Gosh, it is almost 2 weeks since my last email. Did you miss me?? Me…Joy…remember…I am over in Italy living the dream!!! Sometimes I wonder whether I will wake up in my bed in Cairns one day and say ‘did that really happen to me?”. However at this point, I am still hoping of course to wake up in an Italian castle one day with my ‘Blue Prince’ beside me and know that it did happen!! But, maybe not this week???
Hey, a little trivia on the ‘Blue Prince”. My friend’s gorgeous daughter, Ashlin, emailed me to say that “il principe azzuro” does definitely translate to ‘Prince blue’. That is why in almost every Disney movie, the ‘princes’ are wearing either blue tights or a blue shirt. She learnt that in HER Italian class!!
It’s always hard to know where to start when there is so much to tell. My brother told me it takes him 32 minutes to read my “essays”. Well, this one may take longer, so good time to make a cuppa before you start ‘tackling’ the essay (??). Actually, better still, make it a glass of vino…I am in Italy after all!
Well, if you are wondering exactly where I am in Italy, I am still in Siena. I am enjoying myself so much I decided to stay a while longer. I so love these unplanned holidays!! I finished my two weeks of Italian lessons and then decided to stay a third week to use Siena as a base while I did day trips out to the smaller villages. Great decision (more on that later). And now, I have decided that I will stay a fourth week and return to the Italian language school for another week of lessons!!!
It really is such a wonderful feeling to stay in one place for a whole month. The staff at the local corner food store (just 2 minutes walk from my apartment) know me now and I get a special ‘Buon Giorno’ when I walk in. The pizza place, where I have eaten 5 times (best pizza in Siena) knows which pizza I always order. AND, I even have a ‘hairdresser’ now!!! I had a haircut this week and have booked in for foils next week. At least, I think I have booked in for foils (hair colour). I showed them a piece of alfoil and pointed to the top of my head…so I think that’s what I am getting??? Surely the couple of grey hairs, which insist on sticking straight up in the air on the top of my head, were a dead giveaway that something needed to be done!!! And done soon!!! I fear if I pluck any more grey hairs out, they will be applying paste for ‘hair growth’ instead of ‘colour’.
Sadly, I had to say good-bye to my flatmate Magdalena last Thursday. However it is funny how fate works, as my new flatmate Hilda (who moved in last Saturday) is also attending the same language school as I am (but in a more advanced class). She is from Slovakia and speaks NO English, so we have to communicate in Italian!!! Here I was thinking I was having a break from my Italian lessons, but no, she had different ideas!!! It’s almost like living with an Italian school headmistress!! She makes me repeat everything if I don’t pronounce it right, and she even had me writing down words that I will find important for the future… to make sure I remembered them!! Actually, I think it was my homework. She told me I had to study them before she got back from her class!!! AND she gave me her radio and said I had to listen to the Italian songs AND she gave me her digital recorder (where she had taped herself speaking Italian) and told me I had to listen to her because it was good practice!!! HHHmm..yes, the Slovakian Hitler….
Oh to be fair, Hitler Hilda does actually have a softer side. She made me dinner last night. A very very nice fish dish with seasoned vegetables. She said we should have a balanced diet as all the pasta we have been eating is not great for the waistline. Is she trying to tell me something??? HHmmm, maybe it was when she saw me balancing a gelati in one hand and a chocolate bar in the other (Joy’s idea of a balanced diet??).
Actually the “Eat” part of my very own “Eat, Pray, Love” movie continues in a big way. I’ve had many lunches (pranzo) and dinners (cena) out to ensure that I am experiencing much of Siena’s finest culinary delights. Gosh these Italians can cook!!! I’ve tried their herb seasoned steak a couple of times now and it is to die for!!! Although, I have received very disapproving looks when I have asked for the steak to be well done. Apparently it is something you should eat ‘rare’. My friends were eating it rare (or ‘raw’ in my opinion) and I swear their steak was about to ‘moo’ at me!!!
One of the pasta lunches I had recently was in a small Italian village called Monte Oliveto. It was amazing. There was a whole Italian family cooking in a small shed type kitchen and on a BBQ in their back yard. The back of a house was converted into a huge dining room and a heap of the locals from the village had come for lunch. It was a public holiday in Italy that day, so this was their way of getting together with the family to celebrate. Just wonderful. We sat at the end of a table and it felt like I was back in Sicily at one of their huge family gatherings. Loud, lots of Italian, lots of laughter and of course, lots of food!!!! A moment I will always remember……..
I’ve been fortunate now to have travelled out to quite a few of the smaller villages. WOW, WOW, WOW is all I can say about the Tuscan countryside!!! I think I have taken some of the best photos of my holiday so far this past week. The amazing patchwork of green; the shapes created by the trees, vineyards, the sloping hills; and their shadows … the beauty of which really can’t accurately be described. And the villages themselves are so full of character. The cobbled streets, medieval alleyways, enchanting piazzas and Romanesque churches (Duomos) are a photographers dream come true.
For this week’s school excursion we went to hilltop Montalcino, which sits at the heart of vineyards that produce Brunello wine, which is one of Italy’s finest red wines (could you tell I typed that straight from the Eyewitness Travel Guide??). We got to taste 3 of them!!! Wine, that is!!! The first and last wine was very nice. The second one made my hair curl. Ewwhhh!!! I think they left that one in the barrel too long. HHmm, every seasoned wine drinker is probably thinking that I should have said they took it out of the barrel too soon!!
Last weekend, I was very privileged that Mauro’s personal Italian tuition also extended to personal excursions through the Tuscan countryside. He should receive a medal for his patience!! Without once complaining, he stopped the car every 100 metres so I could get a ‘better’ photo of the glorious hillside.
On Monday I took a bus out to San Gimignamo. San Gimignamo’s majestic skyline is dominated by 13 ancient towers. Yes, I wrote that. Okay, okay…I stole that from the Travel book too!!! Anyway, all I can say is that it is not the town to visit on your own if you have no sense of direction. Because you will see the same thing 6 times if you continually walk around in circles!!! Have you heard the saying ‘every road leads you somewhere’. Well, no matter what road I took, I ended up somewhere alright. ’Somewhere’ = ‘Same place’!!! The only problem was that I had seen a really nice ring in a jewellery store that was NOT located at the ‘same place’ that I continually ended up at!!!! It was by some stroke of luck that I was attracted to some pretty blue flags hanging from an archway….which then led me to ANOTHER place where I finally found the lovely jewellery store again!!! So, after a wonderful conversation with a nice Italian gentlemen (where I practiced my Italian bartering), I scored myself a very nice amethyst argento ring!!! No stress involved in the weight of this delightful purchase!! HHmm, errhh…there have been a couple of other minor purchases through the week, but I needed everything I bought, okay!!!
Did I tell you that I am returning to Sicily for 4 nights at the end of this month?? I was given an appointment with the Catania Police regarding my Visa application (to remain in Italy for 6 months) and they wouldn’t allow me to attend at any other Police Station in Italy. Part of me wants to say a huge thank you to Italian bureaucracy!!! Am so excited about going back to Sicily and seeing everyone again!!! I rang Maria this morning and she was as excited as I am!!! I wonder what will be on the menu for my welcome home dinner J!!!!
Oh, do you recall the lovely couple, Andrea & Angie, who I met on the plane that offered the house-sitting in Tuscany? Well, I took a train ride out to their place last week to have dinner with them. They are just wonderful. We had the best conversation over a delicious 3 course meal (that Angie prepared)!! While I won’t be house-sitting, as the dates didn’t work out (I will be back in Sicily and then in Venice when their house is free), I will definitely keep in contact with them. Maybe Angie could offer me cooking lessons instead??? My sister can now relax. She had been emailing me initially worried that they may have been mass murderers!!! They had a good laugh when I told them that. Andrea’s mother was almost as worried. She warned that I may steal everything in the house while they were gone!!!
The “Pray” part of the “Eat, Pray, Love” movie also continues. I went into the huge famous Duomo in Siena today for the first time (you have to pay for the privilege of entering this one). Unbelievable!!!! It is one of the most spectacular churches I have seen. It was like being back in Rome again with their magnificent churches. Oh, that reminds me…did I mention that the last time I was in Rome, they were offering the opportunity to give ‘confession’ with an English speaking priest who was secluded away in the ornate confessional box. I figured I hadn’t been since I was at my good catholic High School (a little while ago??), so I jumped right in and started confessing my sins!!! Don’t worry, I wasn’t in there long!!! Actually, I spoke more about my holiday than my sins!!! And to prove that; he only gave me one “Our Father” and one “Hail Mary” as penance!!! Not a bad effort for not having been to confession for over 25 years!! Maybe I got a discount because he couldn’t understand English all that well (I did have to explain things slowly)???
And lastly before I head off…are you wondering about the “Love” part of the movie???? Well, there may be just a hint of romance with Mauro…….but will leave that for the next email.
Until then, I hope you are all happy and well and enjoying life as much as I am!!!!!!!!
Ciao Ciao from bella Siena.
Love Joy xxxxxxxxxxx