Tales of a wandering lesbian

Fornaci on ice

Yesterday was another good day.  After a couple of hard days, I was able to settle back into my surroundings and really enjoy where I am.

The morning was filled with the usual routine:  coffee, breakfast, a trip to the fashion outlet, work in the studio.  You know, the usual.  Lunch was a makeshift affair, during which I made one of the tastiest sandwiches ever from some wonderful bread, eggs, cheese and zuccnini.

Best sandwich ever

While at the house of Luigi and Andre, I learned about a tradition where the kids leave their Christmas lists out in their boots for Santa’s elves to pick up.

Elf Boots

Evidently a candle is left out for the elves to blow out.  That’s how you know they’ve been there.  That and the trail of glitter they leave.  It seems like a rather messy tradition to me, but I was assured that it’s really quite wonderful.

After lunch, I hiked up to the duomo.  I hadn’t been up there for a while, and it was a beautifully blustery winter day.  The views from the duomo are fantastic.  The town of Barga stretches out beneath it and the alps reach up from the horizon.

Pane from duomo

I walked in front of the duomo to snap a picture, and saw its doors standing open.  I realized I hadn’t been inside yet!  Insanity.  So I pulled off my little knit hat and ducked inside.  The duomo is beautiful.  It’s dark, but beautiful.  I took a moment to let my eyes adjust and then walked around a bit.  A lone photographer was crouched in front of the famous pulpit, trying to capture the light on the marble lions.  I didn’t even try.  My little camera is no match for dark spaces.

I walked up to one of the side chapels to light a candle for my families – American and Italian.   These were the electric variety, so I plunked in my coin, picked one out and plugged it in.  And I chuckled.

Electric duomo candles

Then I turned back to the cathedral door.  I’d forgotten how beautiful the view is from inside the duomo itself.  I can understand why people travel here for special ceremonies.

Pane from inside duomo

I took a couple of minutes to absorb the beauty of the mountains, then headed down the hill back into the town itself.  This weekend is a long weekend, due to the feast of the immaculate conception.  Yes, Italy shuts down for a couple of days to celebrate the immaculate conception.  In Barga the weekend also happens to be a celebration of chocolate.  “Barga Ciocolata” is in town.  Many of the storefronts that usually sit empty are filled with chocolate vendors.  There are tents with chocolatiers hocking their goods, and little ciocolata calda stands everywhere.

Barga ciocolata

The town is alive with chocolate-crazed tourists and locals hopped up on sugar and cocoa, and possibly thoughts of virgin mothers – hard to say.  The chocolate really seemed primary.  After making a circuit of the chocolate route, I picked out a little ciocolata calda stand that looked like it was a non-profit fundraiser, and bought 4 cups to take back to the studio.  Once I got back there, I looked up the words from the sign on the little table.  I was glad to find out it was the anti-leukemia society.   I hadn’t been sure exactly what I was supporting, but the ladies selling the chocolate were nice – and smoking.

The chocolate was divine.

Ciocolata Calda

The ladies had some kind of electric chocolate pot that warmed up the mixture.  They just pushed a button and sat back.  I need one of these magic pots, I think.  I walked around the bustling town, enjoying the excitement of a destination location.  The hilltop town of Barga in the midst of one of its festivals reminds me a bit of the sleepy Idaho town I grew up in.  One day it’s dead-quiet and the next inundated with an influx of visitors.  It might feel like an invasion to some, but the ebb and flow of this kind of place is a comfort to me.  New people bring new dollars, but they also bring smiles.  In a small town, where everyone knows everyone else’s business, it can seem easier to smile at strangers.

We drank our chocolate, packed up, and headed down the hill.  On the way down, we were treated to a spectacular light show that also reminded me of Idaho.

Barga/Fornaci sunset

The sunset was soft and pink and dramatic on the newly snow-covered mountains.

The day belonged to Barga, but the night to Fornaci.  I had a date.  The main square of Fornaci had been flooded to make an ice skating rink, and I’d promised Tommy I’d go with him.  This was the night.  But it was cold.  So, I reached into the closet, pulled out several layers of Icebreaker and got myself ready for some serious fun.

One of the bonuses of growing up in a world-famous ski resort is the excellent winter sports opportunities it presents.  Sun Valley is known for its ski hills, but it also has a pair of Olympic-sized ice rinks.  The Sun Valley Ice Shows are legendary.  My sister and I even spent one season testing whether we were cut-out for competitive skating.  It turns out we were not – but we did get to skate with folks like Scott Hamilton in one of the shows.  What that means is that, while I’m not a good skater, I’m not terrible, either.  And I like to go fast.  The best day I had on the ice ever was the day I rented a pair of speed skates and spent a couple of hours being told to slow down.

(Sidenote:  I’ve seriously considered joining the Rose City Roller Derby.  Like in rugby, I’m not big, but I’m fast, so I think I could make it work.  I’ve already picked out my moniker:  Maxi Pad.  I figure I’ll put padding all over my outfit just in case.  Let me know what you think.)

So Tom and I rented our skates (which were blue plastic hockey-type skates, and soaking wet inside) and headed out onto the bumpy rink.  The rinks I’m used to are pretty big, and smooth.  The rinks at Sun Valley kick people off every hour or so to clean the ice with a Zamboni.  This ice on the little piazza in Fornaci is a week old, and has endured several days of rain.  Tom assured me that it was smooth the first day.  Regardless, it was great – just a little extra challenging.

Piazza ice

The scene put me back 20 years (I can’t believe I can remember 20 years ago) to an outdoor rink where the boys in the skating club were playing “chicken” and jokingly challenged the girls, thinking nobody would bite.  I can remember the look on Clay Josephie’s face as I looked up at him from the ground after running headlong into him.  Shock and amusement.  It’s a shame the women’s hockey league didn’t start up until after I left Idaho.

Anyway, we did a lap together, and then Tommy found some of his friends who were watching.  He seemed content chatting and skating little bits at a time.  I, on the other hand, took a couple of warm-up laps, remembering how to push off out of the cross-over , and turned up the speed.  And then I fell.  It was a great, flailing, turning, choppy, nearly-recovered fall.  Hockey skates are very different from figure-skates.  They’re really maneuverable, but they don’t have the comb on the front of the blade that you can use to stop yourself.  If you try, you will fall.  Consider that a public service announcement.

There were so many people crammed onto the little rink that I couldn’t go very fast, so the fall was more humorous than anything.  I ended up skating into and picking up people more times than I fell, and only one boy pushed me (clearly jealous of my super-cool cross-over).  I even controlled myself when a girl who looked about 12 darted out in front of me, raced into the corner, crossed-over, and looked back at me.  I wanted to take a few running steps and spray her with ice.  But I didn’t.  I’m much more mature than that – I’m like 14.

After an hour, I was tired.  I’d been skating hard.  Tom, however, was ready for more.  “10 minuti, Tom, okay?”  “Si!  Or 20 or 40…”  Fortunately, the rink closed in 20 minutes, so our fun was coming to a close.  My feet were not so happy with me, and my right hip-flexor was ready for a break.  I kept thinking “okay, 2 more laps and it’s time to go”.  Eventually, I wrangled Tommy, and we headed home for taco night.

That’s right, folks, taco night!  I’d picked up tortillas, chips, salsa and refried beans.  These were all specialty items and there wasn’t much selection.  The chips came in a tiny little bag, and the beans looked like they’d been on the shelf for years.  While the others had chicken tacos, I served up veggie tacos with cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, peppers and leeks.  Super-yummy!

Veggie taco

These were a staple when Leigh and I would cook.  If you haven’t tried making tacos with veggies, try it.  Just start with the slowest cooking veggies first and basically stir fry them with taco seasoning.

We all had fun assembling our tacos and sharing our different techniques:  mozzarella cheese substituted for cheddar and refried beans made their debut in the household.

Bruised and contentedly-full, we all climbed into pajamas to watch a movie with Luigi, who was spending the night.  All said, it was a pretty perfect day, what with the chocolate and skating and tacos and pajamas and all.

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December 8, 2009   Comments Off on Fornaci on ice