See you later…

It is often mentioned that goodbyes are permanent, which is why I chose to entitle what is to be the last installment of me blogging about my Italian travels with the phrase ‘see you later.’

When I first arrived in Italy, the stalks of corn were just below my knees, now my head is tilted back just to see the tops.

When I first arrived in Italy it was an American holiday, Memorial Day, and I return on the eve of another, Independence Day.

I have been shown a piece of Italy that is often looked over in the travel books and in the account of passerby’s. The house that my father grew up in still stands, but only as a shell of the home it used to be. The island where my mother’s family hailed from enchanted my mind.

What had started out as a semi-spontaenous trip to Italy, with plans to explore the alternative life of organic farming under WWOOF, took a turn, and instead I learned what it is like to live day-in and day-out in the suburbs of Italy. There’s hard work to be done but it was always rewarded with spending time with the people who matter in life, eating and drinking delicious foods, and trading stories and ideas into the late nights.

I did things that I do back at home, like bowling and billiards, but also did things I would have never done back in the States such as riding on a scooter and mixing my beer with Coke.

Moments of reflection each day were spent with a fresh cup of hot espresso in hand.

I saw a nation propelled with excitement for the World Cup, and witnessed their devastation with the failure to advance out of group. I made friends with people I could only hold small conversations with. I did and saw so many things that it causes my heart to ache just thinking that it will be a long time before I get to feel the same way again.

Today we visited the Abbey at Monte Cassino. It was a very fitting place to visit on my last day.The abbey has a long history, but in the more recent span of its life it is known for a large World War II battle that took place there.

It was a 20-mile drive which gave me plenty of time to stare out the window and think about the ‘last time.’ With every chapter marked by some big change, usually the end of a year or the time I moved back home from college, I think about the ‘last time,’ I do or see something special or unique. The things I was thinking about had me crying again. It’s the littlest things too, like going to the Conad supermarket or admiring the neatly placed bales of hay on a hillside…

The abbey sits atop a mountain, and the road there had plenty of hairpin turns and overlooking cliffs. But the ride was worth it with the view at top.

We got there a bit late, about a half hour before they close the abbey during the week so we didn’t see everything. What I did see was beautiful. The courtyards were mostly white stone accented with a green garden. There were a few doves perched on the rafters. After our mini-tour of the abbey we went to the nearby Polish cemetery. As mentioned before, there was a big WWII battle here, which you can read all about on the Wikipedia page.

And so, tomorrow I believe before dawn for the airport. Through the next couple of weeks I’ll be editing my blog posts about my trip and probably adding a few posts reminiscing about my time here.

The Abbey
The Abbey
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Beautiful vista
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The Polish Cemetery

Uptick in Antics

Ah, so here I am again skipping days with my posts! We shall begin the catch-up where I left off last time: the World Cup!

We gathered for a big dinner around 10 p.m. on Saturday for the match between England v. Italy. We had pizza, cured meats, vegetables, and plenty of Moretti beer. When we were stuffed, we were joined by more guests where we each took a seat in the living room. We were supposed to watch the game outside, with the projector, but my cousins couldn’t get the audio to work.

It was exhilarating to have people around me so invested in this match. I have always enjoyed the sport, and have been a fan of the Azzurri team ever since I could remember, but it was a special moment for me in that room. I was surrounded by electricity, the intrinsic passion for the team. It was intoxicating. If you watched the match you know that it was a nail-biter. But the Azzurri came out on top for their first 2014 World Cup victory.

The game ended at 2 in the morning here, and although very tired I stayed up until 3, which made for a very sleepy Sunday.

Monday morning my cousin took me to the Abbey in Casamari. Casamari is a neighboring town and the abbey there is almost a thousand years old. It was built in 1035. The church was preparing for some festival this weekend. Gorgeous church, vastly different from the ornate churches that sprinkle Italy’s big cities. I enjoyed seeing it.

After visiting the Abbey, I asked my cousin if we could stop at a bookstore. I am a big Harry Potter fan and the idea occurred to me that it might help me learn Italian faster/better if I read the first book in Italian. I know Harry Potter so well that I could add context to the words and focus on the grammar and technique of the translation. The first bookstore we tried didn’t have the first book, so we went over to neighboring Carnello (the town my dad was born in) and I found the first book there. From there we stopped at the school my aunt teaches at. The school year just finished so the elementary school was being cleaned out. It was so tiny! What an interesting thing to see in a foreign country.

I then spent most of my afternoon translating words from the Harry Potter book. It’s taking longer than i thought because when books are written in Italian they use a special tense, and I’m not too familiar with the rules of the tense. I hope to complete the first chapter and then reread the first chapter fluidly. It’s still enjoyable and that air of whimsy that J.K. Rowling is perfect at seeps through even in the translation.

In the late afternoon we brought the white kitten who I’ve posted plenty of pictures about, to the vet. Another place you wouldn’t find yourself as a tourist going to. There was no receptionist, and the office just had dogs hanging about in corners and whatnot. The wait was quite long. We brought the kitten to the vet because he has a cold. The vet examined him, took his temperature, gave him a shot, and told us to come back on Wednesday for a second shot and check-up on his condition.

Later in the evening we watched the Ghana v. USA game. I was so tired that I decided to get ready for bed 15 minutes before the game finished, so essentially I missed most of the action. At least I kept checking Twitter for the updates. USA won 2-1.

As today is Tuesday, in the morning my cousin and I visited the market again. I bought some souvenirs¬†for my friends and because I’ve accumulated so much change I offered to pay for the ciambella. I still have plenty of change.

After lunch I helped my cousins wrangle the other set of kittens, the smaller ones. I believe they were giving them away.

So that’s it for now. I heard talk that I may be going to Monte Cassino soon, but I am uncertain. Enjoy the pictures as always!

The front of the Abbey
The front of the Abbey
Inside the Abbey
Inside the Abbey
The sky outside of the vet clinic
The sky outside of the vet clinic
Where we got the ciambelle from! You can see one in the left corner.
Where we got the ciambelle from! You can see one in the left corner.