Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cani e Gatti

It rained buckets yesterday! Torrential thunderstorms that shook the house (and drizzled slightly around one of the skylights). Now the cobblestones are gleaming and the sky is an intense, freshly washed celeste.

This morning we are mopping the floors, trying to make them gleam as well for our housewarming tomorrow (in Italian it translates as the mouthful festa per inaugurare la casa).

We have invited everyone who has been nice to us (plus now wandering minstrels, seriously), so it is hard to know who will actually come. But whomever does, they will have lemon cake and chocolate cake and the late addition of a cheese plate as they admire the first pass of designing our new home.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I tower over everybody in the immigration office at the Questura--the local police precinct.When I get to the front of the line, the kind man behind the window raises the venetian blind extra high and makes a joke about it in Italian--speaking too fast for me to get the precise meaning--which brings down the house, since everyone very subtly listens to all that is going on.

Everyone is calm and quiet, most actually seem to have come either on their way to or from work and clearly are used to the random and inexhaustible complexity of the Italian Bureaucracy. The one thing that sets me apart, I realize after a bit, is that I am the one person in the room who has come to Italy to make LESS money...

Friday, July 23, 2010

The best way I can explain life in Lucca is that it is like a royal family has abdicated and left you the castle and the food supply, but a bureaucratic insurgency has taken over and everyone you need help from is either played by Mr. Bean or Lilly Tomlin when she has had not had enough sleep.

The castle B is a fun place, and the landlord loved our painting of the Buddha in the living room--which was a tremendous relief.

We went to the middle school and they said to come back the week before school to find out which of the sections A through I is for T. There are 25 kids in a class. We got a book list, but it is fairly specific and so we have to wait for the class assignment. Luckily, they don't have any summer homework. School won't start until the 15th of september.

We are planning a housewarming party in two weeks and T made the invitations. That should be a story.

It is hot hot hot here, record breaking over a hundred and I wear a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses and come home kind of dazed after a bit. I don't know if it is our fitflops or the fact that all of the ground surfaces here resemble that of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but all three of us have developed quite the calf muscles.

I want in my next life to come back as a crumb in a rustic biscotto we found because I could happily live my whole life inside that cookie. T wants to reincarnate as gelato in a medio cono and F will probably be a very colorful vegetable.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

La Seconda Settimana
Well, this has been some week.

I got strep throat and had to figure out how to get medicine. Everyone here goes to the pronto soccorso (emergency room)—even for regular doctor appointments. You can even make an appointment to GO to the emergency room. I went to triage early Saturday morning and F stayed home with T who I didn't want exposed to anything. There was only one emergency case for the whole time I was there and they categorized patients with different color papers and numbers which you could view on a TV screen to know how many cases of each level of urgency were ahead of you.

I kept repeating “quattrocentoquattordici” in my head so I would know when my number was called.

One of the triage doctors was really rude and told the other nurse that I was a rich American and probably thought I didn't have to wait like everyone else and then she mocked me for avoiding the handle of the triage room with my bare hand because I had forgotten the Purell. The doctor in the emergency room checked me for two seconds and gave me an appointment for an hour later with an ear, nose, throat specialist upstairs and he gave me an antibiotic without even doing a strep test. I paid at a little office upstairs and a nurse ran after me saying that the 52 euros I had paid was a rip off and that she wanted to figure out how I could pay less.

In the end, due to our foreigner status, it was resolved that the sum was correct (but I knew it would cost six times as much in NY). Anyway after three days I could swallow and talk again and then my stomach finally could take food again.

On the way back from the emergency room I have to admit that I went to Lucca's antique fair in the piazzas near the house and negotiated a deal for two gorgeous living room chairs before I took to my bed. T got a charm bracelet that she just loves. I am paying/bribing her to speak Italian every day until school starts so she can afford these bejeweled trinkets.

T spends hours on Skype (pronounced “sky-pee”) with her friend S everyday—playing video games, surfing fashion sites and creating their own blog SparkleGirl which we hope you will become a follower of as it is critical for their success.

Today she went to an aqua park with F to do high dives and slide down all the slides while I went to the Patronato to the immigrant aid people who said that the letter we got from the Chamber of Commerce should satisfy the questura (police station) and that F needs to bring it in tomorrow. Then hopefully he will get his nulla osta and come back to NY for his visa. We are looking to see what T and I need to do after that because there may be a loophole through which we could avoid having to go back to the Consulate, but we don't know.

The downstairs neighbors are really nice and they took T swimming and to a dinner at the grandma's house. T came home and said now that was some Italian food, implying that we have been depriving her in some way now that she had tasted the genuine article.

F has been working on stuff for Phoenix House and for Fattoria Colleverde and is loving not having to take the subway anymore. We heard a whole concert of Paolo Nutini clear as day from our bedroom window last night and he was good, unlike Crosby, Stills, & Nash who limped in here last week.

That's all for now!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

We arrived in Lucca just as the summer music festival was about to start. The lineup has been quite a mixed bag, from ZZ Top to Paolo Nutini (playing right this second and he sounds fantastic), but the one performer who got the crowd up and singing along to every word is Eros Ramazzotti. Three decades of topping the charts in Italian and Spanish firmly establish his heart-throbbyness and a catalog that had the crowd at his fingertips.

Fuoco nel Fuoco

Eros Ramazzotti feat. Ricky Martin--Non Siamo Soli

His website

Buy Eros Ramazzotti on Amazon

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Siamo Arrivati

Backtracking to K's description of our first days...

Hi Peoples!

We made it!

F was a super hero as he had to carry 9 suitcases weighing 70 lbs. each and two cats around the Pisa airport and then (surprise:(!) on a bus to the rental car office and from the car to the new house.

Our interior clocks are very confused and we have not slept too much.  We were right about the house though.  It is so luxurious and beautiful.

The second day, we spent six crazy hours at Ikea and are still up to our eyeballs in instructions and little metal doohickeys.

The food has been fabulous. We went to the fruit and vegetable market and F made pasta with fried zucchini blossoms and sweet onions that was dreamy. Last night it was homemade eggplant parmagiano made from these eggplants that are bright magenta colored beauties and beautiful tiny tomatoes that melt on the tongue.

We got Italian cell phones for here (buy the phone at the supermarket and the SIM card at a different store around the corner--this will be a common theme). We have not figured out how to get internet service in the house (it's a long story) but our neighbors let us steal their password for service in the building. T is thrilled that there is a little girl and boy downstairs that she might  be able to babysit.

Our legal status is messy at best. We have a meeting early Monday morning to discuss our stay permit which we have an eight day deadline to apply for with the police station.

It is quieter than expected, maybe due to national mourning for the world cup. Even though we live above a restaurant they close at 11 and the church bells don't really get roaring until around 9:30 AM on Sunday. The most noisy thing are the Italian pigeons who seem to be much more vociferous than their American cousins and might possibly be singing operas from our roof.  Our kitties were silent and stunned on the voyage. Tivoli loves the new place, but Mango seems to have a little kitty post traumatic stress disorder.  It will probably get better over time, but the dog on the balcony across the piazza is not helping much.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Siamo Arrivati
When you arrive at the Pisa Airport and you want to drive to Lucca, one word of caution--don't follow the big blue signs that say "LUCCA." Go the opposite direction, unless you want to have a long and confusing drive with multiple stops to ask for assistance, turn around in the middle of traffic, and see a good deal of lovely Tuscan countryside interspersed with the Italian version of strip malls and suburban apartment blocks.

Especially not recommended to do this in a giant (for Italy) 9-person Fiat Peoplemover with nine enormous suitcases, two cats, a spouse, and a daughter all of whom have had about three hours of sleep and extended months of anxiety about moving, visas, jobs, language, ad infinitem...

But then finally after winding through the hills, you come to the train crossing just outside the Stazione and watch the donne ride up to the barrier on their biciclette balancing two big shopping bags in the baskets and you realize that you have done it--said "Arrivederci Brooklyn!" and made the great crazy leap into the unknown that you have dreamed about for three years!