Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Summer Wedding (Part 4)


I slept hard last night with the shutters all the way up. It felt wonderful. I even slept right though a big thunder shower, plus lightening. I was really exhausted from lack of sleep on Wednesday night.

This morning the manicurist arrived early and gave Marta, Rosa and Marina manicures and pedicures. I’ve seen her here other times. She normally does come to the house.

Marta and Rosa went swimming and I went out shopping for a wonderful tank top: cost 4.90 Euro. I already have one which I bought last year. I bought two this time. Then I walked all around and looked in the shop windows. Stores open at 9 am and close at lunchtime. They reopen at 3:30. I made it home just in time for lunch: minestrone soup, homemade.

Marta and I re-potted her orchids out on the balcony.

Marina made a sponge cake yesterday. This morning using two soufflé dishes, she made tonight's dessert: layered cake, vanilla pudding (homemade), homemade jam from apricots Primo grows in his work compound, crushed amaretti cookie and then sprinkled once with maraschino liquor and once with expresso coffee. Top with the custard, more crushed cookies and finish with a whipped topping. Refrigerate all day.

Henriche arrived from Berlin just after lunch. She flew into Milano and took the train down then walked home. She lived here a year so it's coming home for her too. Her fidinzato (boyfriend) is from Rome. Right now he's working an internship in Berlin. He will arrive tomorrow I think.

Mario's sister arrived at 4 o’clock and did test makeup on everyone. This is her profession. She did wonderful work. She left at 6.30. She will return on Saturday at 7am. But before she left, we all got our dresses out so she can see the colors. Because it's a morning wedding, she wants the make-up light and natural looking.

Marina is loaning both Henriche and me purses. I totally didn't think about bringing a small purse with me. We saw the wedding dress too, on its hanger. It's beautiful. Ivory colored. I haven't seen Rosa’s shoes.

Marta, Rosa, Henriche and I all went walking until 8 pm tonight. Suddenly Henriche and I were walking alone. We discovered a street fair being setup. Normal I guess for Thursdays during the summer. Stores are open late tonight too. We took our time and looked at everything. We missed the puppet show.

Opps! Henriche and I arrived home just after 8 o’clock and found everyone already at the table eating dinner. Marina's father was at the table too. I was so happy to see him. I dropped to my knee near him and he took my hand. I haven't seen him since he was widowed 3 years ago.

We all spent some time watching TV. I spoke to Leo while lying on my bed. It's so relaxed here and I can feel comfortable leaving the group to talk to him.

Rosa is a little nervous tonight. Henriche is tired from her trip but wants to take a walk. We talked Rosa into going with her. She will sleep better. I was too tired and stayed home.

Musical beds tonight! Nonno will sleep in Marta's room, Marta moved to Rosa's apartment and the portable bed was setup for Henriche. I remained in the spare bedroom.

Not knowing how the sleeping arrangements might change, I had already packed up all my things. Looks like I will not be moving from my spot until I leave Monday at 7am. I already have my EuroStar train ticket. Marina sent me to the station earlier in the week because today starts the vacation exodus. Anyone who can is leaving for the beach or mountains today. The lunchtime news showed the freeways are all backed up with traffic.


Marina left at 8 this morning for her hair appointment. We were worried when she had not returned by 10. The parrucchiere (beauty shop) closes Saturday afternoon for the rest of August. A lot of ladies arrived today to have their hair done. Saturday is the only day one can make an appointment. All other days are drop-in.

Marta scanned some recipes for me this morning but we had no CD to burn to and the Internet is down for four days. I also decided to buy a new memory card for my camera. I don't want to run out of disk space tomorrow!

Rosa has been organizing things in her kitchen. I noticed her refrigerator is still turned off. I asked her if they had any food on hand. No, not really.

So what will Mattia have to eat Saturday night and Sunday morning, I wondered?

I decide to take action. I walked to up to COOP to buy them bread, bananas and a jar of Nutella. Mattia likes bananas she said.

On my way I saw Marina approaching me. I quickly got out my camera and got several good pictures of her. I'm feeling like I'm part of the paparazzi, jumping out and taking candid pictures. I want to preserve every moment.

After shopping at COOP, I stopped in at the beauty shop where Marta and Rosa had gone and took some cute pictures. I bought a phone card to charge up my phone.

It's great having my own phone here. I've had the same phone number for 7 or 8 years. I've spent about 35 Euros this time on phone cards. But I've talked a lot to Leo a lot. Also, I like to arrive in Italy with a working phone. I always buy extra time to be ready for the next trip. (As long I add money to the phone at least once a year, I can retain my phone number.)

I left my purchases back home and set out again to get the memory card. While waiting for the shop to open I saw something in another window and went in to take a look. I now have a cute carry-on bag for my plane trips. Oh I do love Armani! Cost: I’m not telling!

I headed home carrying my new bag and Marina buzzed me in through the compound’s gate. She had been waiting for someone to come back so she could go out. Nonno was watching TV and needed someone to stay with him. I gladly volunteered!

Nonno and I watched TV together. He told me he has a picture of us together, taken in his village. He said everyone wanted to know who the signorina was. He is flirty and adorable.

We had Marina's handmade veal ravioli, served in broth, for lunch. So delicious. Henriche had decided to get her hair cut too, so we had lunch without the girls. They were at the parrucchiere for 3 or 4 hours. I decided not to get my hair done.

Nonno took a nap and I found Marina moving a tall ladder around Rosa's living room. I had seen several bags of cloth on the floor but I thought they were blankets for guests. They are actually curtains that have been in storage since Marina had left home as a young bride. Marina spent an hour going up and down the ladder hanging the curtains. I went to the other apartment and shortened the spaghetti straps on my dress.

Mattia has been in and out all day, moving his belongings from his apartment into the flat. I haven't seen him. He's using the entry door to Nonna's flat. He and Rosa don't have their own keys yet, so whoever is available buzzes him in the front gate.

The apartment complex is surrounded by an iron fence, with a large driveway parking gate and a smaller pedestrian gate. A brass panel lists the names of each resident. For entry into the compound, one presses the appropriate button and then waits for someone in an apartment to activate the unlock mechanism. One hears a buzz, a click and then when the latch is pushed properly, the gate will open.

The trick is to understand how to push open the latch. The unlock mechanism also unlocks the apartment complex entry door. I had to be taught how to use both the gate and the entry door. This system works in reverse too. When one opens the apartment entry door from the inside, the outside gate latch is also released.

Once I became stranded in our courtyard, because the entry door was already open when I departed, but the gate latch was still locked. Lesson learned: Even if the front door is open, click the unlock door button, which will trigger the outside gate to unlatch.

There were two flower deliveries today. The first, a huge flat basket filled with purple flowers. We think they are live plants. Surrounding them at the bottom are dried mauve hydrangeas and pink polka dot plants. A double white orchid covered with flowers and buds also arrived.

Henriche and I ironed our scarves and dresses this afternoon.

Marta and Rosa went to church today. It is a special once a year talk with the priest and not related to tomorrow's wedding.

Henriche has gone to meet her Stefano at the train station. He flew into Milano from Berlin this evening. Marina has set aside dinner leftovers for them on the kitchen table. We had pasta with eggplant, pork slices, salad. Dessert was chocolate pudding and fresh juicy peaches.

It is so hot and humid. There is an air conditioner on in the living room. We had dinner with the French doors to the rest of the flat closed.

Marta says I don't have to make a speech or toast tomorrow. I was a little worried about the quality of my Italian.

Nonno has proposed to me twice today! He wants a double wedding tomorrow. Rosa said she envies his joyful attitude. He's always happy. Anyhow, Primo has just given Nonno an injection in the arm. He must be diabetic. Primo is so gentle. We all adore Nonno.

We'll start our day early tomorrow. Here there is no wedding rehearsal.

Rosa's cousins will provide the music for the wedding. One plays piano the other is a professional singer. Henriche will be our photographer. She has a special talent for this.

Everyone is relaxed tonight. All the work has been done.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Summer Wedding (Part 3)


Monday night I had slept like a baby with the cool breeze coming through the screens on the huge French doors. The first thing Marta said to me on Tuesday morning... "Zia! You forgot to pull down the shutters last night."

But no, I didn't forget. The thought never even entered my mind. I was only aware of the breeze and the church bells...such a dreamy perfect night. Apparently there are Romanian gypsies in the area who specialize in night-time entries when residents forget to shutter down. Last night (Tuesday) the window was already shuttered when I returned back to my room.

Well. It was very uncomfortable last night with the shutters down. No air movement at all! Around 1o'clock in the morning, I pulled the shutter up about a foot and it was better. At 4 am I almost just put it all the way up. Tonight I'll take my chances with the gypsies.

Rosa works as a social worker with special needs adults. As she explained to me last night, this morning at 8 am Rosa, Marta I will drive to Rosa's office and stay for one hour. Then we will all go to the pool. It sounds like we, meaning the whole office. We will have a picnic there and read magazines and then go back to the office around 4 pm for an hour. I am to wear a skirt and top, casual, but NOT to wear my bathing suit under my clothes. She was a little horrified at my suggestion. We will all change at the pool.

Last night after our discussion, I had organized my pool time bag so I'd be ready to go this morning.

Here in Italy, events sometimes happen suddenly and unexpectedly. I always used to think when one doesn't speak or understand perfectly, events do sometimes sneak up. But now I know there's more -- the Italian culture tends to not stay strictly on schedule.

Leo tells me he loves how organized I am. But I think it's more than that. Americans tend to plan, organize and work out any issues ahead of time and then we follow through with the "Plan" as expected.

Rosa and I left the house this morning without Marta. Marina asked her to stay home and help out. She needs to go buy the confetti for the wedding.

According to my little Italian book on weddings, the confetti colors represent the 5 things we should never forget: health, fertility, a long life, happiness and economic security.

Rosa and I drove 20 minutes to arrive at her workplace. She has worked here for I think about a year. She does not work with a contract, which is good. Contract workers have no guarantee of work beyond the limits of their contract, which is usually short term. Once one becomes an employee, future work is almost a certainty.

Rosa is a social worker and her clients are mentally challenged adults. This morning 14 "ragazzi" have arrived. There are 4 social workers here today; 3 young women the same age as Rosa and one man. The supervisor and others are on vacation.

Ragazzi translates to kids/children, but it's really more of a form of endearment...more personal. I recall my Italian teachers always called us ragazzi when speaking to the class.

Anyhow, the ragazzi arrived this morning, one by one, dropped off in front of the building. They then made their way up the three flights of stairs. They have varying levels of mental and physical capacity. The point of this school is to teach both social and work skills. They also have a kitchen where they have cooking lessons.

One sweet young man took me on a tour. They have a workshop where they do arts and crafts. Also here they disassemble old furniture, which they then strip, refinish and lacquer. The pieces I saw seemed to very well made antiques. The finished pieces are gorgeous! Wow. I also saw some fabulous decoupage.

Families pay 400 euro a month for the services of the school. The students attend from 9-5, Monday through Friday.

Rosa introduced me to everyone and made sure they greeted me properly. Two of the boys kissed my hand. Then with the map we discussed from where I had come and where I live. One young man asked me my opinion of Obama, if I thought he would be the next president. We talked a bit about soccer. I told him I work all day at a job and then study Italian in the evenings. He complimented me on my Italian. His age is 42.

One of the social workers let me know there had been an earthquake today near Los Angeles. I checked news on-line. No real damage and nothing I would have done anyhow. I'm here.

Five of us walked to the magazine stand in anticipation of our trip to the swimming pool. Wednesday is street fair day here. I love street fairs. One student who follows politics, picked out a newspaper. Some of the shopkeepers and shoppers greeted us by name and I was introduced. I was very pleased to see the integration of these sweet ragazzi into the community.

Here we are, now at the community pool. We walked about 5 minutes single file on the sidewalk, all carrying our own beach bags. Entrance is free for our group of 19.

There is a snack stand at the compound entrance and it seemed to me that the two girls behind the counter also act as Life Guards.

We split up into the dressing rooms. Boys to the left and girls to the right. Here on the girls side, there is a communal changing room with lockers and wall hooks for clothes. A big shower is near the exit.

Opps I said, I"m too shy to strip down here! Luckily there must be a few shy people here, because they have a few single changing rooms.

In our bathing suits, we all went to the next room to pick up our plastic lounge chairs. Everybody was responsible for dragging their own chair to the grassy area behind the two pools. One pool is shallow and the other one must be deep. We're now setup on the other side of the fence, under the trees and close to the shallow pool.

We have all lathered up with sun-screen lotion and some students were fitted with waist life vests.

In Italy one is expected to wear a cap when in the water...even the boys with short hair. They're small caps, shaped like the kind Olympic swimmers wear.

Almost everyone in our group is in the water now, tossing and catching a soccer sized ball. One of the boys, Leo, is still in his chair nearby quietly watching the fun. He lost his father a few months ago and is dealing with his grief. He's holding his goggles in his hands now, smiling at the fun going on in the pool.

I like that there has been no pressure on him to join in. When he's ready he'll go in. He's a nice handsome boy in his late twenties I think. He has some tattoos on his arms I see.

I was right, those girls at the "bar" in front also act as life guards. They have that universal look of attentiveness to everything going on. They must trade off with each other for a little down time by working in the bar.

This is a working day for the social workers. One of them is reading out loud from a magazine.

I see Veronica listening. She would like to make a comment, but has trouble verbalizing. Veronica looks like a teenager but she is actually 37. Her hair is in pigtails today for swimming. Veronica is so beautiful. She used to take the train to a regular school and get around on her own. But when her father died, a part of her died too.

On purpose today, I have only taken pictures from a distance. These ragazzi are so special. Rosa is very good at this work.

Great exercise and teamwork in the pool. Lots of bravi ragazzi!!! Vai Vai!! (Great work kids! Come ON!!)

Oh, I see there are two little shallow pools to enter the pools. They act as gates into the pool area and clean grass off the feet. So practical.

Suddenly over the loud speakers, our group is called to the bar for lunch. They keep calling us and one of the workers is waving her hands! Basta!! Enough!! We hear you...we're coming!!!

Italians believe in their food...and it must be served hot..right off the stove.

For the outing, each student paid 5 euro this morning at school. When we arrived at the pool, one of Rosa's co-workers left a list at the bar, detailing what each student had chosen for lunch.

No junk food here on the menu! I saw hot sandwiches, pizza, veal cutlets and sandwiches which are delivered hot, right off the stove. Amazing for a small bar like this.

After lunch we went back to take some sun for several more hours. I saw the students setup a bocce ball game in the shade.

It was so humid. I did nothing...nothing at all.

The outing ended and we each dragged our own chairs back to the concession stand, took showers and walked back to the school. There, the students surprised Rosa with a huge Bromeliad plant as a wedding present.

---We've been truly roasting up here in the "school" now for 2 hours, waiting for parents to come for pickup. We've drunk 3 or 4 big bottles of water. It's so humid! We are all dripping wet.

Finally, it's time to go! Rosa locked up and we drove back to town. But first, we made a quick stop at her father's laboratory. The family business was started by Primo's grandfather many years ago. Primo has a degree in chemical engineering. The work compound also contains his brother's home.

While Rosa looked for her cousin, I spoke briefly with Primo's brother, who has become a recluse since his wife's death 5 years ago. He politely tried to avoid me, as he usually does. I was expecting this and did my best to make conversation. He told me he needed to go see his mother, Nonna and scampered off.

Rosa and I left and drove just around the block in this same industrial area and picked up a roll of plastic table cloth for the wedding luncheon tables. Then straight home! We arrived and changed clothes once again. My clothes were soaking. It's very HOT.

Marina was less stressed tonight at dinner. Tomorrow Henrique will be arriving by train, from Berlin. She and her boyfriend will be staying at the nearby hostel.

Rosa is now officially on vacation.

We are all collapsed on the living room couches, in our jammies now. I think it's around 9 pm. Primo has closed off the room and the air conditioning is ON, thank goodness. We're relaxing in front of the TV. I love Italian TV. It's a mixture of mindless silliness, games and political commentary.

Primo has taken Marina's hand and is squeezing it. Their feet, propped on the coffee table, are touching.

It's so nice here. So much love in this family for each other and for me.

Buona notte! Good Night!

A Summer Wedding (Part 2)


I quickly pulled/pushed my bags off the train and there was Marta, meeting me with her happy beautiful smiling face! She had no car today so she took the bus from our village here to the Cremona Train Station. We loaded the bags onto the bus and headed home. After arriving, we pulled the bags through town…about a 30 minute walk to the house.

Marina, her mother, was waiting for us! So nice to be back home.

Marta and I unpacked my bags and arranged Rosa's gifts on her "new" kitchen table.

They had given Nonna's kitchen a fresh coat of paint and left the old wooden and glass cupboards the original light creamy green.

The table is a slab of thick marble on oak legs. The whole kitchen dates back to the 20s and 30s. Absolutely adorable. I took pictures.

We hid all the gifts under a towel and when Rosa got home from work at 5 o'clock we gave her a mini-bridal shower. Nothing was wrapped, but Marta would cover Rosa's eyes and I gave her each gift.

We made a quick trip over to church (5 minute walk) and met the wedding planning “team.” What a pleasant surprise because Primo was already there. The Priest knows me by sight so I got a nice hand squeeze. I took pictures.

The reception will be held in this large rectangular room containing a HUGE fresco on each end. There are some long wooden tables and it seems those will be used for the reception. Everyone was speaking at once so I didn't understand very much.

I decided to just keep taking pictures. Marina looks tired. She's been cleaning the house for the past two weeks. I told her I had read a little book on weddings on the train and it suggested two days at the beauty farm, so one would look radiant. She said she probably needs a week there.

After a light dinner everyone collapsed on the couch to watch TV, but we were all too tired. I didn't see the groom, Mattia, tonight. He left work at noon, not feeling well. He took the train all the way home to his parents, not to the apartment here, which they just started renting last month. But now, they have decided the apartment is too small, hot and expensive.

They have not been living together. After Saturday's wedding they will live here, in Nonna's portion of the house. Rosa's uncles have given their approval for this.

I'm not sure where I'm relocating to on Saturday because right now I'm staying in Nonna's spare bedroom. This was Rosa's room for a number of years.

The wedding gifts have begun to arrive: a microwave, elegant vases, dishes, knives, cookware and linens. The newlyweds will use Nonna's elegant antique furniture for now.
Primo and his two brothers were born in this flat. It was later divided into two parts. Primo and his family live in the left apartment and Nonna, Primo's mother, lived in this right half until six months ago. She is now in assisted care.

A dressing room separates the two apartments. An extra lock was put on this side of the connecting door between the two adjoining flats. So now the door can be locked from either side.

Well, I hear the church bells ringing so I think I can sleep now. Marta and I are getting our hair trimmed tomorrow. Henriche from Germany arrives soon. She is their sister who became part of the family as a foreign exchange student years ago. She attends the university in Rome now.


I started my day at 9 this morning. I had a piece of focaccia and a glass of orange juice for breakfast. This is my usual breakfast here, since I don't drink coffee.

Marina ran my laundry in the washing machine, which is hidden behind a cabinet door, under the granite bathroom counter. I hung my clothes out to dry on the balcony, just off Rosa's kitchen. Rule: never hang your feminine undies out on the line for all to see. Use the hidden line just below the public's line of sight.

Before lunch, I walked over to have my hair cut at our normal parrucchiere (hairdresser). We'll all return to have our hair done for the wedding. No new style for me this trip. They have high hopes for me to get a good Italian cut in November when I come back. Once Marta told me I have Barbie Doll hair...untouched by dyes and layering. Layering is IT here. I like my hair thick and long, with minimum layering.

I walked over to the grocery store COOP (rhymes with hope). I picked up a great green plastic tub for washing dishes. Then I gathered spices, my mother's favorite Sperlari jelly candies and some semolina to make my favorite gnocchi.

At 1 o'clock, we had a yummy lunch of pasta (toss cooked pasta into a sauce pan in which a clove of garlic, fresh chopped parsley and fresh hot tiny peppers have been sauteed in olive oil for a few minutes. The garlic is not eaten.). Then we each choose a nice whole tomato and cubed it into our dishes. We added a spoonful of shredded fresh carrots, some capers, a little salt and a drizzle of good olive oil. Bread, as always, was on the table to share. I had a small slice of cheese, fontina I think. I was too full to have a peach.

Primo comes home for lunch every day. Rosa works too far away and takes her lunch with her. Marta, who is a school teacher, is on vacation for the summer. She is having lunch with us today. We are eating at the kitchen table.

Marina has had fresh bread rising all day and the house smells so good. Early this morning Anna, the housekeeper, was here cleaning with Marina. Even the copper pots on the kitchen wall shelf are orange and sparkling. I think they've touched everything in the house these past two weeks. Anna always greats me with three alternating kisses to the cheeks. She commented on how pink and healthy I look.

Marta and I concocted a cocktail of dish soap and water to try to kill little bugs she discovered on her one rose plant out on one of the four balconies.

At 3 pm Marina, Marta and I walked down to the church and cleaned out the reception room We carried boxes, bikes and other stuff to the storage shed in the church courtyard. We moved the very very heavy long tables so they were in place for the wedding buffet. The two priests arrived to help, along with a handyman. The priests were dressed in casual work clothes. I'm always impressed with the priests in our neighborhood. They participate in neighborhood activities. If you had peaked into the courtyard today, you could not have distinguished who was the workman and who were the priests.

Afterwards I talked to the younger priest about how I can become Catholic here. I've thought about it for some time. I need to ask my mother if I was ever baptized. We had a nice conversation in Italian. Marta stood by to give me help if needed. Once I started talking it was easy. He said I can start doing what I need to do in the USA, but finish here in our village church with my Italian family present. It's my next goal.

This afternoon we all rested and watched a Brazilian soap opera for an hour. All the shops in town are closed for the afternoon pause, as is normal in non-tourist parts of Italy.

While Marina was watching her other favorite soap opera, Marta and I walked to the Jeweler's shop to pick up the wedding rings. In Italy the sister or the mother of the bride buys both wedding rings. The bride has been wearing her diamond engagement ring for the past two years. The wedding rings are simple bands. I think they are white gold and I see they are both engraved on the inside. I took pictures.

On the way back we stopped at Benetton where I bought two cotton shirts, the style I love. Everything is on sale here too. This is the sale season all over Italy. Fifty percent off seems to be the norm. I have no more room in my suitcases! Too bad...

We found a gelateria and enjoyed a nice gelato cone. I had two flavors: chocolate and cherry.

It's very humid and my sandals that I have worn for over a year in Long Beach are tearing my skin. Not even the band aids will stay on. Otherwise the humidity is not bothersome.

Mario, Marta's boyfriend, called to tell us he was getting a haircut. We were still walking with our cones through the central part of town and I was talking to Leo on the phone. During our stroll I saw and bought some disk-shaped white pasta from Cinque Terre for my brother, who had put in a special request for more.

Mario rode up to us on Marta's bright green bicycle just as we finished our gelato. His car was parked back at the house. We walked together to the men's dressy shop to buy a formal shirt for him to wear for the wedding. He and Marta ruled out two striped pink and white shirts in favor of a solid colored pink shirt with an unusual collar. It's without a button at the neck and the collar stands up a bit. Very stylish. He will not be wearing a tie. He looks adorable in it.

Marina was ironing when we came home. She told me it was too early for me to iron my dress. I will do that on Friday. Marina is the most stressed of everyone.

Rosa and Mattia arrived home from work. They will be at work tomorrow and then on vacation until the end of August. I got hugs and kisses from Mattia. We haven't seen each other since last November.

In Italy by law, the newlywed couple is entitled to 15 days of vacation (at the same time). This 15 day period also includes Saturday and Sunday when counting. Nice!

We split up into two groups and our group went to the nursery. Mario drove. Marta and I bought bark to re-pot some of her orchids. She's been writing to my mother on how to do this correctly.

As soon as we returned home, Mario went straight for the tool box and started working on a plumbing problem in Rosa and Mattia's part of the apartment. This morning Marina told me the hot water was turned off. The cool shower I took was refreshing and wonderful!

We all had dinner together at 8. Both Mario and Mattia were there too. Only Mario, Mattia and I had pasta for the first course. Everyone else started with the roast veal, served thinly sliced in its juices. Also polenta, diced tomatoes and carrots.

I asked Marta why not everyone had had pasta. Her answer: The guys were given a first course of pasta because they are men and need to eat more. I was served some, so I could taste a new recipe. I love how thoughtful this family is.

For dessert, we devoured the bread I smelled this morning. It was a yeast based sweet cake. After the first cake was gone, we ate half of the second one.

Rosa and I cleaned up the dinner dishes and Mattia gave me a draft copy of the wedding booklet, which he had written. The three of us then made the quick drive to the apartment which they have decided not to use. As we packed up the few things left there, I read over the booklet.

Each guest will get a copy, as is normal for Sunday mass. All the spoken words are written, so each person can follow along. He explained to me there is a modern approach to the catholic marriage ceremony now. The priest is only there to give the blessings and basically the ceremony is lead by the couple.

I read over the document several times but I couldn't find where they were pronounced “husband and wife.” Mattia explained it's not a part of the ceremony. The couple exchanges their rings and vows with each other. And when that is done, it's done.

My American culture was looking for that final exclamation "I present Mr and Mrs...." from the priest. But there won't be one. He blesses them after their vows have been spoken and that's it. The service continues on... I need to mark that spot. I asked Mattia if it was legal, done this way and he laughed and laughed. Yes, it is legal. I guess that's where my job comes to play and why I'm called a witness (la testimone). From my reading I believe there are at least two witnesses: one man and one woman. One male witness performs the duties of a Best Man. We witnesses (testimoni) will all sign some legal documents after the ceremony.

Where is the kiss, I asked Mattia? It seems a little incomplete without it. Rosa and Mattia smiled and kissed for me. There will not be a public kiss on Saturday. So I saw it already. Privately. They are so cute and very relaxed together.

Back at home Rosa told me the plans for tomorrow.

That was my day. We get a lot done here in Italy!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Summer Wedding (Part 1)

What an honor! I was asked by Rosa to be her testimone (witness) along with her sister, Marta. The wedding month finally arrived and I packed up two suitcases, one containing wedding gifts and the second one with more gifts and a few summer clothes. I had searched for months for the perfect dress: not white, not black, not grey nor brown. Marta said it should be colorful to match the summer season. I had found the perfect summer flowered dress. I did not pack it. I was terrified of losing it so I hand-carried it on the plane.

The flight out of LA was late arriving in Paris and I missed the last connection to Firenze. Friday night, I was bussed to an airport hotel which Air France maintains. This is the third time I've been treated to a free night and dinner in Paris. It's an exhausting treat because usually we arrive late and we're booked out very early the next morning. Dinner is always a fantastic buffet, shared with fellow Air France passengers who have also missed connections.

I set my alarm for 4:30 to catch the 5:30 am shuttle back to the terminal. I washed out my clothes and strung them with a makeshift clothesline made of hangers.

Saturday morning, I had a little mishap in the hotel. Taking a shower I inadvertently left the plastic shower curtain outside the tub. After enjoying an extra long shower, I discovered a good two inches of water flooding the bathroom and seeping underneath the door. The towels were of no use, so I stripped both queen size beds of their sheets to mop up the water. I left all the wet linens inside the tub. So embarrassing!

After arriving in Firenze from Paris, I headed for the terminal to pick up my luggage. I heard the luggage conveyor belt stop...and my luggage was not there. It's only happened once before, and Leo had helped me. This time, Leo was recovering from double-bypass surgery, so I was on my own. I filled out the lost luggage paperwork necessary and saved a little money by taking the blue SITA bus, only 3 Euro to the Santa Maria Novella train station and then I walked to the hotel.

It felt so strange to arrive empty-handed. I had only my wedding outfit, dress shoes, carry-on bag and the TSA regulation quart sized bag filled with tiny sized toiletries.

At the hotel, Alessio and Assumi welcomed me back. I dropped off my things and raced out to get everything on my shopping list, which included DVDs and several books. I wore my step counter and later saw that I had tracked 14,000 steps Saturday. In Borgo San Lorenzo I bought two shirts at Benetton and found Birkenstock shoes, along with a lime green linen scarf ( 6 Euro) to cover my shoulders during the wedding ceremony.

Dinner in Italy is scheduled at 8 pm. But at 5 pm, I treated myself to an early dinner at my favorite trattoria, Le Antiche Carrozze, located just down the street from Hotel Cestelli.

I had Fisherman's Risotto and then for dessert a little bowl of baby cream puffs with chocolate sauce (15 Euro).

I rarely eat out in Firenze. Normally I gather food during the day and eat in my room at night. That's the freedom of traveling alone. Several years ago, I had arranged an Italian trip with my mother and nervously created a huge debt eating all meals out, every day...

------------My dairy---------


The weather is a little humid and mildly warm. Not as crowded as I expected but all the shops are having sales. I think this is the normal sale season as they get ready for Fall. Seems that Air France has bought the Birkenstock, shirts and shampoo for me! I was desperate for all three without my luggage. The shoes I was wearing to travel did not work well on the cobblestone here. They gave me an allowance of 150 Euro to purchase essentials

I called Air France at 6 pm after waiting all day for the luggage to arrive. The bags were still in Paris and they assured me they would be flown into Firenze on Sunday morning and then delivered to the hotel. Alessio from the hotel, had his doubts. He told me the couriers don't normally work on Sunday. I called Air France again and pleaded with them to have the luggage delivered on Sunday, as I needed to leave to travel north at 10 am on Monday

Today I found a great little book on how to plan a wedding (written in Italian) -- I am going to finish it on the train. It's full of information. Also duties of the witnesses (me). I discovered the male witness (best man) drives the couple from the church. I'm wondering if we'll be walking! It's so close to home.

I bought a bright little water color on my way back from grocery shopping from a new grocery store I found on Via Romana (spices, potato flour, kitchen towels, little Italian olives, olive oil, fresh milk). I saw the picture on an artist's stand just outside Pitti Palace. The price was marked 80 Euro which is about right for that size...bigger than the other two little ones I have bought over the years. Disappointed, I said.. Oh. Thank you but it's too much. Then he said 15. I repeated 15? He said yes. I said perhaps you should write it down for me because I think I've misunderstood.

He wrote 15. I couldn't believe my eyes. He said it was his gift to me. He wrote his name: Carlo. I couldn't help but cry. All this done in Italian, which I am quite surprised how much it has improved since I began studying at Orange Coast College night classes. I have my little treasure packed now.

Leo is doing well with feet propped up and walking the house a bit. The doctor told him he can travel back to the US as planned in September and has absolutely no restrictions. Stitches come out this Thursday.

There must be a Venetian here because there's a black gondola docked right under Ponte Vecchio! I tried to get a picture but it was a difficult shot. I need to research the history of this gondola.


Today I visited the Ferragamo Museum which I missed last time due to its renovation. I spent over an hour there. 5 Euro entrance fee goes to charity. It included an audio tour + 30 minute movie of old home movie and news clips. Wonderful shoes on display, including those made for Judy Garland, Tyrone Power, Sophia Loren, Drew Barrymore (Everafter, the movie about the true Cinderella) and a pair for a Maharishi (he sent a bag of rubies, emeralds and other gems to have inlaid on the shoe). I saw another pair made of real gold for a rich Australian.

They had the wooden forms marked with their owner's names with their sales receipts. Some shoes for Marilyn Monroe. Very interesting shoes made during the war, when materials were lacking. One of fish skin (later patented), canvas, raffia, nylon fishing line. Gorgeous shoes...all made without leather, which was unheard of at the time. I need to read his autobiography. Leo already told me with a tiny touch of snobbery that Salvatore Ferragamo was not a "Florentine."

I went to mass this morning, but not in Santa Croce. It was too early when I arrived and too many people waiting outside. So I continued to my old neighborhood and heard the call to mass bells. So I went to Sant'Ambrogio. I was the only non Italian. I understood a good portion of the mass, using the handout which contains most of the mass. This is the same church where I participated in a night candle walk about 5 years ago.

I saw three girls from OCC yesterday in Borgo San Lorenzo shopping. They were so surprised to see me. They couldn't believe it when I approached them. Their month of being here with Franca, our professoressa, will be over tomorrow. Of course their Italian has been greatly improved.

Alessio couldn't believe they really delivered my suitcases on Sunday. The luggage arrived finally about 8 tonight. I quickly unpacked and found that the tortillas I had brought for Alessio and Sumi arrived ok, but the longhorn cheddar was a melted mess. They were so happy to have real tortillas.


This morning I got up at early and called Marta to decide which train to take to Cremona. We decided the Bologna-Fidenza-Cremona route didn't give me enough time to struggle with the bags going up and down the stairs. Instead I will go the way of Firenze-Piacenza-Cremona.

Occasionally a young man will offer to help me with my luggage. Then, as they tug at the bags, I can see in their eyes that the weight was way more than they expected. The 11:31 train which departs from Firenze Rifredo, is a 20 minute taxi ride from the hotel.

By 8 am I had already closed the bags and walked to the Santa Maria Novella to buy the tickets. I took the longer route back to make a quick stop at the book store around the corner from the Baptistery, then onto another place to pick up one last DVD. Then I ran over to the University and picked up a panino and arranciata soda beverage for the trip.

Alessio, such a sweetie pie, insisted on carrying the bags down and walked with me to the Ferragamo taxi stop. The bags are a big big problem. I think one is 75 pounds. I always carry my lifting back brace with me!

As I struggled down the steps at Rifredi train station, I was careful to move away from a gypsy woman sitting on the steps. I was sweating and trying not to snap the bags on the marble steps because the glassware gifts for Rosa were divided between both bags. You can imagine the shock when the gypsy girl jumped up to help me. At the same time a man took the second bag for me.

At the bottom of the stairs I had to hurry to catch up to him. Once I had both bags settled on the bottom landing (plus my purse and travel bag), I got out some coins and went back to thank the gypsy. As I struggled back up the next stairway to the binario, she left her spot again and together we carried both bags up. I try not to be too naive with the gypsies...but this is not the first time I've had a good experience.

With jet lag I was really lagging today and the strain of those bags made me really tired. I had another nice experience on the train. I decided to just take an aisle pull down seat, but a nice student told me I could have his fixed seat, as he was departing. The closed compartments are air conditioned and not humid like the aisle. So I spent 2 hours with 4 students.

I didn't talk but I did take a very cool picture of the students, using their camera. I was reading my How to Plan your Wedding book. I think they thought I had to be the future bride, with my crazy bags, which I left outside our door. The bags kept falling over and they were an irritation to the snack man who would roll his cart by at intervals. Four times I had to drag the larger bag into the compartment and then back out again.

The stop before Piacenza I started moving toward the exit door. Traveling with sandals was a new experience for me. My toes are so sore from rolling over them with my bags! More than once...

A very nice smoker got the bags off for me. Since smoking is not allowed on trains now, sometimes you see the desperate ones hanging out, right near the door, so they can hop off for a puff or two and then hop back on.

I know the Piacenza station well. Last November as I was struggling up and down the steps a foreign man pointed out the elevators. The train to Cremona is never advertised on the overheads but I know it's always on the last binario number 8. As I rushed into the elevator I could see my Cremona train approaching. He never waits more than two minutes after he stops.

The train is only two cars long and goes back and forth between Piacenza and Cremona every hour. It's not a gliding or speeding train. It's a one man operation and today I met the engineer conductor. He helped pull the lighter bag up. He was so old I was afraid to let him touch the second one.

This little local train chugs down the tracks about 20 miles an hour.

Today the corn was nice and tall but the sunflowers looked to be starting on the drying out stage. So I saw no brilliant fields as I was hoping for.

I always enjoy this slow ride home.