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.