Tales of a wandering lesbian

Monday in Barga

My first Monday was spent in Barga.  Sandra went off to teach art to middle-school kids, and I tagged along with Debbie to Barga. Mind you, each of these little snippets merits its own full post, but that will have to wait until a bit later.  The days are so full that I’m settling for recaps at this point.  More to come.

I spent the first while exploring the gallery, and then joined her, her mother and Andre for the second cappuccino of the day.

Monday cappu

The gallery is great.  Even more abundant and beautiful than I remember.  The warmth of the women whose work hangs on the walls emanates powerfully throughout the space.

Arteimmagine sign

Coffee with Deb’s mom and Andre included an instructive session in how to run from the police.

Running with Andre

And a terrific mess.

Breakfast Mess

It seriously looked like a tornado had hit by the time we left.  Tornado Andre!

The rest of the morning consisted of some sitting meditation at the duomo, and a great deal of wandering and picture-taking.

Steps to DuomoDuomo DrainBarga Duomo

Lunch was with Deb’s mom and this time her eldest nephew, Luigi.  Luigi was doing his homework, if a bit reluctantly.  Excellent!  The night before, Sandra gave me some preschool books of Tommy’s, so that I can improve my Italian language.  Sitting with Luigi was wonderful practice.  Sadly, he started in September, so he’s quite far ahead of me.  In fact, the dogs know more Italian than I do.  Talk about humbling.

While I’m totally thrilled to be practicing vocab, Luigi isn’t super excited to be teaching me.  When we left, his grandmother was standing guard to make sure he got his homework completely finished.

Homework time

What Luigi doesn’t know is that I’m set to be his babysitter when needed.   I’ll be using the axe.

We then headed to the next installment of the photo shoots for Deb’s humane society calendar.  This time, we ended up at a beautiful villa overlooking the river.

Italian Menageria

The owners had quite the menagerie, including:

Brown catFluff catWhite cat

a cancerous cat, an overly vocal cat, and a cat who had been run over (note the not-quite-right jawline), as well as two dogs (both shelter) a stray donkey – and they had recently relocated a stray chicken.  Wow.  Oh yes, and these people are also from England.

After the photo shoot, it was back to Barga where Deb met with a friend from the “Equal Opportunity Commission,” an engaging woman (in Italian only) who pored over the computer with Deb for several hours while I ventured out again.  This time, I headed to the Vodafone store, to pick up a wireless internet drive.  I was able to speak enough Italian to tell the woman I was sorry that I didn’t speak well and find that she spoke perfect, Scottish, English.  Bonus.  Unfortunately, they were out of drives.  Bummer.  So, it’s another week, maybe,  but that’s alright, really.  I hear the library has free internet access, and it looked like there was a pretty nice internet café across from the Vodafone store.

On the way back to the gallery, I realized I was in need of a mid-afternoon pick-me-up and had never gone to the Barga Gellateria when I was here last time.  Due to my extensive wandering early in the morning, I knew right where it was.  So, I gathered my euro and my vocab words and headed there alone.

I’m pretty sure the woman behind the counter could speak English, but she was kind enough to humor me as I asked her what went well with “amorena,” winter cherry.  She rattled off a list of flavors, and the only one I really heard was ricotta.  “Ricotta?” “Si, con figgi.”  Figgi!  I learned that word last time when we had the most amazing fig tart ever.  So, I ordered a cup of amorena and ricotta con figgi.  My first fully Italian interaction.  I even understood the cost as she said it to me the first time. Brava!

Gelato number 1

Mom, this one’s for you.

I cruised on up the hill to the memorial for some dude (Deb told me his name, but I can’t remember, but he must be important, because he has a park and a statue.  Together, we enjoyed gelato.  I think I enjoyed it more than he did, frankly.

Once back at the studio I sat down to write a bit.  After maybe an hour, Sandra appeared on her way to a “political reunion.”  She asked if I wanted to go with her, and after a moment’s hesitation, I jumped up.  More politics?  Perhaps.  More politics where I really don’t understand the language, and don’t have any requirements?  Absolutely.  The women who had run in the last election were getting together – from two opposition parties – along with the head of the library and the head of culture for the reason, to talk about ideas for recognizing violence against women day.  This meeting really will need its own post.  Suffice it to say that it was fascinating to watch and listen.

Deb joined us toward the end and the three of us headed home for a lovely meal of homemade minestrone, beans and more.  Climbing into bed, I saw that Sandra had rearranged my sleeping quarters, decorating my bed with cozy pillows and making more room.  Va bene.

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October 27, 2009   5 Comments

More Voting

So, after our exciting day of horses and dogs, we went voting – again.  The ladies joked that I’m starting to look more and more like a spy.  Too funny that I would hit elections both times I’m here.  Last time it was the local races, as well as the EU election.  This time, it was a party election for the secretary of the Democratic Party.  (I think.)

This time, we went voting with Deb’s family in Barga and then in Fornacci with Sandra.  This is the same area Sandra ran for city council in last time I was here, and it was fun to recognize some of the people.  (I wonder if they recognized me  –  the stranger who never speaks and only shows up at election time.)

There were some differences this time.

1.  They had to pay 2 Euro each to vote.


Fascinating.  Something like 2.5 million people voted (you didn’t have to be a member of the Democratic Party to vote), so the party made a cool 5 million Euro.  It was a record turnout for a minority party, which is interesting to political types.

2.  I wasn’t nearly arrested.  I wasn’t wearing a political button, but I did take some pictures.  I didn’t want to make people nervous, but Deb said it was fine, so I busted out the camera.  (Seriously, these people have to wonder what the hell I’m doing there.)

FlagsPicture 081Select your secretary

After voting, we headed to dinner with Deb’s family and some friends of theirs who are in town from England.  I swear I’ve met more people who are primary English speakers than Italian.  We had dinner at Caffe Capretz, a place that serves excellent pizzas.  While I was voting with the ladies, Deb’s sister ordered me this amazing masterpiece.  (Funny side story – like there’s a main story – when she told the owner that she wanted a vegetarian pizza he said, “okay, I’ll put some speck on it.”  This is something my grandfather would say.)  Deb had the “smiley” calzone.   Dessert was panna cotta with amarena (winter cherries)

Capretz pizzaCapretz calzonePanna Cotta Capretz

At dinner, Deb’s youngest nephew, Andre, who is maybe 1 and a half, made friends with Bepe, the owner.  By the end of the night, he had learned his name, and Bepe brought him a special mandarin orange.  It reminded me of when my family traveled to Greece and the head of the kitchen used to bring my sister a bowl of special Queen Anne cherries.  When Andre saw Bepe this morning, he called out “Bepe!” and ran over to see him.

Pepe i Andre

On the way home from dinner we had one of those great moments where we were all talking and laughing, and Sandra was enjoying it so much that she asked Deb to keep driving so that we could keep enjoying.  As we snaked through the roads of a town above Fornacci, Debbie came to a stop, with the headlights illuminating a wondrous thing.


Deb suggested that I must take a picture.  Well, yes, of course, but as I looked at the table I was overcome.  Tommy and I hopped out and reassembled the parts.  How could we not?  I’m like a 14 year old boy, and he IS a 14 year old boy.

Foosball assembly

There was even a ball!  Sandra and I tested it out.  Our hands flew, and the players whirred as they spun around.  The ball just rolled lazily around.  We had re-assembled the table, only to find out that the reason it had been abandoned was that the deck was so warped that the players could no longer reach the ball.  No worries!

Artists at War

The table came off the ground as we wrestled the table through the air.  Sandra labeled the experience, “artists at war.”  Fantastico!

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October 27, 2009   Comments Off on More Voting