Monday, May 23, 2011

May 6, Firenze and the Mostra Internazionale dell'Artigianato


I slept nine hours last night and was out the door by 10 am this morning. Still no word from Leo and I am starting to worry. He had a blood transfusion last week to control anemia. Maybe he's in the hospital again. I sent another SMS text message again this am, along with an email.

First stop was the Bancomat ATM to pull euros to pay my hotel bill. I can budget my money better when I pay them in full for all nights.

I had a sinking feeling when the ATM returned one of my bank cards with the message "Please contact your bank." This has happened to me before. Now, I always divide my money between two accounts I can draw from, plus I have a credit card and some cash when I arrive.

Happily, the second card did work. I already had plenty of spending money with me because, as a habit, as each trip ends, I bring home about 500E to be used at the start of the next trip.

Before I left the USA, I had called to make arrangements with the second bank. The polite but not very experienced girl told me she would mark the account available for travel to Italy. In error, she had ok'd the credit card portion but not ATM withdrawal.

I walked back to my hotel and did some window shopping at Ferragamo. I saw some darling shoes which had originally been designed for Greta Garbo. I decided to enter.

Only cream colored Greta Garbo shoes were available in my size 38. Divinely comfortable, but not pratical. They would too hard to keep clean. The sales lady allowed me to test my Italian which was very nice.

The elegant relaxed atmosphere of the shop makes one want to try on shoes for hours. Surrounded by boxes of shoes, I made my one choice: a black soft leather flat, based on a design for Audrey Hepburn 1953 when she filmed Roman Holiday.

Now I know my future holds some new Ferragamo shoes. Cost was 400 E for this pair, because they are part of the older collection. How many other shoes have I bought and tried to wear, suffering through break-in time? I have been converted by happy feet.

I left my new shoes at the hotel and walked 10 minutes to Santa Maria Novella train station with a guilt free conscious. I bought tickets from the automated dispenser choosing, as Rosa had suggested, the Saturday, 7 am departure from Santa Maria Novella (SMN) to Cremona, with transfers at Bologna and Fidenza. Cost: 27 E for one-way, second class.

I sent Rosa and Marta a confirmation text message. Years ago, I had a bad experience with a missed transfer at Bologna. I feel confident now. I can do it. There is plenty of time to make each transfer, even if we run late. I will arrive at 10:20 in Cremona and Marta will meet me at the station.

The Fortenza da Basso is just 10 minute walk from SMN train station. I paid 3E for entrance to Mostra Internazionale dell'Artigianato. I researched the dates of this event before I purchased my plane tickets. This will be my third visit to this yearly fair.

What a nice surprise to see my ticket gives me an 8 E reduced price for the Picasso Exhibition next week!

I wandered about for four hours enjoying all the exhibits. I saw Italian home furnishings, kitchen displays, lamps and lighting fixtures, hand painted dishes, soaps, candles, clothes, jewelry, leather goods, lace, spices, condiments, wood products, rugs, linens, toys and puppets. In the international pavilion, vendors from all parts of the world displayed their goods.

I never heard a word of English spoken. My Italian is improving. I can now understand some conversations going on around me. I bought a iridescent lime green silk purse (from Milano) and a sterling silver - fresh water pearl bracelet.

I saw several older women selling their lace work. I secretly captured one picture of lacework still incomplete. I bought something I've been looking for: a handmade decoupage of a famous Medici villa and grounds. 20E. I attempted a conversation with the pleasant older woman who had made the decoupage and she understood me.

I was really famished after not having dinner last night and only a piece of chocolate for breakfast this morning. I choose a 3E panino (sandwich) of salami and cheese from a stand inside the Mostra.

After visiting all the exhibits, I found more food stalls outside, including a Tunisian village setup. Their food looked interesting, but 10 E was too expensive and the servings were too generous for my small appetite.

Instead, I bought fresh sliced strawberries with chocolate gelato. The weather was perfect and I was comfortable in my dress, leggings and sandals. It was warm enough to melt the gelato rather quickly.

As I was leaving I saw three men carrying a giant pan into the Spanish pavilion. I followed them to get pictures.

I left the Mostra around 3 pm and on foot, headed back to the central area of Firenze. With my shopping list in hand, I searched and found Italian stockings, books on tape, films on DVD and at the tiny little market, right next to my hotel, I found the perfect bread board, made of olive wood from Chianti for 39E. Feeling hungry and a little tired, I decided to leave all my treasures at the hotel and venture out for an early dinner and picture taking.

I had dinner at Trattoria le Antiche Carrozze, across from Ferragamo. At 6 pm, it was far too early for the normal Italian crowd, so I had the entire restaurant to myself. I had actually come here last night at 10:30, but the waiter said it was too late to begin a meal. Tonight, concerned he asked if I had eaten dinner last night. He apologized when I told him no, I had only eaten chocolate in my room. I'm speaking Italian and being understood. I am very pleased.

I choose something I've observed here on past trips, but have never eaten: Linguine al cartoccio di mare (13E) . It was heavenly, so I splurged with dessert too: Profiterole (5E)(filled with custard and topped with hot chocolate sauce). I ate every morsel.

After dinner, I walked until after 9, just enjoying the feel of the city. I finally received a text from Leo The doctors made a house visit today, so he's been occupied. Relieved, I texted back that maybe we can talk on Sunday. Tomorrow I'll be traveling all morning and then spending the afternoon doing something super special with Rosa. We're going to the Salsomaggiore Terme, a spa or something like a spa.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 22 True love stories never have endings. (Robert Brault)

I can feel the door of communication closing between Leo and me. I cannot call him, and his calls to me have become less and less frequent. Even, then, he often hangs up abruptly, fearful that someone might hear him talking to me. I understand but still it breaks my heart. Decisions which should have been made 10 years ago or even before, have lain in wait, like an unopened package.

I made an appointment to speak with a grief counselor but she is not available for two weeks. I have started what needs to be done. I have written to Leo and asked him to help me close up our life together here. Not to put an end to love, but to deal with the books, clothing and personal things he left here and the unsaid things between us…

Two years ago, he was here for one month. He had planned to return Italy for a well-publicized event he had organized with his students in a Medici museum. The week afterward the event, instead of flying home to me, our life was shattered when he was hospitalized and diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow/blood. Hidden tumors in his spine have complicated his recovery.

I also strongly believe Leo suffered a nervous breakdown in the aftermath of his quick physical decline. Around the same time, I started this blog to chronicle my love for my Italian family and for Leo.

Leo is now mostly house bound. I do not have access to detailed information on his condition. Leo writes what he can. One leg has now been weakened and he has limited feeling and functionality. He relies heavily on his moglie (wife) for all aspects of his life. He tells me she has dedicated her life to him, 24 hours a day and their relationship, broken since the 1980’s, has been repaired. He is fully dependent on her now.

He still has contact with his students and I've encouraged him to finish his unpublished books. He stays busy at his computer, when his mind is clear of anti-biotics, pain killers or depression.

I am content to know his home situation is now tolerable, although it's my opinion that  he lives with a wife-nurse who thrives on his dependence. I know she is happily in charge of his daily activities. She is not a person who lovingly massages his tense neck muscles and tells him he is still handsome. I think he survives each day with gratitude and the loving messages and visits from students and old friends, with secret thoughts of sweet relaxed times he and I had together.

He tells me he needs to hide our love to save his family, that blending two families is not possible. He once consulted a priest, who told him he must maintain his promise to God, which he made 40 years ago with his wedding vows.

Love cannot be dimmed, even if it must be hidden. In the meantime, I need to prepare myself for a life without Leo next to me. My heart is breaking. Now that he has returned to his wife, I hope it will still be possible for Leo and I to remain best friends and maintain some contact. I no longer believe he will ever return here.
I found some quotes yesterday which I like:


Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. (James Baldwin)

The Love within you is a reflection of your inner beauty. For love is the beauty of the soul. (St. Augustine)

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind. (William Shakespeare, Mid-Summer Night's Dream, 1595)

To find someone who will love you for no reason, and to shower that person with reasons, that is the ultimate happiness.  (Robert Brault)

Shall we compare our hearts to a garden -
with beautiful blooms, straggling weeds,
swooping birds and sunshine, rain -
and most importantly, seeds.

~Grey Livingston

Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.(Emily Brontë)

True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen. (François, duc de La Rochefoucauld)

True love stories never have endings. (Richard Bach)

Once a man has won a woman's love, the love is his forever. He can only lose the woman. (Robert Brault)

Love is missing someone whenever you're apart, but somehow feeling warm inside because you're close in heart. (Kay Knudsen)

We had two hours together on this park bench, last week.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thursday, May 5 Paris to Firenze

Arriving at LAX last night we saw full police presence. I'm not sure at what level alert we're at since they found Bin L. I took my first full body scan at the Security Checkpoint. The sign said it was equal to 10 minutes of radiation we encounter flying in an airplane.

I entered the little booth and raised my hands for a few seconds. Then I had to stand there and wait for the attendant to receive an audio Ok on his headset. I was cleared to go.

I prefer to arrive a few hours earlier than necessary. It gives me time to de-stress from work and transition to my own free time. I read and rearranged my carryon bag.
Paris. I slept with dreams all the way, waking up just in time for the breakfast tray. I try not to eat any airplane food, but I did drink the orange juice. I brought tangerines with me. The French bread and butter they offered were not truly French. On the return flight, I look forward to real bread, butter and cheese.

I had a pleasant conversation with the passenger to my left. She and her husband (suffering from either Alzheimer or dementia) are traveling to Israel for their annual three week trip. She mentioned how much she enjoyed a cup of coffee at a sidewalk cafe, without the pressure of rushing about. Impossible to do in Los Angeles she said. Americans know how to relax. They just need to go somewhere else to do it.

We arrived on time at Charles de Gaul airport in Paris. Passport control and bag security was not quickly done as it was last November. I noticed a lot of eye contact this time. I passed three French soldiers dressed in camouflage. They each carried well worn automatic weapons. They were in a state of ready. I had no eye contact with them.

I realized I forgot my watch last night. I bought a Swiss Swatch for 73 E here in the 2G terminal. I decided against refilling my water bottle and instead bought a bottle of Evian water for 3 E.

I'm traveling in black jeans and sandals but I'm sorry I decided against leggings. Note to myself for the next trip. I came with only one suitcase. My new travel scale was accurate and I weighed in at 50 pounds, just at the max. I also brought back one of my cheap (Chinese) carry-on bags, which bought out of desperation last time at the outdoor mercato in Firenze. I think I can pack it with books and check it as a bag for the return trip.

I want to check in at Louis Vuitton in Firenze to see about a nice carry-on for future use. It might be over my budget, but I want to look.

As we boarded, everyone was grabbing the free newspapers, all displaying the same big headlines. I picked an Italian paper. 'No pictures will be shown says Obama.' Instead, some Pakistani photos are front page.

The flight from Paris to Firenze was half full of a group of a happy French crowd. I need to check if there is a playoff here tomorrow. Just after we landed, the stewardess made an announcement and everyone started cheering, then singing a short song. They were Fans of some sort.

As we had started our descent into the airport we had a minor medical event. A girl sitting one person away from me began to feel pain in her head. At first I saw her clutch hand to her forehead and then her companion leaned into help her. I could see tears silently rolling down her face. The quick acting flight attendant brought a plastic cup containing a white gel, which she had quickly sqeezed out of a tube. The girl held it up to her noise to breathe it in. I could smell a faint odor of eucalyptus. It brought her instant relief. As soon as we touched down, she was smiling and out of pain.

I sent Leo a text message to let him know I had arrived.

I took a taxi from the airport to Hotel Cestelli. As we pulled up I saw the outside door was still open and it was 9.00 pm. So sweet because I knew Alessio had left it open for me. I ran the buzzer. So wonderful to be greates by a friend. He came bounding down the stairs and hugged me.

I thanked him for leaving the door open. He told me he had checked the Internet to see if the flight was on time.

He locked the outside door and carried my bag up. It weighs exactly 50 pounds. I brought my new hand scale with me, so I'll have no worries about being over weight.
Asumi, his sweet wife, was waiting at the hotel entrance on the second floor. Hugs all around and they asked about Leo's health.

In my room, I've found a box of chocolates from Ballerini Pasticceria, located on Borgo Ognissanti. Ummmm so delicious !! Truffle style chocolates and I've already eaten two pieces.

I made a quick tonight to run over to Edison Bookstore and bought an audio CD of Dante's Divinia Commedia and two books by Gianrico Carofiglio who is a magistrate as well as an author. His books give me an idea of how the legal system works here. I've already read one of his novels, using an audiobook to help for pronouncian. I hope to find a few audiobooks this week.

I skipped dinner in my favorite restaurant tonight. I'm not hungry.

No word from Leo although I texted him 3 hours ago. It's just before midnight and time to sleep.