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.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Uffize-Weather-and Witches

Well, tonight I really don't have anything special to write and so will share a few things I have been saving up for just such an occasion.

The Uffizi Gallery--you know, that huge, behemoth, must visit treasury of art from the ages? If you have been there once, you cringe at going again. It is just too much for the mind or the body to handle in a visit. Long before your mind becomes mush and you really don't care if you ever see another painting, your back begins to hurt, your eyes burn, your feet limp and your stomach growls.

Now there is a solution to this for some people--not all. It depends on how long you will be in Florence, how many in your family and the number of museums you wish to visit. This is the Friends of the Uffizi Annual Membership--a very good deal, plus you are supporting some of the needs of this museum that truly belongs to the world but Italy must maintain.

€100 for a family of 2 adults and 2 children under 18 or €60 for a single person gets unlimited entrance to the Uffizi, the Bargello, the Accademia, the Pitti Palace museums, Medici Palazzi in the Mugelo and many other venues for a year. If you do your math, this could be a good investment even if you are just there for a week--again depending on how you will be spending your days.

Recently, we used our pass to spend three hours in the Uffizi doing nothing but visiting the special Mind of Leonardo-The Universal Genius at Work Exhibition--which, by the way, was outstanding but is now over. If we had been there to visit other parts of the museum too we would never have been able to devote time to this exhibit. It was like being free of shackles so that we could absorb and take-in rather than overload (although, the truth is just this exhibit alone was overload, what an incredible person Leonardo was.) We totally look forward to a new and different way to approach the treasures of Firenze.

Weather--next topic. It is very strange here in Tuscany this year--but, then that does seem to be the story about many places in the western world right now. Cherry blossoms in D.C. and New York and cotton shirt weather here where it should be very cold. Alessandro, whose vineyard is our home, is very worried as the unseasonably warm weather has started the vines on their growth cycle. Now if, and more likely when, the cold weather does arrive, the nutrients that have begun to develop will freeze and the vines will die. I understand the last such disaster was in 1985. This is a very nerve wracking time for the many growers in this region and not good news for those wanting a good Chianti or Super Tuscan in 2008.

January in Greve in Chianti

And, speaking of weather wants--Casey still jumps out of bed each morning and runs to the kitchen window (the only one not shuttered at night) to see if snow covers the ground. He is going to be so disappointed if this is the year of no snow--for some reason he has made this into a big issue in his expectations.

Befana--Question for my non-Italian readers: Who/what is Befana? Woman, man, animal, flower? What? And what does Befana have to do with the Epiphany January 6? Unless you are Italian or have been in Italy during the Christmas season, you are probably stumped. If you are here and have children, then Befana is a household word. Befana (sometimes portrayed as Strega (witch) Befana is to Epiphany what Santa Claus is to Christmas--outside the pale of the religious import of the day but indispensable to children.

La Befana

by Anthony Parente

La Befana is one of Italy's oldest and most celebrated legends. Each year on January 6 the children of Italy awaken in hopes that La Befana has made a visit to their house. This is a significant day to Italians because it marks the end of the Christmas season and the day that the three Wise Men arrived at the manger of the Christ child. Over the years the Epiphany has been a more celebrated holiday for the children of Italy than even Christmas.

As legend has it the three Wise Men were in search of the Christ child when they decided to stop at a small house to ask for directions. Upon knocking, an old woman holding a broom opened the door slightly to see who was there. Standing at her doorstep were three colorfully dressed men who were in need of directions to find the Christ child. The old woman was unaware of who these three men were looking for and could not point them in the right direction. Prior to the three men leaving they kindly asked the old woman to join them on their journey. She declined because she had much housework to do. After they left she felt as though she had made a mistake and decided to go and catch up with the kind men. After many hours of searching she could not find them. Thinking of the opportunity she had missed the old woman stopped every child to give them a small treat in hopes that one was the Christ child. Each year on the eve of the Epiphany she sets out looking for the baby Jesus. She stops at each child's house to leave those who were good treats in their stockings and those who were bad a lump of coal.

We broke with this a little bit as Befana did not arrive at Viticcio until January 7 (she just had too many other places to go) and filled Casey's stocking at Camilla's house. He and Camilla had hung their stockings at the fireplace before going to bed, left out cookies and milk and a note to Befana telling her they had been good last year. Just like Santa, girls and boys who have been naughty are left garlic, onions and lumps of coal.

In the morning we were all delighted to find that the stockings were indeed filled with candy and little gifts--erasable pens for school, books, a couple of small toys and candy. And--just like Santa, Befana had left a note thanking the children for the delicious snack. We were all relieved that there was no garlic or onions.

Hand Holding in Italy--Everyone Does It: This entry is now too long to bring up an entirely new topic--but, soon..........


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