(I see I have posted the same journal several times here. Well, it was so wonderful that I had to tell it three times! I will fix it later, when I am at my home desk!)
Hello from Pavia!
(I am still not reading all those posts. I hope you are all being kind to one another. No throwing chairs or flinging epithets in the kitchen, or I shall let Pi put her claws out and chase you all around the room.)
My internet access is intermittent here, so here are some updates from the last couple of days.
On Monday, June 14
The days in Italy go by far too swiftly. Sara and I slept in a bit in the morning, and then it was a brief walk to the train station for the journey to Brescia. I love to take trains on book tours as it gives me a chance to see the cities, towns and landscapes.
We began in the city, traveled through a level countryside with many little gardens, villages and fields of corn and other crops. I am always impressed with how every small scrap of land is put in production here. There were slivers of gardens right along side the railroad tracks, lovingly tended rows of tomatoes, beans and zuchini. At one station, we even saw an aboveground swimming pool set up adjacent tothe tracks, with only a small hedge separating it from the train tracks. Not sure I would trust my kids there!
We reached Brescia and Monica met us at the station to whisk us to a hotle. After a brief rest, we were off to Ferrata book shop. It is always enjoyable to stroll through a book store. I am fascinated to look for authors I know. to see who has been translated in my genre. Yet it is also frustrating to see beautiful books with intriguing covers and Italian titles I can almost read. I think I have a glimpse of what it must be to be illiterate in a world of books.
From the bookstore we wanderd to Aula Magna Euroscola, a lovely school in a very old building. It was hard to pay attention to my interpreter as the walls and then the ceiling of the room for the presentation were lavishly decorated. What a wonderful distraction. Marco Butoldi was my interviewer and had a host of excellent and thoughtful questions. These were followed by questions from the audience, and I answered with the help of Paolo Alessi, my interpreter. (I am constantly reining in my tongue here. I want to discourse forever on the questions and wander off into long extra stories, a very cruel thing to do to an interpreter!)
It was unfortunate that Cesare Ferrata, who had been instrumental in arranging my visit here, was prevented from attending by a health issue. I really wish I could have thanked him personally for such a warm welcome in a wonderful location.
Following the signing, we had a regrettably short time to explore Brescia. We found the church of Santa Maria Dei Miracou and the Duomo Nuovo or the ‘new cathedral’. It was constructed on the site of an older cathedral, early in the 17th century. Nearby is the Rotonda or Duoma Vecchio, ‘the old cathedral’. The city has risen around this structure, so one can look down and see the original ground level around the original main entrance.
Sara and I returned to our hotel for dinner. We were the only females in the bar watching the second half of Italyàs first game in the World Cup. It was very exhilarting to witness the excitement for this game and to follow the action. As you probably all know, it ended in a tie, 1 to 1.
The next day, we were up and out of the hotel early to catch our next train. Our hotel in Pavia was just a short walk from the train station. We checked in, and then almost immediately set out to explore Pavia (and find some coffee!) We were soon met by Chiara Codecà and Guido Affini. We set off in Chiara’s car for the Certosa of Pavia, with both Chiara and Guido acting a very knowledgable tour guides. This was my first opportunity in Italy to take a leisurely look at some historic sites. We drove quite a ways alongside a canal that had once been part of an extensive hunting park between Pavia and the monastery. I was full of questions, so it was wonderful to have two people who knew so much of the area’s history.
As always the lavish decorations on the outside of the Certosa was more than I could take in. I think I would have stood and stared for hours and still not realized all the detail. Inside it was cool and inviting, with a wealth of paintings and woodwork that were the works of generations of monks. I was struck by the mixture of community and isolation of this order. During the week, they adhere to silence, but also have times when they sell their produce, wine, herbal remedies, jams and honey to the public. I had always imagined a monk’s cell to be a tiny bare room, so I was surprised to see that the typical cell had two chambers on the ground floor, other rooms upstairs tht we could not see, and a tiny individual garden to tend. It gave me a very different image of their lives and I wished that I could spend a month or so in such a contemplative and quiet way. We visited the gift shop where I purchased, among other things, a large bar of almond soap (ahh!) Outside, we then looked at an ancient wine press that had been left in place if not in use. It was HUGE and I suddenly had a concept of how many grapes were crushed there and the quantity of wine that the monks would create.
Then it was time to return to Pavia and Il Delfino book shop for a question and answer session followed by a signing. Chiara was my interpreter for this well-attended and lively session, and the ‘language barrier’ seemed no problem at all.
The night ended with a dinner with readers and with book shop folk at a very nice restaurant. It was a pleasure to have time to talk to readers that included a high school studen and several university students. I forgot to ask permission to use names in this blog, but they were all very interesting to me. After dinner, with a light rain falling in the night streets, we wandered off for gelato and to look at the remaining towers of the old fortifications of the city. I cannot think of a way that the evening could have been nicer.
So, this morning, I type this in haste at the hotel computer. Please excuse the typos from a strange to me keyboard.
Later today, we are off to Milano and then Bologna. So, it will be a busy and possibly late evening for me!
Best wishes to all from Italy!