Monday, March 28, 2011

Italia, il primo

I’ve been staring at this blank page for ages, wondering how to begin with my story of Italy. There’s just so much! At first I thought I would just pull out mini-sagas, because to tell the whole thing from start to finish would probably bore you to tears. But then I remembered that it’s my mission and my duty to bore you to tears! I am, after all, your very own Uncle Merv.

The trip was separated into two separate yet equally important parts: Reggio Emilia and Rome. The first part was work, and although I have a very strict policy prohibiting the intermingling of blogging with work, the study tour simply can not be ignored. Nobody puts Reggio in a corner. Baby.

But before I bust up all my boundaries and such, I’ve got to spend a moment or two talking about a phenomenon to which I’d not been privy before this trip: international travel.

Being a beast as old as my bad self, one might find it surprising to note that this was my first overseas trip. Yet save one notable exception, the travels of my days thus far have been limited to the US and its landlocked neighbors, Mexico and Canada.  So the preparation for this trip included the procurement of a passport, adapters for electrical outlets, an Italian-English dictionary, and a suitcase that could easily have smuggled one if not both of my children had I found myself unable to leave them. 

The travel was looooong, but I was so giddily impressed with the nuances of the long hual that it passed in a snap. The freedom to check a huge bag was luxurious, leaving the carryon for items that were truly needed during the marathon flights. I didn't realize that it wouldn't be necessary to include snacks in the category of necessary, but as it turns out the energy bars and trail mix in my bag stayed put all the way back home to sunny California, because one thing I was not for the duration of this adventure was hungry.

It's brilliant, really. Take a plane full of suckers whose arrival time will be 19 hours later than their departure on a ten hour flight. Feed them dinner in the beginning; then turn off the lights and show a couple of movies, passing through at regular intervals with offers of wine, cocktails, snacks, cordials, coffee, water, etc. A couple of hours before you land, feed them eggs and tell them it's morning. I totally played along. Rally cap, Italian style.    

I was traveling with a colleague and we had made arrangements to join another group from our US delegation for the hourlong journey from the Bologna airport to Reggio Emilia. That was a great plan, it would have capped an arduous yet simple journey across the sea. But simple is for chumps! The group we had planned to join were delayed by about 5 hours, and since we were already sporting our jaunty Italian rally caps, we quickly made the decision to navigate bus and train move ourselves toward our ultimate destination.    

We got there. That's all that counts. And we made a pair of fast friends along the way, forming an unlikely posse, a fearsome foursome, of likeminded travelers on the road to Reggio. 

You know you’re in Reggio Emilia when the exit tunnel from the train station is adorned with images like these:

..inspired by images like these:

It's a beautiful city, old and regal and vibrant and proud.

Also? Wet.

It was mythical and exciting to be in that place that I've studied for so long, to walk the streets and squares that I've seen illustrated in so many projects and publications.

The lions in front of this building are familiar to any student of the Reggio approach

Our days were full to bursting, even the breaks were chock full with our individual quests for whatever it was that each of us wished to bring back from Italy.

Nirvana is an Italian boot shop

At night, I holed up in the world's smallest hotel room.


Ah, Reggio. Their world renowned system of municipal early childhood education aside, the region is also known for magnificent parmigiano, and for a uniquely lovely sparkling red wine, my beloved Lambrusco.   

We were welcomed into surprises around every corner, like this balsalmic production room with 100 year old barrels that eek out the revered condiment:

My new friends and I drank it all in. It was a bounty of richness to fill every sense. I was fulfilled in my brain, in my heart, in my stomach, and in my funny bone.

And to cap off the first part of my Italian love-fest, there was a national holiday in honor of the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy.

Our conference presenters treated us to a rousing rendition of the Italian national anthem

A soundtrack accompanied these dancing fountains

The streets came alive to bid us arrividerci on that last night in Reggio.

And once again, I'll close with: "and then I went to Rome..."


Elizabeth said...

Ah, Jacquie, that was so not uncle Merv! I want more. Right now.

I just love it. Love those bikes, love those narrove wet "streets," love those lions. Love even more that you climed aboard one and rawred! Love the boots (your are the best by far!). NOt sure I actually love the world's smallest hotel room, but you're a wisp of a thing, and hey, it's got a bidet :-). Really want to love the Lambrusco (let's get some here soon). And those casks of balsalmic? I can almost smell them!



Elizabeth said...

spelling, shmelling...narrow, yours, etc.


Me, You, or Ellie said...

I'm with Beth -- I simply cannot get enough of this. And I want to join in on the Lambrusco fun......

So well-written and entertaining as usual, Jacquie, and such a fascinating place, ol' Reggio Emilia.

Love. And look so forwrad to il, um, segundo.


Mom C said...

Love it, can't wait to relive Roma with you... mom