April 3rd, 2006
Saturday morning I’m off to Pistoia on the train. I am listening to Italian music on my Discman (because I’m too primitive to own an ipod) and looking out the window as we pass green hills with villas in the distance, as well as shabby apartments along the railroad tracks. My heart is swollen and the butterflies in my stomach are making me well aware of their presence. This always happens to me in Tuscany. I love it here. This is my favorite place in the world and I am sad that I’ll have to leave it yet again. I find consolation in the thought that I have almost enough airmiles for another trip.In Pistoia, I meet Stefania at the train station. (Her mother is the cousin of my late grandfather, Roy.) She is definitely a Ferrari, lively, welcoming, elegant, vivacious. We immediately find a connection and together we go to the house in which she lives with her husband David, and their three gracious children. The house is grande and feels cool, in contrast to the warmth outside. The siz of us converse in the living room about our relatives, places we’ve been, and languages. Before long we sit down to a lunch of ravioli, chicken, spinach… dessert is the best gelato I’ve had (chocolate and vanilla, simply) – Stefania purchased it at a gelatteria owned by a Sicilian. It is incredibly rich and creamy in a way that is so hard to find. yum.
Off to her mother’s house. It is so strange and fun to think that I am sitting across from my grandpa’s cousin, chatting in Italian. She fondly remembers my great-grandparents (Ottavio and Antoinetta – who I was named after and also went by Tina) and shows me a picture of her mother, Angela Ferrari (sister of Ottavio). After a while Stefania’s sister (can’t remember the name) arrives with her husband. In hand she has a photograph of my cousins Angela and Francesca with her children and Stefania’s children. She is so excited to hear all about the family in Seattle. On the way to the train station where I am to board a train to Lucca, she takes me a little bit through the centre of Pistoia. It’s a shame that I can’t stay longer but I already made plans in Lucca with my other relatives and I would like to get there before its too late.
In Lucca, Stefano and Gina meet me at the train station and it is immediately decided that we should go to Viareggio. Half an hour later we are walking on a street that passes along the Mediterranean Sea. We pass fancy apartments and palm trees, as well as expensive shops. The air is warm with a nice fresh breeze and everything smells good. Gina and Stefano look great – and as usual, Gina wears an artistic necklace and her hair is gorgeous, thick and curly. Stefano is starting to look more distinguished, and the look in his eyes has softened – he is sweeter than ever. We take an aperitivo (little drink with a little snack) before returning to Lucca to greet his parents and drop off my things.
Anna and Dodicino are there waiting for me and it’s splendid to see them. Before heading to Stefano and Gina’s for dinner, we head next door to visit Anna’s sister Graziella and her husband Gianfranco. Graziella isn’t doing very well at all and is pretty much bed-ridden, and they are not sure why. But, her sparky spirit is still there and she speaks with passion – her eyes still twinkle. But it is still very sad to see her like this, and I feel bad for poor Gianfranco.
Sunday morning, Stefano arrives with wet hair, much to Anna’s chagrin. She yells for him to go upstairs and dry his hair before he catches a cold! (Mind you the sun is out and it’s warm). He collects me and we pick up Gina, and soon we are on our way to Porto Venere, just south of the Cinque Terre. The weather is just fabulous for a day on the sea, and I snap away with my camera. I enjoy how the houses on the water are all so close together and painted different colors, for a perfect contrast against the sea and sky. Lunch is taken at a nearby restaurant – basically a mixed grill of various fish. That with some white wine, and I am satisfied.
Next stop, the Cinque Terre. We stop in Riomaggiore and I see terraces at different levels for the vines, and more houses close together and colored so diversely. We ascend one of the trails and I continue photographing the sea, until we reach a point right in the sun and sit and rest, watching people walk to and fro, speaking all sorts of different languages. After a while we decide we are too warm and we descend, finding a gelatteria where I choose a scoop of lemon and a scoop of strawberry. mmm. mm.
Dinner is at Anna and Dodicino’s and it is dramatic (for me anyway). Before we commence the first course, Anna laments for about 5 minutes that Stefano has given me too little of a serving of pasta al forno. I say I am satisfied, but she doesn’t believe me. She urges him to give me more. It’s this whole argument and I am defensively covering my plate to make sure I don’t get served more (I have plenty!). In the end, Anna grabs my plate and swaps it with hers, which has a bigger serving. (It’s so good I have no problem finishing it!) And this is how the rest of dinner goes. I find, however, that the best way to get them to stop serving me so much food, is to eat slowly. Works like a charm. It takes me forever to finish everything (I am doing a really good job) and the timing is just perfect with the courses. They still urge me to eat, eat, eat – but this time I am determined to preserve the comfort of my stomach. Before bedtime, I sit in the livingroom with Dodicino and we watch part of a teeny-bopper film starring Lindsay Lohan, dubbed over in Italian.
Monday around 11 or so, Dodicino takes me into the centre of Lucca, and gives me a tour of the cathredal, the ampitheatre, and the centre in general. He talks the whole time, about his childhood, the history of Lucca, war, architecture, Stefano,a bit of everything. When he needs to make a point, he stops walking so he can really drive it home. He seems delighted to have someone new to chat with and walk with. He leaves me at Piazza Napoleone and we agree that when I am done wandering around, to call and they will come and get me. Once he leaves, I heave a big sigh – I am a little exhausted from straining to understand his Italian, which he speaks quickly and with a Tuscan accent. It’s time for a walk on the city walls, and a little bit of relaxation…The centre is void of locals (who are all at work) and bustling of tourists. The sun peeks from behind buildings, and the air is sweet. It’s time for a coffee…