God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

-2 or +32--Not SoCal

At this moment we are sitting in the very private and almost luxurious upper level of a 747—most of our fellow travelers are sleeping—or at least seem to be. Until a few moments ago I was one with them, comfortably lulled by soothing piano music recently downloaded to the IPOD (what a wonderful invention this little gadget is!) With our noise canceling, symphonic earphones, I could stay up here forever—not really!

Ken and I are on the way home from our 10 days in Tuscany—preparing for the big event in July. These days have convinced us that the decision to embark on this adventure is a good one and that much richness will result for us and, most importantly, for Casey, whose little arms we can’t wait to feel in another 11 hours.

If you have followed this blog (it amazes me that people do), you know that in October I braved a solo trip for ten days in search of the perfect location for us to settle in for a year. At the end of those days, I fell in love with a place in Greve in Chianti called Fattoria Viticcio which sits on a hilltop in the midst of a thriving vineyard. Nearby a medieval castle perches on a higher hill along with scattered old stone farmhouses. If you close your eyes, maybe you can dream of it—a little.

Magically and perfectly, the owner showed me a two bedroom, two bath apartment—small by comparison with our rather large home in California—but almost spacious by Italian apartment standards. Plus, there were several other unexpected advantages, chief of which being Alessandro’s daughter Camilla who is the exact age as Casey and so they will be in the same classroom at the scuola. And so, after I returned home, showed Ken some pictures and extolled the positives, we gave a commitment to Alessandro and signed a year’s lease.

Thus—it was with some trepidation that I returned now with Ken—hoping that he would feel as I did and that I would feel in March as I had in October. And the verdict is--drumroll—yes, we are both excited and secure with the decision, anticipation flows through our veins. It is an exhilarating thought imagining the life experiences the year will bring to all of us.

Now—a little about the trip—the good and the bad.

First—it is cold in Chianti in March—this morning when we set out for the airport it was -2C—which is about +34F. Yep—you’re right—below freezing. These Southern Californians spent a lot of time being cold the last 10 days—frequently having conversations such as “And why are we doing this?” “Maybe southern Italy would have been wiser.” “Isn’t this why we left Syracuse, the snow belt capital of the US of A?” “Are we crazy?” And several more similar lead-ins.

But then, we would remember the fireplace in our apartment and all the wood Alessandro has and how cozy we will be in our little nest—until we need to go out to the mercato ( market), the pasticceria (pastry shop), the macelleria (butcher shop), wander the local piazza or whatever else suits our fancy. These little jaunts and the bigger ones to Firenze, Siena and points further will save us from the cabin fever which is sure to develop during long winter months.

Ken and I will have all day to explore the lovely villages and countryside, visit friends or just kick back and read while Casey is in school—from 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday. And then—Nicoletta, Alessandro’s lovely wife, and our friends Lino, Rita and delightful daughter Jackelyn in Chiocchio are anxious to teach me the joys and delights of the Italian cucina. I expect to be a new woman in the kitchen when we return to regular life in San Diego—although, long time friend Nico in Montepulciano is convinced that we will not return—that Italy will become our home—at Casey’s insistence. We’ll see—won’t we?

We visited Casey’s school and were warmly welcomed and shown around by Maestra Anna Maria-the math teacher and what we would call the lead teacher. Nicoletta had arranged the visit and, of course, Camilla has been talking to classmates about Casey for weeks now as she and Casey have a thriving e-mail relationship going.

The children swarmed us, asking questions, looking at the pictures of Casey we gave Camilla to show off and asking when we would be there. Anna Maria put Casey’s picture on the door so that the children can begin to view him as their classmate—which they already seem inclined to do. We were given a copy of the third grade curriculum and daily schedule—history, geography, mathematics, Italian, English, art, music, physical education, science and religion. We are pretty sure we will opt Casey out of the religion instruction as it is preparation for confirmation in the Catholic Church—which is quite different from our Baptist convictions. Kids who do not take the religion course are given some creative opportunities in art which he will enjoy.

Of course we had some wonderful meals, particularly one with Alessandro, Nicoletta, Rita and Lino at La Cantinetta di Rignana hidden in the middle of the woods above Greve. We shared steaks prepared with truffles, mushrooms, green peppers and one more which I forget. They were out of this world delicious. The six of us had a wonderful evening with the promise of many more next year.

Another opportunity we had while there—one that had not figured on our list of must do’s this trip—was to meet a local doctor who now will be OUR doctor. After I spent a day and a half in bed without getting any better, Ken talked to Alessandro who called his family’s doctor. Impressively, he came to see me rather than my having to make a trip to his office--a practice long abandoned here in the US. I had somehow developed an inner ear infection which messes up one’s equilibrium, resulting in a rather unfocused brain and nausea. After a couple of “sea sickness” pills, I was up and running once again. And on the plane now there seem to be no lingering affects--a concern that both the doctor and I had. For this I am thankful as 11 hours on a plane with the affects of an ear infection is not a pleasant thought--at all!

Time now to watch a movie--think it will be Walk the Line about Johnny Cash. So--will continue this in a Part 2 segment after jet lag recovery, emptying suitcases and spending time with Casey.

Until then--Ciao!


Valerie said...

Welcome home! Glad it went so well (ear infection excepted).

Judith in Umbria said...

You have sbagliato la temperatura! 0°C is 32°F, so -2°C cannot be +34°F, unless that made you feel warmer. In that case, vabbé!
When you get here plan ahead that in October before you need them, you will buy warm undies in the market. The best are wool outside and cotton inside and they are not expensive. They are tight so they won't make your clothes look clumsy. A warm coat and boots, a couple of wooly scarves and some real wool socks -- buy those in the USA because they seem all to be fake or blends here-- and you'll be fine.
I am not freezing in winter, but I get depressed from the short days, but then I haven't those two to keep from wallowing in my despair.
If you come without wool socks, be it on your own head! I have warned you!

Jane said...

Judith--you are right! I forgot when I doubled 2 that I was starting with a negative. These high mathematics get me every time. I remember the warm undies you should be at the market and I plan on getting some--almost did on this trip--should have! A presto!