Tag Archives: Travel

Good bye Salerno, Hello Pompeii

RANDOM TRAVEL TIPS:
Always carry a little toilet paper or napkin in your pocket. Multiple benefits.
Always carry a water bottle. You can refill them at public springs that are all over every place I’ve visited.
Use the restroom when you have the opportunity. When necessary, find a nice looking bar/cafe for a cappuccino break and use the restroom there.
Learn how to say compliments to the people around you. Nice words and the effort opens doors (I’m not suggesting to be fake, just gracious).
In your suitcase, pack an extra zip lock bag and an old plastic shopping bag.
Ok, on to the activities of the past day or two…

Salerno has a gritty charm and breathtaking beauty that is different from the other places I’ve visited so far in Italy. I walked around the city after returning from Paestum and visited the Duomo (barely, it closed within minutes of my arrival), many beautiful piazzas, and the Museo Dioceseno San Matteo.image Many travelers suggest letting yourself wander without an agenda and getting lost in a city and that’s what I did, which is how I ended up being ushered into the Diocese Museum. Though it was 5 minutes before closing, a man at the door told me I could go up to have a look before they locked up. It was incredible and I got to see the worlds oldest ivory tablets from the Christian Middle Ages. The 69 tablets, depicting the Old and New Testaments, were lost and dispersed around the globe and have all been reunited. However, I almost got locked in, as the man who ushered me in left work for the day and when I tried to exit, the huge door (seen in the photo above) was locked. I had that throw up panic feeling starting to churn in my stomach (a similar situation occurred recently in a cemetary, of all places!). Thankfully, I found another worker who let me out. PHEW.

THE NEXT DAY: Now I am on the fastest train ever going (in a tunnel for a large part of the trip) from Salerno to Pompeii. I was afraid I would miss my train when I woke up this morning because my shower would not work. If I could even tell you how much I sweated yesterday, you would know the situation of a malfunctioning shower was dire. In my pajamas, I wasn’t sure what do do expect call the B&B cell number, though no one answered. After messing around looking for help for about 10 minutes, I had to act fast and basically bathe in the sink. Not to brag, but I was a impressed with my adaptability and got the job done. By the time the owners of the B&B arrived, I was dressed and ready to check out. They kindly gave me a 10 euro refund which was actually a large percentage of the bargain rate and as I was leaving, the owner, apologizing again and again, gave me a little boat souvenir. Although it was an inconvenience, they were so nice about it, my irritation was quickly quelled.

Ok, now I am in Pompeii Scavi and it is unbelievable. Here is a photo of one of the best preserved buildings – you can guess what the business was based on the activity in the photo ūüėČ ?image

I should be too embarrassed to admit this, but I watched the cheesy Hollywood movie “Pompeii” recently and it really helped me imagine the streets full of people, the homes, the businesses, and the volcanic ash and heat rushing down and covering the town. Admittedly, I have a touch of fear every time I furtively glance over at Mt. Vesuvius which looks particularly ominous shrouded in today’s dark clouds. imageI know these images have been seen over and over, but the streets really were striking. One large stone meant the street was one way. Two large stones meant it was two way, and three large stones meant it was a major thoroughfare. We could see the groves in the stones from the cart wheels which was one of those eerie details making the daily human activity even more real in my mind.¬†image

imagePOMPEII TIPS: I  saw countless people fall down. Wear comfortable shows, do not wear sandals. Wear tons of sunscreen and a hat. Take an umbrella. Do lots of research beforehand, there is too much to see and you need to prioritize. Do a guided tour. The ruins are not the only old thing in Pompeii Рthe street signs and info signs, when you can find them, are disintegrated and illegible. When you buy your ticket, if you do not do a guided tour, ask what streets and sites are closed or impassable. Do not rely on your map. The site changes constantly. (Another good reason to have a guide). There were so many English speaking guides around that I inadvertently absorbed information along the way, which helped tremendously. But if I did it all over, I would have joined a guided group from the start.

Now I am waiting for the bus to Naples where I’ll have real Naples pizza before my train leaves for Rome. First order of business in Rome? A SHOWER!!!

Ok, I’m going to have to write a letter to Trenitalia about my hero, Gennaro F. He would not let me take his picture, but I made sure to jot down his name. I don’t even know how to describe the lengths this man went through to get me on an earlier train from Naples to Rome. First, let me say, the Naples train station was superbly designed and well run. Unlike most places I’ve visited, there were multiple Info kiosks and they were staffed with plenty of people to handle the crowds. My only regret with catching the earlier train was that I had to miss Naples pizza.

Back to Gerraro, initially he helped me at a fast ticket change booth. Knowing I would not be able to understand the ticket printing machine, he walked me to the machine and did the operations for me. It did some sort of system shut down and he rebooted it and tried again. When that didn’t work, he went to a supervisor and they tried again. That didn’t work so he went back to the machine, printed the ticket, and hand wrote new information on it while waiting for his phone gadget to calculate a new seat number for me. He then walked me to the correct platform and train while we waited on my new seat assignment. I asked him if what he was doing was usual, normal, and he laughed, shook his head and said “no.” He even walked me on to the train, helping with my luggage and pointing to my seat! And off I go to Rome, 2.5 hours ahead of schedule. Thank you, Gennaro! Yes, there are rude people who will plow you down and cut in line faster than you can blink an eye. But I’ve run into more Gennaros than jerks and I hope my good fortune continues.

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Next post…ROMA!!!

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Matera Matera Matera!

Before going to sleep last night, I had to say goodbye to my new friends because they leave the program is morning and I am now on a very early bus to the ancient city of Matera. Pina and Raffaele packed a little sack breakfast for me and provided the bus schedule. Raffaele said several times, be sure you confirm the destination each time you get on a bus. There are multiple bus transfers so the journey will take many hours but seeing this city will be worth the effort. This past spring, before my trip to Italy, it seemed serendipitous when I came across an article in Smithsonian magazine about Matera, the UNESCO World Heritage site which thought to be the oldest continuously inhabited place on the globe. More later….

imageimagePhotos: The bathroom in Policoro where I had to transfer buses (it is probably best that I couldn’t read the graffiti) and the quiet village bus stop at 6:30 this morning

Ok, I’ve made it to Matera and am having hard time articulating what I saw there. Words can describe the cave dwellings but my vocabulary is limited because the environment was utterly new and foreign for my eyes and mind. I’m not sure I even have the correct language to describe the Sassi area. It is made of hundreds of sharp inclines and declines with winding trails and stairs taking you to peeks and depths where the homes, churches and businesses were built into the ground and into the caves.image What you see in the photos is only the top of the town, with a large percentage hollowed out underground and into caves. The interiors use negative architectural methods meaning the builders removed rock and ground to create spaces and features such as arches, doorways and columns, the opposite of what we are used to when thinking about building structures where materials are ADDED instead of deducted. In front of one of the medieval churches I visited, archeologists have discovered pottery that dates back to the 8th Century B.C.! Much has been written about it. For more accurate and eloquently presented information, see Smithsonian.com and search keyword Matera (for some reason I am unable to insert the link).

imageI was looking around for the Barbarian Cemetary, and see those elongated shapes on the ground? I was standing right amongst the buried barbarians! Did you know that the term “barbarian” is what the Romans used for anyone who was not Roman? The barbarians were not necessarily inferior or bad or blood thirsty, they just weren’t up to snuff.¬†And here we have the Church of Purgatory. imageMmmm, I’m going to have to read a bit more about this one. A facade of skulls and skeletons (can you see them in this photo?) is not an enticing place of worship in my mind but, as usual, I’m sure there is more to the story.

imageThe top point of rock in photo below is the Madonna de Idris church…as you can see, it is INSIDE those rocks. It is easier to see it in the close up shot.¬†image

When I get home, I’ll have to rent the film, Christ Stopped at Eboli which was written about and filmed in Matera, in addition to Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, also filmed in Matera.

By the way, Reason #101 to get to the bus station a few minutes early: the bus driver did not have change so he could not sell me a ticket – he asked other people on the bus for change and when that didn’t work out, I had to canvas the area asking people for change for a 20. Another bus driver, who was chatting up some women at the bus station, lead me to his bus and gave me change. So nice! When I returned, my bus driver sold me a ticket and literally pinched my cheek affectionately! I’m not sure what he said but I think it was pretty adorable based on the twinkle in his eye. Oh, and reason #102, we’ve departed the Matera bus station 6 minutes early.

So the return bus journey is going fine. I’ve made it to Senise which is one town away from Noepoli. The only problem is that I have a 45 minute wait and I’ve seen just about enough of Senise. I popped into what is called American Bar, a misnomer indeed. It is the first place on my adventure where I have felt leered at and I’m about ready for that bus to come. The butcher across the street is so sweet (he was in an earlier post with Pina and Raffaele shopping) but he is not there right now.

Oh my goodness, an old man just joined me on the steps and now I’ve had my right cheek pinched a second time this afternoon! Now I’m on the bus to Noepoli and the bus driver is singing at the top of his lungs! He told me to sit in the front seat and it is frightening going through these mountains from this perspective. I think the bus drivers like to chit chat with the person in the front row. I’m going to be a big disappointment which he probably figured out when he said I owed 1.30 euros and I thought he was telling me we would be in Noepoli in 30 minutes and I just kept nodding. When he exclaimed “Soldi!” I finally clued in as I have recently learned the word for “money.” Ok, now we’ve stopped on a winding mountain road for the driver to talk with a shepherd. And here we go again. Now the bus driver is telling me that the shepherd thought I was rude to keep working on the computer instead of talking with them!!! What an adventurous day.

Next on the agenda, the Greek ruins in Paestum (which were part of my art history studies and slide quizzes…we’ll see what I can remember!). Until then, ciao!

Small Moments, Big Discoveries

What a wonderful series of small and big moments this evening. First, Raffaele knew that I wanted some tomatoes and he quickly came to get me when he spotted the fruit and veg truck driving around the village. He escorted me to the truck so he could negotiate the total price. Certainly something I could not have handled on my own with my 10 Italian words!

Afterward, I came back to the studio to download photos for sketches and was distracted by the gloriously ominous sky. imageAlong came Pina to tell Cecelia and I that she noticed a girl with keys opening the Catholic Church. imageShe asked the young woman if we could come see it and took us in (it is next door to our house). She and Raffaele gave us a tour pointing out all the old art and history. I am really getting into this old stuff and am kinda freaking out right now. First, here is a cross, carved entirely in wood of Christ from the early 13th Century. There are veins and hairs represented which means this cross was made by one of the finest artist for a very wealthy patron and church.imageimage Then, we walked back and check out the back right wall Рpartially excavated revealing Corinthian columns and frescos painted in the early 15h century. imageThe town has run out of funds to continue the excavation, so here is stands, as is. Next, we go to a little back room and Raphael points out a small baptismal basin from the time of Charlmagne!!!!!! Can you see it behind the plastic Jesus?  There it sits, unprotected.

When we returned to the house, Raffaele was ahead of us and poked his head back out the front door, saying hurry, you’ve got to see this! I was thinking about the treasures in the church as I followed Cecelia, Pina and Raffaele through the house to the balcony. And then this happened. Whoa.

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(Left photo is the view from the studio) After a lovely dinner with the Danish artist, Cecelia, I slept for more consecutive hours that I have during the trip, so today, I’ve felt more energetic and ready to tackle lots of work and sketching time in the town. After breakfast, I walked down from the top of the mountain to look for the little grocery store. Though the shelves were miscellaneous and sparse, I was able to find what I needed (I somehow lost my comb and the store owner suggested this “Afro” comb for my hair – perfecto!) imageThe owner talked and talked to me even though I repeatedly answered, non capisco, scusi! He was so sweet and I think determined for me to learn Italian while shopping in his store. He also insisted that I take a newspaper for free to keep as a momento from my time in the area.image image image image image

 

 

 

 

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(the photos above show the red doors to the secret escape passage, me with the massive front door key of Palazzo Rinaldi, the sign for the store, the store front, and a group of men who asked me to take their picture)

The village does not receive many tourists or people from other places and as I walk down the street, people come up and introduce themselves, or hug me, or invite me in to their homes for a visit or a snack. I was shocked to just meet a woman with her daughter here visiting from New Jersey! She grew up in Noepoli and comes back to visit each summer. Before my errand, Pina showed us a secret passage the Duke or Lord of the area would use to get from the castle to a nearby town which could be used as an escape route if the castle was invaded. After my outing and some time in the studio, Raffaele showed me his copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy. It was published by the famous French illustrator, Gustave Dore and is one of a few original printings. Many book collectors have tried to buy it over the years but Raffaele keeps in under lock and key and will not part with his treasure.image

I’ve been sketching all afternoon and am content. However, there is a longing for my family that persists. It is one of those odd inversions of the human heart – some of us want space and independence and adventure and when we get it, we want home and family and familiarity. It does not stop me from savoring and enjoying my time here but seems worth acknowledging.

There is time to think, time to study, time to listen and time to look. These are times I rarely experience at home. In addition to the food, the history, the scenery, the art, the people, the monuments and artifacts, perhaps what I came here to experience is simply time.

First Impressions, Settling In

The owner, Raphael, of the residential property met me at the bus stop in Senise and we drove about 20 minutes to Noepoli (see photo below), the tiny imagevillage where the art residency is located. There are two other artists here at this time, one from Scotland and one from Denmark and they are very easy and friendly. Raphael showed me around the home and told me all of the instructions like which keys to use and where to do laundry (more on that in a moment!). It is quite like being back in college though my room is much nicer, and no roommate, thankfully!imageimage The program is run by Raphael, his wife Pina and their daughter, Susanna who normally lives in Ireland and is not here now due to the birth of her baby. The family summers here in Noepoli and Raphael and Pina live in Agropolis the remainder of the year. After the day of travel, I thoroughly enjoyed spending the evening talking with the other residents and learning about their countries and their work. I’ll tell you more about these fascinating women later – they are impressive to say the least. Before I could retire for the night, I spent time down in the basement doing much needed laundry – check out the laundry “facility”! image imageI moved a few pieces to to the line outside¬†to help them dry this morning but hesitated to hang out all my underwear! imageI slept like a rock last night and woke up ready to work. After a big delicious breakfast made by Pina, Raphael showed me the area and a beautiful belvedere in the national park. I then took a quick tour of town on foot (which took only a few minutes) and found the man selling fruits and vegetables, the miller/baker, the butcher (a woman!), the police officer, and the town hall. Noepoli is built on top of the remains of an old castle and is on a mountain peak so the weather is breezy and cool. It is strange being so remote after so many days with throngs of people and activity. After lunch, I worked on photos and sketches and then went on a hike with the artists, Cecelia and Karen. I wish Phoebe was here to see this shepherd walking his goats through the hills! imageWe made it to another mountain top and were able to get a good view of caves that were once used by robbers as hideouts. ¬†The robbers were considered to be like Robin Hood as they helped poor people in the area who were under the rule of tyrannical dukes and counts who owned the land. Can you see these caves?¬†image The lone restaurant does not open until 8 pm so we ate peaches for a snack and did more work. Finally, we walked to dinner, passing a cemetary, which was a little spooky on the dark walk home. I had a lovely time visiting with the two artists who are full of fascinating stories and experiences. The only dark spot at this point is the teenage son, who against the residency policy, accompanied his mother to the program. I won’t list what all was said and occurred at dinner and on the walk home, but his hostility has changed the atmosphere of the residency and I will need to be away from him as much as possible. After breakfast this morning, I worked in the studio and then Pina and Raphael asked if I wanted to go with them to Senise. ¬†I was delighted, the drive was pretty and we passed many farms where the owners produce their own wine, fruits, veggies, olives and cheeses. In Senise, my hosts introduced me to the butcher, the mozzarella makers, and the bakery owner. I can hardly wait to make fresh pasta with tomatoes and mozzarella on the side tonight. It was especially fun listening to the banter between my hosts and the shop keepers.image I felt like an exchange student and it was a great cultural education! On the drive back to Noepoli, Pina provided all sorts of information about the fauna and flora and about the history of the area. ¬†After traveling on my own, it is such a treat being in the care of such informative and kind people. Arrivederci!

Leaving the Amalfi Area

I’m about to leave Ravello by bus for Amafi to catch a boat to Salerno where I’ll take a three hour bus ride to Senise where I’ll get picked up by someone from the residency to drive to Noepoli in the remote area, Basilicata. Just before my alarm rang this morning, thunder boomed. We are so high up that when a storm comes, we are in the clouds – the thunder felt like it was in my teeth! Needless to say, I was awake and ready to get going.

I then checked out of the lovely Villa Amore. The owner called TravelMar for me to see if the ocean is too rough for transportation. We got the ok, the skies look clear so off I go down the mountain again. To my delight, there are the two English men who I saw on Saturday! Remember them? They were my cohorts in struggling with the luggage door under the bus. They did not recognize me initially but when I described the luggage experience, they enthusiastically confirmed it was them! They tried to help me with the luggage compartment this time, but we all failed and discussed how insistent the bus drivers are about storing the luggage but how disinterested they are in helping you do so.

At any rate, we had a good visit about Rome and London and Ravello and they were very kind. I might be giving the impression that this area is sparely populated, considering the fortuitous repeated encounters I’ve experienced. However, this is high season along the Amalfi coast and the area is swarming with people. To add to the crowds who are vacationing here, they come in by the droves from cruise liners parked offshore. The crowds can be stifling, especially for an Arkansan used to a less dense population. Ravello has been isolated from the madness which has been a benefit of staying there – unreachable by the cruise crowds. I also highly recommend Atrani which is a lovely 15 minute walk (albeit lots of stairs) from the town of Amalfi, and is much less crowded.image

I am now in the boat to Salerno, a 35 minute ride on the dot, as opposed to that 1.5 hour bus ordeal on the way. Travel tip: if you venture to the Amalfi coast, travel on a weekday instead of the weekend. Ok, while I’m at it, here are a few more suggestions: bring an umbrella, a little travel bottle of bug spray, one pair of very comfortable sandals, one pair of comfy Nike slip on walkers, one cute dress, a pair of cool blousey pants to travel in, clothes you can hike in, a hat, sunscreen, plenty of underwear, and plenty of undergarments.

Back to the boat ride, it rained hard but the ocean remained calm. I got to, again, sit by the English couple who kindly took my picture for me. imageOnce I finally found the Salerno train and bus station, and bought my ticket for the bus to Senise, I wandered around looking for a place to eat lunch and get out of the rain. It was quickly clear that the station was full of cons as I was approached by a persistent woman with a baby, and three aggressive men asking for money or something…this was my first place on my Italian adventure to feel harassed and I kept my belongings under tight grip. Aside from the gritty feel of Salerno thus far, it seems to be an ideal place for catching trains, boats, and buses to a variety of locations. Many prefer it to Sorrento or Naples because of its convenient access to Pompeii, Herculeneum, Naples, Paestum, the entire Amalfi coast (and the islands such as Capri), and trains south down the Silcily.

My next post will be from the Artist Residency. If you are interested in learning more about the program, there are some new videos posted on their Facebook page if you look for Palazzo Rinaldi.

Thanks for reading! Ciao!

The Kindness of Strangers

After feeling a bit down yesterday, three gifts came my way today and lifted my spirits more than the gift bearers can know. I’ll start with the adventures of the day and reveal the positive encounters as they unfolded. A storm moved in and woke me at 7:30. Initially I was disappointed, as a big hike was on the agenda. imageBut at breakfast, the skies began to clear and the hotel staff looked up the weather forecast and said to proceed as planned. imageSo, with water, sunscreen, bug spray and backpack in hand, I headed down an ancient trail that runs behind and below Villa Cimbrone. I read the hike to Atrani was perfectly safe though rigorous, and would take about 45 minutes and then 15-20 more minutes to Amalfi. Well, I realize steep climbs and descents have been a theme of the blog, but I must say I went down thousands of steps on this hike. imageI’m officially declaring that going down is, indeed, harder than going up. Occasionally, I thought I had arrived, but I would pop out at a vista and see the ocean was still far far down.image

Finally, the path became less foliage-oriented and more alley-oriented, and eventually, a little cobblestone via tight between old walls spit me out in front of the stunning Maria Magdellana Church, which is build right on top of a cliff’s edge over imagethe water. The choir was practicing while children played out front waiting for the singing parents to finish. As families exited, I followed them down a narrow path to the central piazza of Atrani.

As I popped out another narrow alleyway into the piazza, I almost ran into a large stage where crisply dressed brass band members where gathering for a imagepractice performance. I walked over to what appeared to be a drug store and managed to ask, in Italian, for a “thing women put in their hair to go up.” The man, said, Si Si Si, and pulled out a hair clip. Perfecto! I walked back into the square and who passes by, but Colomba, the kind woman from Bologna who helped me on the bus ride from Salerno a few days ago! We talked for an hour and she provided all sorts of advice, a bus schedule to return to Ravello (walking up the mountain was simply not an option on these shaking legs) and pointed me to the footpath to Amalfi. She also explained the town was preparing for a celebration for their Saint, Maria Magdellana, which is why the choir and the brass band were practicing.

The town of Amalfi was incredible though overrun with tourists.image I visited the church with its magnificent gold mosaics, had superb gnocchiimage with pesto and enjoyed window shopping but after an hour or so, I was ready to head back to Ravello, which was a 25 minute open air bus ride from Amalfi. It was one of those red tour buses that provided headphones to listen to the history of the area which I was happy to hear. Before leaving Amalfi on the tour bus, I watched a father teasing his daughter by grabbing her neck just like my brother, Owen, does. It’s this maneuver that tickles so badly it makes your knees buckle. I don’t know what language they were speaking as she screamed for him to stop, but I’ve always thought of it as something only Owen does.

I think these human similarities are striking me because I feel sort of like an alien here, or like a slightly different species than those around me. But then these very poignant commonalities appear, like Colomba describing her teenage son’s upcoming visit. She told me her 16 year old son was coming on the train from Bologna and she was afraid he would be bored and unpleasant. She said the last place he would want to be is hanging out with his mother, away from his friends in the city. I guess mothers of teenagers have things in common no matter how different our cultures may seem.

On the tour bus back to Ravello, I met a nice young woman, Diana, from Australia. We walked together and talked on our way to Villa Cimbrone, which is right next to my hotel where I was headed for a rest. We ended up stopping by the church of St. Francis of Assisi and enjoyed an interesting art exhibit in the church courtyard that I’d passed and missed several times. When it came time to part, I went to shake her hand but she gave me a big hug. So sweet!

That evening, I was sketching on the hotel balcony with a light early dinner (eating at 9 pm is leading to a late bedtime!) and a woman with the hotel approached and asked if I’d met an English family on my way up a couple of days ago. For a moment I was confused, wondering how she would be asking me this…then, I said yes! And she handed me a piece of paper saying it was a message for me. Remember the English family I mentioned a few posts back – the ones who so kindly helped me find my hotel and later invited me to dinner? As if those gestures weren’t already bursting with kindness, look at this!!!image

They took the time to find and email me! Between the view (which just about brings tears to my eyes) and this email, I was momentarily stunned and teary while rereading the message two or three times. She signed the email with the names of each family member and with her Facebook name, so now we can stay in touch. And I can direct them to my art blog, where, surprise, they’ve already had a starring role (see “Magical Ravello” post)! I know there are lunatics and hateful people in the world but thankfully there are also people like Colomba, Diana, and the Flude family whose kindness shines bright during this adventure. Salute!

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Magical Ravello

The view and my room are like something from a dream, or movie, imagesomething fiction, too colorful, too fragrant, to high up, too beautiful to be real. After a cold shower, I walked back down to the center of town. It is a square piazza with stores, cafés, restaurants and gardens around the perimeter with a large church as the central anchor.

What I first saw did not make sense to me. There was a group of the most beautiful people superbly dressed in front of an ancient looking structure called the Belvedere Di Villa Rufolo. There was a camera man filming another man and woman who were walking around speaking to various dignitary types. The people milling about in this area were the most fashionable, suave humans I have ever seen. I mean, I’ve never seen people so beautiful. Thank goodness I had the foresight to pack a good dress which I put on for tonight, though in this crowd, I do feel like quite a bumpkin. There were police following the mystery man and their uniforms were unbelievably tailored and formal and attractive…like no uniform I’ve ever seen.

I walked a bit further, trying to decide if I would splurge on the music festival that is currently scheduled for 5 nights at that Villa Rufalo. As I strolled by trying not to gawk, I heard organ music and singing, coming from the church, Saturday night mass. I then decided it would be foolish to skip the concert so I quickly found pizza, the best in my life, for a good price, too. Oh I forgot to mention in the last post, an English family felt sorry for me and offered to help me lug my luggage up the mountain…I refused but the father used his phone to get directions for me and they walked me to the entrance of my villa, which was so kind. We had a lovely visit on the way up. As I came back down to the Piazza for the evening, I glanced into an open air restaurant and there they were waving at me! I popped in to say hello and they invited me to join them for dinner! How incredibly nice is that? But I declined, not wanting to intrude on a family holiday – plus, I needed a quick bite if I was going to make that concert.

As I ate my pizza on a little bench, I asked a woman next to me (though I was almost scared to talk to her, she was so stunning) about the little fancy man with the police escorts. She said “politico importante” (or something like that). I figured for the film crew and police to be following him around, he had to be someone pretty well known (to everyone but me).

As I entered the gardens for the concert, I noticed a bottleneck up the way along a path and it was the little man and his entourage. I wish I’d learned his name! Okay, so I found my seat and out comes the head of the Ravello Music Festival to introduce the pianist. He has won Grammys and Emmys in the US and plays all over the world. When the pianist, Michel Camilo, took the stage, he spoke in Spanish and it was a relief! I’ve never been so glad to hear a language aside from my own. imageAnd when he played, oh, I’ve never heard anything like it. It was absolutely riveting. I wanted to yell “Te amo” but resisted. Didn’t want to be the idiot American standing up at a distinguished piano concert screaming like I did at Corey Hart in 1987. The stars were bright overhead, the temp was perfect with a slight breeze, the Amalfi coast was twinkling as the backdrop and the music was magical.

Once the concert dismissed, I came to the piazza for a sweet treat and a water. I accidentally ordered in Spanish and the man laughed and said I got lucky, he speaks Spanish. Skipping forward, I am sitting on the piazza, on a bench and have been surrounded by a group of teenagers. I wish I could understand them. They have all smiled at me and seem to not care that I sit amongst them. OK, they are literally sitting on the bench with me and singing. I’m a little freaked out. There are families everywhere including right here by me and children playing tag (I guess children of all ages and their parents hang out on the Piazza on Saturday night) and double Dutch jump rope.

I have not seen anyone with a cell phone out. Even these teen boys – in fact, I think the youngest person I’ve seen in Italy with a cell phone has been approximately 17 or 18. And these kids are all PLAYING and TALKING and SINGING. Is this for real? Ok, I can’t sit amongst these boys any longer. I just got up and asked in Spanish if I could take their picture. I wish I had used my cell so I could post the photo in the blog – help me remember to post it later. You won’t believe how cute they are. They all jumped in the get the picture and lined up along a railing together. When I said, “uno, dos, tres” they all yelled whatever Italians say instead of “cheese.” Oh my gosh, adorable!

With that, I must say goodnight.