Another Way To Learn Italian

Back in high school I was on the chess team (major nerd, and I had the hardest time to get on the team in the first place as they have a short season right at the beginning of the school year, but that’s another story), so I was intrigued to see three men gathered around a chess board near the harbor arguing over which move to make.

I stopped to watch as they made three moves, then took back four, went forward five, back two and so forth.  They seemed to be teaching the other the game, each free moving the pieces interchangeably  between the three of them.

I had stumbled across an international chess club, and by international I actually mean international.  We we soon joined by a few  more Italians, a British fellow and even a man from India who came to play there every day during their afternoon break.

We started going back and forth about names of the pieces and moves in both Italian and English, and I even joined the discussion of the game, learning some of the small but important words about position and objects.  It was a gift of time I never expected.  Shortly afterward I continued on my journey around town, but it will be great to run into these men again.


A Welcome Reprieve From Pizza And Pasta

Went out exploring through the port city of La Spezia to get my bearings before I head out to the villages of Cinque Terre tomorrow and had a bit of a culture shock, as it is a much more modern city than the ancient ones I have been visiting so far.  For one, nearly every building has balconies everywhere, something that I hadn’t noticed was missing.  another was that the glass storefronts were much larger here.

While walking down the main strip I spotted a Japanese restaurant and figured I’d like to see what they offer Italians for food and how it differs from “Americanized” asian food.  As I walked past, I noticed this sign and started to laugh maniacally.

For those of you that can’t read Italian, it roughly reads “All You Can Eat Buffet”.

Thank you God, for blessing my stay here.

I kept my cool long enough to get seated without skipping merrily into the place.  The food was fantastic, and they even had a sushi boat.


The food was much more seafood based than back home, but that was to be expected as everything here is more seafood based.  I showed you my seafood pizza, right?  Not that I minded.  I like seafood, though I was surprised that most of the seafood served here still has the face attached.  Most folks back home prefer their food a bit more processed, lest they risk becoming vegetarians.

Tried a bunch of stuff I still don’t know the name for, including this strange veggie patty made of lettuce, tomato, a slice of a mild cheese and a slice of hard boiled egg.  Very interesting and very tasting.



A Taste Of Florentine Life

Angelo was one of the recommended tour guides from Petro, the co owner of Can’t Be Missed Tours as Petro didn’t have anyone in Florence.  I am glad that he was recommended to me.  He was a bit apprehensive because I was the first “group of one” he has ever had and that made his job a little tougher.  Personally, I like having a tour guide all to myself.  You’re buying yourself a private tutor and friend for a day.  If you’re willing, you gain a new friend for many years from one short day.

I took Angelo’s food tour, and we travelled through as many of the non-tourist-trap areas as possible, tasting real gelato (as opposed to the “add water” mix they sell everywhere), multiple soups and even got to do a taste test of a few local wines.  As we tried them Angelo was explaining how they were grown and made, and I shared with him about Mead, a honey wine from the Nordic peoples (my ancestors).

Pictured here are the four different types of soup that are native to Florence, both historically and now.  The two on the left are both vegetable based while the two on the right are meat based.  Every aspect that Angelo shared with me about Florence brought forth a story or idea from my own varied studies and travels.

It was a great day.


Florence, Where The Earth Touches The Sky

The climate and the terrain of Florence shocked me compared to the coastal city of Venice.  Nested in a valley among large hills (if not mountains), it gets much colder than it did in Venice or Rome.  While it rained more often in Venice, it downpoured when I got off the train and kept raining all of last night.

This is beautiful countryside, and the hills surrounding the city seem to scrape at the clouds as they pass by.

My hotel is a guest house in a villa in the hills south of the city.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that they have internet when their listing on the site I used to book them said they did not.  However, we’re much farther outside of the city than I thought.  I have a twenty minute hike down a hill to the bus stop, which will take me into the city in about twenty minutes, though this was done on purpose.

Next week I will be finishing my journey with a trip to Cinque Terre, which is a group of five small fishing villages north of Rome.  Pretty much the only transportation will be walking, and I have planned my entire trip as training to be able to withstand the amount of walking I will be doing there.  And it is paying off.

Tomorrow I meet hopefully another new friend I never knew.


First Bit of Bad Luck

I unfortunately did not get to see the Last Supper fresco up close as they are closed on Mondays.


However, this was far from a wasted day.  Not only did I stay in a small apartment for less than what the hotel cost in Venice and take some fantastic photos of more modern buildings and interiors, I also had a chance to do some much needed laundry.  The only problem is that the drier didn’t work very well, so even after an hour and a half, my clothes were still damp.  However, this allowed me to meet this nice couple.

Meet Tim and Carissa, who had just come in from France on part of their whirlwind tour of Europe, and needed to do laundry as well.

I hadn’t noticed I was missing having long conversations on multiple subjects with people until I tried to entertain these folks while they were waiting for me to finish using the washer.  Being from Australia they spoke English and I was able to socialize with them, something I won’t be able to do in Italian until long after this trip is over.

We talked about their trip, about my trip, what each of us recommends to see — since they were going to visit Venice for only a day next week — , life, what we do for work, how they met, and the meaning of life, the universe and everything (which of course is 42).

It was fun to chat with them for what ended up being a couple of hours while our clothes were STILL drying, and was a welcome reprieve from being a foreigner.

When Carissa told me about her research into the effects on brain development in prematurely born babies  and I asked if they took the myelinization of neurons into account, she was floored that I understood anything about the brain at all.

Because of this I was able to share with them about the Wizard Academy, Leonardo Da Vinci, TRIZ, divergent thinking and many other things.  They both seemed intrigued about the Wizard Academy, and may someday become alumni.  That would add to an already incredible story.


On Being A Wanderer

Not all those who wander are lost.

-J.R.R. Tolkein

I’m off to Milan today to see if I can get in to see the Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci, not to mention it will be good to get into a more modern city for a day.

There’s a certain charm to being a vagabond.  The excitement of not knowing what will happen next, a change of scenery whenever you like, and little care in the world for such menial things that someone who demands roots be put down would be fretting over every minute of every day if they were with me.  Having very little to care for except to see what lies beyond the next hill, wondering how it will change you forever is an incredible way to live.

What drives a person to such an existence?

Staying in one place too long, perhaps?  Being tired of the daily toil, the never ending weekly clock that slowly ticks to laying in one’s grave would certainly drive a man to escape the clock even for a little while.  Perchance it is the safety of a home waiting at the end of a journey?  The little hobbit hole with a warm fire and hearty meal that happily welcomes a wanderer back from his travels.  Maybe that dark and shamed desire to see what is over the next hill?  To not be satisfied with what you have seen, what you have at hand that you are meant to be content with that drives a man to wander.

For me, it was meeting many a man who had wandered, and had brought back the sun.  Yarns spun of the darkest nights and the brightest of days, of missed planes and unexpected adventures, of dangerous encounters and newfound friends.  Tales that enthralled the spirit within me begging for its own wandering.

And so I finally had the chance to wander on my own, and I seized it with both hands and will not let go of the dragon I so foolishly chose to ride until we have soared to the stars and bring back a sun of my own.


The City of Dogs, the Island of Cats

Venice is a great city, and not just because of the architecture, the food, the romance, and the feel of it.  There’s also dogs EVERYWHERE.

Some are on leashes, some not, most are tiny (and for good reason, see my post on roads) though some are plain huge and all have collars, so even the ones not seemingly attached to a human are so.

Being generally a dog person, having grown up in a house of dog people, I find it fantastic to be in a city where they are all around — sleeping, chasing birds, following their masters through the streets and generally enjoying a permanent vacation.  Adds to the air of my own vacation.  Though the dogs are all much more mild mannered than my own dog, Emma.  She, being a Springer Spaniel and bred for hunting, has far too much energy for this place.

I had to actually go to Murano yesterday before encountering a single cat, and even then I encountered three at once.  I do not know if it is a cultural thing or not, but my mind frolicks with the idea of a story behind the situation.