Jul 2, 2007 - Nibbles    No Comments

L’Antica Trattoria

I took Rachel up to see the view from the pool area, and she fell in love with the hotel and the city too I’d say. It is an amazing panoramic view of the city pushed into the mountains all the way to the sea, and stretching out as far as the eye can see. My patio view isn’t half bad either, just not from the same vantage point. We finished my bottle of wine from the night before while sitting on the veranda.

So then we walked into Sorrento arriving just in time for our reservation at 20.00. Stepping into the restaurant it was easy to see we had made a great choice. The ambiance was unbelievable; I kick myself now as I realize I didn’t take a photo. Tables were properly set and waiting for water, champagne and wine. Aperitifs were brought out as soon as we were settled into our seats, champagne to follow. We were served an arrangement of delicious looking breads, and then we were served another with two very special rolls to try. We both went for the traditional tasting menu and we weren’t the least bit disappointed. Everything was unbelievable.

Today we’re either heading down the Amalfi Coast, or out to Capri. I’m meeting up with her after her Italian lesson and we’re going from there.

Jul 2, 2007 - Nibbles    No Comments

And then I met Rachel

So I woke up this morning thrilled to be on holiday. The air conditioning was perfectly tempered all night long; the sun was streaming in through the patio doors at just the right amount to let me know that it was indeed morning. I rolled over and dosed a bit more. I made my way upstairs for breakfast and a cappuccino that was made from a machine (can you believe it?!).

Back in my room I read for another chapter before deciding that, indeed, I was going to the Lido Meta Mare that Rick spoke of—alone. I took the train into Sorrento (the opposite direction of my ultimate direction) and wandered the square. I had originally considered having lunch in Sorrento, then picking up the bus from Piazza Tasso (Linea A) but then realized it was too early as it was just noon. I wound through the narrow alley of shops and knickknacks and back to the square to make my way to the sea. At the bus stop a girl came up and asked the woman beside me if she knew where Line A was. (I had confirmed I was in the right place with the shopkeeper standing watch as there was no listing for “Linea A” on any of the schedules posted at either side of the street). I turned and confirmed that she was in the right place. We started to chat with my attitude being just a bit reserved… why, I’m not sure, but this I recall. We learned we were both alone and hanging out, first I suggested dinner, and we sought our mobile numbers, which incidentally neither of us knew. Then I told her I was on the way to the beach, and she mentioned that she happened to have her swimsuit—we were on our way. And that’s how I met Rachel.

The sea was lovely, there was only one other international couple there that we ran into on our way in. Otherwise it was just us and the Italians. It was a rather large beach split up into at least three sections, and beyond large rocks and the public beach there was another section of beach just for the cluster of hotels. Entry was cheap, and the services were also inexpensive.

We’re back at my hotel for a brief shower, to finish my bottle of wine from last night and then to meander into Sorrento for dinner.

Jul 1, 2007 - Nibbles    No Comments

Serenity in Sorrento

I write sitting on the veranda overlooking the sea, Mount Vesuvius shrouded in fog at its base and church bells warning all of Mass (it’s 19.00). Two cannons shots dot the air with plumes of smoke at the nook between two mountains at the edge of town. It really is amazingly beautiful here. I started reading my book, Suite Française, on the train on the way here. It is moving, and I have a new appreciation for the writing given all that I’ve learned in the past two weeks.

Backing up a bit, I booked the hotel online last night and couldn’t really locate directions on how to get there (other than go to Sorrento).

I headed to the Termini this morning at about 8.30am (after cappuccino at Joe’s, of course!) and was dismayed to find that apparently “Seats may not be occupied at this time”, or something to that affect, means that the train is sold out. I bought a ticket for the 10.45 train (EuroStar, a fast one, not a bad trade) first class (that’s all there was) and found a place to relax and read overlooking the station. I reflected a moment or two on how I hadn’t had any issues with pick pocketing and wondered if I might observe some in action if I watched carefully enough. But my attention just wasn’t into it.

Time for boarding the train came quickly, the hour passed as if it were far less, and we were off. First class is nice… Cozy chairs, tables for working on, and stewards who serve juice and biscuits just as an airline. I sat across from an attractive young Italian with a humble—or perhaps uncertain—air who mistook me for being Italian myself. Arriving in Naples I found that I couldn’t yet buy a ticket for the local train, then realized that’s because they’re for sale in that area alone (like a bus ticket). Got on the train at the right platform, but it was bound for a slightly different direction. I, with many other Sorrento bound travelers, we redirected by the conductor and soon enough the right train came by. I took it to the end, just as much as the directions I did have instructed, and wandered down to the Foreigner’s Club to ask for a further idea of where my hotel might be. I knew I was out of the general area when they asked if I had a car. I had lunch at Ristorante d’Ante, or something close to that, and then took the train back one stop to Sant’Agnello.

Getting off I had a general idea of where I belonged (there was a map in the Sorrento station listing the hotels) but there wasn’t much signage to assist in getting my bearings. I headed off, at this point quite sweaty and ready for the pool, certain that I would (eventually) find my way. Streets were deserted; it was siesta time on Sunday. Ironically I wandered down a street (hoping to find Via Italia at the other end) where Hotel Angelina was. That’s where the girls were staying. Sure enough as I approached passing by the gate I heard familiar voices. They were surprised to see me, and the receptionist gave me a map to point me in the right direction.

I headed back the way I came, now bound without a doubt for the pool, stat! I found the large tree he referred to and headed up the hill. And then there was another hill. Then I finally came to the top, at least to where I belonged, my face as red as a ripe pomodoro and shining with perspiration of exertion I checked in at last. I was delivered to my room, and I showered and headed for the pool. More reading of my book, and finally here I am. Cannon’s are still going off in the not so distant distance, and the sun it setting with people finally moving to join me on the veranda. The crowd is an older casual aristocratic sort, mostly French. I’m having dinner in the hotel tonight, most places in town are closed, and apparently the restaurant here is quite good according to an enthusiastic recommendation from a gentleman at the pool. I made a reservation and have requested a view. Choosing what to wear unfortunately took but a moment. I didn’t bring much (my laptop and all else in my backpack) and I wish I had something just a little nicer. Oh well, it will do.

Jun 30, 2007 - Nibbles    No Comments

Instantous Italianous

This morning we had something of a poetry scavenger hunt. I need to complete the sketches assigned on the break because I didn’t keep up. We started in the Campo, our first pitch was to write a riddle about something we found there. Mine was:

Instantous Italianous
Fragrance your cocina
Preparation for a date
What am I?

I had been amused by the premixed spices you can pick up to create your own sauces. Must buy tons to take back home with me!

We checked out this building where there was a very cool perspective trick. (Find name of artist, starts with a “B”.) It was very cool, but unfortunately I knew the trick. Interestingly enough apparently the distance is 11 meters while the perspective cheats your eye into believing that it would be 33 instead.

I hurried home for a catch up cohort meeting picking up pizza from the place that Matt had suggested. I didn’t really care for it compared to others, but that might have been just the one I had chosen.

We met up again at the end of the day for “High Mass” at the park just to the right of the top of the Campodiligio. Every person read a poem or piece written from the past two weeks, and then Rick serenaded us with a collection of lines from what we had read. I believe he had at least one from everyone. It was brilliant. Then he bid us adieu with a few of his own. He’s clever and brilliant; it’s sad he’s going home.

I walked with Davida and Lisa on the way home and we stopped in the Ghetto for dinner at a place I’d noted several times called Giggelleto. It was really a charming place and dinner was quite good. Would love to take Brian and his family there.

I ended the evening with a drink at Joe’s working furiously to figure out a place to stay for the holiday. I finally gave in to reason (wasting too much time on searching for the “perfect place” is wasting as much as money) and settled on Hotel Cristina in Sant’Agnello (a neighborhood or neighboring town of Sorrento).

Jun 29, 2007 - Nibbles    No Comments

Truth is the relic sought…

Okay, so the week does seem long. I enjoy our days exploring sights of the city, but it is a bit exhausting especially when it spills into the weekends as well. I can’t wait for our upcoming four day holiday! That having been said, Friday seemed to be another day to drag myself out of bed with complaints of being tired. We headed off to San Clemente, Laurie and I walking together the whole way (it’s past the Colosseum). The morning was actually fairly cool, so it was a nice walk. It turns out that the Church doesn’t open the museum until noon, so we had all arrived two hours too early. No worries, Carol and Alex gave presentations on the Mythraic cult, and Sarah and Poppy told us about the ancient Christians who apparently secretly worshipped in the adjoining structure separated by a tiny hallway, both buried beneath the current structure of the Church.

A fraternity of dogs came to play in the fountain at which we were gathered and we gave way and headed into the Museum. Again, an amazing experience. I must do research to determine what went on here. They say that the Apostle Paul (or was it Peter?) met here in secret with the earliest Christians in Rome.

Our pitch was of “relics”. My sketch was of controversy, too abstract, not a tangible object, but I defended my position.

“Paradise lost, though not regained
As Milton would have us told
Truth is the relic sought…”

Laurie and I met up with Lelo (Francesco) to go grab something to eat. He took us to a pizza place just around the corner on the way to Piazza Navona called Monte Carlo’s. It was yummy yummy. Loved their zuccina fiori. Laurie picked up the tab (must pay her back), and then we headed to Joe’s for a drink before sacking out. I was a bit tipsy, and was exhausted by the time I passed out.

Jun 28, 2007 - Nibbles    No Comments

The Maze that was the Vatican Museum

Kelsey and I walked through the museum together. We went at about 12.30pm and virtually walked right in. There were about five people ahead of us to buy tickets in the student line. There was a ticket counter with no wait at all. We raced through the museum. I wanted to see Raffaello’s paintings, and she didn’t really want to be there at all. The School of Athens is her favorite painting though, so we trekked as fast as we possibly could through the maze of rooms, halls and people to Raffaello’s stanzas.

Funny note, as we were walking along the grand hallway with the gold ornamental and frescoed ceiling about to step into the next room a young boy in front of us exclaimed in awe “Oh god, oh god, oh my god!” for a moment I thought he was like all the others who were all too eager in anticipation for the Sistine Chapel thinking each successive room was “the” one… the words to accompany his exclamation of awe cleared up any confusion… “Oh my god… air conditioning!”

Though we would have loved to avoid it, and its irreverent people, we ended up pushed along into the Sistine Chapel. We were both in shock at how virtual every person had camera raised above their head flashing away taking photos, and silence wasn’t even a consideration. Almost made you wonder if they’d designated the day as a free-for-all for amateur photographers? Where was imposing baritone voice intoning “No fotos” and “Silencio”?

Jun 27, 2007 - Nibbles    No Comments

Walking in the City of the Dead

Today we got up early and headed to a bus which took us about an hour out of the city to Cerveteri to the ancient Etruscan’s city of Necropoli. This was an interesting experience, tombs which you climb down into… a whole city of them. It was a very peaceful area and contradictory to its name the city was brimming full of life.

We headed to Tarquinia for lunch and checked out the museum there. The view of the sea was beautiful from this hilltop town. After making the rounds in the museum and capturing a snapshot of yet another built in seat nestled next to the window (perhaps you’ve noticed the trend in my photos?) I wandered the streets. I found a music school with a stage all set waiting for an audience to perform for.

Next we checked out another set of tombs, these with frescos inside. The burial place was set atop the hill and again the view was amazing. One tomb held a racy scene… interesting to see what some choose as their backdrop in preparation for the ‘afterlife’.

Jun 26, 2007 - Nibbles    No Comments

What is for real, and what’s for sale?

This was the first time that we have bothered to take the bus and metro. Laurie and I rose early to meet the group at Bruno in the Campo, but alas no one was to be found. We bought tickets at the Tabacchi and headed to Largo Argentina to pick up the first bus headed to the Termini (40 or 64). We arrived safely and picked up the train to Cinecittá, the next to the last stop on line A, if I recall correctly. On arrival we exited the station and arose from the underground into our group clustered around the corner café.

A short walk, and past the mall of 100 stores (where incidentally the Rome Center Director would never shop!) we found our way to the second gate of the Cinecittá which is occasionally labeled #31. One is left to wonder if they occasionally consider a sign of more permanence and stature. A round man met us and was to be our guide. The Director (what is her name?) of the center our translator.

At Cinecittá they keep the sets that are built around, deteriorating and dilapidated, just in case they might be of use again. To our right sits a train, on our left a jagged rock wall, a façade of course. We enter a long cylinder link domed tent where a replica of a submarine is housed. I can’t remember for what movie it was made, but it is true in detail except of the width of the galley walkway which was enlarged to make way for the cameramen and equipment. I stole up the portal above into a small room with gauges and a life vest. It all is so authentic—if it weren’t for the readings frozen in time, dials painted to look like glass, and wood where there ought to be metal with.

Outside again ants swarm below our feet and we learn of magnesium snow. It sounds like the real thing under foot, and packs together authentically too. Onward to the replica makers yard. Italy requires that any replica either be larger or smaller than the original, however this one studio alone is able to be true to the original. They make nearly everything, and the yard reminds me of the abandoned pieces in the terror of boy’s room in the house next door. A tiny house to gain perspective, even in the photo you must look twice.

Then we enter a Piazza, but this one is like all else, not real. In time’s passing you can now determine the seams of the 1 meter by 1 meter squares which make up the scene. I can’t help but feel the irony as we settle in on the stairs taking a momentary break, stairs as if they are stairs, in a Piazza as if it were a Piazza.

We then press onward towards the set of “Gangs of New York”. We walk through time and in a curious turn I take of my own I step through a wooden palette worn thin. Sheepishly I return to the group, seemingly none surprised it was I that caused the disturbance. Exiting the fake city we pass by a giant white wall where scenes are superimposed.

We walk down a street that once was a scene from New York, now adapted to be Italian. Posters paper the wall at the end, each certainly individually designed to belong and fit in. I ask Kevin, “What’s that word for when something appears in art or movie that isn’t actually from the time period?” he answers and again I’ve forgotten.

No more cameras–we’re approaching the area where the HBO series “Rome” is filmed. During filming it is a secured set, no one allowed anywhere near. But it is off season and when a truck exits the area shrouded in ribboned privacy fencing we see through the gate. Greece to the left, Italy to the right; It’s quite a sight to behold.

We then step to the entrance of the Studio 5 (what is the word?). This is where Fellini, Mel Gibson and others recreate reality piece-by-piece in a contained environment. The guard/tour guide tells us of how he disturbed the set during filming of the “Passion of the Christ”, he had reached through the veil enclosing the space—he had just wanted to touch the leaves of a tree. Gibson was very angry yelling at him.

Winding up our tour we walk through the museum like common house with posters memorializing each movie. Ben Hur was filmed here! A humongous infamous statue from the movie is just outside as we exit.

The whole way through the tour I just keep hearing the lyrical line “What is for real, and what’s for sale” in my head.

Returning home I chat with Rick on the metro, then lead the small group to quickly board the next bus about to leave, going our way. I locate the leather shop (La Pella) that he suggested for the more commercial leather goods. I debate a bag and wonder if I should just have one made, or would I miss the intricacies of my own well loved bag.

Jun 25, 2007 - Nibbles    No Comments

Dusty, dirty and hot

Monday we walked through the Forums and it was very hot. Somehow that just seemed right. Walking through I looked up to notice high above all else, at the top of a steeple, and at the base of the holy symbol of Christianity, a blossom of green. I was stunned – how does a plant end up there? From what is it growing? There is no ground, is life springing forth from a seed carried by wind or bird and in the soil of years worn cement into dust just reminiscent of dirt that a blossom takes hold?

After I went to the Coliseum, again I make note that it was hot. But I hadn’t seen this site last time and figured I would get the task out of the way so next time people hear I’ve traveled to Rome I might answer affirmatively to the next question… “Did you see the Colosseum?” Thanks to our group ticket from the Forum I was able to skirt the winding, sweaty and grumpy crowd snaking its way to the Ingresso. In line I met a charming group; I smiled at their accents, and smiled again when they affirmed my Carolinian suspicions—a family plus others, visiting from Raleigh.

I am happy that I went to the Colosseum because the museum had an exhibit of Eros, one of the five Greek forms of love, and Greek god. I enjoyed the exhibit (I love Hellenistic sculpture, especially of female form) and took a few requisite photos of the Colosseum itself.
Returning home was like a trek through hell. Did I mention that it was hot? I tore through the Forums as fast as possible, stopping once to refill my water bottle whereupon a woman informed me that others are also waiting (in line). My humor failing I nodded and reminded her that I had been waiting first. American’s are rude, I felt no shame in my rightful claim, only in that I responded to the erroneous sarcastic commentary from a New Jersey housewife surely accustomed to preferential treatment.

I returned home for a quick cold shower, redress for siesta and lunch.

Jun 24, 2007 - Nibbles    No Comments

Poetry and Prose

I woke this morning surprisingly stable relative to the previous evening’s taxation. A quick cappuccino at Joe’s before heading up the stairs for Rick’s lecture. There was a small but eclectic group there. Didn’t see some I would have expected, and was surprised at others who did make it.

To follow are my notes from his lecture, and noting that “lecture” sounds far too formal for the relaxed time spent in the Prowl.

Poetic utterance versus oral speech. We confuse language as being informational… Verbal utterance as being only a vessel into which we pour information.

“Poetry is what gets lost in translation”.

We take in the world in stereo, with both head and heart. Our culture tends to denigrate the emotional. Epiphanic. Art to bring emotion to focus via emotional intelligence.

“Poetry is a device designed to go off in your head [or heart].”

Poetry is like a violin—you’ll get better with practice. Directed practice is better than random.

“The soul is chained to a dying animal.”

Three methods to get at this animal:

  1. Phanopia-Fantasy, an image through the eye, metaphor and image
  2. Melopia-through the ear, meter and rhyme
  3. Logopia-through the effects of language which have tonal consequence, linguistics

Any appeal to the sensorial is an image.

Robert Frost’s aspiration: “to put a few poems where they are difficult to dislodge”

Keats, once thought it was “archaic diction”.

“Keep your pencil on the city and describe what you see.”

Trust the image (to evoke emotion).Catch your mind in the act of attention. Make note of it. A moment of arrested attention.The abstracts which you feel looking at the rose petal crushed into the cobble is more important. Don’t look for meaning. Record what you notice. When you write you find your feelings. Don’t write to express your feelings.

“If I had a camera to protect myself from the experience…” get out from behind the camera.

Something, an image, which has meaning ruins the poem, makes it cliché. Don’t paint the perfect picture full of meaning. Just write what you see. Let the reader ascribve meaning.

[Poetry is (?)] emotion recollected in tranquility. Maintain negative capability – don’t judge, it is your job just to receive [the image].

Poetry and prose: the difference is line breaks. Prose proceeds, verse reverses.

Suggested reading: The Rattlebag, an anthropology.

My Sketch:

Leather soles on the marble stairs
The souls softer by the dust and
Grit of the cobbled streets

Slapping of flops and flipping