Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Buona Pasqua

Buona Pasqua means 'happy easter' and it's very much on everyone's lips here at the moment although in actuality it doesn't mean much more than "have a nice long-weekend". Even though this is a predominantly Catholic nation, it seems now that most Italians don't practice their religion and very few people have a personal relationship with Jesus. The easter celebrations in Florence have been passed down over the centuries and are an exciting event for Italians and tourists alike. My first thought was to avoid what would certainly be a moshpit around the Duomo for "Lo Scoppio del Carro" (The burning of the Cart), but at the last minute I decided that it was too much to know that this once a year event would be happening senza me, so off I went.

I parked my bike on my side of the river and walked across the empty Ponte Vecchio thinking to myself, maybe I have the wrong day, where is everyone? As I made my way through the empty streets I thought, ok weird, where's the parade? where's the streets lined with people? where am I? what day is it anyway? Finally reached the Duomo and behold, the moshpit. Every person in Florence was right there squeezed into the space surrounding the Duomo and over the tops of the heads I could make out some waving flags and hear the drums and the church bells, and feel the excitement in the air. Clearly I had to make my way closer to the action, which was a challenge, but I got a fair way in, finally laying eyes on the said 500 year old cart, lined with fireworks and surrounded by firemen and pyrotechs in all manner of safety gear. Alright, this might be the only time when I'll agree with you that it's nice to be tall. Add tippy toes to that, combined with intermittent leaps into the air and one can afford oneself some kind of view of the action (I find).

I heard that the cart was going to go off at 11am so I had 45 minutes to endure being squished on all sides and hoping to have no kind of urgent need of any sort for at least the next hour. The burning of the cart is supposed to represent Christ's ressurrection and new life. I really had no clue what to expect but there was a pulpable building of tension as the drums beat and the bells donged and a priest (or at least someone with a very tall hat on) paraded around a bit - couldn't see, there were probably other things going on... and then the moment arrived. Something came whizzing along a string coming out of the main door of the Duomo, hitting the cart and setting off the fireworks display. It was the most dramatic, exciting and altogether terrifying fireworks I've ever experienced. So loud one might even have thought world war 3 had broken out and we were being bombed. I decided that photos wouldn't do it justice so took some footage (see below). Obviously the footage does it no justice either, but if you put your volume on full you might get an idea. Note the little boy in the red jacket in front of me who keeps putting his hands over his ears. I felt like doing the same only I had my arm high above my head trying to capture it on camera (when in Florence do as the Florentines do). Unfortunately my battery ran out just at the crucial moment... at the end, the three little bits whirling around at the top each drop down a flag one by one, to everyone's delight. Sorry I missed that bit. Then of course I also missed documenting the ensuing parade of people dressed in medieval clothes, drummers, flag wavers etc. How excitement!

My lovely friends Cristina and Colin (from Spain and England respectively - I met Cristina at Angel Academy), came around later for afternoon tea so they could admire my new place and go ooh aah at my wonderous view and then we popped over the road to the Boboli Gardens with our annual passes to soak up the greenery. Here's me and Cristina...

I'm very much enjoying school and should have some drawings to post soon.

È tutto per oggi!

See latest pics here.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Spring has sprung

Here is the view from my new apartment at sunrise the other morning. I've moved up in the world! Spring has sprung and the people of Florence have thawed out. There is a cheeriness around town, more smiling, more people striking up random conversations with me. This is a different Florence to the one when I arrived, and now that I'm in an apartment on the 4th floor, flooded with light, I have to say, I'm also feeling lighter of heart.

There are 80 narrow stairs to climb to reach my new abode but the mantra "it's worth it, it's worth it" is all the impetus required to get me up them because there's a stunning view to the south and to the north I can see the Palazzo Vecchio tower in the distance... the trees of the Boboli Garden to the east and the sunset to the west, (slightly leaning out the window). With north and south windows open there's a lovely cross breeze which will be handy for enduring the summer heat up here which may climb to extreme levels but lets not think on that right now. Right now, I'm thrilled with it all... somewhere to hang clothes in the sun, a fridge with a freezer, a bed without a footboard (not what one wants when one is long) and much less noisy at night. It's also rather amusing to greet sweating, red-faced visitors, gasping for air by the time they've made it up the stairs... with a good 5 minutes before they can utter a coherant word. Depending on the person's level of fitness I also have a good amount of time to put everything in place if anyone decides to drop in without warning.

It was an interesting process dealing with an Italian realestate agent and signing a lease (which I didn't have to do at the other apartment). Actually the agent was extremely helpful and obliging and I was very blessed to have my friend Becky come and translate for me. She studied at Angel Academy for 4 years and has decided to stay on with a Christian ministy at the local universities working with Sarah and Andrew from Australia. Needless to say her Italian is excellent. Everything is more challenging when one doesn't speak the language. My new landlords are 2 brothers in their 40s who have also been very welcoming and have gone out of their way to give me all the things I've asked for in regards to the apartment (it didn't have towels/bedding etc like my other place did - but it does now).

I'm in the second week of our school break too so it's been good timing for moving and settling in. Apart from moving, I've been taking some private Italian classes which if anything have exposed the great distance I still have to go with the language, but I suppose progress is slowly being made. On Tuesday I spent the day in Siena with Roxanna which was my first time out of Florence since I arrived. The overall impression of Siena after being in Florence for 3 months is how quiet, orderly, clean and well maintained it is. It was a breath of fresh air, but perhaps it doesn't have the same pulsing energy as Florence... there is certainly a lot more going on here. The rolling green hills of the Tuscan countryside are as lovely as they look in the movies and we passed many small towns that I'm sure would be worth stopping off at some time. Roxanna brought along her little dog Preenie and we enjoyed a spectacular spring day exploring the ancient town and enjoying the amazing views of the whole countryside from a lookout near the Duomo.

Last night I had dinner at Sarah and Andrew's place with their four gorgeous kids Ezekiel, Jemima, Oscar and Matilda. It's so nice to hear the ozzie accent, to talk about familiar places and be able to whip out out some of my favourite lines from The Castle... "this is going straight to the pool room!" (Ezekiel's drawing he did at school), and to drop all the endings off words like arvo, mozzies etc. Yep, we sure know how to talk proppa. Ezekiel and Jemima have been going to the local school for a number of years and their Italian is amazing... no problems with pronunciation or pesky things like that. Jealous! Oscar has just started this year and finding it very difficult. I'm sure his young brain will pick it up in no time. It's the perfect age to learn a second language.

È tutto per oggi!

To see the latest pics click here.
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