Saturday, October 16, 2004


We got an extra day in Venice, thanks to a railroad strike that made it impossible to leave town ' not a bad fate to have. In Italy, one goes with the flow and also with the hiccups (as my friend Wallis so aptly explained it to us), so we went off to the Venice Architectural Biennale, and for more walking around the city. Finally at about 5 pm we were able to catch a train to Parma, a trip with more hiccups than Pope Pius in the 60's, but those are stories too long to relate here!

We stayed two nights with Wallis and Paolo, our old friends from so many years ago. He is an eminent professor at University of Parma, in human evolutionary genetics, and now working on plant genetics as well. Wallis is a writer, editor, poet, world traveller, philosopher, yogi, great spirit, mother, dear friend. It was not altogether convenient for them to have us, as both are very busy, but they graciously made space in their lives to take us around Parma, feed us delicious meals, and talk to us about what has been happening in their lives and families for the last 20-30 years! It was rich, and they both are vibrant, engaging and brilliant people to be with. We left them yesterday morning for more train travel, first to Genoa and then on to Riomaggiore, at the bottom of the Cinque Terra.

The travel has been challenging. I feel not as young and nimble as I once did, and my Italian definitely has to be dredged up from the depths of wherever it has been sunken for 30 years. But it is coming back, and I am enjoying this beautiful language once again. We found an apartment here that is high up on the cliff, looks out on the tiny village and the crashing sea, and has many luxuries - the most astonishing of which is a washing machine, hallelujah! Even the cruise ship did not offer that, although for a price they would do our laundry (no thanks!). We did it by hand and hung it out on our verandah as we sailed! Our little place has TV with CNN in English, a full kitchen, bath, living room and comfortable bedroom. The silence of these little villages (no cars) is deep and vast. We sleep like babies. Last night it became blustery, with lightening striking visibly out over the sea. We went to a tiny trattoria to eat and just as we got there, the rain opened up and poured down, as we enjoyed our Penne al Pesto and our Frito Misto di Mare and our local wine and foccacia. Pesto is famous in this area, and Genoa is its absolute center, so we hope to eat a lot of it in the next few days. Last night’s sample was divine!

Today we are off to hike along the cliffs to the next village or two. It is sunny but blustery, and I just bought a warmer shirt! Think of us in a landscape much like Big Sur, with tiny villages wedged into the rocky crags and stacked high up the hillsides, in colors of pink, yellow, peach, gold, green. It is gorgeous!

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