Monday, September 22, 2014

on this day...

I am about to enter San Francesco in Arezzo, a church of magnificent 16th century frescoes, but I pause because from a small corner trattoria, I hear the sound of Italian music. A waiter is singing along. Familiar to him notes and lyrics. My daughters will attest that if there is one genre of music that steadily carried me from late adolescence into adulthood it is Italian pop. My little girls learned to dance with mom to the tunes of Fiorella Mannoia.

So I enter the trattoria and I ask the waiter what it is and now you can listen to it as well as you read on.

Like the road that winds and climbs either to the left or right from my olive farm, the railroad line, too, runs from Rignano sull'Arno to the west (final destination: Firenze, 38 minutes) or to the east (final destination: Arezzo, 58 minutes).

I'd never been to Arezzo.

I know, I know, I know! You're reading this and you immediately want to remind me that, as a rule, day excursions to cities have let me down. But I think there is another rule out there that I like: you can't be rigid about rules.

I will tell you now: Arezzo is to become my gem. My exception.

But let's go back to the start of the day. To the first look out my window.


And to explain why there is no breakfast photo: a half a yogurt and a half a peach deserve no commemoration.

I have trepidations about setting out. They say there will be storms in the valley. I am fine with storms once I am sitting comfortably on the train to Arezzo, but there is that hour walk each way, to and from the station.


The world belongs to the brave. (Besides, it's not storming at the moment!). I set out.


It's good to see Rignano sull'Arno wake up from its sleepy Sunday. The road is now full of tractors going to the fields for the harvest...


The grocery store welcomes a delivery of zucchini flowers and these mushrooms.


A woman buys a bouquet -- for her table? A gift? For the grave of a beloved?


It is still a very plain looking town though. Even the train station is drippy looking.


But with lovely, friendly, helpful people, ready to assist with the complicated business of purchasing a ticket on the machines that have replaced ticket agents at railway stations. And here's a visual upside: it is, after all, on the River Arno.


Is it the contrast to the starkness of Rignano sull'Arno that leads me to be overwhelmed (really that) by the beauty of Arezzo? Or is it because I love Florence and this is like a small version of it, only without the tourists? I know I myself am a tourist and so I mustn't make disparaging comments about the likes of me and I love places like Florence and Paris despite the millions who flock there, but it really is so extraordinarily beautiful to behold the streets of Arezzo and only once hear English spoken here. I am completely spared the crowds. I almost cannot believe it.

The San Francesco church has frescoes that leave you gaping. Only a handful of people are there, looking up.



This stunning church of San Domenico has not a single person in it. Imagine stepping in to it and being completely alone with the soft colors of the frescoed walls.


You could enter the cathedral, too and be awed in silence. (Rows of confessionals, also empty. The vast majority of Italians does not attend church services.)


And the streets, too, have the traffic of a busy Monday in the city (Arezzo's population is at around 100,000). They have not (yet) been taken over by visitors.




There is a quirkiness here that is also beguiling.



It's as if Arezzo is still trying to capture your attention. I'm grateful for its effort!


I have my "breakfast" here...


As I walk up the streets of the historic center, the storms never quite materialize. The sun will be out as a few drops of rain catch me by surprise and it's all rather magical.


As is the Casa Vasari Museum (I'll spare you the history. Just think: friend of Michelangelo and architect of some of the most important buildings in Florence. Just one fresco for you -- of a writer's muse.)


As is the magnificent Piazza Grande.


From both sides.


The time in Arezzo flies. But I do need to fit in a real meal. I go to a place that seems popular with Italians (I have no idea if they're local) -- il Saraceno. (I see that the website has an English translation, but the menu at the restaurant surely doesn't have one and I'm grateful that Italian menus, unlike the French ones, are not written to test your knowledge of the esoteric.)


I order the porcini soup -- with thick with chunks of that flavorful mushroom -- followed by a salad with grains, eggs and artichokes.


And then it's just a short skip and run to the railroad station and a dreamy ride back to Rignano sul'Arno.

And a very tough walk back to the farm (because I am hot and just a tad walked out), where I dive right into the pool, polka dots be damned.


As I get back to my little studio house, I see that the internet is down.

Well okay, The Woman (whom I find out is The Wife) hasn't left yet.

Ah, but she is packing. And obviously preoccupied. Moving out. Big stuff. A family is breaking up and here I am nagging about the internet not working at the residence that she, as of today, will no longer be calling home.

It is very hard to insert your own petty issues into the drama of someone's life. And yet, my evening is now lonely as well. I can't talk to people back home. I can't post. I can't read email, I can't respond to comments. And I have no idea if this is a general problem or a sporadic outage. I suppose a new rule for me should be: do not rent from someone who is going to be in Milan and who is going through a personal drama even as you are miles away from the nearest connection.

And then I notice the phone. There is a genuine land-line in the studio. I have a link! Ed is my eye to the computer and he deftly does some searches for me, including of places to move to if this internet stuff becomes a permanent outage.

May I give a deep bow of gratitude and appreciation for the land-line? And to the person at the other end of it (who calls me back to save me from phone related bankruptcy.)

By midnight, I forge some half viable plan (moving to Florence, I learn, is not an option: so crowded is it that all possible b&bs and hotels are reporting full occupancy) and I go to sleep.

By 5, the internet, after a twelve hour outage is up and running. I return to my regularly scheduled program. Only with a very early morning pause to paste in my stuff onto Ocean. Just at midnight, Madison time (7 a.m. my time), I'm done and ready for the next day!