Monday, February 28, 2011

And the award goes to . . .

T and her lovely friend Greta had their Oscar night party which involved dressing like hollywood starlets and scanning the internet for the latest news on fashion, beauty, and oh yeah the films.  Plus they had us print out ballots from the internet and make an Oscar pool to see who guessed the most winners (F, as usual).

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sun drenched goodies!
Our being vegetarian is substantial cause for concern, or at least a major curiosity, for many of our new friends here in Lucca. Finally someone has embraced and celebrated it. Stefano was in a horrible motorcycle accident several years ago and has a bunch of metal plates in his leg and broke his rib and collarbone, so K has been treating him for pain with BioEnergy. Clearly it seems to be working for him. Not only do we pay a very marginal price for dry cleaning at his store and not only did he repair our treadmill but now the largest basket of glorious nature's bounty that you ever did see!  One of the vegetables that F instinctively prepared expertly with garlic and lemon turned out to be chicory which looks like a bunch of celery with leaves on the outside. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Le frangette
One of the major technological innovations of the 21st Century is undoubtedly How we all lived without it is not an easy thing to fathom. You put in your picture, then instantly can see what any hairstyle or makeup will look like on you--what more could you want?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gli accessori
Somehow T has developed a bag obsession. Partly it is because Lucca is accessory heaven--especially Monica's store, Stella Z, partly it is because of this extraordinary find at the monthly antique market. It's a bag. It's a high heel!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Carta vetrata
I've been meaning to post something about Pietra Montecorvino for almost two years now, but have been too intimidated. Now with the help of some chocolate, I will give it a try. She's from Napoli and first made her mark in the 80's as an actress and her performance style has an arch dramatic edge almost like watching flamenco or tango dancers. With an extraordinary voice that sounds as though someone scraped her vocal cords with steel wool and cigarettes for about a decade, she sings in Neapolitan dialect and mixes in a variety of North African influences in her music.

Mare di Napoli

Live 2009

Her website

Buy Pietra Montecorvino at Amazon

Friday, February 11, 2011

Il Postino
T has a lovely smile, but it masks the fact that she inherited too many teeth and too small a jaw from her parents. She had a brilliant orthodontist in NYC who moved things around without much pain and fuss. When she heard that we were moving to Tuscany, she said that one of her favorite students was moving back to Prato near Firenze last May. Dottoressa B is glamorous and fun and speaks perfect English, so the schlep once a month on the train seems worth it. When we were setting up a payment plan with her, I said we could just mail her a check. Immediately she said no no, we had to arrange a bank transfer. It turns out that no one in Italy mails checks, or basically anything else, and for good reason. Of the packages people have sent us, we have gotten roughly half. The half that we have got, each one takes a trip to the main post office with a copy of our passports, codice fiscali, and six other official documents, in order to have the privilege of sending a registered letter to the airport in Milan, where they may or may not send back a receipt and/or eventually the package.

Because the Poste Italiane works so well, they have been entrusted with being the place where you pay all of your bills (which they charge €1,50 per each), as well as offering bank accounts, credit cards, mobile phones, books, and insurance. Go figure.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Dante's Treadmill
After months of going back and forth about joining a gym, we decided to buy a tapis roulant/treadmill. For one thing, we don't have a car and when you factor in getting to the gym, paying the €900, waiting in line for the equipment, and all the time it takes changing and showering--not to mention the horrible scene of self-loathing that inevitably follows, exposure to the Miss Tanorexic Italia 2011 competition in the locker room, buying a €350 tapis roulant seemed like a bargain.

The website looked impressive, the item was on sale, and the shipping was free. What we didn't know was that Italian fine print is vastly different from American fine print and that the courier would be the 7,000 year old man with four teeth that we've seen delivering little envelopes from his little white truck. In fact to return such an item in Italy, you have only ten days to pay for a registered letter to go to the company describing the item number and the problems and your bank information. Then you have to pay to ship the item back to the company. Then you have to wait for them to inspect the item and decide whether they will send you a new one or refund your money. Or  not. And the whole process can take years.

K was housebound this week, suffering the lovely after-effects of flea poison, including rashes, trouble breathing, and irregular heart rate, and, therefore, was in fact at home when the furbo/sneaky courier peeked in our door, left a notice, and ran away. Little did he know that F would be picking up T from school and see the little white truck parked in front of the bank in the grand Piazza around the corner from our house. K ran out and accosted him, and he claimed that he had had the enormous package on the truck and that he had a "colleague" drive off with it to a neighboring town where we would be free to pick it up the following morning after ten at their depot. We moved into High Indignation Mode and called the company we ordered it from, complaining vigorously until they called the courier company who said, okay we'll bring it back tomorrow or the next day.  Thursday came and went. Friday came and went. We complained more vigorously and said that we would cancel the order that, luckily, was paid for through Pay Pal.  Then magically, to our great shock and surprise, Saturday morning we got a phone call from an untraceable number saying that the tapis roulant would be to us within an oretta/little hour.

The nonagenarian delivered it, and, in fact, carried it up the two long flights of steep stairs without so much as dropping his cigarette out of his mouth. Then we were furbi/clever enough to follow the website's implicit advice and accept the package con riserva because if you don't you have no legal right to return it. They suggest you write that the imballato é bagnato/ package is wet or something, but we wrote that it "could have" been dropped. As any package "could have" been. Time to follow the connect the dots or paint by the numbers with the silly assembly instructions which had more stretching exercises and warnings to contact a doctor before initiating an exercise routine than constructive information in it. F is pretty handy with these things so he got it together in no time at all.

You have guessed by now what happened next. That's right, it did not work. At all. F packed back up the offending machinery and put it outside of our door so we could prepare for our dinner party that night. The italian sport equipment company played John Lennon's "Imagine" on a loop which made call waiting excruciating and pointless since no one answers on Saturday.

F was making his no-fail Italian-dinner-for-Italian-guests meal of mushroom ravioli in a mushroom lemon white wine sauce, his homemade gorgonzola bread with sun-dried tomato, olive, and artichoke tapinades, and a chocolate molten cake dessert. We invited K's best friend in Italy, Massimo, to come and also, sort of randomly, our dry cleaners.

Well K needed the dress she wore to New Year's dry cleaned and so she went to drop it off and locked eyes for a minute with Linda and found herself making an impromptu invitation. We already knew that Linda's husband Stefano was a motorcycle enthusiast because when he found out this summer that we were from NY he shared with us his dream of going on a motorcycling vacation across American on Route 66.

Massimo brought us an amazing layered, cream and rum filled chocolate cake for dessert, thus saving us the trouble of making our own. And Linda, sweetly oblivious to K's black thumb and now, phobia of plants, gave us a pot of lovely purple flowers. The dinner and conversation went off to perfection and T shocked everyone by somehow having become fairly fluent in italian without our noticing it. During dinner, Stefano told us about a horrible motorcycle accident that he was in last year that left him with metal rods and plates in his collar bone and tibia and ribs sticking into his lungs. Massimo who does energy work himself helped K to explain the bioenergy healing that she does and they made a plan so that she could see if she could help him not have to limp so much anymore.

After dinner K recounted the story of the tapis roulant to our guests and a flurry of fast italian ensued about what we should do next.  Stefano was adamant that we try to fix it ourselves and Linda proposed an electrician friend who might drop by next week.  Before we knew it, F was dragging the monstrous box back in the soggiorno and ripping off the duct tape. Stefano asked for a pointy knife from our silverware drawer and the men were off to the races!  Stefano convinced F to take off the plastic motor casing, where our sherlock holmes found a crack. A crack where the package "could have" been dropped! Unfortunately. And some wires came out from the motor. With a little tin foil from one of T's chocolate bars and the knife as tools, Stefano went to work. Linda and K stopped their conversation abruptly due to a lovely whirring sound that was offering itself up from the darkness of the machine.  Would you believe it? The thing WORKS!

And on exiting Stefano said smiling broadly and pointing enthusiastically to his leg, "okay, now you fix it."

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Cultural Sensitivity
So I (F) started going to an Italian class at the library. The Comune offers free classes for stranieri/foreigners, but you have to be very persistent to find them.

A quick pop quiz.

If you are a country that is wrestling with how to assimilate immigrants from countries with vastly different and more conservative cultural norms, which sentences do you use in your basic language course?

A. Lei aveva avuto molti mariti e pochi amanti.
    She had many husbands and a few lovers.

B. Loro erano state sempre donnacce.
     They were always a bunch of b*tches.

C. Tutti bevano troppo.
     Everyone drank too much.

D. All of the above