Sharp Monica

An honest voice in Italian paradise.

Florence: she can be a cruel mistress

Ciao a tutti –

Been on a weeklong blog hiatus as we continue to organize various components of our daily life in Italy, combined with Jason’s madcap travel schedule that has had him thither and yon, all over the Amalfi coast, and North Carolina (which, I hear, is just like the Amalfi), and tomorrow, Athens. He’ll then have a breather until November so that we can settle in.

Fortunately, here we have an incredible babysitter named Chanusha who is from Sri Lanka, and who has been living in Florence for almost 20 years now. She most recently nannied for a new colleague of Jason’s for eight years, and prior to that, for another Italian family for ten years. She has got it down. Her help has been invaluable these past two weeks as she has put in extra and weekend hours to make sure that our piccoli and me stay fed and clean and properly provisioned with fresh air at appropriate child and adult intervals. She does all this while remaining calm and friendly. She also makes an incredible frittata ai zucchini, and made us her home food yesterday for dinner, which was a toothsome biryani with a fresh ginger-mint paste. I hope she likes us, because we love her!

Eleanor is picking up Italian faster than I can gulp an espresso. She was on a major language kick already this summer in Spokane, and now has switched horses to il cavallo italiano. “Sì” has almost completely replaced “yes,” and “eccola!” is now her exclamation of choice whenever she finds a toy she wants. She started full days at nido last Wednesday, and seems okay with it, except at morning dropoff when those one-year-old Italian boys raise a fuss like you would not believe as they are encouraged to give their mamme a bacio. My favorite new things she does: stands in front of my laptop when I stream YouTube videos of arias, and warbles like a little songbird, trying to match notes when she can, occasionally exclaiming, “pretty, pretty.” I think we may have another mezzo on our hands…

Victor tried out yesterday for calcetto (soccer) at school. “Tryout” is a generous term. I think they just wanted to make sure he’d seen a ball before. Victor reported yesterday evening that he “put on a shirt with a collar, that was red. Then, with three other boys, we kicked a ball to a bigger guy, who kicked it back to us.” He loves his teachers at school, the winning Ilaria and Sabrina, who are both positively brimming with joyful energy.

What’s my experience so far? Mixed but heady, frustrations alternating frequently with poignant breathers or glimpses of beauty. For example:

  • Tough expat crowd difficult to break into for friends.
  • Piazza Santissima Annunziata glittering with puddles after an early morning shower.
  • Italians stopping to ask me for instructions in town.
  • Ambient loudness at the Sprachcaffè.
  • Excellent vini sfusi (bulk wine) at various sfusi a stone’s throw from our apartment.
  • No sleep or poor sleep.
  • Invariably restoring cappucini and pastry.
  • Minimal sense of community thus far.
  • Italians very friendly in general. And a couple excellent friends on the ground here.

Florence, you may toss your head at me when you wish. I know you’re well bred, and come from money, even if your nobility is a bit down at heel. I am taking notes, and watching you. There are passing moments when I feel as though I have stepped into a time machine and taken myself back to 1993 Santiago Spain, or 1995 Strasbourg France, living in the historic center as we do. I close my eyes and get a whiff of bus exhaust, cigarette, discarded mop water, perfume, and wet flagstones, and I am transported. Who in life gets this opportunity? Florence, I will bear your hasty snubs, and meet them with good cheer. After all, you’re sharing almost everything with me.

 Via dei Servi – façade detail

                                                                Just a regular door.                                                                              
Victor was angling for some Minions espresso cups on Sunday.
 The Great Synagogue around the corner.

Duomo detail.
Feeling worn? Restore with an aperitivo. 

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