Thursday, May 19, 2005

Back to the Questura

Yesterday we decided it was time to go back to pick up our final Permesso di Soggiornos (in Italian, it's probably Permessi, but you you don't need to know about that!) Anyway, when we got the temporary ones they told us we could come back to get the final ones after May 17, so we thought since our class did not start on Wednesday until 11am that we would go early and do the wait in line bit and still get to class on time. At 7:50 we left our appartamento and got on the bus so that we'd be there when it opened. We did, it did, and we jockeyed for our position in line until we got up to the counter a half hour later (trying to hold your ground against other people who are sure they must have the place in front of you in the line - it's a wild and crazy place and one you don't want to go to unless it is absolutely necessary!) only to get up to the window to be told that they only do return people like us on Tuesdays and Thursdays! We still made it to school on time and went back again this morning to do it all over again!

Today our class started at 8am so unfortunately we had to miss it. But, the good news is we didn't have to wait long and we were handed our official, bonafide, authentic, genuine, 100% legal Permessi di Soggiorno (Permits of Stay)!!! We are thrilled and delighted and just wanted to share that with you.

Tonight we are doing dinner with our classmates at another Italian restaurant and we will have something to celebrate!

Felicemente,
Rosemary & Bob

Ceraioli


Ceraioli
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

Raggazzi in their colors


Raggazzi in their colors
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.
We wanted only the handsome boy in the red cap but couldn't refuse all of his cute friends???

Waving in unison


Waving in unison
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

Racing after St. Antonio


Racing after St. Antonio
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

Ascending Mt. Ingino


Ascending Mt. Ingino
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

S. Georgio ascends Mt. Ingino


A word About Comments

First I would like to say that it is really fun to receive a comment and know that you are all out there reading. So, if you can figure out how to do it, by all means do. Thank you to those of you who have sent us comments. We appreciate all of your busy lives and understand if you barely have time to read my lengthy diatribes, let alone, take your time to comment!

I just wanted to say again, that if you send us a comment here on the blog, we get an email notice from the blog manager letting us know that you did. But we cannot simply reply to the email, because your address does not come up (since it wasn't actually from you). But we can read your comment. When I reply to your comment, it goes right below where your comment is on the blog. I am telling you all of this so that you will know that if you have commented and want to know that we have replied you have to go back to the original posting. I hope that makes sense and I have not added more confusion to the situation.

Grazie,
Rosemary & Bob

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Ceri di S. Ubaldo & S. Antonio

The Ceri as they race around the city.

Music & Dancing


Music & Dancing
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.
Bands were playing the squares and young people were dancing and celebrating.

Piazza Grande


Piazza Grande
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.
Early in the day, the band plays at it circles the square.

Bringing out the Saints


Bringing out the Saints
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.
Cheering as the Ceraioli bring the Saints out of the palace, to be mounted on the tops of the Ceri for the race.

Tamburi at dawn


Tamburi at dawn
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.
The Tamburi awaken the Captains of the teams at dawn by drumming through the streets.

Ceraioli


Ceraioli
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

Festa dei Ceri, Gubbio

May 14-15, 2005

I don't know quite how to begin to describe this festival that has been celebrated in the beautiful city of Gubbio for centuries. Indeed, its origins are pagan, a celebration of spring, fertility and virility, in honor of Ceres, the Roman goddess of plants and meadows. With Christianity it has been adapted to honor their patron Saints: Sant Ubaldo, who represents the stonemasons; Sant Georgio, the craftsmen and merchants; and Sant'Antonio, the farm workers. Three monumental "candlesticks" called "Ceri" are shaped liked prisms, tapered at both ends and crafted out of wood, with intricate inlaid patterns, each topped by a statue of one of the saints with long handles on either side. The entire festival is wrapped around the raising of the Ceri in the main square and a madcapped race carrying the Ceri through the town, on switchbacks, plunging down hills and up steep slopes to the top of Mount Ingino, 2700 feet in the air, to see who will be first to reach St. Ubaldo's Church at the summit. They weigh "a ton," so it takes many men to accomplish this feat. The strain is obvious on their faces as they run, carrying their Ceri through the streets, followed by neighbors and friends, all wearing the colors of their neighborhoods and breathlessly chasing behind them. The people (mostly men) who carry the Ceri, called Ceraioli, are strategically placed throughout the route, to relieve their exhausted teammates without pausing for the exchange, much like a relay race. Once they reach the summit, the excitement continues as they circle the final piazza in triumph and return the Ceri to their resting place in the church at the top of the mountain. Amid singing and flares, they then carry the three statues back down to the town and continue the partying that we believe lasts until very late into the night!

Not wanting to miss any of this festival, which begins early Sunday morning, the 15th of May, we took the bus to Gubbio on Saturday and checked into a little hotel room. Our friend Giovanna, (from the Internet café) told us it was easier to win the lottery than get a room at the last minute in Gubbio for the Festival of the Ceri, but nevertheless we lucked out when the travel office near the bus station found us what we believe must have been the last room available in the town! You could feel the anticipation in the air as the townspeople were excitedly preparing for the festival the next day. Each neighborhood has its colors: those representing St. Ubaldo are yellow and red, St. Antonio, black and red, and St. Georgio, blue and red and they hang flags out of their windows to show support for their neighborhood teams. The people all wear the same outfits, white pants with their individually colored shirts and the same red sash at their waists and red bandanas around their necks. The colors are primary and bold against the pale stone of the buildings and they cluster and run in large groups creating an incredibly graphic scene of motion and color that is breathtaking to witness.

This is not a festival put on to attract tourists, although they come here in droves. It is very much a celebration for and by the people who have lived in this town, whose roots go back as far as the origins of this land. Even the little children are dressed in their neighborhood colors to match the grownups and groups of little boys played at being Ceraioli, carrying around miniature versions and racing around the square on Saturday, dreaming of the day when they will be fully grown and can participate. Everyone just seems to know what to do, without having to be directed or following a script, it almost seemed innate, their participation so natural and unrehearsed and completely passionate and emotional.

Before 5 in the morning on Sunday, the sun not yet up, we were awakened by the sound of drums. Hurriedly we threw on our clothes, grabbed our cameras and ran out to see what was happening. Marching through the town, the tamburi (drummers) stopped at the houses of each team's captain to awaken them, standing below their windows until they came out and waved, and the drummers cheered and moved on. Marching and drumming continued throughout the morning with bands playing a repetitive melody and you begin to hum along after a while, it is so captivating. Walking through the streets alongside the drummers, the pounding of the drums reverberating off these ancient stonewalls, pounding in our chests and in our ears, it was thrilling to be sharing in their excitement as we fell in step to the music and the drums.

The entire morning was a build up of excitement. The Ceraioli clustered around the small stonemason's church for a dawn celebration of Mass, after which they carried the statues of the saints around the town presenting them to the townspeople. In the meantime, people were gathering in the main piazza, which is quite large and expansive. We waited for at about an hour and a half, as the crowd grew larger and larger and then suddenly the rolling of the drums and the ringing of the bells grew louder, trumpets blared in unison, enormous flags were unfurled and twirled and then, with everyone's hands fluttering in the air and what I believe must be the anthem for Gubbio, out of the doors of the palace came the Ceri, carried by their handles, in a reclining position, out into the square. The crowd went wild! The Ceri must be attached to carriers, a dramatic spectacle as each team races to pound the stake into the holder while the captain stands on one end, high above the crowd. When the Ceri is in place, we witnessed the exciting moment that everyone was waiting for - the raising of the Ceri, from their lying down position, to completely upright, all the while, drums pounding, bells ringing, music blaring and people cheering and clapping. The ceraioli then race around the piazza. It's hard to say how many are actually carrying each one, it must be at least a dozen or more at any moment, although the entire team, hundreds upon hundreds of team members it seems, surrounding their Ceri and running along side and behind, followed by the rest of the people who chased along with them for the entire day! I must admit, there were moments of extreme anxiety as the crowd pulsed and expanded and contracted and those of us in the piazza became very well acquainted and intimate with each other!

The rest of the day was filled with music, marching bands everywhere, people following along, crowds running in unison, the entire city a living, breathing organism, pulsing with one goal - the running of the Ceri, culminating with the great race up the mountain. The race began around 6pm in the great square. We positioned ourselves along the route and were thrilled to be able to see them pass by, at breakneck pace and continue on. We then moved to another place on the route, just at the point where they make their steep ascent and could almost reach out and touch them as they pounded by us. The young and energetic, the passionate and fervent keeping pace with them, a long line of followers visible from the square below. After a triumphant circling around the square of St. Ubaldo’s, the Ceri were returned to their resting place in this church where they will remain until the next year’s Festa begins again.

While the exhausted and exultant teams made their descent, the town became extremely quiet and peaceful and people gathered around the large screen in the square and watched the final moments of the race, stopped to have a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, walking through the streets, now littered and emptying. We strolled off to our room and much later in the night heard the sound of drumming and distant singing and knew the celebrations would continue as we slept, completely worn out and very, very thrilled to have been able to witness the incredible demonstration of solidarity, strength and passion that is the Festa dei Ceri.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Sleepless in Perugia

It's nearly 3am here in Perugia and I couldn't sleep so I decided to get up and write a bit about what's been going on this week. We have been working hard at our studies, going to school every day and trying to read the newspapers and watch the TV news and especially the silly little game shows and absorb, absorb, absorb. There are times when I feel a brilliant little breakthrough, where I have a conversation with someone in Italian and I understand them and they understand me and it is like a small miracle to think that I am actually speaking another language! And then there are the times (which is really a more common occurrence) where I can pick out the words but the meaning goes right over my head. The funniest thing is watching Will and Grace, dubbed in Italian, if you can imagine! They have done a great job of dubbing voices that sound like the actors voices and even though we don't understand what they are saying, the body language, the facial expressions of these characters still makes us laugh.

I wanted to tell you about our classmates at the Università per Stranieri. I have told you that they are from all over the world. It's a wonderful little United Nations we have here and so fascinating to be around such a diverse group of people. Last night, Michael and Mary who are Australians, organized a small gathering of eight of us to go to a pizzeria after class. We had been told by our Professoressa about one of the really good ones to try (Bob and I had already discovered this place) and since our class gets out on Wednesdays at 7 (we go from 11-1 on Wednesday and then back from 5-7), we decided it would be a good time to go out together right after class for pizza and wine.

We had the most lovely time! Michael and Mary are about our age with grown children and their first grandchild on the way. Sweet, warm & friendly people, Michael was a teacher and Mary, a pharmacist, who recently sold their pharmacy in Sydney and are on this amazing tour of the world for 3 months. Along for the evening also was Jocelyn, a lovely young woman with long dark hair and always full of smiles, from Taipei, Taiwan who took the most amazing photographs of the festival in Assisi, taping some of the music as well and showed them to us as a slide show on her laptop before class so that those who had not been able to go could see what it was all about. After her month in Italy she is off to Prague to meet her husband and visit the Czech Republic. She and Bob had much to talk about since he had just been there on his Fulbright. Penny and her daughter Vanessa (also Australians) are touring Italy and taking this month to study in Perugia. They are meeting up with Vanessa's dad in Venice, I believe, and then Vanessa will go off and meet up with friends. Vanessa is a gorgeous young woman with long blonde hair and dazzling blue eyes. Like me, Penny also likes to paint and do watercolors and she and her husband share our dream of living in Italy. And then there is Helena, at 19 years old, the sweetest young person you could ever meet. She is from a small city in Switzerland and with her blond curly hair and blue eyes and her charming disposition, we liked her immediately and all of us find ourselves feeling quite motherly towards her. It is amazing to me, how quickly we have formed friendships with these fellow travelers. Before the class begins there is a buzz of conversation in the classroom as people share experiences and advice and ask questions of each other. Everyone speaks English and I realize now that this is not just helpful for us, but a way for all of these people who speak many different languages, to communicate with each other as well. I am constantly in awe of these people from all over the world (outside of the U.S!) who speak several languages. Even in Australia, Michael was telling us it used to be French but that recently, they have required their students to study Japanese. Helena was telling us that in Switzerland, they must learn not only English, but French and German. Her native language is a Swiss-German and she also studied Latin for 8 years!

Some of our other new friends not in attendance at the pizza gathering are Irma, a psychotherapist from Oaxaca, Mexico; Maria a student from Sweden; Carlos, a doctor from Colombia, who is always studying; another Irma from Georgia (near Russia), an anesthesiologist who married an Italian and is living in Assisi now; a few more Australians; Aws, a student from Tel Aviv; Leslie, from Great Britain and married to an American, who lives half the year here in Perugia because her daughter and granddaughter are here, and half in London; a few girls from Germany and Holland and one or two other Americans.

Our pizzeria was not quite ready to open when we arrived so we decided to go and have a drink at our little Irish pub, which added a whole other element of international flavor to our outing! This place is down a dark, narrow alley not far from our apartment and is truly like stepping into a pub in Ireland. There is a bar at one end with the typical Guinness on tap and all the Irish whiskeys and beers on hand. Marty, the Irishwoman who owns the place has satellite TV there (you might remember my telling you about the day they selected the Pope) with booths in the back, complete with a room for throwing darts. We sat and drank a toast to friends around the world and shared stories and got to know each other a bit better.

The pizza was delicious, wine and conversation flowed freely. We've begun sharing email addresses and already I know I will miss them when they leave at the end of the month! But there are still more than 2 weeks to go so I don't have to think about that now. I'm certain these little gatherings will happen a few more times and I look forward to them eagerly.

Now it's really late and I should try to get some more sleep. Our class is early tomorrow - from 8 to 11 and then back for exercises from 2 - 4.

I can't wait to tell you about our plans for this coming weekend which include a trip to Gubbio for the Festival of the Ceri!

Buona notte,
Rosemary

Sunday, May 08, 2005

King of Bread


King of Bread
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.
He is lying in a bed of loaves of bread. The ones he later threw to the audience.

A Real Pig for Roasting


A Real Pig for Roasting
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.
This a pig that has been slaughtered. We suspect it was roasted and eaten in the after production party???

Church on the turntable


Church on the turntable
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.
This is large enouch to have 9 or 10 steps for a woman to walk down as she made her grand entrance. She was an evil nun from some part of Assisi's history

Festa di Calendimaggio


Festa di Calendimaggio
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

Raising the Tower


Raising the Tower
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.
We saw a scene of this on the TV news, tonight. It was after we had gone home (to Perugia) They lit all of its little torches at the end of the Piazza Comune. It looked beautiful we wish we could have stayed all night.

Festa del Calendimaggio

Yesterday we experienced this amazing event in the town of Assisi (that's right, Suzanne, as in "Saint Francis of..."). This festival has Roman origins and in the Middle Ages they held jousting and knightly contests of strength and derring-do but mostly it is a celebration of spring as the season of renewal and the flowering of love and romance. By the 14th century, the town was divided into two factions: Sopra (or the part from above) and Sotto (from below). There was serious fighting over who would have control over the whole city. Today, there is still a friendly and rather strong rivalry between the two parts of the city but it is demonstrated by each part putting on a pageant and trying to outdo the other.

Not really knowing what to expect but having been told that this is something not to be missed, we got up early and boarded a train for the 30-minute ride to Assisi. You arrive at the train station and must then take a short bus ride up to the centro (this is becoming very much the norm for us, in exploring these hilltop cities). We must pay careful attention now to bus and train schedules, because they don't run all night and you could have a problem if you miss the last one. During these festivals in particular, it would be a challenge to find a vacant hotel and it's definitely too far to walk home!

We were not disappointed in what unfolded before our eyes. Arriving early, we purchased tickets for the afternoon performance, which was to start at 3:30 and end around 7pm. Perfect. We walked around the city, and in our delight, watched the local townspeople busily preparing for the festival. A young man and woman were painting a unicorn with embellishments on an enormous white canvas spread out on the floor of a piazza. A giggling group of teenagers were sitting nearby making wreaths from fresh leaves and adding garnishes of lemons and other fruits. In another part of the city a group of men and women of assorted ages were creating beautiful arrangements on enormous wooden trays of different types of foods - roasted chickens, baskets of apples, carrots and onions and garlic, large rounds of cheeses and greenery that would be used as props for the pageant to come. We sat in the piazza and watched as the singers rehearsed their parts, wearing every day street clothes while a group of strong young men hoisted a framework in the shape of the tower, with scores of little torches attached to it, that later in the night would be lit with little flames. The entire city was abuzz with activity and anticipation.

The Piazza del Commune is the main square in the city of Assisi and there are two streets at either end of the square - two leading to the upper part of the city and the other two, to the lower. Stands were set up opposite the tower and the Temple of Minerva (a Roman temple converted into a church), where a stage had been prepared for part of the performance to take place.

The pageant began with a single booming voice, as the narrator, in full medieval costume, began walking, slowly past the stands and into the piazza. Even without understanding every word, it was clear that this was a story of primavera, of spring and love and awakening. He set the stage and then sat back to let the performers visually tell their story without words, accompanied by music and song of that period. From the moment it began, the crowd was mesmerized. Even Giovanni, the little boy in front of us, who was a bit of a scootch to his brother and cousins, was quiet and engrossed. It was like being transported back in time and watching what a medieval day in Assisi might have been like, as interpreted by Sopra (upper town), followed by an equally impressive performance by the citizens of the Sotto (lower town). The nobility entered grandly in sumptuous clothing and took their place on stage as servants bustled about setting the table for a feast. A procession passed before them, with groups representing the various trades and crafts of the city: ceramic artists, butchers, lace-makers, hunters with bloodhounds, knights on horseback, wine-makers and our favorite, the bakers, who were riding in a cornucopia filled with flour and enormous loaves of bread that they tossed to the spectators to break apart and share. And this doesn't even go into any of the second part of the performance, which meant they had to take down everything the Sopras did and bring in their own sets and props - complete with a turntable (like in Les Miserables) with a church on one side and elaborate set of stairs on the other where performers came in and out of, and a little street scene set up right in the piazza, right before our eyes! Everything was done with grace and beauty and color and motion, dance and singing and the most beautiful and authentic looking costumes.

The impressive part of this festival is that it is completely organized and performed by volunteers who live in the city. They must start preparing for each year's festival the day after one ends, so enormous is the effort. The sense of community pride is powerful and awe-inspiring. And set against the backdrop of this beautiful city, this day is one we will never forget.

If you want to learn more about this festival, there's a website: www.calendimaggiodiassisi.com. We'll be posting some of our photos on this blog also. But seriously, if you are thinking about coming to Italy in the future I would highly recommend attending this festival. It encompasses 3 days of festivities and would be amazing to see first hand. Start making reservations now!

Today is Mother's Day. Happy Mother's Day to all you Mom's out there.

Ciao,
Rosemary & Bob

Cinco de Mayo

May 5, 2005

I just realized that it was yesterday. The Fifth of May. To those of you not familiar with this tradition, it is a holiday that originated in Mexico to celebrate a battle in winning their independence that I believe has more significance in the U.S. than it actually does in Mexico. It always seemed like just one more excuse to go eat Mexican food and drink margaritas (although when you live in the Southwest, you don't really need an excuse). I am thinking of Carolina's Mexican Restaurant on Mojave and 12th Street in Phoenix and all the days my friends at work - Margaret or Marc or Liz or Peter - would say "Is it a Carolina's day today?" And those who were "in" would write down their choices for the day, mine would either be a bean and potato burro or their little soft chicken tacos with a side of beans and one or two of us would get in the car and drive around to pick it up. Carolina's is a wonderful little authentic Mexican restaurant. Its ambiance is a jumble of faded orange formica "booths" - where the table is connected to the chair, a rickety screen door and two soda machines. It is evaporative cooled which means no air conditioning so in the hottest summer months you are counting on the fans to cool you. You either call in and pick up (which still means standing in the line at one of the two windows) or you get in line and place your order and wait for your number to be called. Sometimes it's a toss up as to which line is shorter! This was always a fun lunch at work because it meant a bunch of us would eat together in the "kitchen" and the conversations were lively and entertaining. Anyway, I guess I am feeling nostalgic (is that really acceptable after such a short time away?) for this sweet little tradition. I am wondering if Bitsy and George are having a party to celebrate the day. Such wonderful hosts they are it was always a joy to be included on their guest list. OK!! I'm feeling a bit homesick at the moment and missing all of my friends there in Phoenix! So, although I am a day late, let me wish all you in Phoenix a Happy Cinco de Mayo. Have a margarita for me!

Rosemary

Us on first day of scuola


Universita per Stranieri

May 6, 2005

Stranieri is an interesting word choice we think. Because literally, it means stranger, (something "strano" is actually "strange" but that's another subject!) but the translation really is "foreigner." I have told you about all the different nationalities in our class. It's incredible to be in a room with 25 people from at least a dozen different countries and most of them able to speak English (if not also French and German). It has made it easier for us to communicate with them and would be impossible at this point to have all but the most rudimentary conversations in Italian. At this point we can all say "what is your name, where are you from, what is your nationality, how old are you etc etc." Many of these people, like us, have had some Italian prior to coming to this school and, like us, where too chicken to take the more advanced classes. The largest number of students is from Australia. There are at least 8 of them. We shared a glass of wine after class with a couple about our age on a tour of the world. Australians, we have found, are great travelers and very interested in the world outside their country. It was fun just to talk with people beside each other for a change. And in English, without struggling for the right verb tense!

The school itself is not as old as we had previously thought. It was established in 1921 and its aim was to heighten people's awareness of the region of Umbria, both throughout Italy and abroad. Classes were held at the University of Perugia and at Palazzo dei Priori until 1927 when it moved into its current home, Palazzo Gallenga, a beautiful 18th century palace that sits near the Etruscan Arch (the Etruscans pre-date the Romans), a very imposing structure. Classes are also held at 3 other smaller palazzi a short distance away from the Palazzo Gallenga and these are where we study. In its former life, this complex of buildings constituted the Psychiatric Hospital, which is kind of appropriate for us! The buildings are old - vecchio - some of the classrooms have wooden benches and, after about an hour we all start squirming! Luckily, there is a break for 15 minutes of each hour so it works out well and the time goes by very quickly. Learning another language is a complete exercise in memorization, which we hope will keep our brains from further fossilizing. Not only do we have to remember all these different words, but all the conjugations of the verbs (regular and irregular - those are the fun ones) and all the many uses of little words like "a", "the" and "is" not to mention "in" and "on"! Much of this is review for me but good to re-confirm what I know and help me use all the little words correctly.

We hope after a while to not sound so much like Tarzan and Jane (me want pizza - me like wine - what is cost - me pay here etc etc). We are working very hard trying to understand without translating everything into English. At Palazzo Gallenga on Thursday afternoons they show a free movie. It's always a foreign film (not necessarily Italian) but regardless of the language, they all have Italian subtitles. So we try to follow along - it's easier to read and understand than it is to just listen, they talk so fast. We have gone to at least 3 of these now and we get the gist of the film and can understand quite a bit but the subtleties go over our heads. Yesterday's film was a 3-hour movie that had won many awards and was the newest we had seen so far. Made in 2003, it told the story of two brothers in the 1960s and all the twists and turns of their young lives. It was touching and tender and a bit too long but I enjoyed it very much. Afterwards we shared a Margherita pizza at what is becoming one of our favorite places.

It had rained while we were in the theatre and the streets were wet and quiet. We walked out to enjoy the view, the twinkling lights of the valley below. A little pink cloud hung over Assisi, which glowed in the night. There is a festival there this weekend and we are hoping to go. We'll keep you posted.

Buona giornata,
Rosemary & Bob

Our first classroom


Our first classroom
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.

Monday, May 02, 2005

First Day of School

Well, we went off to school today, like two kids on their first day of Kindergarten, not knowing exactly what to expect and nervous, with our backbacks and our freshly sharpened pencils. Our Professoressa, Federica, was wonderful, warm and friendly and we liked her very much. We are happy to report we are not the only old folks in the class. In fact there is a good mix of people, not only in age, but from all over the world: Germany, Australia (the largest number of students actually), Switzerland, Mexico, Taiwan, New Zealand, Georgia (Russia),Holland and others I have forgotten now. The classes are presented completely in Italian and we chickened out and took the first level. It is clear though that most everyone had had some instruction in Italian as they did not all seem to be beginners (as we are not).

We spent the first two hours (from 11 to 1pm) in language instruction. Then an hour break and down to the Mensa (no, not where the smart people study), this is the cafeteria, for lunch. We were quite amazed where, for a total of around 7 euros we each had a dish of pasta, a salad, bread, a bottle of water and fruit. Bob even had a slice of pizza! And it was actually quite good. The hours and the room numbers for the class vary from day to day so we will have to really check the schedule every day to be sure we are going to the right place at the right time. We will have 2 hours a day of language instruction and then another 2-3 of exercises, conversation and practice. Another teacher, Chiara, who we really loved, presents this part of the class. She was so outgoing and emphatic, very warm and funny and demonstrative, it will be fun to be in her group. There are 22 students in the entire class and then we were broken into two separate groups of 11 for the exercises and conversation.

Party, it is review for us. Party we should know this stuff better than we do. But it will be nice to go through the basics again. Maybe eventually it will really sink in! It's interesting that they can instruct a room full of foreigners with a variety of different languages and do it by only speaking their native tongue.

Tonight, no homework. We bought the book on the way home and will be ready for tomorrow.

As I said in my last post, I don't know how much time we will have (or how much we will have to say with our days pretty much consumed now with study) but we hope that you will not forget to keep checking and keep in touch!

Buona sera,
Rosemary & Bob

The Patio at the edge of our view

This is the picnic table at the edge of the garden. The arbor is covered with grape vines just starting to bloom. We can't wait to watch the vines progress to full bunches of grapes.

What we see from our bench


Looking up from the private garden

The house at the top of the hill is where we live. Our apartment is on the ground floor. When we walk out to the edge of our yard we are looking down onto this part of the private garden. This photo is at the edge of the garden we have coffee in many mornings.

Primo Maggio, 2005

This is just a short posting today to say Happy May Day to everyone out there reading my words. It is very gratifying to know that so many people seem to be interested in what I have to say and care about us and what we are doing. Today is the first of May. In Perugia there is music in the piazza and a holiday feeling in the air. We slept in (foolishly) and ate a leisurely breakfast (one of my frittatas) and wandered out to the main piazza to find that we had missed a parade! Yesterday there was a high school band from Massachusetts playing there and tonight there will be rock music. There have been various bands and musicians here and there all day.

Tomorrow is the beginning of our studies at the Universita per Stranieri and we are not sure how much of our lives will be consumed with the learning of the language and how much blogging we will have time to do. I hope you will not give up on checking here if you don't see anything new from us for a while. I will try to at least post short notes just to keep you interested! The class begins tomorrow, the 2nd of May and goes until the 31st.

As a note to those of you who post comments here - I can respond to your comments but they seem to appear on the same page as your original comments. So if you have placed a post (comment) please check back to where you posted and you will see my reply there. I will try to respond to them all. I get an email notice that you have left a comment and sometimes I will just send you an email in response rather than post an additional comment. To those of you who have tried and been unsuccessful I am sorry you have had difficulty. When I add a comment, all I do is click on the word "comment" and a box comes up for me to type my note. Then I just say "post" and off it goes. All I can say is keep trying. It's fun to hear from you.

Now we will run off to the Internet Café to post these notes and a few photos.
Wish us luck with our studies! We think we will be the oldest students in the class and it should be interesting to see how un-fossilized brains work.

And, as a footnote to those of you still confused - we did not buy a piano. It was being delivered to our neighbor's house and we were just being nosy!

And, thanks to Art for telling me that paper made from lambskin is parchment. All I can say to that is "duh!" I should have known that. The words over the artisan's head said "Pergamana" (parchment, in Italian!).

Buona sera!
Rosemary & Bob

Riding the Funivia


Riding the Funivia
Originally uploaded by livecheapmakeart.
Look carefully for the woman wearing a red shirt riding in the cable car.

Palace of the Consuls, Gubbio


Approaching Gubbio-from the bus

The top of the hill on the left is where we are in the photo of Gubbio from above. We rode the cable car up to the top of this hill.

Taking the Bus to Gubbio

Saturday, April 30, 2005


Yesterday afternoon we decided to get on a bus and go to Gubbio. On May 15th, the eve of the anniversary of their Patron Saint Ubaldo's death, they have a huge festival - called The Festival of the Ceri, where they race through the town carrying these colossal wooden prisms with sculptures of their saints on top. These are carried by means of a wooden support with crossbars that rests on the shoulders of very strong men who run through the wide streets and squares through the town and up the steep slopes to the church on the top of the hillside where St. Ubaldo rests (literally - his body is encased in glass on the altar). This is probably the briefest description of this event ever, but we had read about it and wanted to go and check out the town and the route there and see if we could make some plans to go to the festival. We learned that all the hotels in the town were already booked and getting in from the smaller villages nearby would be difficult at best. Without a car, we decided that we may just go for the day, which is easy for us to do and see whatever we can the day of the festival, without spending the night.

The bus ride to Gubbio takes about an hour and 10 minutes. It was very comfortable and spacious like a tour bus with wide, clear windows that afforded unobstructed views of the countryside we passed. Beautiful rolling hills, mountains really, with small patches of forested areas set between olive groves and vineyards, up and down the hillsides and through tiny little towns. The only disadvantage to not driving was not being able to stop and take photos. Which probably got us there quicker since I would have wanted to stop at every turn in the road! The views were breathtaking.

Gubbio is an extremely vertical city. In order to get the faithful from the lower part of centro to the church on the hill, they have generously provided an elevator which we gladly took advantage of rather than climb the very steep steps to that part of the town. OK, we were being lazy, but we only had a few hours to spend and wanted to make the most of it. The really cool thing we did was to ride what they called the "Funivia" a basket-like contraption that is like a ski-lift sort of thing that allows two of you to stand and be lifted (almost vertically!) by a cable system, slowly, slowly, to the top of the mountain to the Church of St. Ubaldo. It was amazing (and terrifying for me too) to be in that little basket, climbing, climbing, above the tree tops until the town below was very, very tiny and far away and climbing still to the very top. You are then free to visit the Church whose stained glass windows tell the story of St. Ubaldo and, to see the "Ceri" up close, since this is where they appear to be housed when they are not being carried all over the town.

The ride home was even more beautiful than the ride there because the sky was party cloudy and the sun was streaming down through dark clouds lighting up the landscape in very dramatic ways. We said very little as we watched the light play across the fields and farms, lighting up this valley and that stone house. The city of Assisi glowed in the late afternoon, lit as if from within, a result of the type of stone used to construct that monument to the saint, we imagine, and eerie for that reason.

We ended the day sharing a bottle of wine and a pizza at a little pizzeria (wonderful wood-fired oven) nearby and winding our way up the hill to our apartment.

What an amazing week this has been - the end of our fourth week in Perugia!

Buona notte,
Rosemary & Bob