After a year of living in Ireland, we have returned to our beloved former home of Arezzo, Italy.
Don’t get me wrong, we are LOVING life in Ireland. The people and adventures there are more than terrific. But we longed to walk the cobbled streets of Arezzo’s medieval “Centro Storico” again.
How would it feel to be back for just a two-week vacation? The town and its wonderful residents would have spent a full year working, playing, dining and simply going on. Without us.
So, with fingers crossed, we called out to our former neighbors, schoolmates and pals. Would they make a little time for us? —- Guess what!?
Lulu has gone to camp with a former buddy. She has played with her old girlfriends. We have had our nails done at our former salon. We have visited with Lulu’s Italian “nonno” Mario. We attended a great big feast in our old “quartiere.” In short, we are happily being reunited with our favorite people and places!
Yes, life does go on. Some shops have closed while a couple new ones have opened their doors. Kids have grown taller. One dear friend, sadly, has passed away. Yes, the seasons continue to change and the rain does fall – even on our Tuscan retreat.
But no matter if you change towns, jobs or in our case, countries, you can and should stay in contact with your former friends and colleagues as best you can.
Social media is terrific for doing just that.
In fact, last summer, I went to Ghana through the US State Department to train the country’s 60 spokespeople. My co-trainer was Jeff Eller, a wonderful inspiration to me when I was fresh from college and worked under him at the Democratic Party in Washington, DC – some, er, twenty years ago. We were friends on Facebook. And there we were together again last August in Accra!
So, keep in touch. You never know what fun you’ll have in the future.
As the saying goes: Make new friends, but keep the old.
I have a confession: When my seven-year-old told me she had been given the non-speaking bit role of “Forest Dancer” in her school’s Easter festival play, my first inclination was to angrily protest.
(Note! This is NOT merely the musings of a mother on her young daughter’s first school play, there is also a lovely lesson for business and life here, I promise.)
I imagined walking up to her first-grade teacher saying something like: “What?! MY daughter deserves MORE than a puny role as ‘tree fairy who protects the princess’ which was clearly made up just to give every kid a part. Lulu should have been the princess herself, or at least a character with one line of dialogue! How dare you!”
Of course, I said nothing to the teacher. To my daughter, I smiled down said something supportive about how she was sure to be a great “Forest Dancer.” Still, inwardly, I worried about her sure-to-be-damaged tender self-esteem.
But, my daughter wasn’t upset about her small role at all. She was actually excited about being a “Forest Dancer.”
“I am creating my own dance moves to guard the princess,” she happily told me one evening.
She applied twirls and flourishes she had learned in her after-school ballet lessons. Then she studied her face in the mirror and announced she would like to wear her hair swept into an up-do complete with a ring of flowers. We shopped for an appropriate “tree dancer” outfit and came up with a leafy dress the teachers liked so much they urged Lulu’s “tree dancer” partner to buy a matching outfit just like it.
When the day of the Easter festival arrived, amid tables of hot cross buns, pastel-colored cupcakes and walls plastered with hundreds of pictures of bunnies and chicks, my little daughter proudly took to the stage.
Her little ballet moves were adorable and for a moment I thought of the background dancer in a recent production of The Nutcrackerwho hilariously upstaged the featured performers.
Lulu didn’t go that far. She simply brought to the performance all that she could. She wasn’t envious of the girl who did play the role of the princess. She had a great attitude. She was encouraging and encouraged in return.
I was the one who needed to have my attitude checked. When we’re offered something we may consider “beneath” us, how do we react? With frustration? Anger? Are we indignant or are we gracious?
The way Lulu handled herself, reminded me of the Stanislavski quote that:
There are no small parts, only small actors.
So, no matter whether in an Easter festival play or in business or in life, remember all the world’s a stage. Give every role your best.
It doesn’t seem like nearly three years ago, when I, my husband Scotty Walsh, and our then-three-year old daughter, Lulu,stepped off the train for the first time in Arezzo. Sometimes it seems like only yesterday – when I discover something new in Centro Storico I never noticed before. And sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago – as so many places have become more than familiar and so many warm-hearted Aretini have become dear friends.
Piazza Grande, for example, is not only where we have watched the Giostra del Saracino four times sitting in the stands – once as guests of Mayor Giuseppe Fanfani himself. It is also where Lulu plays, where we sip coffee, enjoy aperitivi, where we climb up to the top of the Fraternita dei Laici bell-tower to enjoy the view, and it is what we admire every day as I walk Lulu from our house on Via Fra Le Torri to her elementary school, Aliotti.
Piazza San Francesco is not only famous for the fresco series, The Legend of the True Cross, it is also a vibrant center of night-life as friends spill out from haunts like Caffè dei Costanti – where the proprietors were kind enough to let me rent a table for free where I wrote my book, Because I’m Small Now and You Love Me, about the adventures Lulu and I have had here in Tuscany. They also graciously provided the room for my book-launch party last year.
Piazza San’Agostino is not only where InformaGiovani helps us find fun things to do over the weekend. It is also now where we meet friends and where, like last year, Lulu is a regular patron of the carousel above the fountain.
We have had dinner at the Mayor’s house, aka, “Zio Beppe” as Lulu calls him. (Honestly, he made the best fritelli de fiore zucchini I have ever tasted.)
I have toured the house of Giorgio Vasari with Aretino journalist, photographer, historian and friend, Gianni Brunacci ,as my very informative guide. Lulu and I were asked to model in last year’s La Notte Rosa by our lovely estetician Simona Giusti, from Estetica Simona. Lulu only has to pop in and say, “Ciao” to Alfredo at Macelleria Gastronomia Bassi Alfredo and she is handed a delicious slice of mortadella.
Massimo over at Bar Stefano gave me eight extra little chocolate eggs to put in her Easter basket. Elena, Nicola and Michele at the personal training gym Moving, have worked hard to help me keep off the kilos I should be putting on because of all the great Tuscan food I keep eating.
We have eaten everything at practically every restaurant in town; there are too many memories to list here. But I can tell you that Mario di Filippo, from one of our favorite places, Buca di San Francesco, has become much more than a friend. He is now Lulu’s official Nonno Italiano.
By the way, for those of you restaurateurs with signs in English declaring, “Typical Tuscan food” – change that to “Authentic Tuscan food.” I promise it is the translation you’re going for.
I can thank Paola di Juliis for helping us find each of the three beautiful apartments we have lived in. She also coordinated my book launch to great success. I also want to thank Francesca Cappelletti for introducing me to Arezzo’s Tourism Department. It was through her that I volunteered to rewrite the English versions of the Giostra brochure and the Benvenuti ad Arezzo website.
I am proud to say they both read so much better than they had before. I only wish I had been asked to do more. I cringe every time I read the new signs around Centro Storico describing the various palazzi and places of interest. They should have at least been better translated and they could have been so much more interesting and compelling. A missed opportunity. I also wrote what I believe is the only article published in an American magazine about last year’s Icastica contemporary art installation. I wish I could have done more.
But, heck, we’re not moving back to the United States. We’re only moving “down the street” to Ireland. Not so far away at all. If anyone would like me to help out with some marketing copy or a communications outreach strategy, I will still be close by.
I only recently discovered that the break-down of the word “Arrivederci” means to “re-see one another.” I had mistakenly thought it was simply the same as the English word, “Goodbye.” But, in what I believe is the more friendly Italian way, the word implies a desire to see each other again. And that is truly my hope. This summer, Ryan Air begins direct flights between Cork and Arezzo, so I plan to “re-see” you all again soon.
Thank you, Arezzo. You have made my life, and the lives of my husband and our daughter, so much richer.
This weekend marked another of Arezzo’s awesome attractions: the monthly Fiera Antiquaria. It is Italy’s oldest and largest antiques fair with the entire center of town – like here in Piazza Grande – transformed into a gigantic open air market.
Merchants sell everything from vintage jewelry, books, paintings, furniture and linens.
We have never bought anything of substance really. A Pinocchio wood-block print here, an antique toy there, a vintage deck of playing cards for Scotty. The giant armoires, tables and bronze statues will have to wait.
Although yesterday, Lulu really thought she needed a spare part for a chandelier. You never know.
So, while we leave for Ireland just six short days from today, perhaps this fall, we will come back to Arezzo during the first weekend of the month. And pick up something old for our new place.
Maybe an antique mirror. To reflect our new adventures.
Because, in life, as with chandelier bobbles, you just never know.
Ciao tutti! – or since we’ve been in Paris for the past two weeks I should say -Salut!! Welcome to a BRAND NEW YEAR!
What resolutions have you made for 2014? Or is this first Friday of the New Year already just another day? Don’t let that happen!! This year, I resolve to really cherish each day and focus on relationships: Business, family, friends, the grocery store clerk. Every relationship matters!
If you’re looking for a little inspiration this first weekend, I encourage you to carve out five minutes and watch this short video!
From Italian film-maker and dear friend Irene Cascini, it features a little girl (guess who), and her teddy bear in search of a dream.
If you’ve ever wanted to blast off to the stars in a hot pink rocket ship, this one’s for you!!
With love and encouragement for the best year ever –
Lulu has been practicing a string of Italian songs in preparation for her school’s Christmas Concert – set for later this afternoon.
Although I am still not fluent in Italian, the repertoire includes a ditty about Moses, Jericho, something with a lot of “Hallelujahs” in it – and then, rather out of the blue, the rousing 1960’s Gospel song “Oh Happy Day!” Yes, she sings it in English, but slightly off-key and with the cutest Italian accent ever.
Aliotti Elementary kids have been hard at work at school and Lulu has been practicing a lot here at home too – singing while she sets the table, singing in the bathtub, before she goes to bed, you get the idea.
Last night, she grabbed a baton and began “conducting” a choir of her stuffed animals. She sang pretty loudly. I didn’t hear much from them, however.
Lulu will be joining her fellow classmates to sing in an impressive 11th century stone church in the historic center of our adopted medieval town here in Arezzo.
There’s even a gold-cased relic inside that supposedly holds the head of Arezzo’s patron Saint – St. Donato (who apparently was beheaded up the hill near where the duomo now stands and his head rolled down here! – His body is enshrined up at the duomo. I am not making this up!).
Tour groups often stop in front of it and get lectures from their flag-holding guides.
When I was a kid, I sang in a few Christmas concerts. A couple in my tiny school’s auditorium or gymnasium. A few at the tiny little Methodist church we attended in Parker City, Indiana.
But never in an eleventh century Italian church – complete with Saint’s head.
Arezzo, our adopted hometown here in Tuscany, like so many other cities around the world, is now awash in festive holiday lights.
While our little medieval town may not have the budget, say, of a New York or London, its light display gets an added boost simply by the fact that the twinkling orbs are framed by 500-year-old stone buildings or archways.
Above you in the photo, is the ancient gateway into the town’s historic center – or just the same old same old path that Lulu and I walk to and from twice a week to get from our house to her dance lessons. Just your run-of-the-mill-Medici portal!!! 😉
So, even though there may not be a myriad of colors or dazzling animatronic window displays, Arezzo’s quaint sparkles charm both Lulu and me and remind us of the long-held and wonderful holiday of which we are celebrating.