Buona Sera miei amici,
Gosh, can you believe it is July already!!!! I have now officially been in Italy for two months!! Does that mean I should be writing this email in Italian?? My brother suggested that I should and then it would at least guarantee that the email would be shorter….not nice!!
Well, I am sitting here in my cosy little apartment in Venice, having arrived yesterday afternoon. I found this apartment using a website called Airbnb. This website allows people to advertise a room for rent in their own private homes. Which means the apartment comes with a little 71 year old Italian lady called Linda (who is the owner of the apartment). Not only do I have my own huge room; free reign to use all the facilities in the apartment; but dearest Linda also washes my clothes, makes my breakfast, and for the last two days has also washed up my dishes! And I am getting more free Italian lessons as she can’t speak a word of English!!! Just perfect!! I am now keeping my fingers crossed that by the end of the week, I will even score a home cooked meal!!!
The apartment is in a great location and today I walked EVERYWHERE!!! I got up early and headed out to catch the best ‘photographic light’ of the day. The weather was just glorious, with a light cool breeze. And the best part was that most tourists sleep in…so there weren’t many people around. Obviously a different story this afternoon! I was forced to do some shopping, as there were just too many people in front of all the monuments???
I was quite disappointed in the gelati I ate yesterday, so I thought I had better taste test another one today. Fortunately for the Venice gelati reputation, it was a lot better. Did you know that eating gelati also increases your social interaction? I sat down on a park bench while I ate it and an older couple sat down beside me. We got into a conversation and by the end of it they gave me their phone number and said if I made it to Padova (which was their hometown 20 mins outside of Venice), that I should give them a call. They were just lovely. Again, they only spoke Italian, so I am obviously getting better! Each time I paused to try to think of the Italian word for whatever it was I was trying to say, they told me to take my time as I was doing very well!! My teachers at the language school would be very proud of me!!!
Oh, and the lighting was obviously still good at that time because they were “most surprised” by my age. No, I didn’t tell them I was 35…they just thought I was!!. Hhhmm…he did say his eyes weren’t as good as what they used to be…. Actually, I think it is all the gelati that is smoothing out my face (or was that rounding out my face??).
Wow, I am so beginning to LOVE public transport. Who would have thought that many hours on a train or plane or bus could result in so many new friendships!!! When I was sitting on the train going from Rome to Sicily, I had a pile of books beside me, as it is a 10 hour train ride. I had my book called “New Earth – Create a better Life” (which made it into Oprah’s book club!!); a journal called “The Secret Gratitude Book”; and another journal with “All my thoughts & the Heart Talks” written on the cover. These books grabbed the attention of the guy seated beside me, and he initiated a conversation by pointing to them and saying, “hhmmm, doing some reading?” I just started laughing and we got along fabulously after that! He later admitted to thinking that I was an American going through some type of midlife crisis!!! Not sure how far off he was…maybe wrong country?? Salvatore was Italian (and now lives in Brussels in Belgium) but spoke perfect English as he worked for 5 years in the Italian embassy in Melbourne. And can you believe he was friends with the two guys that helped me out with my Visa Application in Brisbane!!! It can be such a small world sometimes. Salvatore was wearing very pretty shorts at the time (denim with a red cuff with white poker dots), and I couldn’t quite work out whether he was very trendy or …um..er…very gay??
Oh, and on the Train from Rome to Venice, I also met some great people. The girl sitting beside me was a touch-up artist for a professional photographer in Melbourne. Which meant that she was a photoshop guru!!! I got so excited I almost hugged her!!!
And yes, once again I had a fabulous time in Sicily. Four nights just weren’t long enough! Although my clothing would disagree!! My favourite jeans have become somewhat snug and I may either have to considerably increase my daily exercise or buy another pair of jeans??? Fortunately, it was with great foresight that I brought my ‘bigger’ shorts over on holidays with me.
The first night I arrived in Sicily, the whole family (all 18 of them) plus me, went out for dinner. On Monday and Tuesday nights I went out for pizza with my cousin; after I had eaten a huge pasta lunch with Maria & Nino. Then on Wednesday as a special treat for me, Maria and Nino made a special type of bread filled with tomato, cheese, potato and bacon, in their wood-fire oven (as well as numerous loaves of bread) and the whole family turned up for lunch!! And in between all that, I managed to find space to squeeze in 3 gelati’s as well!!! Yes, I know…my name is Joy and I am a Gelati- aholic!!!! Oh, and you should have seen the food bag that Maria put together for me for the train trip on Thursday. Two days later, and I still have left-overs!!!
I am very happy to say that my visa is now all sorted!!! Thanks only due to Maria’s son-in-law being a police officer! He came with me on Wednesday to the Immigration Office and Police Department and it was only due to the fact that he knew the staff there that my application was processed, otherwise I would still be waiting in line behind the other 300 African refugees trying to get a visa!!! Don’t they know how much money I am spending here on food, not to mention the other few minor purchases….. I am helping their economy!!! They need me!!! Hhhmmm, maybe I should go to Greece as well. I hear they are not doing so well at the moment??
Gosh, it was really hard to say good-bye to everyone this time. Especially knowing that I may never see Maria and Nino again was pretty tough. Yes, there were tears!!! I had to say good-bye to Nino the night before I left as he was getting up at 4am to go to the markets and I would miss him in the morning. Well, that morning Maria showed me a little note Nino wrote out in Italian to give to me. It translated to say, “Good-bye Joy. I wish you good luck. You are the sweetest girl in the World.” How special was that!!!! I feel like part of me will always remain with my new Sicilian family. And part of Sicily has also come with me…..in the form of a few extra kilos!!!
From Sicily I then returned to Rome for one night. On the train back to Rome I was privileged to meet another wonderful Sicilian couple. And can you believe their names were also Nino and Maria!! They looked after me like I was their daughter. I didn’t have any water with me on the train, so they gave me one of their bottles and then refilled it for me when I finished it. Then Maria looked after my bags while I went up on the deck of the barge with Nino (when we crossed over from Sicily to Italy). And when we arrived in Rome, not only did they help me with my luggage, but they bought and paid for my ticket for the Metro (underground train) and walked with me to catch it. I am meeting the most amazing and generous people on this holiday. Some days I feel so blessed!!! J
And as I have been back to the same B & B in Rome 4 times, I am now greeted by hugs and kisses from the owners when I arrive. The afternoon before I left for Sicily, I was wandering around Rome when Friedrich (one of the owners), rang me to let me know another Australian had arrived at the B & B, in case I was interested in catching up with him. When I returned to the B & B, I was introduced to Glen, who was from Brisbane!! FINALLY, I have met another Queenslander!!! Glen was so nice and just loved to chat (an instant common interest!!!). We talked for about 4 hours before I had to rush off to pack. He knew everything you could possibly know about computers and electronic gadgets and I now have a new appreciation for my Mac computer which awaits me at home!!! Yes, he is now a facebook friend!!
When I started off writing this email, I was going to begin by saying that this email would be a short one. Sorry…Glen is not the only one who loves to chat!!! One last little story…
When I was in Rome I took the metro to one of the outer train stations, where I then had to catch a bus to Tivoli. Well, I thought I had better go to the loo at the train station before catching the bus. Scary, scary experience!!! It was the strangest toilet I have been in so far. It was a self-cleaning toilet, and I don’t mean just the bowl!!! I mean the entire room!! You had to walk into this steel chamber and get locked in. Everything was wet from being washed continually. I was so scared that it would start cleaning while I was in there that I could hardly pee!!! Talk about feeling claustrophobic!! And I almost had a panic attack when I couldn’t work out how to get out of there. The big red button did it, but I was worried that was the ‘cleaning’ button. Oh, and yes, I did have to pay 80 cents for the privilege of using it!!!
The gardens at Tivoli were lovely. I met up with Vincenzo who showed me around both estates. The first one was beautiful with gorgeous fountains, however the second one was like doing the blue arrow walk in Cairns (many, many steps up and down through the bush) to find a waterfall. Vincenzo thought it was a great idea for me to see both the man-made structures (fountains) and the natural ones (waterfalls). I thought it was a great idea too when I handed him my daypack to carry back up the hill!!!
Okay, Okay, I’m going before you have to make a second cup of coffee/tea/bottle of wine??
Hope you are all well. Thinking of you all heaps.
Love Joy xxxxxxxxxx