Italy 2002 Trip Report, Day 4

The fourth in a series of transcriptions of my experiences traveling with my wife and her family in Italy. The originals were scribbled on whatever pieces of paper were handy and are presented here unedited.

27 Mar 2002: Spend 1.5 hours lost but find Fiano Country—Feudi di San Gregorio. Very under construction. Big facility. Tour from very patient guide Cinsia includes Feudi’s olive oil production, the lab, and a 40 min discussion of the processes with head oenologist Massimo. Taste: Falenghina, Greco, Fiano, and top of line Taurasi.—Drive down toward Naples. Lunch at self serve place in Pompei. We take Lisa’s parents through—most impressive is Villa dei Misteri with frescoes of the initiation rites for the Dionysiac Mysteries. Leave. One wrong turn later, find road for Positano behind a series of buses. Dinner (1) at La Cambusa—very enthusiastically received. Bed.

Italy 2002 Trip Report, Day 3

The third in a series of transcriptions of my experiences traveling with my wife and her family in Italy. The originals were scribbled on whatever pieces of paper were handy and are presented here unedited.

26 Mar 2002: Directions from a resident businessman to Calitri—to make up for inadequate signage, he sends us an hour out of our way north, then down through lots of hill towns—and wheat fields—and wind farms. Half an hour after a declaration from il mio suocero that one would have to be crazy to live here, that he understands why his parents left, and that as far as he was concerned they could have it (occasioning a response from mom: “stop being such a nutty old coot!”)—we find Calitri. The Hotel Ambasciatore desk clerk Ten-Su (!) tells us that the Calitri Lucadamos had tried to find us the previous night.

We go to the records office at the Comune and discover that they have no information about the predecessors of the emigrating Lucadamo, Angelo Maria, except the names of his parents, Carmine and Teresa Schiavone. It is decided that the birth date we have for Teresa S is incorrect—she could not possibly have had Angelo M when she was 49.

We meet the young Cinzia L. who runs the town biberia—she is charming and friendly and calls the family to let them know we have arrived. Later as we discover the hotel has no heat we decide to return to Avellino. Just then all the relations show up. We spend two hours conversing in Italian to discover that there are one or two Carmine and Angelo Lucadamos in each generation for as long as anyone can remember, so finding ours will be nearly impossible—and take our leave after Cinzia gifts us with a ton of wine. We take the road back in the direction of Lione, solving the question of how to get back without a very long journey. Dinner at a trattoria—very good pasta.

Italy 2002 Trip Report, Day 2

The second in a series of transcriptions of my experiences traveling with my wife and her family in Italy. The originals were scribbled on whatever pieces of paper were handy and are presented here unedited.

25 Mar 2002: Lost in Avellino—just like two years ago. We miss the turn several times for Calitri—it’s not posted—and give up for the night. The Hotel Jolly, while twice the price of the hotel we were to stay at in Calitri, is as good as a reasonable European chain can be. Dinner in hotel restaurant unremarkable except for a bottle of wine from Feudi [di San Gregorio].

Italy 2002 Trip Review, Day One

This is the first in a series of transcriptions of my experiences traveling with my wife and her family in Italy. The originals were scribbled on whatever pieces of paper were handy and are presented here unedited.

24 Mar 2002: 8 something pm. Off to an interesting start. Arrived at airport 5ish. Lisa and her parents had difficulty with their e-ticket—it took an hour to straighten out. We spent some time talking to the nice ticket lady and found out there had been a system changeover. We expressed lots of sympathy—being IT people, we swapped stories—she is a trainer for the new system! Shortly thereafter we got a complimentary upgrade to World Traveller Plus. Go BA.

Subsequently we had to go back over and get our boarding passes. Then we sat in the Sam Adams Bar and caught our breath.

Watching Lisa’s dad figure out the features in his seat is a lot of fun. The Man Who Wasn’t There on TV.

Slackjawed in Capri

I was going to transcribe some of the notes I scribbled on hotel stationery and a Statue of Liberty memo cube purchased from Newark Airport today, but I forgot to dig them out of my luggage before I left the apartment today. So here’s a photo of Lisa and me from Capri to tide you over.

Lisa and me in the Augustine Gardens in Capri, telling her mom how to use the digital camera.

We’re trying to tell her mom how to use our digital camera, which partly explains my look of slack-jawed yokeldom. Or it may be, as Mark Twain stated in his short story “Niagara,” a general phenomenon:

Any day, in the hands of these photographers, you may see stately pictures of papa and mamma, Johnny and Bub and Sis, or a couple of country cousins, all smiling vacantly, and all disposed in studied and uncomfortable attitudes in their carriage, and all looming up in their awe-inspiring imbecility before the snubbed and diminished presentment of that majestic presence whose ministering spirits are the rainbows, whose voice is the thunder, whose awful front is veiled in clouds, who was monarch here dead and forgotten ages before this hackful of small reptiles was deemed temporarily necessary to fill a crack in the world’s unnoted myriads, and will still be monarch here ages and decades of ages after they shall have gathered themselves to their blood relations, the other worms, and been mingled with the unremembering dust.

There is no actual harm in making Niagara a background whereon to display one’s marvelous insignificance in a good strong light, but it requires a sort of superhuman self-complacency to enable one to do it.

Home again

Well, we’ve returned. We have been up for at least 24 hours apiece. Italy was wonderful. I am only now recovering from a two day bout with some horrible gastric thing that made me miss the papal blessing in Rome.

There was more that I wanted to say, but since I can only remember it as being dictated to me by a thirty foot tall alien who spoke with pheromones rather than audible speech, I think I’ll postpone it until tomorrow.

Getting ready for Italy

One reason for the urgency in getting the DV camera: we’re finally taking Lisa’s parents to Italy. Lisa was to take them back in the fall. In fact they were supposed to fly out September 13. Needless to say, the flight was cancelled and they had travel credits to spend. The credits were enough to add me to the flight plans, so the decision was made to postpone the trip until my spring break. Which, thank heaven, starts Wednesday. We fly out next Sunday. I’m looking forward to getting over there again. It’s been too long.

Our itinerary: a day in Rome, then south to Campania. We’ll spend two days in the family’s ancestral home town of Calitri, then a few days in Positano and Amalfi, with a day trip to Capri, wrapping up with Easter weekend in Rome. Should be a lot of fun. Hopefully I won’t gain too much weight from all the incredible food.

Belgium calling

I take off for a quick trip to Belgium later today. I wish I had a really good reason for going, but mostly it’s the cheap airfare. And moules frites and good Belgian beer. Lisa and I have never been to Belgium, but it’s been on our list of European trips for a long time (this is the list organized thusly: wine, beer, wine, beer, wine, beer, vodka, otherwise known as Italy, England and Ireland, France, Belgium, Spain, Germany, and Russia. We’re currently rethinking the last one). So no blogging unless I find free Internet cafés over there.

Breaking the silence

Whew. Whirlwind journey almost over. I have a long train ride between Metropark and Boston tomorrow, and then I’m really back. Apologies for radio silence: some things came up. I’ll probably write about a few of them shortly.

In the meantime, I wrote this update on Saturday: Sorry about the unexpected silence the last two days. I was staying with a friend who had no broadband and had given up his home phone. I spent a few days catching up with old college and work friends. I’m certainly happy to have had the chance to visit with everyone, but I’m really ready to come home now.

I spent most of the day with Esta. We drove into Charlottesville for dinner and nostalgia, and now we’re sitting in Cocke Hall blogging. At least she’s blogging–my site is down and I’ll have to post this later.

Wordplay and Cornell’s prince

I guess five hours is my limit in museums these days. Boy, I’m not even 30 and my stamina is shot to hell. 🙂 However, I found a couple of really cool things in the short time I wandered around.

Cornell's Medici prince, on display in the East Gallery of Washington's National Gallery.

First, Cornell’s Untitled (Medici Boy) is in fact on display in the National Gallery’s East Wing; it wasn’t there two years ago. They’ve moved it with the two works that were previously displayed to the second level—while I didn’t get as much of a cool feeling of exclusivity as I did in the days when you had to climb up to the tower to find them, the works are placed much more prominently.

Second, Xu Bing. Contemporary Chinese artist whose medium is calligraphy—but what calligraphy! A permanently installed three story mobile chains together the word for “monkey” in eighteen languages, each fragment shaped like a monkey. A flat plane containing three dimensional Chinese characters describing birds takes flight, as characters for “bird” become shaped into a flock of birds. A room is filled with scrolls, newspapers, and books printed with “Chinese” characters that in fact have no meaning. Walls are filled with a hand calligraphed speech from Mao — but the characters are English words written as though they were Chinese calligraphy. (This was a favorite—there were two indigo iMacs in the room running a Mac OS X program that took a typed English sentence and rendered it in this style of calligraphy in near real time. Okay, after 30 seconds. But the first few words of “The Waste Land” look really cool as neo-Chinese calligraphy.)

Gap replaces pig’s feet

Well! All in all, a surprising day. The first surprise was the lack of snow—though, given that it is Washington, DC, a city in which weather is as unpredictable (and boring) as a leaf in the wind, this wasn’t actually too surprising.

The gig at the Monastery went quite well. There were seven of us, so with me left as more or less a pinch-hitter, I sightread through the Mass and then relaxed and enjoyed singing the material with which I was familiar. I found sightreading much easier this morning, probably because it wasn’t 11:30 PM. Dim sum followed with Jim Heaney, his girlfriend Deb, and Skip and George. I regret to report that no chicken feet were consumed.

My next stop after Cheeselord Manor was to be the Littles. George was my neighbor at Virginia my fourth year, and when Lisa and I met Bethany with George at my five-year reunion we all hit it off tremendously. Bethany and Lisa have a lot in common—as Lisa points out, they’re both short Italian-American women with impeccable taste and fabulous hosting instincts. The plan was for them to meet me at the Monastery and to proceed from there. Unfortunately, through a snafu they couldn’t make it, and I drove from Chinatown to the Cathedral to plan the next move.

I went down the hill to Georgetown in search of a city map, as mine is currently locked away someplace. I found a good one in Olsson’s, but not before an unpleasant surprise. Au Pied du Cochon, which was a little hole in the wall that could be counted on for good single malt and bad cassoulet when my friends and I were hungry after singing the Tenebrae service at Georgetown, is no more. A Gap is in its place. My blood runs cold—my memory has just been sold: my bistro is a … true slime mold? [Note to self: get better rhyming dictionary.]

Afterwards I got in touch with George and Bethany and came to their house. Continuing in the same string of real estate luck that found them a townhouse complete with wine cellar full of 1974 Mondavis, they found a 3500 or 4000 square foot house up the street from the back gate of the Italian ambassador’s residence that was built in the 1940s and that they purchased from the original owner. I’ll probably have a few things to say about the house, but I’ll leave off now with the observation that the kitchen contained built-in steel pull-outs for foil and paper towels; the mostly unfinished attic contained a cedar closet previously used for minks; and the first floor powder room currently sports an intriguing combination of brown wood paneling and red and black lace wallpaper(!) that calls to mind some of New Orleans’ more notorious establishments. And a dog that likes cheese. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.