School’s out!

I finished my last day of language school today, and I received my certificate for passing 60 contact hours of Intermediate I. I took my private teacher out for a quick caffe-wine break . . . he had caffe and I had the wine, because he had to leave quite soon to get his car, his wife and his son to a doctor’s appointment. Didn’t want to drive with any wine in him. Good choice.

At any rate, I’m nearly packed, actually, all packed but for what I’ll need in the morning . . . toothbrush, blow dryer, etc. I leave early early tomorrow for a train to Rome Termini and then to the Fiumicino airport to meet Neil so we can fly to Sicily together. It will be good to see him after two weeks of being here without him. Somehow, being gone in the States, away from one another, isn’t a big deal, but this time, he would have so much enjoyed wandering around Firenze and it would have been fun to have him here.

Still, I do like being alone on a trip like this, at least for awhile, and with the language school all day, it was best that I did it this way. I will definitely return next year for more classes, and look forward to joining our friends in Sicilia tomorrow afternoon.

Won’t have great internet access on that island, but I’m sure I’ll find some places to keep this site somewhat up to date.

For now, Ciao!



It’s going waaaayyyy too fast!

I cannot believe that I only have three days left at my language school. The first week left me confident and full of new language abilities, which I seemed to use quite well this weekend.

Monday found me (as I looked it up) cerebramente morte . . . brain dead, as I read it. But my private teacher, Leonardo, informed me (in Italian, of course), that “cerebramente morte” is a medical term . . . for a REALLY, ACTUALLY brain dead person. I, he cheerfully told me, “sono in coma!” (I’m in a coma.) Like Neil’s favorite joke about my mother’s favorite singer, Perry Como, whom Neil renamed “Perry Coma”.

So, for the first two days of my second and final week at la scuola lingua, sono in coma. My brain feels over-full, there are too many words I keep forgetting, and I felt so frustrated yesterday, because I thought I SHOULD have been doing better, after a good first week. But all the teachers say this is normal, and Leonardo reminded me that I was not in school for the weekend, and that one loses 50% of what one learned the first week . . . during the weekend. As he says, “E’normale” so I, in frustrated Italian, responded, “but what about when I leave the school and just go HOME??? How much will I forget there?”

Leonardo reassures me that if I continue to listen and read and talk and learn, I’ll be fine. I said today that I would have to spend three years here studying the language before I would feel confident, and he said, “No, quattro mese (four months would do it, he thinks). So . . . that would be impossible, but I am more determined to continue my study at home. I’ve got some regular books (kids stories, The Prophet, The Little Prince, and some short stories) written in Italian, and there’s always Front Range or CSU.

So here I am, with three more days of lessons, and then two weeks of practical application with Neil and our friends, in Sicilia, Venezia and LeMarche, before we return to our own English-speaking country.

And I’m going to complete my staff photo representation here with one of Leonardo, since I hadn’t gotten around to taking a photo of him until yesterday. E’ insegnate privato (my private teacher).

Time to go see a couple of things on this side of Firenze before dinner with my host family.



After one week . . .

of language under my belt, I:

1) negotiated all my questions at the Florence train station IN ITALIAN, and the attendant actually understood me, gave me my printed train schedules, etc.

2) wandered around Lucca this weekend (a lovely town about 90 minutes’ train ride from Florence)looked for things, bought things (not much, just paper), ordered a meal and a few pastries and a bottle of water from various venders, asked directions, sat at a wonderful rehearsal for Haydn’s Nelson Mass, which I found when I stumbled into the Chiesa di San Michele in the heart of Lucca. I asked one of the musicians (at their break) the title of the composition, whether I could see his sheet music for a minute, etc. . . . all in italiano!

3) Even tried looking for a CD by an Italian group while I was in a CD store owned by an older couple. We had an actual discussion about exactly what I was looking for.

I am truly amazed. I just hope that after this next week of immersion and a couple weeks of actually surrounding myself with situations and people who only speak Italian (while I’m traveling with 14 other people who do NOT speak Italian) . . . I hope after all that, I can come back to the Fort and start really listening to and reading Italian on a regular enough basis, with a dictionary, that I can keep up with what I’ve learned. I’m already making lists of preposition translations and other words we use all the time, which I can’t keep straight in italian at this point.

BUT IT WILL GET BETTER!! This school is excellent, the teachers are very helpful, though they don’t speak any English to us at all. They just keep explaining and explaining a concept or phrase or word until one of us says, “oh, you mean ______?” and they’ll beam and say, “Si, Signora!” or whatever.

So . . . I have one more week, and will hope to increase my ability to speak and understand at least 2-fold from last week.

Now: Lucca . . . is a lovely small city, and the “old city” is surrounded by stone walls, as many Italian towns and cities are, but THIS wall has a walking path all around it, with green, trees, little parks, all on top of the wall. The Italians use this wall surrounding the city like Central Park. They are riding their bicycles, nursing their babies, holding hands with lovers, sitting on the grass with picnic baskets or bags of food from the alimentari and frutta e vedura shops, etc.

I didn’t really take a list of palazzi to see, but chose yesterday to walk around the streets, people-watch, and find the one church I did want to enter, Chiesa di San Michele. Of course by the time I got to it, it was closed for mid-afternoon, but I wandered, got something to eat, and went up on top of the wall, sat under a tree, and read for a bit.

Then I almost just left the old town for my B & B, which is about a 20-minute walk outside the walls. But no, I went back to San Michele, and there, inside the church, between the altar and the pews, were 15 string musicians and their conductor, rehearsing a Haydn composition which was so lovely, I thought I would weep. The acoustics in the church made even the musicians’ mistakes a joy to hear, and the conductor would sing in certain parts, to stay on the track of the composition (which turned out to be a Missa – a Mass).

I was in the first row of the available seats, and sat for an hour, watching the conductor stop the musicians, correct them, have a discussion with the first violinists or the cellists, etc. and then start again. It was hypnotic . . .

Soon an Asian young woman showed up and the conductor stopped rehearsal for a moment, greeting her warmly. She moved to the very front of the area, and began to sing just a bit with the music. I realized this must be some sort of chorale piece, and wanted so much to know what it was, when it would be performed, etc.

When they took a real break, I walked to the Piazza San Michele, where there was a kiosk specifically for information about all the music events that are happening in September. Apparently this is a big-deal month for some reason, and there are many opera performances, as well as smaller concerts in churches like San Michele.

To my dismay I discovered that the “real” performance of this Hayden Missa is tonight at 5:30, but I had to be back in Florence this afternoon. So I went back to the church, whose main doors were now locked, remembered that there was a side door I had seen earlier, and snuck in there. Now inside the rehearsal area were perhaps 20 musicians, the strings joined by an oboe, an organ, and a few other things, and about FORTY chorale singers, plus two sopranos (including the young Asian woman, of course) and two male singers.

So again, they were rehearsing, and I comforted myself with the reality that I was sitting here in the working rehearsal, though I wouldn’t be in Lucca tonight for the full performance. I’m going to order this Missa through Amazon as soon as I finish with this post.

The other accidental concert I discovered was in a smaller church, St. Cristofo, and the program was with a mixed group of a cappella singers from Norway! Singing in Norwegian, Italian and English, four mini-groups of singers, with a Norwegian and an Italian doing the comments between the programmes. A day for music, sunshine, and wandering in bella Italia.

I’m not on my own computer, so I won’t attempt to post any pictures now, but tomorrow, when I have my own laptop operating at the school, I’ll make another attempt. Looks like my daughter has commented with a tip for loading photos, coming to my rescue yet again in this voyage through travel blog experiences.

So for now, ciao to all.

I’ll be back here on line in another couple of days.


Nearly a week of language school under my belt . . .

and I’ve screwed up this post now that I’m trying to put pictures on it after the fact. So I’ll try to compose again. The school is called Centro Lingua Calvino Italia or CLIC for short. It is run by four hard-working people, Massimo (director of the school), Gabriella (director of the accommodations), Leonardo (director of academics), and Sven (in charge of the techno stuff). They are all right out front, like the receptionists at a hotel desk, available to us all of the time, and I am very impressed with the school.

Below see photos of Massimo and Gabrielle!

I signed up for four hours of group lessons and two hours of private per day. So at 9:00 a.m., we begin, five of us. Two of us from the U.S., one from Australia, and two from Germany. They are all younger than my children, or at least young enough to BE my children, but my Italian is neither better or worse than the rest of the group. Actually, the other American and the Australian struggle more than I do, and one of the German woman, though she is probably better in her vocab, gets quite stressed quickly. The other young German woman, with fabulous cheekbones, seems to have a pretty good handle on the language at this level, and we all have a group sense of humor for our difficulties.

The grammar half of the morning is taught by Daniele, who speaks faster than I’d like, but I catch a good bit of what he’s saying.

The second half of the morning group is taught by Marco, a mid-thirties young man with the most amazing blue eyes and the longest lashes I’ve ever seen. He’s quick and fun with our struggling group, and his hair looks like he slept with twelve books on the top of the thick mop. (I wrote some of this in a different form earlier, but somehow my blog-edit monster ate it, along with my original text about the school, Massimo, Gabrielle, Sven and Leonardo, etc. Sorry about that. I’m still learning!
See Daniele and Marco above or below or wherever you now find their photos!

After a very quick 30 minutes to catch my breath and try to eat something resembling lunch, I’m back in the same classroom on the top floor, this time with Leonardo who is my teacher privato, and who seems to have the ability to explain anything to anyone at any level in a way that makes the student relaxed, perhaps even laughing, while Leonardo smiles with the difficulties of someone who is new to the language.

He is, as I said above, the director of academics and I am very fortunate to have him for two hours in my afternoon. He helps me have conversation and then teaches a point or two or three in the midst of whatever we’re talking about, to clarify the usage or the idiom or the conjugation. Avere or essere? Which do you use with all these irregular and regular verbs when you are talking in the past? We spend a lot of time on this difficult process, but he seems to make it more clear and I’m grateful.

Today I’m going to the train station to check out the schedule for my weekend. I have made a friend, Marja Bot, a bit younger than me, who is studying for one week here from Holland. She is twelve years more advanced than I in her language study, but we are very compatible in friendship. I mentioned that I want to go to Lucca for the weekend and she happens to have a Dutch friend living outside the Lucca city walls, who runs a B & B there, with a beautiful garden. Marja gave me the e-mail this morning, I wrote to the woman, Ankie, and she called this afternoon after my class. She will send a transfer car to meet me at the train station tomorrow evening, and have dinner ready for me tomorrow evening. I will stay two nights with her, for 40Euro per night, and I’ll probably wander in Lucca for most of Saturday, perhaps eating in town before I walk or bicycle or take the transfer back to her house. Sunday afternoon, I’ll take the train back to Firenze and my host family (more about the host family in another post).

Must go now . . . a domani.



After all this time . . .

. . . I am in bella Firenze! But NOT before a three-hour delay in Denver on Friday, which put me in Newark 20 minutes AFTER my flight left for Rome, and after RACING in a cab from Newark to JFK,WITH with the cab paid for by United and some very efficient and nifty re-booking work by a wonderful United agent (isn’t THAT unusual), and a VERY sympathetic Alitalia agent or two at JFK, I arrived with my bags (also a dream chance, since they were checked through to Rome and United actually pulled them off in Newark so I could take them WITH me . . . . , are you getting the drift of my initial experiece for the month?) just an hour before takeoff, at JFK, to a flight that was fully booked, (another person assigned to my seat as well, but that was minor . . . after all, I was ON the plane and they couldn’t remove me!) and I sat down surrounded by a bunch of great young people traveling to Italy for weddings and new-romance vacations, etc.

Of course when we arrived in Rome at the airport, and I schlepped ALL my stuff by myself to the train to the Rome train station, I got to the Rome termini three hours later than my scheduled train reservation to Florence, so my reservation fee was lost and I had to re-pay. THIS is why we have travel insurance, as well as for the lost bags. I’m going to file with United and with TravelGuard for these minor charges, and thank the United agent at Newark, named Torry someone, for her incredible efficiency!

I got to the Pendini and a smiling Barbara knew who I was, took me to my room, and I returned the message from my host “mother”, who spoke not a word of English but was trying to let me know that I had to change the time of my arrival today at her house. So I’m killing time for another hour.

It’s hot and humid and beautifully sunny here, about 85+ degrees, so I suspect we won’t have to worry too much about coats.

I wrote this on the 16th, but didn’t get dependable internet service until today when I signed up for the free wi-fi at la scuola lingua, so this post will be a bit old, but I’ll do some catch-up as well.



A month in Italy . . .

and I’m not even packed yet. But I leave in less than 36 hours for Firenze, where I will study Italian at a language immersion program until September 28. I will live with a family, share two meals a day with them, and spent six hours each day adding to my rather impoverished vocabulary and grammar skills in the language of this beautiful country.

On September 29, I’ll meet Neil in Rome and fly to Palermo to join thirteen other friends at a villa outside of Castelvetrano (Torre Castelvetrano) for a week, and then spend the final week first in Venice, and then exploring the Adriatic coast of LeMarche.

I KNOW that once I’m packed, I’ll feel much better, but at this point, the lists and lists seem overwhelming, though I’m checking off many tasks. Just a few more ad copy confirmations and a last e-mail to my Lifeprints group list and I think I’ll be done.

I hope to write on a regular basis, to keep track for myself and to let everyone know what’s happening on my latest Italian adventure! Perhaps I’ll learn to post photos more easily as well.

For now, buona notte e ciao.