A note! My cranky old laptop did not do very well connecting to the internet. So, these blogs are post now, several days later, in the hopes they are still interesting!
Wednesday, June 16 was a very full day for us. Chiara Codeca joined us again as we set out from Pavia for Milano. This was very different from my airplane arrival in Milano as I had the opportunity to actually see a bit of the city this time. As before, Chiara was very knowledgeable about the city. We arrived with some time to wander a bit before reporting to the bookstore. Rain had been threatening and began to fall in a very determined way. This is not a sort of weather that Sara cares for! She reminded me of a little cat, dancing around tthe puddles and hissing at the downpour!
Despite the difficult weather, there was so much to see that I was dazzled at every turn. In particular, we made our way to the Duomo, or central cathedral of the city. Here, unfortunately, Sara’s shorts were judged inappropriate for her to enter with us. (Most unfair. I saw men in there in knee shorts, and I assure you, that was a far more ‘sinful’ sight!) Due to our time constraints, we had to be satisfied with a very brief tour of the interior of the cathedral. To experience this cathedral, even for a brief time, is something that would not fit in a photograph nor in a blog. An observation that Chiara had made the day before struck me even more clearly here. I asked why there was such a plenitude of decoration of all kinds. She told me that every carving or painting was considered an act of prayer rather than something created to catch the eye. Thus the details that exist far beyond the scope of the viewer to perceive. The scale of the architecture, the knowledge of these engineers and artists will give me much to think about for weeks to come.
We emerged from the cathedral, collected Sara and fled the rain into a covered gallery of stores. In particular, I recall a book store that has remained in business in that same location since it was created. And I put my heel into a special indentation in the floor and made the circle that guaranteed that I will, someday, return to Milano.
Then we trekked through the rain again to Fnac, where Martina Frammartino acted as presenter for the event, and the multi-talented Chiara was once again my interpreter. Once more, I spotted a few now-familiar faces from BloodMemories. All went very smoothly, the questions were intelligent and interesting ones, and I was once again able to meet and sign books for readers. We did, however, have to watch the clock carefully, for we knew that we had to catch the underground train at the correct time to make our connection to the train to Bologna. The rain was pouring down, our wheeled luggage and my laptop seemed to get heavier at every mad dash across the streets, and I do not think we could have made it without Chiara’s help (not to mention the umbrellas she seemed to magically summon for us.) She helped us manage it all, all the way to the train station, and even remained on the platform to be sure the train would actually set into motion. And then we were off.
We arrived in Bologna, once more hefted our suitcases down and up stairs in the train station, and then trundled it quickly to our hotel. A glance at the clock told us that we had 14 minutes to get to the bookstore. We did not even check into our hotel, but simply stored our luggage with them and hurried off to find the Ambasciatori bookstore. We heard a clock chiming the hour just as we arrived at 9 PM exactly. We were very pleased with ourselves.
The Ambasciatori is a large and airy store with an excellent arrangement for book presentations, in that it actually has a raised stage for the presentation. There BloodMemories struck again as I recognized
Several members lurking in the audience. For this presentation of the book, Erika Zini introduced me and supplied questions. Jadel Andreetto was also there in that capacity. My interpreter was Francesco Figus. He did an excellent job of near simultaneous interpretation as Erika spoke. It seemed obvious to me that they had worked together before and that was indeed the case. They have a radio show that presents books, especially foreign ones, and both seemed very confident and knowledgeable.
After the presentation, I signed a number of books and was surprised with an immense bouquet of flowers from Barbara, Antonella and Roberto of BloodMemories. (And I do hope I have spelled those names correctly!) I felt very spoiled! When we bid farewell to the Ambasciatori book shop and went out looking for a quick drink, we were joined by Eugenio Saguatti, a local fantasy writer. Despite our lack of a shared language, he showed us several interesting locations in Bologna, including two very striking towers. He explained that the more important a man you were, the taller the tower.(They put me in mind of the ‘tower’ in MirrorMask!) When we finally found an open sidewalk bar, I settled for a cider as the temperatures here leave me perpetually thirsty and a bit too warm. Francesco had accompanied us there, and we compared out preferences in music, as he was very knowledgeable about rock in general, and grunge rock in particular. I definitely want to find a few fantasy books where magic and music weave together to send him as a thank you, as he said he had not read that much fantasy. War for the Oaks, perhaps? Other suggestions would be welcome! Barbara, Antonella and Roberto told me quite a bit about the University there, as two of them are still students. A discussion of student housing and the importance of cats convinced me that some things cross all cultural boundaries.
Eventually, however, it was time for Sara and I to seek our hotel. We finally checked in, retrieved our luggage, and staggered upstairs to our rooms. I was virtuous. I stayed awake to push the book along a few more pages before falling asleep.
Thursday, June 17, seemed like it should be an easy day. We had only one event, and that did not happen until 6 PM in Firenze (Florence). I awoke very early for no particular reason and saw an antique market being set up right outside our hotel. So I dressed quickly and went down to take a peek before breakfast. There were books and buttons and posters and placemats, old pots and baby buggies and rugs. It was an amazing selection, and only the memory of how heavy my suitcase had been as we trundled it through the streets the day before kept my impulses in check.
Sara joined me for breakfast and then we were immediately off to the train station again. We purchased some small sandwiches to eat on the train. (Sara and I seem to agree that it is entirely possible, some days, to subsist entirely on Italian pizza and coffee. I know this will have to stop when I get home, but for now, it is really wonderful. This is not to say that we have not also sampled some truly delicious food. It is just that we both know how to grab a bite and run!)
Firenze greeted us with a downpour, complete with thunder and lightning. We knew the street that our hotel was on, and that it was the Gallileo, but every building had two and sometimes three conflicting numbers on it. By the time we had dragged out suitcases to the correct address and found our way in, we were soaked, and my hair was curlier than Sara’s! We were so grateful to check in, and still determined to see something of the city before it was time for my presentation at 6PM.
We got in the elevator to go to our rooms. The doors shut. I pushed the button for the floor. And the elevator shuddered and dropped about six inches. And then, nothing. No motion. No response to our pushing the ‘open door’ button. So we pressed the button for the second floor. And again the elevator gave a sudden downward jolt and then vibrated there. By then I was recalling the myth that if you are in a falling elevator, you should jump up and down in the hopes that you will be in the air when it hits bottom. We pushed the alarm button. There was a faint, brief ‘beep’. That was it. No one came. We pushed it again. And again. It was really a rather small noise, rather like the beep of a cell phone rather than a shriek of ‘help, we are stuck in the elevator.’ Then, for no apparent reason, the elevator came to life and took us to the second floor. My room was on the first floor, butsuddenly the stairs looked very good to me