Too busy for a long post

Champagneria restaurant

Champagneria restaurant

 

I didn’t want you to think I’d forgotten you! I’ve been busy, my brother has been in town a lot, and I’m working on my new book, which is actually a compilation of a bunch of my articles and essays from anthologies and from online in different places, so I’ve not had a lot of time to devote to other things.

My brother’s divorce became final (after six years) on the 19th of July, so I took him out to dinner. We’d walked out earlier in the day to find the little Triestino liquorifico, Piolo e Max, where they make a wide variety of flavored grappas, bitters, and other artisan liqueurs. The very kind lady in the shop was generous with samples of the different liqeuers they produce. I bought a few things for myself – a small bottle of cardamom, and a larger one of a creamy hazelnut – and was going to give a coconut one to my brother in honor of his divorce, but she gave us the bottle for him, with her blessings and a fond wish for his future happiness. It was all just remarkably lovely, and a great way to spend a little while in the afternoon.

Early that evening, we went to Champagneria for dinner as an additional celebration. We’d wandered by it during lunch as we were on our way to Piolo e Max and thought we’d like to check it out at some point. They specialize in fish and in local varieties of prosecco and white wines. The food was excellent, if a bit pricey. My brother said it was the best fish he’d had, and I agreed it was excellent. Everything was very fresh and very well prepared. The presentation was gorgeous as well. I spent quite a bit, but it was worth the money for my brother’s big day.

On the way back, we ran across the fire spinner who’s often in Piazza Unità on a Saturday night. I’ve seen him several times, though I usually catch him just as he’s ending his performance. This time we were there as he was setting up, so we got to watch the whole thing. I got a few photos, but night time pictures of moving fire spinners are iffy at best when you’re an amateur with a cheap camera. At any rate, there are a few below to share the experience.

In front of the Teatro Verdi, just behind Piazza Unità, there have been a series of free music performances on Saturday nights as well. That night, it was a jazz group. I enjoyed it, but my brother’s not into jazz, so we didn’t stay very long. I’ll probably go back again without him when the weather clears up, as we’ve been having a lot of rain and thunderstorms this past week. We’ll see how it goes!

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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

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

Compleanno in Italia

You may notice that the header on my blog has changed. The old photo was a street in the small mountain town of Poffabro, in the Dolomite mountains. It was beautiful, but it was from my visit in 2012, and it reflects the more rural beginning of my journey here. The new header, I think, is more appropriate to the current themes of my life – living in the city of Trieste, being once again in a city, and entering a new phase of my life.

Also, the Free Territory of Trieste feels kind of like being in a pirate movie, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t want to be in a pirate movie?

My birthday was this past week. The bora blew through town that day, rattling windows, blowing every hidden bit of trash out of its concealing crevice, and staggering the pedestrians as we went about our business. My own windows didn’t rattle at all, due to the lovely double-paned outside windows that are relatively new to the building. It was silence itself inside.

My brother was in town overnight for my birthday. We went over to the Questura to see if they had the papers that had been sent from Pordenone, but the office was already closed for the day by the time he’d arrived and we got over there. We got the hours, though, and also found the office of the Comune di Trieste, where I’ll need to register my residence and get my Carta d’Identita.

For dinner, we went to the Arcoriccardo restaurant, which I linked to in my last post. It was a quiet evening there, and the food was really good. It was, as anticipated, on the expensive side but not over the top. I thought it was worth it for what we got and would certainly go back for a special occasion again. Service was very good, as well.

The next morning, we went to the Questura, where we were told that the papers had not yet arrived from Pordenone. They made sure they had my proper phone number and said someone would call when they were ready for me to come in. After that we walked to the office where I had to register my residence. I wasn’t able to do so, but the question about why Montereale hadn’t given me my Carta d’Identita was resolved. Apparently, the first time you apply for your Permesso di Soggiorno, they won’t register your residence or give you your card until you actually have the Permesso. After that, if you are renewing your Permesso, they don’t worry about that and all you need is the receipt from the post office. So, weirdness resolved, but I’m still a bit in limbo. Regardless, I’ve done everything they’ve asked of me so far, and things appear to be legal and going all right. It does seem there may be a bit more of a delay, though, given the move and the transfer of the papers.

About ten minutes after my brother left to go home, the Questura called. They want me to come in Tuesday morning to get fingerprinted. Again. I don’t know why, but I’ll be there. My brother will come up on his motorcycle and go with me in the morning then head back home after lunch.

He brought more bookshelves with him when he came, so now three more bookshelves were built, and all of my books are finally up off the floor. This is a relief, and I do have room on some of the shelves to let the collection grow, as libraries do. We all know books breed in the dark, when we’re not looking.

Today it has been gloriously sunny. The time shift happened last night, so now the clock has moved forward an hour and dusk comes later. I hate clock shifts, but it will be nice to have more light in the evening again. Feeling like a walk and wanting to get some sun, I headed down to the Molo Audace, the long, narrow stone pier near Piazza Unità. I think all of Trieste was out walking today, in the piazze and along the waterfront. There was a haze over the sea, and cargo ships floating like islands on the horizon. Sailboats skimmed slowly over the calm water like the people walking the shoreline.

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Ships and sailboats on the Adriatic off Molo Audace

I saw an immense number of jellyfish, along with small schools of minnows skimming just below the surface of the water. Beneath the murmur of conversation, if you listen closely, you can hear the tiny splash of dorsal fins. There were two species of jellyfish, their umbrellas rippling gently as they moved, rising and falling in slow motion. I sat on the dock for a while, writing in my notebook and enjoying the warmth of the sun.

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Aurelia aurita (smaller jellyfish) and Rhizostoma pulmo swimming near the pier

Finally, feeling like moving, I rose and headed back toward the Piazza. Along the way, a man with a hookah sat on the stone, putting together a fishing pole. Around me, Italian, German, and Slovenian language in waves. I walked slowly, trying to let go of my need for perfection and my unconscious desire to hurry everywhere. I thought about Specchi, but it was pretty crowded, as one would expect on a brilliantly sunny Sunday afternoon. I walked down to Ginger, but the four little tables inside were full, and there was a line, so I wandered back to Specchi and got a seat anyway, and had a spritz aperol. The presentation was a bit over the top, with a bowl of chips and bits of other snacks on pikes like the heads of my enemies.

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Spritz aperol with food on spikes. NOM.

I talked briefly to the waiter. I think people are starting to recognize me, even if they don’t know my name, as the smiles I get are friendlier than they were the first few times I’ve been into some of these same places. It’s nice, having people recognize my presence as something other than a passing thing. He grinned when I left, at my “ci vediamo.” I can’t say much, but I’m trying to use more of what little I do have in hopes it will become easier. I stopped a couple of blocks from my flat at Gelateria Zampolli, at Via Carlo Ghega 10, which came recommended to me as one of the better places in town. I remember when I was initially researching Trieste online, I’d read one person’s report of the city, complaining that they couldn’t find a gelateria anywhere, and I will admit I find myself wondering if they ever got more than a block from Piazza Unità for their entire visit, as there are quite a few gelaterias here, just like pretty much anywhere else in Italy. I had a scoop of lemon. It was delicious.

Tonight I’ve got some chicken simmering on the stove. I’ll make chicken soup with lentils. My brother brought me baking powder, baking soda, and corn starch for various things, so I picked up eggs and milk to make scones. I usually use an egg substitute because I’m mildly allergic to eggs, but a little bit in a batch of scones isn’t usually a problem. A year ago, I didn’t imagine my life would look like this, ever. It’s strange what life hands us sometimes.

The flat smells like chicken soup. The balcony door is open. The sun is lowering in the sky. Life is good.

Restaurants, Frustrations, and New Friends

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The clock in Piazza Unità

Apparently buying a plane ticket online is impossible for me right now. My trip to Granada isn’t happening in April, though we’ll be scheduling a poetry reading for later in the year. A lot of websites don’t want to take my credit cards, having decided that none of my addresses are “valid”.

I’ve been to my bank and got a pre-paid credit card from them so that I can deal with situations like this when they come up later. I’ll figure out how much a thing costs, put some money on the card, and use that to buy the ticket or whatever, so long as I have sufficient cash to cover the situation in my account. What will happen if I need something that costs more than I have in my account is kind of an open question at the moment, but as a foreigner living in Italy, they apparently can’t give me just an Italian credit card. I’m not sure what all the laws are, but they are apparently tangled and problematic.

The other thing I’ll be doing when I get back to Seattle in April is going in to one of the mail scanning and forwarding places and opening an account there, then transferring all my billing addresses to that address. Too many websites don’t even have APO/FPO addresses as an option – they will take a state abbreviation, but AE (armed forces Europe) is not even on the drop-down menu, which means I’m nobbled at the gate. Mostly this just means I have to be a little more creative to get some of my more abstract needs met.

The Veterans Administration sent back my form for changing my direct deposit to my Italian bank. I sent it to the address on the website, but it was the wrong address. Rather than sending the form to the right address, they sent it back to me. With the newer form, which doesn’t require a signature from someone at the bank. So I filled it out again, stuffed it in an envelope, and handed it to my brother to mail at the base. Hopefully by May my automatic deposit should be arriving in my Italian account without having to go through my US account and be wire-transferred.

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Statue in the Lloyd Triestino building, Piazza Unità

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Detail, statue at Lloyd Triestino

The situation with receiving my library and other things is also slightly tangled. The contractors wanted me to arrange for a parking permit for them. I’ve looked over the Trieste municipal website and found what I think they are looking for but (a) I can’t tell if they actually need it and (b) I can’t apply for it anyway. The permit in question applies to restricted parking zones and pedestrian zones, not open parking areas with paid parking on regular public streets. In order to apply for a permit, I would need a driver’s license from one of the people driving the truck, the truck’s registration, and a few other things. I told them I would pay for it, but they had to actually apply. This leaves me wondering if they actually know what they’re doing. You’d think if these people were professional movers, they would have dealt with this and would have been aware that I can’t file for the permit without those documents. At any rate, mail has been passed back to the contractors through the company shipping my stuff, and we’ll see what happens. Everything is due to arrive next week, and I’m unutterably excited. It’ll be nice to pet my books again. Not to mention having to sort through them, stack them, and arrange them in ways that allow me to use them again.

I tried moving my modem from the kitchen to the hallway yesterday and found that when the phone company here activates service to your house, you only get it in one phone outlet. You can’t move your phone or your modem without paying them another €100 or so service fee. I’d wanted to free up the counter space, so I ended up having my brother mount it on the wall in the kitchen behind the door, and we’ve added a plug to the wall outlet so that I can plug in more than one thing there. I’ve got the counter space back and now I can put an oven there when I finally get one.

Carnevale has come and gone. I didn’t make it out to Muggia or up to Opicina over the weekend, but I did get out walking around Trieste. It rather reminded me of Halloween on Capitol Hill in Seattle, but the drag queens here were not nearly so fabulous. People I’ve talked to said that Carnevale was a bit subdued this year, though no opinions were offered as to why. I did, however, take some photos of the city by night, as you can see.

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Piazza Unità at night

The American Corner is starting up a Women’s Library as a part of their collection. I was in last week cataloguing some education books for them, and was asked to come in to help early next week with more cataloguing, as well as helping set the space up. Apparently the US Consulate General from Milano will be visiting on March 18th, and they want to have the beginnings of this resource organized by then.

Speaking of books and organizing things, I’m working on my writing again. I downloaded Scrivener after talking to some of my other writer friends and have been organizing what electronic files I currently have for my next book. I’ll be able to get a lot more done once my library is here, but it felt so good to be working on a book again! I did have to spend a couple of days on a tutorial and working my way through some of the manual, but I think the organizational capabilities of the program will be more useful for coordinating my research than just using a word processor. We shall see.

My brother and I went to the covered market on Via Carducci. We’d tried the day before but walked in just as things were closing down. It’s a little like a very small-scale Pike Place Market in Seattle. The fruit and veg stands all close down at 1pm, but the upstairs part of the market – clothes, books, antiques and the like – closes at 5pm.  I’m going to haul a camera over there at some point and take a few photos.

Not far from there are an Indian and a Turkish restaurant, off on side streets, where my brother and I have gone for dinner a couple of times. The Indian place (Yoga on Via Filippo Corridoni) was passable good, and they deliver. The Turkish place (Piccola Instanbul on Via Enrico Toti, one block away from Yoga) was quite good. My brother said the Turkish coffee there compared favorably to the stuff he’d had from some Turkish construction contractors he worked with while he was in Baghdad a couple of years ago.

Last night I went for pizza with my brother to one of the places that was highly recommended by Elizabeth, whom I met at the American Corner. She gave me a list of her favorite places, and I have been slowly working on checking them out. This one is Pizzeria Capriccio on Piazza Libertà, about two blocks from me. The food was excellent, the prices reasonable, and the service was good. I’ll definitely be going back. They have food for carry out as well as dine-in, and the décor and atmosphere were very nice as well.

Tomorrow I’ll be having lunch with Giulia, whom I mentioned in my last entry. We’re going to talk about her upcoming WorldCon presentation. She suggested a place called Knulp – a bar/library/cinema/music venue on Via della Madonna del Mare. She says the menu is rather limited, but they emphasize fair trade items, they have wifi, and they are a great place to hang out, with tables and comfy couches. The website is certainly promising and seems like the kind of place I would really enjoy spending some time. Anyway, slowly but surely I’m finding my way here, and I’m very grateful to the people who are helping me make a home of Trieste.

And, since the weather outside looks gorgeous and my computer tells me it’s a nice temperature outside, I’m going to head outside to explore. I’m thinking about going to Bosco Farneto and the botanical garden, not far from Viale XX Settembre. I’ll be taking my camera!

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Fountain at Piazza Vittorio Veneto