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.

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