Thursday, September 25, 2014

rome, florence and venice in six days........

Am now back in Perth after a brilliant holiday.
Day 1.  I left Pisticci around 9am and caught the train at ferrandina for Rome. It arrived in Roma termini around 2pm and I made my way to the hotel Cervia in via Palestra only 5 mins from the termini. I have stayed there before so there was no need to read a map upside down and wander round for an hour getting more and more puzzled.
After dropping my luggage in my room I headed out to do a recce of the best way to see as much as possible in an afternoon as I would only have an afternoon with my daughter before we left for the airport the following monday.
It was a lovely day and more by luck than good judgement ( most of my exploration is like this) I found several places to look at including the colosseum and some other large buildings which shall remain nameless- due to me having no idea what they were called. It was all very interesting and I managed to find my way back to the hotel with only a few wrong turnings.
Day 2. I got up earlyish and after treating myself to breakfast in a rather elegant cafe I headed for the airport bus. Due to me making sure I wasn't late to meet Katy (my daughter) I arrived 2 hours early. Still it was a nice day to sit in the sun outside the airport. I was very excited as it would be the first holiday I had ever been on with just the two of us. I hardly recognised my tall elegant daughter when  she came through the arrival doors.
I had bought the bus tickets already so we strolled outside in the sunshine and soon we were on the bus heading for Rome. I tried not to say, look at this....look at that.... have you ever seen anything like that ....too often but I don't think I was very successful.
We had about 2 hours before we caught the train to Florence so we went to a little restaurant near the station where I have been before and apart from a man falling down the stairs and nearly landing on top of me on my way back from the toilet it was very pleasant.
The train to Florence was a high speed freccia rosso and  only took an hour and a half whizzing along at 250kmph. By then it was about 4.30pm.
It took us about 15 minutes to walk from the station to the hotel entrance- a door between two restaurants in the piazza della signoria- and onother 15 minutes to get in the door thanks to a complicated method of entry involving phoning a number which didnt answer. ( later that week we were able to let another couple in who were having similar problems.) However after pressing a buzzer for emergencies we got in and up about 4 flights of stairs- I didn't notice the lift- and somehow managed to get in the next door. Our keys were in our room door as the staff only worked mornings. The reception room - or our living room as we afterwards referred to it was lovely with dark wooden ceiling , a large table and other antique furniture and lots of paintings.
Our room was nice but our bathroom was gorgeous which partly made up for the, well frankly , horrible view of the back of buildings. I have a funny photo of Katy standing on a stool looking like a stick insect craning her neck to get a glimpse of the sky. So  we kept the bathroom door open and settled for a view of it instead......
Not wanting to stay in the room we headed out at speed. It was a bit ironic as the street door opened on to the piazza della signoria. It was full of people admiring various statues and taking photos.. We were about 20metres from the uffizi galleries but could not even see the sky from our window. however we got used to it and it was so amazing to open the door onto such a beautiful space.( And walking past all the diners at the restaurant heading for our hotel in such an important piazza felt good. They didn't know that we had a view of our bathroom and not of the piazza!)
We wandered around , ate some pizza , bought a couple of bottles of wine and eventually returned to the hotel - this time with keys to get in and so ended the first day in Florence.
Day 3.
This was our first whole day in Florence. Katy estimated that we walked around for a minimum of 6 hours a day.  We started out aiming for the market at san lorenzo and made a little detour into the food market which was much more interesting. So much so that we wished we had gone there for breakfast. We had stopped off in a cafe on the way where I knew I could have a cappucino made with soya milk and I was still  reeling from the price. The market looked much more my style and it seemed I could get a cappucino with soya milk there too. The street market had the most amazing collection of leather goods and not , as far as I could see, anything much else. If I had space and money for 100 handbags I would have loved it.
By accident we next found ourselves near the station outside a large church (santa maria novella?) So we bought a ticket and went in. We could take photos as long as we didnt use the flash which is ok if you can find the flash- off switch on your camera. It was pretty amazing  and worth the ten euros.  We were there for ages.
Next, we had a coffee and sat outside in the piazza near the church and enjoyed the sunshine. (The forecast had been for rain and thunderstorms the whole time we were there.)
We had lunch in our room after a convoluted stroll back where we accidentally found the strozzi gallery where there was to be a picasso exhibition starting on saturday. Decided we would go to that- if we could find our way back again.
After lunch we set off for the pitti palace or gallery of modern art on the other side of the river. I knew where it was from a previous visit. I thought we could also visit the garden behind it but despite asking for a ticket for everything  - it didn't include the gardens. ( we would have likely cooked anyways as it was quite hot now outside.) So we wandered round lots and lots of rooms full of paintings and sculptures. I particularly liked the more modern paintings near the end and wish I had taken a note of some of the artist's names. Then we went in the royal rooms and they were as horrendous as I remembered. I think that the amazing richness of it all sort of brings out the presbyterian part of me. I was both appalled and amazed. I would really recommend a visit there. It would be impossible to be neutral about the experience.
We took a stroll down by the river where I had seen a vintage shop- but after walking for ages we found it had turned into a seamstresss'. It was also much further away than I thought.
It was a pleasure to wander about in the sunshine and then we crossed another bridge and I think we bought another sorbet and found our way back to the hotel.
As neither of us are big eaters, then the food in Florence was rather wasted on us. We went out looking for an apperitivo and eventually went into a bar in the san lorenzo area where we had a drink and missed the free food by 20 minutes.
As we would be up early to go to Venice the next morning we went back to our room and had another glass of wine and played on our phones. (thursday was the day of the scottish referendum so it was a bit special.)
Day 4
Woke up and after some contorting by the window we could see that the sky was a little overcast but not raining.
We set off in good time for the railway station where we were to go to a travel agency and collect our tickets. ( return on very fast train to Venice and a days pass on the vaporetta (bus/boat)) We met several other people there all of whom were curious to know what we thought of Scotland turning down independence- no comment!
Soon we were on our way to Venice. The train was great- comfortable and relaxing. It was quite startling to arrive in Venice after two hours over what seemed like a very narrow causeway. And when we walked out of the railway station there was the grand canal in front of us looking just like it does in films and photos.That was maybe what was strange about Venice- it was like a film set. I felt like it could not possibly be real.
 After some problems with getting our ticket printed off we got on to what we thought was the next boat. Strangely - another boat came along and scraped the side of our "boat" and a lot of people got on to it. After it moved off we realised we were actually on a floating landing stage.......ho hum......luckily another boat came along soon and we had a fantastic trip down the canal to st marks square.
I loved the colours of the buildings by the grand canal and the gondolas were beautiful - black and shiny with lots of gold bits and pieces.I was really impressed by them. They were works of art. I think I expected them to be a bit shabby in real life but in fact they were much more impressive.
Being scared of pigeons I could not wait to leave st marks square. Apparently Katy was almost in tears laughing as I tried to hide from dive bombing pigeons.
We decided to walk back to the railway station and the way was surprisingly well signposted. What a lovely walk. We constantly stopped to take photos  and make little detours. I loved the colours and have some photos I am very proud of. We arrived near the station much too early ( bit of a theme for us) so after sitting in a cafe beside the canal having a cocktail we walked off in the other direction and managed to buy some small pieces of murano glass. (or maybe it wasn't!)
We easily found the train and parked beside it was the orient express. It was beautiful. Just one more magical touch to add to a wonderful day.
We sped home reaching 300kmph. Brilliant. I had never expected to see Venice........ It was the most perfect of days.
Back at the hotel while we were checking out the internet in the "living room a lovely american couple came in. We had let them in the previous evening as we now had a key for the street door. They told us that we had missed a very bad hailstorm and showed us a photograph taken outside our hotel where the ground was white.
We would never have known as it was very warm and dry when we arrived back in Florence.
Day 5
This was our last full day in Florence. First on the list was breakfast at the food market and then we planned to go to the antiques market. ( lovely weather again!)  Despite my lack of map reading and a lot of "let's just go this way..." we easily found the market and had a great time looking through all sorts of things from vintage clothes to football medals- loads of stalls round a little lake.
On the way back we found another nice restaurant where we could get a salad and then as we were heading for the hotel we happened on the strozzi gallery again.( I thought it was in completely the other direction). So rather than try and find our way back later , we went in and bought ourselves tickets to the newly opened Picasso exhibition . I have never been particularly fond of the work of Picasso and I thought it looked even worse in real life- but it was interesting .
We followed that by having the most expensive sorbet ever. We should have checked the price but we had been paying about 4 euros each before so just assumed.....wrongly. 10 euros each!!!
By this time I think we had had enough culture so we thought we would go across the bridge and see what was over there and by chance we found some vintage shops- which we couldn't afford but were lovely to look round. There are so many beautiful shops.
After a short break we thought we would have another go at having an apertivo and this time  we succeeded and got the snacks as well as the drinks. It was lovely sitting watching people go by and the only downside was an extremely drunk english person who sat on the railings behind us and looked likely to fall off and brain himself. Left before that happened.
It was a bit sad strolling back. I have been in Florence 4 times now and I could happily come back again. There were crowds in our piazza again including  a bridal couple and we walked about a bit before reluctantly going inside.....
Day 6.
We got up and packed, paid our bill and then went out for a final coffee before returning to walk with our suitcases to the station. We had bought a new larger one for all the things we had thought we would buy but little murano wotsits don't take up much space so it was not very full. It did make a lot of noise though.
Feeling like seasoned travellers we waited for the Rome train .
We arrived in Rome about lunch time, dumped our cases in the hotel and went off to have a pizza. After that we more or less repeated my previous exploration but much slower and with more stops, another two vintage shops and a reasonably priced sorbet. So with lots more photos we were fairly done in and bought a few things in a supermarket to eat in our room. We had a good view of the street and took turns hanging out the window watching people eat in the nearby restaurants. The excitement of the evening was created by some weird person in the next room hitting the adjoining wall with what sounded like a sledgehammer.  however the guy at reception spoke to him and it stopped. I have no idea what he could have been doing.
The next morning we left, got the bus to the airport and were back in Edinburgh by lunch time.
I can't quite believe it all happened but I have the photos to prove it......................

gorgeous bathroom

door to hotel

katy searching for the sky


coffee in the piazza

more coffee in the piazza


antiques market in Florence


on a bridge in Florence

looking at the view


piazza della signoria




those sorbets........

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

endings Pisticci

It's September now and I suppose it must be the end of summer -even in Pisticci. The temperatures now are in the twenties and some evenings have been a bit chilly.
Most of the feste activities are past and most of the visitors have gone home.
If you were to come to Pisticci for a holiday right now , you would probably enjoy the cool (but warm to anyone from farther afield) weather. The town is a little empty but seems full of weddings - three today so that would be fun to watch. And  the beach will be deserted so you would have it to yourselves.
I think September is a strange month - a sort of transition from summer to autumn- a little sad- a month of mourning for the end of summer and then in October it,s pull yourself together time and get on with yoga classes and work stuff and so on............
But that is maybe just me.
This summer has been strange as the weather never got really hot- or maybe that should be really, really hot. There was quite a lot of rain and the odd storm and I was wearing socks in July!!!!! August was warmer but the temperature in my house didn't reach 30C . Usually its around 30C in my house for all of July and August and it makes up for  the months in the winter when I am wearing 3 jumpers and a hat- indoors.
It is the end of having my paintings hanging in a local restaurant as they are closing for the winter or perhaps for ever. So I am now feeling a little like I have my children(paintings ) all back together in my little gallery and wondering how to "get out there" next. Am planning a little exhibition in my artist's house in December with two friends to start with, but other than making friends with a lovely australian couple it was not an enormous financial success for me. Every time I saw the poster advertising the restaurant it had some of my paintings in the background and that was a nice feeling. It was a beautiful place to hang paintings and I would be happy to do it again.
It is the end of me ONLY being an artist - as next month I will be starting to encourage arty people (not just painters) to come to Pisticci for a break , stay in  my little artist's house, get inspired and enjoy being part of Pisticci life for a few days or weeks. I am not seeing myself as just a landlady but more as a provider of some creative space and someone who would be happy to be proactive in helping out with arty, local and other stuff or leave you to get on with it if that's what is preferable.
So my next post in October should be full of new beginnings...................................
In the meantime I still would not like to be living anywhere else. Although its possible to be a little lonely in my studio by myself (another ending) it is not possible to go out for a coffee without chatting to someone, admire the view, get another commission, see something funny, smile a lot, enjoy the heat. My studio and flowers are both looking great. My fig tree has baby leaves on it- I thought I had killed it, my rose bush has now got several healthy children and a lot of my plants are spreading from pot to pot so it looks like a garden. And am very proud to have divided my lavender and its growing well. I have my - getting green -fingers crossed that 2 oleanders which I was convinced were dead might be growing roots.
And my studio is looking great and surprisingly not empty despite having completely furnished my artist's house with furniture from it..
Pisticci is looking great as  usual. I was at a concert in a small piazza on Monday evening. It was packed with people on the ground, up the adjoining street, in the overhanging balconies and I was again overtaken by the feeling of wonder that is a not unusual  feeling now- of how did I get to be here in this wonderful place.
And over the summer I have met lots of lovely, interesting and kind people - some of whom have now left but many others are still here. And as my Italian improves I hope to get to know them better.
My artist's house is looking great and I am happy to have got to know more people in the area because of it. Am excited about the future of it. (More photos of it next month when I finally get the last few things done.)
Better go and take a photo of my fig tree (more of a stalk at the minute!) and then add some summer photos.
See you in Pisticci????
fireworks seen from my studio

dirupo by night

feste band

street lights

running band

in piazza san rocco

more feste

pisticci at the end of the rainbow

typical morning in piazza

end of concert in piazzale loreto

working in the sunshine

one very full gallery

my fig tree

my garden

working towards rose covered doorway

studio looking very neat