Making a Month of It: Part 1

How do I even get started with October? I’m going to have to give you two posts about it, I think, as this is going to get unwieldy otherwise.

The entire month was pretty much full of visits and travel and planning for visits and travel and recovering from visits and travel, though not in that order. Some paperwork issues have been resolved, Italian classes are finally (sort of) scheduled, and art and music has been viewed and appreciated.

Starting with the bureaucratic necessities, my new Permesso di Soggiorno was approved for two years, and I should be receiving a text from the Questura sometime in the next few weeks to come down and pick it up. A letter arrived for me, dated a couple of weeks prior to the approval, telling me to come down to the office with more papers – that had already been done. Ah, the efficiency of the Italian post. I elected not to freak out on it when I saw the date. What this means is, I will go through the process one more time for another two years when this one is up, then I can apply for my permanent residence, which you can do after you’ve been in Italy for five years.

I took the Italian language placement test and, as expected, fell into the A-1 level. The teacher, Fran, was quite convinced I should be in A-2 and seemed to desperately want to put me there, despite my not having the irregular verbs down too well, and having some trouble understanding some of the conversational stuff. Class lists finally were posted this week, after almost a month of waiting. I’m on a waiting list for an A-1 class, but Fran called and said I could come and sit in as I liked on her A-2 classes until my A-1 class came open, so two nights a week I’ll be going down to the school on Ugo Foscolo to sit in on a class rather more advanced than where I genuinely ought to be, starting this Thursday, because Monday is the local saint’s festa and school is closed. Looks like she got me into A-2 despite myself. Sneaky, that. I’m perhaps understandably nervous about the whole thing and I know I’m going to be desperately behind everyone else but, if I pay attention and work at it, by the time the official A-1 class comes along, I should be able to blow it out of the water.

Thus endeth the bureaucratic report.

There were six big events this past month: a birthday party, the Barcolana, two visits, a trip to London, and the Corvus Corax concert at the Halloween festa. Well, and the flood. Post the first will cover things up to the end of the first visit. Lots of photos ahead. Post the second will have our second visitor, London and the I:MAGE conference, and Corvus Corax. Further photos, I promise.

One of our Italian friends, Denise, was having a significant milestone birthday and threw a huge party with about 150 people in attendance. It was circus themed, with a band and some slackline walkers, and a clown. This wasn’t the scary weird dress up clown like people get for a kid’s party, but a guy who was doing something a little less over the top. I got volunteered as a decorative coat rack for one of his bits. And a shoe rack for another. Probably because of the green hair, I’m guessing (mine, not his). People were encouraged to dress up, but I had green hair anyway, as I’d re-dyed only a week or two prior now that I didn’t have to worry so much about the bureaucratic tangle.

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lazing about on the slackline

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maybe not quite so slack after all

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circus cake!

The Barcolana, Trieste’s immense sailing regatta, came and took over the waterfront for more than a week. There’s a gallery of photos from this year here. I am continually impressed by Italian street fair food. In the US at fairs, you get deep fried everything and beer. Sometimes you get deep fried beer. I shudder to imagine it. Here in Trieste, you get an amazing variety of seafood (some of which is fried, some not) and prosecco. I’ll take the prosecco, thanks. I had very yummy mussels, and on another day there was a lovely rack of ribs, though they don’t do it here with a bbq sauce like they do in most parts of the US. The ribs were mildly seasoned and dry so, while they were a bit messy, it was nothing like the appearance of having bathed your hands in slightly congealed blood as sometimes happens with a spicy sauce.

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on the water at Barcolana

We spent time wandering the waterfront, checking out the boats, some of which were really beautiful. There were fancy restaurants set up in a couple of places along the water, and a Land Rover dealership had a test track set up on one of the piers. The Barcolana is a high-end crowd, as you might imagine. I saw flags and registries from all over the world on the sailboats. The race itself began fairly early on race day, and was so far out on the bay that there wasn’t much to see from the waterfront. I had been too sleepless to get up, but my brother went down to the water and said he could barely see anything but a line of sails in the distance. If I was reading things correctly, the local paper headlines said that over 1500 boats had registered this year, a record for the event.

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the fair on the waterfront

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drive-by lobstering

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fireworks outside my window

The day before our first visitor arrived, we had a huge storm blow through. Thunderstorms last a lot longer here than I was ever used to in Seattle, but this one went on quite literally all night, and the thunder didn’t just stay off in the distance. Rain came bucketing down for hours in an immense deluge. When I got up the next day, the underpass on my street for the train station was flooded almost to street level. I’m guessing that’s a good 12 or 15 feet of water, at least. I saw a few news photos of some of the streets of the city flooded with rushing water like rivers, as well, though I didn’t see it here in Piazza della Libertà. The water here had somewhere to go, obviously. The underpass was closed for over a week. One unfortunate woman died in a landslide in Muggia, just around the bay, due to the flooding. Other areas of Italy were much harder hit. The water was still very high in the underpass when my first visitor of the month arrived.

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a very happy Oggie sailing into Venice

My dear friend James aka Oggie arrived from El Paso and my brother and I met him at the airport. We grabbed one of the water buses (a larger private company contracted with the airport, not the vaporetto) into Venice, so he got to see it by water even before he’d dropped his suitcases. The day, and the view, were gorgeous. He was thrilled. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone squee that hard about something in a very long time.

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behind the green gate, here’s the alley into our B&B

After dropping us at the B&B and settling us in for lunch and a little walking about, my brother headed back to Trieste and I stayed for a few days in Venice. Oggie got a room for us, which was supposed to have two beds but did not, due to a misunderstanding. Thankfully, we’re good friends and he doesn’t snore, so we made the best of it and shared the room amicably. The B&B was just off a canal, behind a gate and down an alley, in a really glorious spot like something out of a novel. I hauled Oggie off to a couple of restaurants I’d eaten at before, and we explored a few new ones as well.

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door knockers of Venice, you amaze me

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floating veggie stand

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art along the Grand Canal

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if you’re going to denounce your neighbors to the secret police, do it in style

The next day we’d intended to see the San Marco basilica and got tickets for a guided tour. I asked repeatedly if it included San Marco. Yes, they said.

It included the neighborhood, not the basilica. It was a lovely tour and the tour guide was quite charming, but it was not what we thought we were getting. In other words, I think I’m doomed to never actually set foot in the building. Perhaps I’m too devilish to let in. As we wandered along the tour route, we saw that there was going to be a performance of Vivaldi in period costume, so we got tickets for that. Oggie had desperately wanted to see something at La Fenice, but it was not to be. The prices left him gasping, as I rather expected. But we did, the next day, take a tour of the opera house anyway, which was much less expensive. He was thrilled to just be there in the building. The bar there is actually pretty reasonably priced, so we had a spritz after the tour.

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the royal/imperial/whoever’s in power this week box at La Fenice opera house

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detail from the box, with the crest of the Savoia family – endless mirrors

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spritz Aperol at the Fenice, as you do

Oggie is a garrulous, charming southern gentleman. He speaks four languages, including Spanish and French, so his Italian, for all he claims he can’t speak it at all, was far better than mine. He was speaking Russian with one of the women working at the B&B one morning. I had a few moments of desperate embarrassment when people found out I live here and that my Italian was, sadly, far less adequate than his. I’m doing my best but I just don’t have that kind of language talent. I did end up using the little I have rather more than I usually do here in Trieste, where my brother tends to translate somewhat more than I actually need, so I get lazy. This isn’t useful for me, but the upcoming class should help a lot.

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I’m always fascinated by the Venitian street lamps

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the eyes of an older Venetian sailing vessel

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Popethulu Ia! Ia!

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Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in period costume

After our three nights in Venice, we hopped on the train and came back to Trieste. I’d wanted to take Oggie up on the tram to the Strada Napoleonica, but it never quite managed to happen. I was too exhausted by the constant walking and playing tourist in Venice, so we did a little walking around the city here, and I took him to see the Roman arch and the theatre, as well as the waterfront, and we had tea at Ginger, where he charmed the ladies who work there.

For his final day with us, we rented a car and went out to Aquileia. He has an interest in early church history and was very interested in seeing the basilica there, as there was once a Patriarchate based in the city, that is now defunct. He was absolutely thrilled with the mosaics, the archaeological dig, and the crypt below the church, and spent quite a while talking with the lady in the gift shop about details.

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basilica and tower at Aquileia

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do fools rush in where angels fear to fish?

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mosaic detail on the basilica floor

We had hoped we might have a little time to go up to the Strada, but it was late by the time we got back, and we wanted to go to one of the osmize, the local farm restaurants, that were having a festival for a few weeks. Many of these restaurants are open only a few days a year. They’re required to serve only things they produce themselves, so it’s wine and meat and bread and eggs and perhaps a little veg, for the most part. The three of us ate a really fabulous meal at the osmiza Sardo David in Zgonik (Sgonico) for less than the cost of food for one in Venice. They are an old Austrian/Slovenian tradition from when the area was under Austrian rule. Because they are open so rarely, there are websites that will tell you which ones are open that day.

We drove up in the dark, as it’s become autumn in earnest now. Osmize are identifiable by the green branches hanging outside. Traditionally it’s pine or another evergreen, but this one had a bough of ivy outside, and I’ve seen others with branches of deciduous trees as well. Most of them ask that you call first, to make sure they’re not fully booked. Depending on the day, they may not be very busy, but it’s wise to be sure, at least to let them know you’re coming. I think a lot of them are very local and don’t see a lot of tourist trade. Everyone else in Sardo David that night was local.

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amazing food at osmiza Sardo David

The next day we were to meet our cousin Lisa, who was vacationing in Italy from her home in Hawaii. Oggie was going to head out to Padua, then to Milano to see another friend, so we all got the train down to Venice together, and he hung out with us until we were scheduled to met Lisa and her husband at the train station. We bid him farewell at the post office, where he had to mail things back to the US, and went off to meet some family.

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Trieste’s Science+Fiction film festival is this weekend but I’m too exhausted to leave the house

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On Visitors and Hemingway

Sunset over Piazza della Libertà

Sunset over Piazza della Libertà

The past couple of weeks have been very busy here. I’ve had paperwork to do for the renewal of my Permesso di Soggiorno, I finished the pre-submission edit of my manuscript to the publisher, and I’ve had company from the Netherlands during this time. (I’ve also taken up playing World of Warcraft for the moment, but we won’t mention that.)

The Permesso paperwork was slightly less complicated this time, and I have an appointment at the Questura on the 7th of October in the morning. This renewal should be for two years. I have no idea how long it will take or what other hoops they will want me to leap through.

Tuesday I go over to the school where I took the civics class and take a test for placement in an Italian language class. I know already they’ll put me in the very beginning class, but that’s okay. I’m still using the language when I’m able outside the house. People speak English to me and I try to reply in Italian. Sometimes I get stuck and it doesn’t work so well, but it’s a process.

Shortly after my previous post, possibly inspired by the impending Scottish independence referendum, there was a Free Trieste rally down in the piazza below my apartment. The movement has been around for decades but, with public awareness of this sort of thing on the rise, I’m sure they felt it would bring some more visibility to the issue. They had a parade from I’m not sure where, though probably Piazza Unità, given some photos I saw from a friend. They were selling Trieste flags and t-shirts, and there were several speakers. From what I could tell, short speeches were given in Triestino dialect, Italian, Slovenian, German, and English. My brother and I watched some of it from the balcony.

Trieste independence rally

Trieste independence rally

Editing is always a major headache, but my upcoming book being a compilation of shorter pieces from my last 20 years of writing meant that much of it was already done. I’m currently waiting on a foreword from someone before I send it off to my publisher for copyediting and layout. I have a bunch of lovely cover blurbs from people in my community who will be well known among the readers that I’m writing for.

I prefer to edit on paper. Trying to edit on a screen is headache inducing when you’re talking about a few hundred pages of manuscript. That meant having to deal with a printer that refuses to acknowledge its printer cartridge (long story, and very annoying) and waiting for my brother to bring his printer up from storage. But, at long last, the entire manuscript was printed out, and editing could continue apace. One of the pleasures of editing on paper is being able to take a stack out to a café, have an aperitivo, and stare at it with red pen in hand. It’s just not the same on a laptop. My writerly spirit is not fed by laptops, even though they are magnificent tools for the actual writing process and mean I don’t have to scribble and entire manuscript by hand.

Paul Kater at Molo Audace

Paul Kater at Molo Audace

On the 21st, my friend Paul Kater arrived from the Netherlands for a visit, on his way down to more vacation in Crete. Paul is a fellow writer, who has published a bunch of books in English and a couple in Dutch, primarily in the fantasy/SF and steampunk genres. I actually met him through the steampunk community, due to our mutual love for the band Abney Park. He had a girlfriend in Seattle for some years, and I actually met him there on one of his visits back in 2012. We were both delighted that he was able to come and spend a few days.

Paul arrived late on the train from Venice, as it was delayed a bit. I went to the station in the rain to bring him back here, then gave him some dinner and sent him to bed. The next day we toured around downtown Trieste. We had considered going up to the Strada Napoleonica, but the walk around town was enough for one day.

The 23rd we went over to the American Corner, where I’d agreed to lead a short story discussion of a couple of Hemingway pieces. It being the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, there have been events all over Europe, from what I understand. The AIA is doing a Hemingway month in honor of the whole thing. Paul and I were there, and three other people, all of whom had varying degrees of competence in English (their English was uniformly better than my Italian). We did discuss the stories, and read bits of them, and I spent a fair bit of time explaining English words and phrases that they hadn’t come across before, or that they didn’t understand. Our discussion ranged from Hemingway himself, to American colloquial language, to the changes in literary styles before and after the war. We talked about Modernism and Surrealism as well, and what was meant to be a one-hour discussion turned into two. Everyone asked if I was going to do a short story discussion again. I told them to talk to Denise, who organized that sort of thing. They all enjoyed it very much, and Paul was quite happy to have been along.

We did take the tram up to the Strada that afternoon. We didn’t do the loop trail, but just walked the main road itself, with some really incredible views. The day was perfect for a walk, sunny and just warm enough to be pleasant without being overbearing. We spoke to a couple from New Zealand on the tram. They had been going to take the tram all the way up to Opicina, but I explained that the town really didn’t have much and if they didn’t mind a walk, the Strada was really the thing to do, so they popped off at the Obelisk stop with us and had a wander. I hope they thought it was worth it.

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Castello Miramare from the Strada Napoleonica

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Seal of the city and territory of Trieste on the cliffs of the Strada Napoleonica

On Wednesday, Paul and I took the bus out to the Barcola and walked up to Castello Miramare. We once again had a really glorious day for it. The walk was beautiful, as the sea tends to be, and I hadn’t been up as far as the castle before. The approach from the waterfront includes a stretch of marine reserve that is partly maintained by the World Wildlife Federation. The WWF has an office in one of the buildings on the castle grounds, though we didn’t visit that. We paid for tickets into the castle and did the walk, though for much of the way through, we were behind a German-speaking tour group. It’s ridiculously impressive and wildly overdone, but parts of it are incredibly beautiful. We didn’t walk the entire grounds, but we did wander up one of the park paths to the café and have some lunch before heading back into town on the bus.

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Castello Miramare from the end of the Barcola

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So many fish in the sea!

Thursday, my brother saw Paul off to the train for Treviso for his flight to Crete. He was heading out at an ungodly hour of the morning, and I wasn’t awake, but we’d said our goodbyes the night before. That afternoon, my brother and I went and finished taking care of the Permesso paperwork at the post office.

Friday I was at the AIA again, where they were doing a Hemingway readathon of A Farewell to Arms. I was there from the beginning to the bitter end, and there was booze afterwards. Early on in the day, three English-language classes showed up, and most of the kids were persuaded (coerced?) into reading a page each. I read several times of the course of the day, and my brother showed up to do a little as well. We started at 9am and ended around 7pm, I think. I enjoyed it enough, but I’m still really not that fond of Hemingway just generally.

Early next month, my Italian language classes start. My friend Oggie from El Paso will be here later in the month, and then I’ll be going for a weekend in London where another friend is speaking at a conference there. I’m not sure what I’ll do with my Sunday that weekend – it depends on whether there are things happening with the conference people that day, whether Amy’s busy, and if I would rather visit the British Museum or try to see some of my friends at the Comicon in London that weekend instead. In any case, there will be more excitement and more photos to look forward to!

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Outside the castle, a view of the Adriatic

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Planters on the balustrade

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No doubt an Arabic influence

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Library porn!

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An unexpected moment of Art Deco from one of the imperial relatives who lived here in the 20s/30s

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The door hardware reminds me of so many doors I saw in Prague

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This satiny stuff? Is wallpaper.

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Gryphons on the stairway

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Japanese and Chinese rooms were set aside for smokers

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This fountain was inside and upstairs

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Squirrel!

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Foliate mask fountain on the castle grounds

 

Can you even get there from here?

The poet, photo by Cristiana Sibenik

It’s been a busy week or so! I finally have my Carta d’Identita. It took a bit of running in circles and €5.20, but I now have all the identification documents I need to get by here. Now that I’ve got the ID card, I can go and register the dog with the city as well, though that may need to wait until I return from Greece.

Ithaka may be a severe case of “can’t get there from here.” Reports are conflicting and I may well need to take a bus (or cab) to Kyllini. I went to the Greek Consulate, where the ticket office is for Minoan Lines, and talked to the woman at the desk. She said there’s nothing on any of the websites they use though, sometimes, small local ferries are not listed. One website says that trips to Ithaka from Patras are all suspended. I won’t be able to find out until I actually get to Patras. The potential for missed connections and screw-ups is fairly large, but I’ll do my best. I may end up only spending one night on Ithaka if I have to go to Kyllini and deal with ferries that don’t run daily.

The dock for the Trieste to Patras ferry is down in the commercial port, south of the city’s main waterfront. My brother will take me there on the day I leave, to avoid having to worry about nonexistent buses and finding a taxi at that hour.

I spent some time walking around new parts of the city with Cristina, an artist and photographer I met at Luisella’s last week. Our first stop was a bar and gelateria on the waterfront near the aquarium. They have a nice little deck out in the back overlooking the harbor and the marina. I tried the watermelon but it was just too thin and too sweet to be really enjoyable. She did warn me that it was going to be very sweet, but I wanted to try it. I saw a new species of jellyfish at Molo Audace on our way over, too. This makes three so far.

Chrysaora hysoscella

Chrysaora hysoscella

From there, we took a long walk south along the waterfront, past the railroad museum, and then over the park along Viale Romolo Gessi until we got to the Unione Sportiva Triestina Nuoto, an Olympic sized swimming pool near the place where I’ll have to go in to the ferry docks. There’s a hideously ugly sculpture of a hippo standing on a ball out front of the building. The building itself is right up there with the Experience Music Project in Seattle for architectural WTFery. From there, we walked along the main road and until we passed the gate for the commercial shipyard, then up the hill via Scala Campi Elisi and past the Madonna del Mare church in the neighborhood where Cristina grew up.

We stopped for a rest and something to drink, then continued back toward downtown, passing the Osservatorio Astronomico, mentioned in my last post. I got some photos this time, and it’s quite the interesting building.

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University of Trieste’s Astronomical Observatory

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The observatory tower

On our way back down into the waterfront area, we stopped by the Casa della Musica, a funky blue building in a pedestrian alley not far from the Arco Riccardo. One of Cristina’s friends was there and invited us to go upstairs and watch a rehearsal if we wanted. We did, but only for a few moments, as it was packed, and really hot. There’s a bar on the ground floor with a bulletin board, posted with instruments for sale, musicians and bands looking for one another, and upcoming gigs. On the first floor there’s a rehearsal and performance hall, and there are practice studios for rent as well. The second floor houses a recording studio.

Casa della Musica

Casa della Musica

The evening brought us back to the canal for a spritz and a snack, and a little talk about cameras and photography. We sat on the dock, but my chair was a bit too close to the edge and one leg of it slipped off. Fortunately, there’s good rope netting around the dock, and Cristiana grabbed my arm, so I didn’t take an unintentional swim.

boats and the dome of San Spiridone, the Serbian Orthodox church

boats and the dome of San Spiridione, the Serbian Orthodox church

Eventually, we made our way back to my place then took the Dog of Devastating Cuteness +3 out for a ride and a little walk in Piazza Hortis. He likes going out, of course, and loves riding in cars, but he does get overly excitable around other animals, so it can be difficult to take him very far from home.

My brother was in town for the last couple of days. We watched the US-Portugal football match at midnight, projected onto an outside wall at a bar in one of the pedestrian zones just off Piazza Unità. A fair sized crowd had gathered, including quite a few Americans. Four were seated at a table just behind us, who had come into town for the Pearl Jam concert that had happened a night or so before. They were in from DC and New York City, and would be on their way to Venice on the train the next day. I’m not much of a sports fan, but it was fun to go watch something big like that al fresco on a gorgeous evening, with a spritz in hand. There’s an Italy match today, which likely means everyone will be glued to their TV for a couple of hours between 5 and 7pm. I’m sure I’ll know it if Italy wins.

Here's the park. Down on the lower right is the bus stop we needed. The lower left was the one we ended up at. Yay, confusion.

Here’s the park. Down on the lower right is the bus stop we needed (11/25). The center left was the one we ended up at (25/26). Yay, confusion.

Last night, we went up to the Parco Farnetto for the Triskell Celtic festival. The posters don’t make it very clear where the place is, and actually finding out how to get there was problematic. The poster talks about a place called Boschetto del Ferdinandeo, and there’s some information about buses, but unless you know that this is a stop in the Farnetto, you’re going to be utterly lost. You can’t find it on Googlemaps by that name. The website says that buses 11, 25, and 26 go there, but really only the 11 and 25 stop at the site. If you take the 26, you end up having to walk most of the length of the park – about one and half kilometers – to get to it; it’s a lovely walk, but not what we were looking for. On the other hand, the festival schedule 26/ (yes, the / makes a difference) does run from that stop down into downtown, but it only runs on Sundays and holidays. Most of the buses stop about 8pm, but that one runs until midnight.

The Bog Bards, a band from Slovenia

The Bog Bards, a band from Slovenia

We headed up during the middle of the day, as the schedules talk about things happening starting about 3pm, but the place really didn’t open until 7pm, and music doesn’t start until 8 or so. We headed back up about 8:30, checked out the booths, had some food, and listened to some music. I met some of the local Pagans there, who were doing a labyrinth walk and holding sacred space for a fire and some ritual work. One of the women speaks English, and we had a talk, though I did speak a little in Italian to a couple of the others. My brother helped translate for some of the conversations. I’ll be going up again this evening around 8:30 to talk with her again, and to show her a few of my books.

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ritual fire at the Triskell festival

Jim will be back later this week to watch the dog while I head off to Torino to see Dan give his talk about his new book, and then head off to Greece. I may not have much in the way of internet access while I’m gone, but when I return, there will be photos!

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fiddler for the Bog Bards

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Irish dance group on stage with the Bog Bards

On buying ferry tickets

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I lost all my photos from the past couple of days, so have a consolation photo of Molo Audace at dusk

I spent Monday and Tuesday afternoons at the Italian civics class. It was at a school closer to me than the one I’d originally been assigned when I had the trip back to Seattle, with no big hill in the middle. The class is a series of videos available in 20 languages. There were three of us in the English session.

The videos had a lot of necessary information but they were so badly done. The narrators, an American woman and a British man, were obviously and awkwardly reading from a teleprompter. They would talk about informational slides that occasionally were duplicates of each other, not showing the information they were referring to, or not appearing at all. Still, now I’m done with that bit and have retained the 15 points toward my eventual permanent residence.

The school also does free classes in Italian for foreigners. The A1 level is 100 hours of instruction and the A2 is 80 hours. They will give an Italian language test at the beginning of the school year, in September, to place the students appropriately. I have to be able to pass an Italian test at the A2 level within two years to remain in Italy.

Wednesday, my brother was here to help me with the Tessera Sanitaria for signing up for a doctor. The videos were rather confusing about the health service and didn’t cover my situation at all, which was unsurprising. Most of the people going through this are here as students or for work, while others come to join a working spouse. Elective residence visas were mentioned very briefly but were not discussed in any detail.

Anyway, when we got to the Tessera, we asked about joining the Italian health service. Since I don’t work and have not contributed to the Italian system, they would want a percentage of my annual income to go to the system (a reasonable request, actually), but that percentage equaled about $1,000 more than I’m paying in insurance right now, so I elected to remain on my insurance. I was, however, given an assignment to a woman doctor who does speak English – I think for dealing with medical issues, it’s pretty important to have as few barriers to communication as possible. She has an office down by the Barcola, so it’s not that far away, but it’s a long walk. Buses go by there regularly, though.

I picked up a 10-trip bus pass at a Tabacchi. It was about €11. I haven’t used the bus yet, but am feeling a bit more confident and will probably do so soon.

Thursday I went back to the school with a Croatian woman I met at the American Corner. We spent a fair amount of the day together. She speaks English, Dutch, and French. She said that she left Croatia before the war that split Serbia and Croatia and that the language changed after that, with the Croatians wanting to remove words and influences from Serbian and other languages. When she goes back to Croatia, as she has been living in other countries for a long time, people say, “you haven’t been here in a while, have you?” We both signed up for the Italian class, and she signed up for an art class.

On the way back to my place, she took me by Prunk Carni, which is a Slovenian butcher and grocery store on Largo della Barriera Vecchia, across from the Coop, giving me a tour and explaining what some of the things there were. They have game meat in regularly – venison, squirrel, bear, and other things. They have wine in barrels, sold by the liter, and you bring your own bottles. She showed me which of the dairy case things was sour cream, and talked about some of her favorite things, like nettle syrup and various sweets. I was really happy to have a guided tour, as I would have been completely lost without her explanations.

Friday night I went to visit my Italian teacher, Luisella, and her husband and father in law. She lives at the top of the Scala Dublino, right above the Trieste observatory, which was built in 1753. Gino said something about the building having been sold by the University last year and converted into a hotel, but I couldn’t find anything online confirming that. Gino’s father, Aldo D’Eliso, was a translator for the American army during and after the second world war; he wrote an autobiography that talks about his origins in Bari, in the south, and his move to Trieste with the British and Americans between 1929 and 1954. He was very kind and gave me a copy of the book. I haven’t read it yet, but talking to him was quite interesting. I spoke some Italian over the evening, but a fair bit of English as well. Since Giulia had donated a copy of my poetry book to the American library recently, Luisella had borrowed it and both Aldo and Gino have read it and very much liked my work. Luisella said she is reading it next.

Yesterday morning I walked down to Piazza Unità for a caffe latte and a brioche. The heat here has been pretty intense for my tender northwest sensibilities lately (up in the 90s and humid), so breakfast al fresco was just the thing. There were a lot of fire engines on the waterfront, and a stage set up across the piazza. On the way home along the Riva, I saw a long line of firefighters – the Vigili di Fuoco – carrying what seemed like an endless Italian tricolor over the bridge at Ponterosso toward Piazza Unità. It was quite a sight, but I was feeling a little under the weather so didn’t follow them down to the piazza to watch whatever was happening. I took some photos with my phone, but lost all the photos I’d taken over the past couple of days in a tragic iPhoto accident when a software update did me in while I was transferring them. When I got home, I did a little web searching and found out that the Vigili were having their annual conference here in Trieste this weekend, and this was part of their ceremonies.

Today I’ve been finalizing plans for the end of June and early July. My friend Dan has a lecture in Torino on June 30th, so I’ll be taking the train there on the 29th, then back here to Trieste on the 1st of July. On July 2nd, I’ll hop on a ferry to Greece to visit with my friend Stephen Green, a ceramics artist I met on Twitter in 2012. I was couch-surfing across Europe after my Brigid pilgrimage to Ireland and made a stop in Penrith, staying at a B&B to meet him and his partner at a ceramics festival where he was vending. We hit it off quite well and hoped to meet again at some point. Now that I’m in Italy, they have invited me to stay a couple of days with them on the island of Ithaki while they’re there on holiday. I’ve spent gods know how many hours this past several weeks trying to figure out how to get there for the least expense. Flying would be extremely expensive, and there’d still be the issue of getting from whatever airport I landed at, out to the island.

Almost all the ferry websites I encountered are difficult to navigate, often with outdated information about routes and prices. I’ve got myself a ferry ticket from Trieste to Patras, an overnight trip out and a two-night trip back with Minoan Lines. From what I can tell there are local ferries to the islands from Patras on Strintzis Ferries and I should be able to get to Vathi on Ithaki without too much trouble, as there are daily trips. I have an email in to Strintzis, as they had an actual 2014 schedule and rate sheet posted, but the website they link to for online purchase of tickets is pretty much non-functional and doesn’t give me the right options.

My brother agreed to take care of my dog for me while I’m traveling. I’ll be taking my laptop along, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to post anything while I’m traveling. There will definitely be photos gu leòr when I return!

Giro d’Italia

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Flag of Trieste. I stood on the base of the flagpole by the soldiers to view the end of the race.

I should start by noting that the police finally came by to verify my residence, in the person of a tall, thin gentleman who looked about to either retire or fossilize. I wasn’t sure which. He came by on Saturday morning and I was still half asleep. I tossed on some jeans and my bathrobe and let him in. He asked a couple of questions and I answered as best I could in Italian, because he had very little English. Sadly, being half asleep meant I was groping even for words that I knew, but all went well and he filled out his form and was on his way.

Triestino bicyclists

Triestino bicyclists

This morning, the coastal road and the Riva were shut down for the end stage of the Giro d’Italia, an international bicycle race that originated in 1909 and which has been mostly annual throughout its history, with breaks during the two world wars. According to a book I got handed about the race, in 1946, it was ridden through bombed out villages, rivers were forded by carrying bicycles across them, and the riders came into Trieste under gunfire by an anti-Italian group trying to block them from entering the city.

Fans of the Columbian team

Fans of the Columbian team

This year’s Giro started in Belfast, Ireland, then everyone flew to Italy for the remainder of the race. It’s been making its way around the country for about the last three weeks.

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Bersaglieri bicyclists in their dress uniform hats

Before the race’s riders arrived in the city, a team of Bersaglieri rolled in on bicycles. They’re a type of Italian light infantry unit. The guys on bicycles were older, and looked mostly like vets, though there was also a small brass band, obviously active duty, who played as well, while at a jog. They are apparently quite famous for this as their performance style. I wasn’t able to get a photo of them, sadly, as I was in the wrong place and they literally went by too fast for me to get a shot.

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The Frecce Tricolori over Piazza Unità d’Italia

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Passing over the Piazza again at the end of their show

There was a substantial crowd in town for the race, and by the time the riders were making the last loops through Trieste toward the finish line, Piazza Unità was packed. As the riders were coming into the city and along the Riva, the Italian military aerobatics team, the Frecce Tricolori, based in Udine, flew in for a show.

The crowd grows thicker and more excited as the race draws near its end

More Piazza Unità crowds

The Giro takes place in 21 different stages. The last leg is 172km, from Gemona to Trieste, led by the Columbian cyclist Nairo Quintana. I actually found myself a good vantage point for the end of the race, at the base of one of the big flagpoles at the seaside end of Piazza Unità. I was able to see a tiny bit of the actual race route through the stands, and the cyclists coming into the piazza right beneath where I was standing, so overall it was a good choice.

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Columbian Nairo Quintana, 2014 winner of the Giro d’Italia, entering Piazza Unità

The day started out gorgeously sunny and warm, and the weather held until the first half-dozen cyclists rolled into the piazza toward the stage, where the trophy would be awarded. The clouds burst, then the crowd parted. I was smart enough to actually bring an umbrella, even if it was a thoroughly crappy one. It kept me dry enough to get over to Ginger for a post-race pot of tea, then home again.

Flags over Trieste

Flags over Trieste

A Visitation, and the Barcola

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A buliding along the Barcola

The last ten days have been both busy and kind of annoying. I’ve been waiting around the house all morning, every morning, waiting for the police to arrive to verify my residence. Needless to say, it hasn’t happened yet. I was told “sometime in the next two weeks” by the woman at the Anagrafe, though that, I think, means sometime between then and this Friday. Regardless, I have things to do, and really wish they’d get here so I don’t have to keep waiting. My brother tells me that they don’t necessarily wait very long after they ring your bell, and if I happen to be in the shower or, gods forbid, out taking my dog for a quick morning walk when they show up, I could miss them entirely.

The other part of the reason it’s frustrating is because I was told I had to go sign up for health care, and the only time that office is open is in the morning, when I have to be here waiting. Italian governmental offices are often open for only a few hours a week, and if you can’t get there, you’re kind of screwed. Fortunately, there’s not a hard time limit on the signing up for health care – I can do that anytime in the next couple of months without being too concerned.

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Faro della Vittoria

I was recently visited by a couple of people I met online – Daniel, a Harvard professor of literature and music, and his partner Marta. They spent a couple of days in Trieste, and are currently in Florence. He’s supposed to do a talk in Turin on June 20th on his most recent book, which sounds really fascinating, and right up my alley. I’ve ordered a copy and will see if I can get to the presentation. While I’m not much of an expert on Trieste, I did show them around to some of my favorite places for walks and food and coffee; they really enjoyed the food and the city. Daniel has done work on James Joyce, so we visited some Joyce sites. He’s also doing a book on Giuseppe Verdi, so we wandered around to Teatro Giuseppe Verdi and saw the Verdi statue near Viale XX Settembre, and they went to see Castello di Duino during the next day when I wasn’t available to hang out and show them around.

We talked a lot about art, literature, film, food, and music as we wandered the streets and got rained on. There was a big thunderstorm the first night they visited, and we walked along the riva in the evening, as the storm was moving in, with lightning flashing over the Adriatic. The lights of Piazza Unità were, I think, even more impressive than usual under the darkening sky. By the time I headed home from the apartment they were renting via Airbnb, the hail and the worst of the rain had passed, but my umbrella still got destroyed by the wind. I’m still not used to dealing with them, after so many years in the Pacific Northwest.

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La Mula de Trieste and Miramare

Earlier this week I was over at the AIA helping out with some cooking for a volunteer appreciation evening. I spent a couple of afternoons in the kitchen and had a lovely time. I enjoy cooking for people, though I wouldn’t want to do it for a living. This evening I’ll be going over for a roundtable discussion on LGBTQ activism in the US from the 1970s to the present, hosted by one of the humanities professors at the University of Trieste.

On Sunday, several of us met a woman from the base at Aviano and her two young kids, to show them around the city. Most of the people stationed at the base never leave Aviano; there’s an unfortunate streak of paranoia that the military encourages in its people and their dependents that can be hard to understand for anyone who hasn’t actually been in the military. When I was in service in the 1980s during the Cold War, it was Russian spies under every rock, even when I was stationed in Hawaii. Now, just substitute “terrorists” for “spies” and you rather have the idea of it. Anyway, she had a great time, and her kids loved the train trip, so perhaps we can encourage people to overcome the propaganda and actually enjoy the gift of being stationed in Italy.

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Statue in Pineta di Barcola

Yesterday I ambled down along the coast to the Barcola, Trieste’s “beach,” which is mostly a paved waterfront walk that stretches for several miles from the north end of the city up to Miramare. (There’s a far better, though still short, Wikipedia entry on the Barcola in Italian here.) What natural waterfront exists is stony, like the majority of the beaches I know from the Salish Sea, and from parts of New England. The walk was probably 8 kilometers out and back, and I was really aching by the time I got home, but the glorious view was absolutely worth the time and the aches. The Barcola is where the Triestini go when the weather is nice, to walk or to swim, or just to lie in the sun. On the weekends when the weather is good, it’s apparently nearly impossible to find a place to put a towel down, and the buses are stuffed to the gills from early in the morning until late evening, with the coastal road pretty much entirely parked in along the sides.

As is, unfortunately, fitting for a popular beachfront, getting a drink was really expensive. It was €3 for a tiny bottle of peach juice and I’m sure it would have been more had I used a glass instead of having the bottle porta via (to take away). Some of the little bars along the beach will let you use their tables for €.50, but it’s always better to get a little something from the place if you’re going to sit. I tried sitting on a bench to scribble in my notebook, but my fountain pen went dry in the middle of a sentence, so I had to put it away. I usually carry a backup pen, but didn’t have one in my bag yesterday. That’ll teach me to be unprepared. What kind of a writer doesn’t carry more than one pen? (This one, obviously.)

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Castello di Miramare

I also had my first conversation entirely in Italian with a random person as I walked back along the beach toward Trieste. I didn’t quite understand everything, and probably gave a couple of kind of odd answers, but we mostly understood each other. Most of my (brief) Italian conversations have either been with people I know, or in places where I’m paying a bill or buying groceries, and they’re very limited. This was one of those “where are you from, what do you do” kinds of conversations you have with random strangers. I struggle with words when I’m not sitting down and writing, with a dictionary close at hand. Even when I know the words, I have to search for them in my head. “Non ho molte parole” is a phrase I’ve taken to using of late – “I don’t have many words.” That, along with “parlo solo un poco italiano” (I only speak a little Italian) tends to be my fallback when I’m struggling. It’s hard, feeling so limited in my ability to talk with people. Combined with my innate introversion, it makes it very difficult for me to actually talk with strangers, but I’m fighting the impulse to say nothing, rather than make mistakes. Sounding like an idiot sometimes is preferable to total isolation, much as I dislike the idea.

Next week at some point, I’m supposed to go with my Italian teacher, Luisella, and her husband Gino, up to the university in Miramare. He teaches in the Physics department and has offered me and my brother a tour of the facility and a chance to see the particle accelerator. Science geekery FTW! We just have to schedule a day when everyone is available and the place is open to the public.

And I shall leave you with a picture of the Dog of Devastating Cuteness +3, from his first day in Italy.

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The Dog of Devastating Cuteness +3

Catching up, and my Permesso di Soggiorno

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. My dog lies on a quilt, on the floor in the library, as I still don’t have furniture yet. Next month there will be a loveseat and a couple of chairs for him to choose from when the afternoon sun creeps across the floor but for now, he is enjoying the open space.

My visit to Seattle was short and filled with an overwhelming amount of stuff and many wonderful people. I’m glad I got to see those I did, and sad that I missed others who, for various reasons, weren’t able to be in the same place I was at the same time. To all of those I visited, I am honored by your presence.

I have a string of photos from before and after my Seattle trip, from Duino to the Bavisela. We’ve had some lovely weather here in Trieste in the past week since I’ve been back, and I was able to see the mountains across the water for the first time since I arrived, which was a joyful moment. Duino definitely left me with a sense of why Rilke wrote the Elegies.

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Performers at Piazza Unità

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Duino – the old castle

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The poet contemplating Rilke at Duino

While I was in Seattle, I got notice that my Permesso di Soggiorno arrived. I went in with my brother to pick it up on Wednesday. His is a large sheet of paper, while mine is a plastic card with a chip, like a credit card. It’ll be much easier to carry without worrying about damaging it. My brother only stayed a couple of hours, as he had things to do in Aviano the next day. If the Anagrafe office had been open, we’d have gone in to register my residence with the city together, but this was not to be. I had to go in yesterday alone. Once again, a combination of English and Italian got me through the process.

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Duino castle from near the WW2 bunker

Sometime during the next two weeks, the police will come by my apartment to make sure I actually live here. I have to be at home in the mornings between 7am and noon. She asked what hours I preferred; I wasn’t sure if I could ask for later in the morning, but I suspect that the more time they have, the more likely they are to just get it over with. Once they visit, that will be the end of this particular part of the process. A month from now I’ll have my Carta d’Identita. My Permesso expires near the end of December of this year, so around October, I’ll need to start the process again but, with luck, next year’s will be valid for two years and I won’t have to worry about it so much.

The woman at the Anagrafe office told me to go to have the garbage tax for the apartment shifted over to my name, but we did that with the landlady back in February when I signed the rental contract. I was also instructed where to go to sign up for Italian national health care. I wasn’t told how to do it or how it works, but I did look up the website and click over to the page for foreigners, and it looks doable, though for that I’ll want my brother along to make sure things are clear for me. I’m going to need to find a woman OB/GYN at some point, along with a general practitioner, but I can probably talk to my regular doc about that when I see that person the first time. Issues for Women Of A Certain Age are arising and I need a consult with somebody.

Over the weekend, as noted above, we had the Bavisela. This is Trieste’s marathon, and it’s also a shorter walk/jog for people who don’t do marathons, starting from Duino and ending up at Piazza Unità. Saturday night I went walking out along the waterfront to see what was happening. They’d set up booths for the usual fair type stuff, and a ferris wheel. There was also a stage near Molo Audace and I happened along about the time a band was taking the stage for the evening. They were young guys in suits and narrow ties, kind of rocking an 80s look. They’d have seemed at home doing some Cars or Talking Heads, but they were playing stuff from Buddy Holly to the Rolling Stones, with a diversion for the Happy Days theme. They were enthusiastic, though the vocals needed some work, but they had the crowd up and dancing, and I had fun just hanging out watching the show. Every time I considered taking a ride on the wheel, both Saturday night and on Sunday, the line was too long for me to bother. It would have been a nice view of the city, though.

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Mountains over the Adriatic

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Bavisela crowds in Piazza della Libertà

Sunday morning, I didn’t go to bed until about 5am, but the people in the B&B upstairs were up about 5:30 thumping and bouncing so hard they were literally rattling my doors down here. Most of the time, the B&B guests are reasonably quiet. Occasionally I get thumpy ones, but these were tapdancing elephants. It was egregious and lasted for a couple of hours. I finally gave up around 7:30 and got up, showered, and staggered out to greet the day.

There were already crowds out in the piazza below my window, heading out of the city on buses for the starting points. I got out with the dog briefly but then took him inside so I could go for a walk. He’s not a city dog as yet, and it was a little overwhelming for him with the huge crowd. When I got out alone, I headed toward the center of town, feeling like a salmon swimming against the stream among all the orange-clad participants. I was the only person heading in that direction. The main street into town, Via Miramare, was closed, as was the waterfront main drag, the Riva III Novembre/Riva del Mandracchio/Riva Nazario Sauro. I may never see these main streets that quiet again until next year’s marathon.

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Everybody and their dog at the Bavisela

The weather today is really lovely, sunny and warm, and soon I’m going to finish my tea and wander out to sit on the pier and scribble in my notebook. Tomorrow I will probably hang out online with friends and watch the Eurovision finals. About Eurovision this year, I have only one thing to say: erotic butter churning.

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Detail from Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi