Monday, May 24, 2010

A Scoula (At School)

As we are nearing the end of the school year, I just have to do a post about my son's school. The cultural experience for him has been amazing. He is in kindergarten and is taught in Italian half the day and English half the day. He is now essentially fluent in 6 year old Italian. He doesn't know adult words like newspaper, but he can just about translate everything he hears people saying on the street.

At school he has made close friends who are Italian, Spanish and Belgian. He now wants to live in "all the countries in the whole world".

They have been to the theatre 3 times this year and the art museum once. Can you imagine taking 18 six year olds to an exhibit with priceless art? I would never attempt it but I'm glad the school did. The class had a guided tour of Kandinsky and Matisse. Seriously.

There are several cats that roam the hallways and rabbits run free on the playground.

And the food, oh the food. They have an amazing chef who cooks for all the children each day. All the kids eat lunch at school, we do not have the option of packing a lunch. They have at least three courses (that's right, three courses) of homemade Italian food, and it is good, healthy, real food. None of the processed stuff they serve in American cafeterias. The children are taught to appreciate and enjoy the food. They are learning the whole quality vs. quantity thing at a very young age. I'm not sure why American schools say they have to use the processed foods for time reasons. Here they are making risotto for the entire school (ages 2-14) and it works out fine. Have you ever made risotto? It is a true labor of love... you have to stir and stir and stir, and yet they make it often.

There is such a huge emphasis on the food, but it is a healthy emphasis. These kids are learning to love things like caprese salad, grilled vegetables and lasagne, rather than doritos and fruit roll-ups. They learn that food is something to be enjoyed. The Italians do not eat for comfort or because they are bored, something I learned in all my funeral experiences this year. They eat socially, almost always sitting at a table, and truly enjoy their food.

My friend Cindy sent me this article about school lunches in Paris and it reminded me so much of our school. You really must read this article.,8599,1967060,00.html

The other day I had a meeting with the principal who is a lovely Italian lady and after we concluded the meeting, the first thing she said was "And how is everything else with the children? Are they enjoying the food?"

Can we just live here forever?

Tour de Italia

At around 11:00 Saturday morning we are sitting around and my husband says, "so do you want to go to the Tour de Italia today?"

And at 12:00, there we were, 2 miles from our house watching these guys fly by.

The race started here in Ferrara so they were just warming up and they were FAST. Already going faster than the cars usually go on this street (and this is Italy where everyone drives fast).

I love this city.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Palio Parade

Just a regular Saturday night in Ferrara...
It is Palio time! The Palio is an ancient competition between the eight neighborhoods that has happened here every year since 1259. Did you get that? EVERY year for over 700 years.
The actual competition is running races and horse races and takes place next weekend, but there have been events leading up to this every weekend for a month.

Last night was the Palio parade where each of the competing contradas (neighborhoods) marched in their medieval atttire complete with drums, trumpets, etc. This was not some cheesey medieval festival... it has been done this way for hundreds of years and it was so amazing to see them in costume marching down a 500 year old cobblestone street.

Each neighborhood wore their colors and marched from the city gate to the castle. The costumes were fabulous, right down to hair and make-up. In true Italian fashion the parade started at 9:00 p.m. and lasted almost 2 hours. The party continued well into the night as the contradas returned to their neighborhoods complete with drums and trumpets way past midnight. Horns honking, people shouting in Italian... we didn't sleep much but we had a blast. Check out the video...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Il Festival!

It is beginning to be festival season in Ferrara. In summer there is always something going on... from music festivals to medieval festivals to hot air balloon festivals just about every weekend in summer is filled with great things to do. It might be sweltering in August, but we're having fun. Perhaps it is because most people do not have air conditioning and spend the summers outside. Who knows, but it is a blast.

Last night was just the beginning of the season... a Brazilian festival. Brazilian music, food, and drinks. Once again the venue was so surreal to me. We were in the courtyard of a 15th century (or older) church. I'm pretty sure as they were laying bricks by hand 600 years ago, they were not intending it to be filled with people drinking mojitos. Oh well, I did appreciate the building's beauty while sipping my mojito. Olá!

I took the picture above while waiting in line for the bathroom. I only wish the bathrooms were as pretty.


A lovely afternoon touring the winery of Umbergo Cesari. They have wonderful Sangiovese (a very popular wine in the region) but are most famous for their Liano wine because John Grisham wrote about it in his book The Broker.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Corta e Lunga

It is always surreal to go to my hair appointments. My salon is a couple blocks from my house so I walk or bike. Inside everything is stark white and modern. It is so strange to sit in this modern salon, reading an Italian Elle and looking out the window at 500 year old buildings. Quite a contrast. Perhaps this is why modern décor is so popular in Italy.

The same girl has been cutting my hair since we moved here and I always get a variation of the same cut. A bob, short in the back, long in the front. This time my hair was rather long for me (shoulder length) and I asked her to cut it short—to my chin. She speaks no English but we get by on my little Italian and lots of pointing.

So she cuts it like she always does except when she finishes the left side is to my chin and the right is at least two maybe three inches longer. When I asked her about it, she spoke all in Italian and all I heard was “Italian, Italian, questa e corta, e questa e lunga (this is short and this is long), Italian, Italian, Italian, questa e corta e questa e lunga. I have to admit it was kind of cool in a dramatic kind of way. And I considered it for a moment. Then she said it all again. . . Italian, Italian, questa e corta, e questa e lunga (this is short and this is long), Italian, Italian, Italian, questa e corta e questa e lunga, Italian, Italian, Italian. She could have been saying, everyone in Italy is wearing it this way or this is a good cut for you or you look like a clown. Who knows.

Are your wondering if I still have asymmetrical hair? Maybe next time. This time, I had her cut the long side to match the short side. If I see other people with it, I’m definitely doing it next time, but for now I’m not going to be a trendsetter. I already stand out enough here.

So, if this cut becomes the next big thing in America, just remember I had it first. (If only for 30 seconds.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

La Bella Figura

Ugg. The laundry has piled up over my busy week and today I am plowing through. Seems simple I know, but this is Italy so of course it is complicated. The washing machine takes an average of 2 hours to wash.

You read that right.

Two hours.

120 minutes per load.
Here's proof.

And each load only holds 3 of our big fluffy towels and maybe a sock or two.

Now, there is a "rapid" selection and if I select this and wash on cold, it only takes 51 minutes. I'm just not sure how clean the clothes are getting on this setting but I use it in a pinch. Like today.
We have a big American dryer that is vented out a window and works beautifully. Unfortunately, it takes almost all the electricity in the house, so when it is on, nothing else can be on or the electricity in the whole house will turn off. So when the dryer is running, that means no oven, no dishwasher, no tv, not even my hair dryer. Just about every time I use the dryer I have to reset all the clocks in the house. Seriously, it is like we are living in the middle ages.

Most Italians do not have dryers so they line dry their clothes which also means everything (even t-shirts) must be ironed. Yet, they are always perfectly groomed, styled and looking fabulous. They even have a saying for this. . . la bella figura. It loosely translates to "the beautiful image" and means that they strive to look and act their best in every situation. I literally mean EVERY situation. . . from early morning school dropoff to evening apertivo, they put their best (high-heeled) foot forward always, despite the 2 hour washing cycle and having to iron underwear.

Think about that next time you are dropping your kids off at school wearing something that resembles pajamas :-)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

How do you spell. . .

I can't believe I misspelled Louis Vuitton the first time I posted the entry below. Actually, I can. It is my spelling not my fashion knowledge that is limited I promise!

My Electrician Has a Nicer Purse than Me

So the electrician did actually show up to hang the chandelier. A day late. Not too bad considering our painter showed up seven months late. The electrician (a guy, about 35ish) had on grey skinny jeans and a Louis Vuitton messenger bag. He had his electrical tools in it. I’m not kidding. I like to think I can spot a fake and this looked authentic to me. It looked like this.
The electrician came with the owner of the antique store where we bought the chandelier which I thought was impressive. They really go out of their way to provide great service here. . . even if it takes a while.
Unfortunately, I still have no chandelier. Turns out there is no electricity “No fili qui!” hidden behind the rosette on the ceiling. It was just a rosette covering a hole. Here is where it gets complicated. Our house is 500 years old the walls are made of concrete and the beam is make of solid wood. Not so easy to rewire (even if you have electrical tools in a fabulous bag).

They said they could run wire on top of the beam but I didn’t have enough Italian words to ask the right questions. I wanted to say that I don’t want it to look like a college apartment with wires everywhere but all I could say was “non lo so. Che bello?” (I don’t know. What beautiful?”) To which they just shrugged and said “si.”

And so, I called my Italian neighbor who came over to help me figure it all out. She in turn called her husband who is an artist and an architect and so would understand what would look right. So now there are five people standing in the living room, looking perplexed and staring at the ceiling.
Turns out they are going to hang it with a very small wire covered in satin that matches the paint. They do it all the time in these ancient homes. So it actually will be bello. The whole thing took over an hour with four people speaking Italian (think very loud, lots of hand motions and pats on the backs) and me smiling and nodding and understanding very little.
When it was all finished I said, I'm sorry I thought it would be simple and they all laughed and my neighbor said “Een Eetaly, nothing eees seemple.” Story of my life.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Despite less than stellar weather, our American BBQ turned out great. The rain stopped a few hours before and everyone had a good time although it was a bit surreal to grill burgers in our 16th century garden. Matt wore boots and even snuck a few country songs onto the playlist. As close as we can get to Texas for now. The last guests left at 2:00 so I guess the country was a hit. Hee hee.
We told everyone to just bring themselves, but of course they brought things which is so interesting with so many different cultures. We had amazing salami from Spain, a fabulous endive salad from Belgium, lots of good American food, amazing Italian wine, and the best tiramisu I've had it Italy (made by my American friend).
I was too busy having fun to remember to take pictures. . . ci sono solo un po


Olive green is everywhere this spring. It is as big as purple was in fall of 2008. A strange color to be in for spring, but it is not going away. I'm less than trilled about this because when I wear olive people ask me if I feel okay. Not my best color.

Are you seeing it in the States? If you aren't you will. Buy an olive top now.

I'm Back!

My husband says it is best to start things on Mondays and so, this Monday, I am going to start updating my blog again. I'm really, really going to this time. But you have to start commenting to keep me motivated. Even if all you do is count the number of times I use the words fabulous and gorgeous.

Today my husband had the day off for May Day, an Italian holiday. The actual holiday was Saturday and stores were closed. This is a BIG deal in Italy where everything is so fresh that people shop every day. On Sunday, the only two stores that were open looked like World War III. There was no fruit, no milk, no bread. We had to raid our wine cellar, which has become our American food storage room, and have tacos.

So anyway, today was a la dolce vita (living the sweet life) kind of day with just my husband, my two year old and me. Our oldest was in school. We had cappuccino at our regular bar, rode bikes down to the big outdoor Monday market. (It was more of a drive-by than shopping as by that point said two year old was trying to escape from the bike seat.) Then on the way home we stopped by my favorite antique store and bought a gorgeous big antique Italian chandelier. If I can figure out how to get the picture of it off of my husband's phone and onto this blog, I'll post a picture. It is from the most amazing store that is great to wander because it is big and messy and you really feel like you've found something. He has pieces from as early as the 1700's. His newest addition is a pair of beautiful carved Louis XV chairs from France in the 1800's that I can't stop thinking about. Where could they fit in our house? Surely somewhere. Oh how my modern style is evolving. The new chandelier is going to hand over our zebra print ottoman. It will be a great contrast.

Hey, look I figured out how to get the photo on here! Just kidding, Matt had to do it of course.

Anyway, as usual the whole experience was conducted in limited Italian. Matt said I sound like a "bubbly blonde caveman"

What I wanted to say:
Oh, this is really gorgeous. I love it.
What I said:
"I like" (mi piace")

What I wanted to say:
How old is it? Where is it from?
What I said:
"year?" (anni?)

What I wanted to say:
Our ceilings are very high. Can you extend the chain?
What I said:
"ceiling. 5 meter. very big."

We think it is being delivered tomorrow by an electrician who will install it but we're not totally sure we understood that right. Luckily, they have Matt's phone number, not mine.