Vela la Pena

Another good Italian expression to go with:  lascia perdere: let go

La dolce far niente: the sweetness of doing nothing

Che cosa hai fatto di bello ieri?: What beautiful thing did you do yesterday?

Vela la pena: worth the pain

So, la mia classe è vela la pena. Today I felt more relaxed and decided to change my inner script from shame in being corrected so often to: Wow! I can speak to an Italian for two hours straight in only Italian. So there! Most of the time we just talked. We started out discussing the film yesterday: Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (in English, it’s just Cinema Paradiso) and how I viewed it differently now that I’m older. Then I started talking about my college friends, and he asked all about the trips we take together, when and why we get together, what we do, about Richard, my children, what they do, what they’re like. He said I can’t call Richard’s hair a ponytail because that’s for women only. D’accordo!  La coda di cavallo!

I still make so many errors, and my pauses must drive him crazy, but he’s very patient. We are working at putting sentences together like a catena or chain. I ended up telling him all about my trip to Slovakia with Don and Paul because Stevenson is un nome falso, and many other things. We also spent time going over my homework. I was supposed to read a letter and answer it in the conditional, the form in which Italians give advice. He said my advice, to take the new job, was only chosen by about 5 % of the students. He also asked me why I kept referring to my age and how old I am. I told him it’s because I’m aware that I’m moving into a new phase or age of my life.

In more news, the Russian girl, Marina (who’s 45 and molto bella) is coming with us to Florence this weekend, so it’s only $100 each for two whole nights in Florence with air conditioning right by the San Lorenzo market. And tonight, Donna, a seventh grade Science teacher in the beginning class, is coming over for a spritz before dinner next door at Gattavecchi. 

Here’s what my notes and homework look like after going over them with Alberto!

I miei compiti!

The view from my classroom. I love the little window poking up. Alberto called it something, but non ho dimenticato.

I never get tired of this view from Piazza del San Francesco

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La mia classe privata

Well, mi manca la mia classe della settimana scorsa. Now I’m the only one because no one this week is on my level. I feel like a creature from another planet: not a beginner, but not yet ready for the intermediate class I got to visit yesterday. Now it’s just me and Alberto, my teacher from four years ago. It was a difficult morning. I botched every other word in every sentence I tried to speak. I had extreme performance anxiety, and while my previous teachers let me get away with throwing out words and phrases, Alberto makes me speak only in complete sentences. Of course this is good practice, but molto difficile per me. I also get “brain freezes” where I feel like a deer in the headlights.  Perhaps this experience will give me more compassion for the students at our school who are slow learners. I’m also on a different schedule than the other students in terms of the pause (breaks). Still, I stayed afterwards to complete my homework. Now I won’t have to do it in the morning. This afternoon I go back to school to watch Cinema Paradiso in Italian! : ).

One thing that keeps me from total despair and worrying if I have a brain tumor: Jhumpa Lahiri, one of my favorite writers, tried to learn Italian as an adult, and it took her years and years and years. Even after years of classes, she couldn’t speak well. Only after living in Rome  and reading and writing only in Italian did she grasp the language. Still, my listening and reading comprehension skills have greatly improved. I lag in speaking, which everyone says is normal, but it’s difficult for someone as estroversa as I am. I want to speak but can’t.

I raggazzi Americani nella scuola

These are the eight contrade (neighborhoods) of Montepulciano

Sandra and I have a hard time with the plexiglass because even if it protects the art, it completely obscures it.

When I first saw this man’s wood mosaics, I thought they were kind of cheesy. Richard liked them, and I have to say they are growing on me.

La mia classe di sola!

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Il Coro dei Concordi


​I tricked WordPress into letting me load this video without putting it on YouTube first. So much has happened since Sandra and Kurt left Saturday at noon. I moved into their apartment. It is smaller but has the most amazing views from every window, including il bagno! I can never get over the views here.

I went to Mass at La Chiesa del Gesu, the one built over the vault. Zoe wanted to spend the whole day with me. She’s the only young person in the whole school, except for the family with very young kids who started classes this week. We met at the school for a hike. We found the same white road we took with Sylvia toward Montefollonico, but we turned back at the first fosse (arroyo). Still, it was very hot because it was in the middle of the day. We stopped at the place Laura and Vance did, Il Poggio (the well), for a salami and cheese plate and then hung out in my apartment. She really wants to go to Florence, so now I’ve become Cousin Charlotte (Maggie Smith in Room with a View) to Zoe’s Lucy Honeychurch. We miraculously found an Airbnb super host apartment in the center of everything, and this afternoon I’ve been working on getting reservations for Davide and the Uffizi and train tickets. We also have to catch a bus from Montepulciano to Chiusi as there is no train station here.

Later we went to a concert at “my” church. It was a choral group comprised of ordinary people, ages 18 to 80, and they sing a capella. They were amazing, thus the video I posted above. After the concert, one of the older women came up to me and Zoe to thank us for being there as we were the only ones who weren’t family or friends!

This morning I went to Caffe Poliziano for caffe, and the baristas now call the cappuccino un “Vincenzino” with orange marmalade, chocolate and cinnamon sprinkles, after Vincenzo, the barista who invented it. He is in vacanze per due settimane. And Daniele looked over my homework. When I got to school, since Lisa and Franki are no longer here, I got placed all day in Zoe’s intermediate class. I was so excited. We spent a lot of time talking, and I understood everything. It’s the speaking that really trips me up, and I always seem to get the words only partially right. Still, it’s surprising how that works in context.

Sylvia, the director, told me that this week, as no one is at my level, I will have private lessons with Alberto, my teacher from four years ago. But I’m paying for group lessons, so it’s a great opportunity for me to advance quickly, if I don’t drive him crazy with my mistakes and enthusiasm. I really enjoy learning this language, or attempting to.

Sono molto felice in Italia.  Now for some photos:

La vista panoramica dal mio appartamento

Una altra vista dal mio appartamento

Zoe ha seidieci anni. Lei è molto intelligente e matura.

Rooms with views!

La Messa nella Chiesa del Gesu

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Bravio delle Botte for Ragazze (Girls!)

Sandra and Kurt left today, and I was feeling abandoned, but I went for a walk and met a really interesting Estonian named Mart at an enoteca. And I’m having Franki and Zoe over for dinner soon. Maria (owner of our apartment) messaged me that they were having races in Piazza Grande. I went up there, and it was so exciting. Here are a few videos and photos. It’s so medieval! ​This is the first year they’ve had a competition for women only. I can’t believe they could push those 84 kilo barrels up the STEEP hill that leads to the end of the race in Piazza Grande.



Zoe and Sarah (aka Franki) per cenare alla casa mia

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Pecore e la ultima cena con Sandra e Kurt (updated)

Our wonderful picnic with a view of the sheep

Kurt and I survey the view of Cetona

In Cetona centro. Got to wear my coat today!

Yesterday was Sandra and Kurt’s last day. After Lisa (Leisel) and Franki (Sarah) “graduated,” Sandra, Kurt, and I went to a shop in the country to buy cheese to complement our picnic there with lovely views, especially of the sheep in a field next to us. The last video on this post is of the sheep running for their food? If you listen carefully, you can hear the bells they’re wearing. Next we drove to Cetona in the rain. It was cool and rainy, exactly as it was seven years ago when Richard and I visited the sleepy town. Cetona has a lovely, if quiet, piazza, and I’m always interested in the war memorials. These little towns lost so many to both World War I and World War II. They listed those who died in the army and as partisans in separate lists, as well as those who died of injury or illness, in the case of World War I.

When Richard and I were here last, we saw so many cats. Now, the water bottles people leave on their doorsteps are supposed to keep cats from peeing. We saw the same thing in Vernazza in the Cinque Terre. One house, in particular, went overboard with the water bottle technique. It’s not asesthetically pleasing, but maybe it works because we only saw one cat. Cetona is at the base of Mt. Cetona and is much greener than the part of Tuscany we’re staying in.

For Sandra and Kurt’s last night, we had dinner at our favorite place, La Pentolaccia. Sandra and Kurt went to a concert by music students at the Palazzo Ricci beforehand. I snuck in at the end, and the young man playing was amazingly talented. The pieces were all from the Romantic period, and the concert hall was beautiful with paintings all over the ceiling. Cristiana and her sister run La Pentolaccia: Cristiana serves, and her sister is the chef. We ate inside because of the rain, but we had a delicious final meal. Towards the end our host Giacomo came in to eat with a friend. Montepulciano e un piccolo mondo! img_6597


Tanti Auguri a Franki (Sarah)!


e Lisa (Leisel)!


Picnic spot!


We loved watching the sheep (pecore)!


I love this private garden in Cetona.


Shrine in the wall of an old monastery in Cetona


Overkill on bottles for cat pee prevention. This cat doesn’t care.



I love these windows. I made this photo into a Christmas card seven years ago.


Almost all the towns in this region have memorials to their war dead: World War I and World War II.

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Una Passaggiata da Montepulciano a Montefollonico 

Cominciamo la nostra passaggiata: Sylvia guida

Looking back on Montepulciano, as it must have looked in Middle Ages

I love this view with San Biagio nestled below on the right

Sylvia e Franki

Il nostro gruppo: with Sylvia, Zoe (16), Sarah (Franki)

After following an ancient Roman path, we approach Montefollonico from this back porta

Defensive tower: Montefollonico, unlike MP, never conquered by Florence

Looking down the street through the back gate

La sirena, an old pagan symbol, at the top of a Catholic Church

Sylvia e una guida marviglosa! Spiega l’arte

The window on the left is Romanesque, on the right Gothic. The arch shapes vary along the top, and the figures are: umani, animale, e pianti: tutto vita ‘nel mondo.

This was my path to meet Sandra and Kurt for cena at La Grotta.

Sandra and Kurt at La Grotta: beautiful view of San Biagio as it grew dark, but everyone so quiet, we ended up almost whispering!

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Stasera a San Quirico d’Orcia

We had a delightful dinner and evening in San Quirico d’ Orcia. So happy I invited Sarah (a.k.a. Francesca/Franki). I have a new friend, but she’s leaving Sunday. Dixie from Dallas, the friend I made in class here four years ago, invited me to her apartment in Rovereto next weekend. I just have to figure out how to get there. The fabulous restaurant is Il Vecchio Forno: my best meal in Italy! Commentary to follow. Or not. 

I came upon some wonderful shrines here

This guy reminds me of the Hunchback of Notre Dame

Another nuovo vestito per solo 22 Euro!

Franki, Sandra, me at Il Vecchio Forno

Kurt with me at Il Vecchio Forno


Franki a San Quirico

I love the medieval gargoyles and other figures

Pittura nel Museo Civico

Notice the two mermaids

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