually perform any services until 8:30am, but once we had our place in line we found a seat and settled in for the wait. They have 5 windows with plexiglass between them and you but at any given time the person behind the window disappeared into the back of the office. In front of these windows are 5 separated queues. We noticed that people were crowded into these queues who hadn’t been in front of us originally and we figured out that they were taking the numbers in order of people who were there for the first time, but that if you were returning to pick up your document that you could just work your way up the line and they would take care of you. Which explains why the numbers moved so slowly! We ended up with number 82 & 83 (The numbers started at 50 today for some reason.) and we basically had to wait until they called that number which was around 10am. Not as bad as we had expected. We decided while we were waiting that it would probably be best for us to pull out two sets of everything rather than have them in the binder and it seemed to have been a good decision. The woman behind the counter frowned reading through our papers and we were certain she was not finding things to her liking. We decided later that she must have been frowning because she had to read some of these in English and perhaps that wasn’t fun for her. We held our breaths as she looked through the papers, giving us back a few – copies of our birth certificates, the rent receipt and copies of our airline tickets. We brought all the same papers with us that we had sent to the Consulate in Los Angeles to obtain the Visa in the first place with the addition of something called a “copia cessione fabricato” provided by our landlord. We had to provide 4 passport photos – we had these taken here in Perugia in a little camera/telephone/electronics shop since they are a slightly different size than the ones we use in the U.S. along with what is called a “marco bollo” a tax stamp that cost 11 euros each which is the fee you pay for the document. We were so worried that she would want something that we didn’t have and we would not be able to understand but all seemed in order and she put no less than 6 rubber stamps on the form and signed it, stapling the whole thing together and giving us back one copy. Now we wait for the actual Permesso di Soggiorno, which will take a few weeks. We can, she told us, check online and see when it is ready, but at any rate, it will definitely be there for us to go back and pick up after May 17. Which means we have to go through all of this again but this time should be easier and less stressful.

We decided to try the bus going home and it was very easy to do and brought us back to Piazza Italia, a short walk from home. The lower part of town was really interesting too but that is for another post. I want to tell you all about Professoressa Anna Comodi but this is enough for you to read all in one sitting!

Tonight we will celebrate by going to a restaurant nearby for pizza!

Buona sera,
Rosamaria e Roberto

p.s Thanks to those of you who are adding comments! It’s so exciting to receive feedback and to know there are people out there who are reading and enjoying! Keep the comments coming, they mean a lot to us.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Things to do.

More business to attend to

Today is Thursday. I am saying that more to myself than anything because it becomes harder to keep track of the days as we go along. Yesterday we had a bit of a monkey wrench thrown at us. We expected that we would be able to apply for our “permesso di soggiorno” at the Universita where we will study. We were even given an appointment for Friday from the ladies in the office there, only to find out yesterday from the Questura (the division of the police that handles these permits of stay) at the Universita that we could not do it there. Since we do not have a Student Visa we have to go to the regular Questura down in the lower part of town to apply. You are required to do this within eight days of arriving and we were worried that this would be a problem if we didn’t get in for an appointment on Friday (what would they do? Fine us? Throw us out of the country? Who knows!). The way this system works, we are told, is that you get there as early in the morning as possible – they are only open Monday, Wednesday and Fridays – and get in line. Hopefully you get in that day. If not, you must come back the next day, and so on. This has given me a lot of anxiety and I will be glad when it is over and done. We have decided we will take a taxi in the early morning since it is not that close to our apartment. One of the documents we must show is like a contract for the apartment. Happily our landlord, the lovely Signore Romizzi dated it April 4th – which is Monday so I think that helps in not putting us over the eight-day limit of arrival. One less detail to worry about. I am working hard to use my Italian and he speaks a little English. Many of the people we have spoken to do, although it is not universal. Since there seem to be a lot of American students here, around the University it is more prevalent.

Last night we realized that we had accidentally left some of the papers we will need for the Permesso at home! I know you won’t believe this, but these are the same financial papers we had to fax over to the consulate to prove we have enough resources to live here – I am just as astonished at this lapse of intelligence as you must be in reading about it, but nevertheless it’s true! It was so crazy at the end of our time in our house, packing and getting ready, trying to remember everything that some things were left behind (yikes, you say!) The time difference between Italy and Arizona is 9 hours (we are ahead here). We have not yet managed to get the cell phone all worked out so we are having to use the pay phones. Fortunately there are many here and you purchase a phone card and punch in the numbers and you are all set. I’m sure it’s more expensive this way but at least you can make calls. Not exactly the most convenient thing however so I am anxious to have our own cell phone. We really freaked out when we realized we didn’t have everything we will need for the Permesso and didn’t know what we would do. At first we thought “Oh well, we’ll just see how it goes and if we have to, we’ll send for those papers. Perhaps they won’t need them after all.” Then we thought better of that and at l:30 in the morning (4:30 pm the day before in AZ) we were traipsing around Perugia looking for a phone and trying to make some calls to get our papers faxed (we decided that the real estate office who helped us find the apartment would be the best place to have them sent). Bleary eyed we tried to make the calls and couldn’t get through and didn’t understand why the phone cards or the phones weren’t working! We must have tried 3 or 4 different phones (outside on the street, next to buildings or on the wall of a building there are these glass booths with modern public telephones). We were quite exasperated and decided to go into a bar in the downtown that didn’t seem too busy and ask to use their telephone. It was then that we discovered we were using the wrong country code for the U.S. and that was why we were having so much trouble! We got through to our Wachovia consultant and other investment people and decided that they should not only fax these to us, but email them as well so that we can print them here. We have already used the Internet Café and the woman there knows us by name now. We feel pretty foolish and hope this all works out OK. As I write, Bob is off checking our email to see if anything came through yet and to let Michela at the real estate office know to expect a fax for us.

On a good note, we love this city. There are the most amazing views from several vantage points to the valley below. The streets twist and turn up and down (we are getting much needed exercise) and almost every street is a picture postcard. We are discovering all these wonderful little shops (negozii) to buy all sorts of delicious things. We have cooked meals in our little apartamento and had fresh bread and local wine and of course, gelato. We are making cappuccino here in our own kitchen. There are at least two movie theaters that show both Italian and English language films.

We do miss our family and friends though and will be happier still when we get our own phone and can be more reachable. And once we get all of this official business out of the way.

Today we will meet Professoressa Anna Comodi – a friend of our Italian teacher from Phoenix College, Anna.

Our landlords came by today and answered a bunch of questions we had and brought us lounge chairs for the garden and two potted geraniums for the window sill. They are very sweet and helpful and we feel fortunate to be in this place. We learned yesterday that the area we are in, called Porta Sole, was referred to by the famous Dante Alighieri in his “Divine Comedy” –

“whereby Perugia feels cold and heat,
through Porta Sole, and behind
Nocera laments its heavy yoke with Gualdo.”

Not having read Dante, I was not familiar with this quote and don’t really understand it. But we think it’s pretty cool that Dante wrote about this neighborhood we live in!

Please let us know if you are reading this and life is going for you. Please use the comments link if you are following the blog and let us know you are out there!

Buona giornata,
Rosamaria e Roberto

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Just one part of our view

Moving a piano

Moving a piano
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

Our path to school

Our path to school
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

Down a side street

Down a side street
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

At our Garden's wall

At our Garden's wall
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

Getting Settled

Via dell’Aquila, Perugia, Umbria, Italia, a casa

Today is Tuesday – martedi in Italian. Today we did our laundry for the first time. A small load of dark colors in our kitchen – cucina – and hung them outside on the little rack to dry. We are told that here in Perugia it is not allowed to hang clothes on a line like they do in other parts of Italy and it is true that we have not seen any here except for small things in the back yards. So, we have been provided with a small drying rack that has rows of lines to attach your wet clothes to with colored clothespins (also provided by the landlord). The machine is fairly quiet and relatively easy to use. Although I spent about half an hour translating the instructions! The yard outside is so lovely. A blooming forsythia is right outside our kitchen window casting a golden glow in that part of the room. There is a large pine tree (not sure of the type but definitely not ponderosa) just outside in the yard. Along the grid-wire fence ivy grows and there is an oleander and other small trees and shrubs. The daffodils are blooming and a single red tulip grows beside them. A few hyacinths are along the wall. Some of the trees must be fruit trees and they are just beginning to bud. We are delighted to be here to witness spring. We learned today that this area is called “Valle del Sole” – Valley of the Sun! (For all you non-Arizonans, the Phoenix area is also called The Valley of the Sun!) The weather is beautiful but still cool. I am glad that I didn’t leave my heavy Aran sweater behind because it has been my constant companion. Fortunately we have heat in the apartment – by radiators which are the most lovely quiet kind of heat but not as immediate as central air where as soon as you turn it on you get blasted. We have to be more patient, which is a virtue we hope to acquire.

Yesterday was a day full of business. The first thing we did was to go to Atena, the real estate agency that helped us find our apartment. The young woman, Michela, has been so helpful and patient with us, it was delightful to finally meet her in person. She teased us, and with a smile told us that we had made her work very hard and that we asked a lot of questions. She assured us that they were only there to help us and we should not hesitate to ask if we needed any help with anything. Making all of our arrangements from the U.S. was nerve racking and we are happy to think that we made good choices. She also provided us with a discount card for some of the shops in town.

After taking care of paying the rent with Atena, we went to the Universita degli Stranieri where we will take classes, to make sure we were all registered and to look around. It’s a beautiful old Palazzo a short walk from our apartamento and they gave us an appointment to apply for our permesso di soggiorno (permit of stay), which everyone has to do when arriving in Italy.

The next order of business was to find the shops and buy some groceries. After a bit of wandering around, looking in phone books and just asking people on the street we found an allimentari (grocery store) a macellerie (meat store), a shop that sells only cleaning products (tissues, etc), a bakery (pasticceria) and a store with household goods (we bought a spatula, a non-stick pan and a frother for our cappuccino). It’s very interesting and an adventure figuring out where to go for what but we are doing all right so far.

We met the older gentleman who lives next door – we introduced ourselves when we both went out to see what a certain noise was and he told us his name was Francesco. We all watched the amazing sight of four men carrying a shiny black baby grand piano down the stairs and onto our narrow street, up to the 2nd floor (ground floor is not the 1st floor, so that is actually 3 floors up from the street) into the building next door.

Bob is having fun taking photos of all the workers. That has always been a favorite thing of his and as there is much work going on, he has lots of opportunities. In these old cities there is always something being renovated and we have grown accustomed to seeing the scaffolding here and there. Perugia is such a lovely city. It’s very hilly with twists and turns and beautiful stone buildings. We spent some time here on our last trip and are looking forwarding to getting to know it on a more intimate level. I sat outside today and painted while the laundry was going and Bob went off to run an errand. Life is very good. We still have to work out the phone and manage to live on our income but we are happy as clams and just trying to take every day as it comes.

We will be in touch,
Rosamaria e Roberto

Sunday, April 03, 2005

We have arrived!

Perugia, Umbria, Italia

I am so happy to tell you that we have arrived in Perugia. Apparently the Pope was dying as we were flying to our destination. The flight was filled with journalists who were hurrying to cover the story and we wondered how it might affect us. Very little is all I can say. The flight was uneventful. We watched movies and slept and arrived at 8am as planned. We put all our bags on those little carts and bought our tickets for the train to Perugia. We had some time to kill, wandered around the airport and bought snacks and lunch. We arrived in Perugia in the afternoon and were thrilled to find that the taxi was a station wagon and could hold all of our bags without any problems! It was evident that spring had finally arrived here as there was sign of trees beginning to bloom and the weather not so cold. The son of our landlord met us at the apartment and we were thrilled to be there! The apartment is not as "mini" as we had expected. When you walk in, there is one big room with dining table and couch/sofabed and in another area, is the kitchen. The ceilings are around 10 feet high with 7 foot windows so it feels very spacious. The separate bedroom has windows on both sides and two large pieces of furniture - the armoire that was in the photo plus a large dresser and two bedside tables with drawers. There is plenty of space under the bed for our suitcases and lots of other storage throughout the apartment. We are ecstatic!

The apartment is located on a quiet backstreet just off the main square. We enter through a locked gate (not the door we had expected) and there is a small private garden, complete with a little gazebo and a table & chairs, trees, a lawn and daffodils and other flowers and plants. The best part however, is that there is a set of stairs that leads to a larger more formal, private garden and at the end of that is the most fantastic view - This is the view that was in our Christmas letter and it is the most amazing thing to be standing there now looking at it in person. I had this image as the screensaver on my computer at work and now we can look at it any time we want to. We feel that we have arrived in heaven! There is also a nice wooden bench we can sit on and comtemplate the view.

We spent today relaxing and unpacking. We slept until noon! Then we went out to find an open-air market and bought a few fresh things to cook for tonight and some wonderful cheeses and fruit. Last night we found a local pizzeria and enjoyed a bottle of wine and a pizza, then wandered around centro and off to bed.

The adventure has begun and we thrilled to be here! We are doing this blogging at an internet cafe. Hopefully, next time we will be able to download some photos. We still have to see about getting the internet in our apartment, if that is possible, a cell phone and our permesso di sigourno and codice fiscale and simply making ourselves at home. There is no shortage of gelato and we plan on having our share when the weather is just a bit warmer!

Buona sera!
Keep in touch,
Rosemary & Bob

Friday, April 01, 2005

Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

Empire State Bldg at dusk

The Last Supper

Newark Airport, The Sheraton Hotel

It’s late. Around midnight. I am euphoric and exhausted from this evening spent in the city – the “Last Supper” with my family gathered around us. My brother Fred and his wife Elaine, my cousins Clo with her Joe, Evie and Jim, Chrissy & Vinney, Annie and her son Anthony from the Bivetto side of the family; Rose and Guy from the Lore side (my mother’s father) and Lydia, MarieJo and Antoinette from the Fabrizio’s (my mother’s mother) and my friend Elizabeth. The only other times that all the parts of your family gather like this is a wedding or a funeral!

I am so thrilled that so many of them came all the way into Manhattan from all areas of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to have dinner with us on the night before our departure for Italy, to wish us well and say farewell. We are so grateful to each and every one of them for all the love and good wishes. It was a magical night, filled with good conversation and laughter and we couldn’t have wished for a better send off.

Tomorrow our fight leaves at 4pm. We expect to get to the airport early and go through all the security points etc, drop off the rental car and just wait to take off. Italy is 6 hours ahead of New York and the flight is 8 hours. We should be in Rome by 8am Saturday and then off to Perugia either by bus or train. We’ll figure it out as we go along. Much like the next two years. No big plans, except to just BE. To take every day as it comes and live simply. To travel around as much as we can. We will miss friends and family but hope they will come and visit. We will keep in touch as much as is possible, not really sure how we are going to work out the Internet and the telephone but certain that all of that will work itself out.

I’m not sure how much I will sleep tonight.

The next time I write it will be from Italy.

Rosamaria e Roberto