Thursday, September 29, 2011

Great Next to the Last Evening in Montepulciano
Above is the review of the restaurant six of us went to tonight. I am stuffed and full of vino - and content.

A very sweet girl from Vienna invited us to eat at this restaurant tonight. I pass it every day when I walk Seymour and see it crowded every night, I have always wanted to stop. I didn't know this was the restaurant she had reserved for us.

They have 2 seatings - one at 7:30 pm and one at 9:15. We actually didn't leave until close to 10 pm and it was fine - it's Italy! People are always turned away from this restaurant because they do not have reservations. The good news is that they let Seymour into the restaurant with us. People are seated at long tables together. They have a menu of regular food and then daily food specials. They are known for their meat - very large steaks, duck, etc. Unfortunately I did not order meat! I had brochette with olive oil and tomatoes, some kind of pasta with mushrooms,a great salad and and some kind of dessert that they recommended - and of course vino rossa. I had lots of vino rossa. The good news is that our casa was only a block away - uphill, yes, but on the same street.

It was great company, great food and a wonderful way to almost end my stay in Montepulciano.

Our table consisted of 2 people from Australia who did not know each other previously, the young woman from Vienna who did the organization - and is hoping to come to Ft Worth to do a traineeship on equestrian stuff. (I gave her my email address just in case I could help her in anyway) a guy from New York who is an avid biker and has been coming to Italy for the past 6 years, my room mate, and me. And of course, Seymour but he didn't take up a seat.

I still have that afterglow of too much good food, good wine and good conversation. Seymour didn't get to eat anything so his afterglow never actually started.

I really appreciated getting invited because I was the only one who was not in a class with someone else at the table. Things just work out,sometimes.

Check out the restaurant review I attached to see more about this place.

Unfortunately, tomorrow we have a school lunch at another really good restaurant and then Fiorella is making us a great dinner, so good food - and calories - are everywhere!

On another topic, I talked with the director of the school yesterday because I could not go back to class with the teacher who taught the second half of our lesson each day. She has only been our teacher for a week. I know I said I was going to let go of my stresses and just get what I can out of the class, but I just couldn't with this person. She doesn't speak any English so she just couldn't deal with those of us who were at a lower level. She just started talking for long periods of time with our class mate who spoke pretty good Italian. The other 3 of us just sat there. it was that classmate that mentioned to me that the class was too fast and was willing to talk with the director with me. She is also the woman who offered to help me so we went to lunch together yesterday and reviewed some of my (many) problem areas. How I appreciate her!

So I met with the director of the school and she offered me a one hour private lesson in exchange for not going to the second part of my class. It was so helpful to talk to her and reduced my stresses immmensely. She also gave me copies of information that will help me with the basics that I have never learned. So tomorrow morning will be the end of my lessons. I have so much more to learn and don't want to stop learning. I definitely want to come back to Italy - soon Yes I know I have 2 more months here but after talking with people who are here from other countries and also have a connection to Italy, I feel that they are kindred spirits. I'm not sure Seymour feels the same way :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Some (Close to) Final Pics of Montepulciano

As I was walking Seymour for the 1 millionth time, I decided to take a few more pictures of the things I see regularly.
This painting is on the side of a building - not a church.

These walls still impress me. I have been wanting to take a picture of a garage here - it is cut out of the stone and looks like a cave. But here is another picture of one of the walls in the city.

For my wine-loving friends, these wine shops are all over town. I couldn't begin to guess how many there are - but they all have free wine-tasting! And I am pretty sure they only sell versions of Nobile wines.

This is the little grocery store I stop at almost every day on break from school and buy a Diet Coke light. The owner is kinda gruff and hardly ever talks to me. When he finally - almost under his breath - said buongiorno, I felt like I won a contest. He now acknowledges me with a small head nod or an actual hello. I wonder if he will notice that I am gone? But the interesting thing I wanted to show is the beaded doorway. Many shops have this and I'm thinking it is to keep the air flowing but most of the bugs out. He has his tied back today. And the guy in the picture is a customer. I wouldn't even try to get a picture of the owner!

This is a back entrance to the city. I found it a couple of days ago when I found a set of stairs I followed - and then a few hills - and there it was!

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Next Stop - Bologna

I have my place booked for next week. Starting Saturday, I will be staying outside of Bologna at a woman's home. Her name is Cecilia. She owns a children's book store and seems very nice. I found her on We have been emailing and she said she can pick me up at the train station if it is between 1 and 4 pm - when it seems that all stores in Italy close! Her mother lives upstairs from her so she can let me in, if needed. I am looking forward to a new experience, but will miss Montepulciano and some of the people here. I have even started to partially enjoy the loud people below my bedroom window because I try to understand something of what they are saying.

I will be staying with Cecilia for 7 days and will do day trips to surrounding towns. She lives about 20 minutes from Bologna. To get to her house on Saturday, I will take a bus to Chuisi, then a train to Balogna, then another train to her town, which I can't remember the name of at this time.

I still have things to say about Montepulciano and more pictures to share - either tonight or tomorrow.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Blog Malfunction it's Finally Working

Well,ever since I got my You Tube account working and had to change the password because I couldn't remember it, I can now no longer use my gMail or BlogPress accunt where I post my pictures. Only my blogspot account is working and I can't post pictures from it.

So, I will keep trying to fix it. It would be sad if I couldn't post pictures anymore but I guess I could just email my blog and pictures to you all if I had to.

Update: All is well for now. The latest post is out of order and is right before this one. Now I have to finish (OK, start) my Italian homework1

Parades, Parades, Parades Weekends in Montepulciano

When I was writing my blog on Saturday, a parade passed my window. Parades here are different than in the USA. First, there are no vehicles, politicians, clowns or candy being thrown. There are multiple groups of people dressed alike with a band in each group. The groups can be spread out over 5 - 10 minutes. You think the parade is over and then you hear more music coming.
Here are some pictures I took from my bedroom window. While the parade was passing, Seymour was hiding under the bed. Live music is not his thing.

Any cars you see are not in the parade; just people who live here trying to get home.

I got excited so I hurried (as fast as I can up these hills) to piazza grande to see what was going on with these bands. When I got there, I saw no bands, but I did see another wedding.

In front of the wedding party (I might add that they are posing in front of MY fountain) was a group related to the local symphony with lots of old instruments on tables.

There were also clowns giving out balloons. I think they were with the group called "Climb for your Health". To me, that group was in the wrong town. You have no choice but to "climb" here. They should have been in Pienza, where it was flat and there was very little climbing. As you can see, these weren't scary clowns.

They also had large sheets of Dolce (sweets) they were cutting up; I am assuming that was for the crowd there and not the wedding party. I am almost "dolced out" so I passed. Well, and I have a shelf full of my own "dolce".

Today I went back to piazza grande and the symphony folks were there again and they had a 3 piece group playing classical music - 2 on violins and one with a cello. Again, Seymour wasn't impressed but I enjoyed it. I took a video but still can't figure out how to upload it to this blog. For some reason all of my email addresses have not carried over to my iPad so I have only been able to email my videos to a few people.

Tonight I am trying to organize and consolidate my pages of Italian handouts so that I can have less to pack when I leave on Saturday. I can't believe my time is almost over in Montepulciano!

Weekends here are always festive.

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Location:Via di Valardegna,Montepulciano,Italy

Saturday, September 24, 2011

More about Pienza

There was another side to this town. I saw 2 signs not allowing dogs- one was a beautiful walkway around edge of the town where you can see the best views of the countryside.

The other was at an outdoor restaurant, which is very rare.

I also got a chance to experience for the first time one of those "European" restrooms that only have foot prints carved into the floor and a hole. The only thing I have to say about that is that my legs are about ready to fall off and the last thing I need is to try to bend and hold that position without falling to the floor. Grab bars would have been nice. Is that TMI?

I had also heard that in Italy, menus had to reflect if the food was fresh or frozen. The place I ate at in Pienza showed that the pasta was indeed frozen, i.e not freshly made. They also have to give you a receipt for anything you buy to show that they are claiming all of their sales. I have found that all of the stores are diligent about that. I was just thinking that maybe I could inquire about being a secret shopper here to make sure shop owners are giving those receipts - which would allow me to stay longer! Of course I have 2 more months of unknown travel so I may be ready to come home sooner!

One parting picture. I like seeing the clothes hanging outside. I have yet to see how they get them there. Fiorella has an indoor drying rack-probably because the windows face the main street. I won't tell her that I dry my underwear in my bedroom window almost every night:)

Saturday in Pienza

Seymour and I spent the day in Pienza. It is only about 20 minutes from Montepulciano by bus. It cost 1.95 euro each way so about $5.50 or so in dollars. The town is smaller than Montepulciano and flatter, but it is still very pretty. Interestingly, I've been walking the hills here for 3 weeks yet walking for an hour or 2 on flat ground hurt my legs now. I guess it's like wearing high heels all the time, you legs are used to another position! Pienza is a very big bicycle town. Everyone rides them - and all ages. Since it is flat, I can see why. I see people in Montepulciano all the time riding bikes but they are athletes in their tight bike shorts, not little old people in their sweat suits.

Pienza is known for their goat's cheese. It is pretty stinky and you can tell it is aged because it is mostly in some wax coating with leaves still stuck to it. I tried a few kinds and they were good but I didn't think I could eat much more cheese at this point. In fact, on the way home I stopped to get prunes, so enough said!

Here are some pictues of Pienza. They had a big sign saying that next years they were celebrating 550 years the church as been there. Amazing!

Their entrances to the old city are similar to Montepulciano.

And of course the side streets are quaint.

This statue made me feel better about myself.

More pics from Pienza and the view from the city to the countryside.

Seymour resting in the park in Pieza. Nothing seems to impress him except new smells and things to pee on!

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Friday, September 23, 2011


Epiphany - a sudden realization about something. This will be a serious column and Seynour will not be apart of it.

I have been feeling terrible about not learning the language easily and have blamed the school, the language level of my class and about anything else I can blame. I met with my friend, who is the other student who is at my level and we talked a long time today. She realized that she is used to being quick at learning things and also blamed the class and other things for not "getting it". She is more verbal than I am regarding this and talked with the people at the school.

The bottom line is that she and I are some of the very rare people with no language background so courses seem too high level for us. We also are frustrated when we don't understand quickly enough or are unable to speak like some of the other students. She made me realize that the problem is with our expectations and "overachiever's syndrome". She said that they told her that executives have the highest level of dropping out at the school because of their expectations. I must admit I have thought a few times of quitting. Even in my lower level class I am the only one without either an Italian or other language background. Around the world most people learn 2 languages from an early age. I wish we did in the USA. Peope in my class this week have been very supportive and affirming that it takes time to process and then finally feel comfortable to speak.

I missed the last part of the class today talking with the director of the school and my friend about the similarities of the feelings my friend and I are having. My friend and I went out to lunch and talked more - over a 1/2 liter of wine (larger amount than we expected) and I feel that I have finally had a breakthrough in understanding what I am going through. It's not that I'm not going to continue to be frustrated with myself, but I feel I am beginning to understand myself better. Maybe this is what I needed to learn more than Italian when I came here. Luckily I have one more week of class and then 2 months to continue to learn to understand myself - and maybe even speak a little Italian!

Timing is everything. I was so lucky to meet my friend and have her go through and verbalize exactly what I was feeling. We are different people in many ways but also similar. I am thankful for the opportunity to get to learn Italian and learn more about myself. It is a rare opportunity I want to fully embrace.

Pigeons in Montepulciano

Just a short post. When I first came to Fiorella's house I asked her (through Paulina) if the pigeons that stayed along the ridge of the houses ever got in the house because windows are kept wide open most of the time. She said that she has been there for 38 years and that has never happened.

Well, I am guessing that no one has ever left an open package of cheese on their bedroom window sill before. I was trying to keep some cheese cooler so I could eat it the next day and when I came home I was eye to eye with a pigeon at my window. I believe he was still thinking of how he could get that big hunk of cheese when I arrived so he wasn't actually in my room, but closer than I have ever seen one. I quickly moved the cheese to my closet and closed the window.

Today I opened the window before I left for school. I hope the cheese smell has gone away. I do not want to have to share my small room or my cheese with a pigeon. This is a story I will not be sharing with Fiorella!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thursday in Montepulciano

Again, I was a day off. I was thinking today was Wednesday and then I remembered that tomorrow is the last day of class for 2 of my classmates. Forget trying to remember the day of the month. I think I need a calendar.

I am feeling much better but still taking my medicine. I probably should use google translate to see what the pharmacist gave me. I'll continue to take it for a few more days, just to be on the safe side.

Things are better at home. My roomie is remembering to include me in conversations, which helps a lot. I still butcher the Italian words I think I know and unfortunately the easy ones never come up in conversations. I did look up the word for "better" since Fiorella asks me that every morning - probably because she already knows my name and she knows that this is the other question I know! So I said "meglio", pronounced may-yoh, and she understood me. Small steps - piano, piano.

I took a picture of the road Seymour and I walk every day. I'm not sure if you can tell how narrow it is, but it is a one car lane. The front area is wider because it has another street that merges with it.

This is another street I discovered yesterday - quite pretty.

Here is one of the little grocery stores that are scattered around town. I go there sometimes but I usually go to the bottom of the hill to the supermarket. All of the shops in town are in very small spaces.

For those of you asking, this is the only picture I have of Fiorella because she is like me and doesn't like her picture taken.

These poster boards are all over town and I guess are used to let people know what is going on. There are lots of concerts here. There was even a rock concert last weekend.

There was a Corvette gathering at the piazza grande last Sunday. I heard that the cars were from England but I didn't look at the license plates.

This was a poster in front of a Music or Art Museum (I forget)

This is a very interesting carving from a tree in that same Music or Art Museum entrance. (Dogs aren't allowed) Wouldn't Seymour have fun at this tree!!

At school today we got to go to the weekly market again. After walking around learning the names of various fruits and veggies (again) we were given about 45 min to shop. I found this backpack for 10 euro. He assured me it was good quality :) I plan to use it for the additional clothes I've purchased here and then get rid of my American clothes and try to stuff the backpack into my carry-on to go home. I also found a pair of cotton pants that tie at the ankle (so European) for 10 euro and a shirt (gaudy but fits) for 5 euro. I really should be set now, but I think I said that before!

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More Musings from Montepulciano

1. Bacon here is not the same as bacon in the USA. I ordered a goat cheese, olive pate and bacon sandwich and realized 2 things: no matter how much you like olives, olive pate is too much of a good thing; and bacons a slab of fat that I tried but couldn't chew. Seymour liked it, though.

2. Moretti beer is becoming a favorite over wine for me.

3. I should remember that a euro doesn't equal a dollar! My budget is totally gone.

4. The supermarket is able to give change for a 100 euro bill - yippee!

5. As often as we have to be plastered against the wall when the cars or local bus pass, Seymour still tries to hang out in the street.

6. I always ride the bus around the whole circuit so I can see the beautiful countryside views I can't see when walking.

7. I still haven't figured out which bus goes past the old church. All busses are orange and have no additional signs on them that I notice but all 3 busses I've taken go different routes. Yesterday I was riding the bus and it always stops at the bus station. An American woman asked the bus driver if this was the bus that went to city center. He said that it would be by in 15 minutes. After driving the back streets of Montepulciano, we arrived back at the bus station and the woman got on our bus. Why he wouldn't just tell her to get on our bus to begin with is beyond my understanding. Maybe to add a little humor in his life?

8. Most cookies here taste wonderful.

9. If you ask for tea here (due to being sick that sounded good to me) they put water in a cup and put it under the steamer/foamer on the espresso machine to heat it. I haven't seen a microwave yet, but I'm sure they have them.

10. I love the way the local young women (women are called "La donna" in Italian- interesting, huh?) dress. They do wear a lot of the long tee shirts with faces on them, but they layer everything just right. Very cool.

11. Italy, at least this part is not particularly religious. Many believe but don't go to church. I wonder how they pay for those big cathedrals?

12. I am told that men and women live with their parents for a long time, for the economy and the convenience. Marriage is not as popular and people will live together instead of marrying. Again, an interesting fact I didn't expect in Italy.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Seymour's Day in Montepulciano and the Parade

7:00 am. I have to drag him out of his crate or off of my bed to take his walk. Being a partial city dog now, he often pees on car tires and buildingd - like most dogs here. We did find a place where workers have blocked off an area and some weeds are growing so he likes walking there.

-As at home, if he doesn't want to go a certain way, he let's me know.

Here is Seymour with his host doggie, Kerikoo (I have it written somewhere but there are too many papers on my desk to find the correct spelling)

This is my old room mate, Paulina. I miss her! Seymour wasn't being cooperative.

Here are some pictures of the parade. The cool thing was that later that evening we were out and part of the parade was still going on and 2 of the men did an impressive flag show - throwing them high in the air, etc. Of course I have no pictures of that because I was too busy holding Seymour's ears due to the drums being right behind us!

Have I said that I love this city!!

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Location:Via del Piè al Sasso,Montepulciano,Italy

Trips to the Farmacia in Montepulciano

The good news is that I have had a chance to visit the farmacia a few times. The bad news is that I am visiting because I have not been feeling well. I'm not sure of the reason - maybe a virus because another student I have been around has also been sick. Anyway, their faramacias are much different than ours. Just about anything you need, you have to ask the pharmacist for.

On the counters there are baby food and baby items, lotions and creams and some vitamins. In the first farmacia I had to ask the pharmacist for aspirin. It cost almost 6 euro for 20 aspirin there. When I went to the second farmacia, they had the same aspirin on a shelf on "sale" for 3.90 euro. So, after going in for headaches, I then had a problem with my eye, so I went back for eyedrops. The day before yesterday I started getting flu-like symptoms; headache, upset stomach and achy. I went back to the faramacia and the pharmacist said they sell medicine for headache/aches OR upset stomach - not together. So, I decided to only get the headache/achy medicine and I got the stuff you put in hot liquid. I also bought a packet of chicken noodle soup. That was not easy to find. They have very few prepared meals on the shelves and no cans of soup.

When I came home, I fumbled around trying to ask Fiorella for a cup of hot water - not tea. She finally boiled some water and then threw it out because she had boiled it! I told her that boiled water was fine, so she had to boil another pot. Then I asked if I could make the soup (zuppa) and she said she would make it. It was obvious that she doesn't make any pre-mixed foods because she had to read the directions thoroughly to see how to make it - 4 cups of water in a pan with the soup mix :)

I had a bit of a breakdown with frustration over not being able to communicate with her. It just makes me crazy that I can't say much. And when I want to talk I realize that we didn't learn the words I want to say, like "I'm starting to feel better", or "The dogs are getting along very well". I can ask her her name, how she is doing and tell her I am taking Seymour for a walk or to school, but that takes me down a dead end street.

On top of that, my new room mate speaks fluent Italian and she and Fiorella have great conversations, unfortunately I don't know about what. I am happy for both of them but wish I could join in.

OK, I am back to complaining a bit, but I am still thrilled to be here and am diligently trying to understand what is said in class and do my homework. I only have 1 1/2 more weeks here before Seymour and I are off on our own so I know I'll get a little better with the language.

Speaking of class, we are now in a new, smaller classroom since our class is smaller. It has large shuttered windows that open to a barred balcony. We are considered to be on the first floor, but it the USA it would be the second. During class Seymour wandered over to the window (which starts at floor level) and stuck his head through the bars like he was ready to leave. I almost fell out of my chair running for him. He is becoming quite the independent guy. When he's done with class, he's done!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Week Three of Italian Class

First,I will post pictures from the parade yesterday later. I did not bring my camera adaptor to school to download the pictures.

The good news is that I am in the beginner class I should have been in 2 weeks ago, but I probably would have repeated it anyway. There are 5 of us and of course all but me have had Italian classes before, but not as much as the students in the other class. I guess I should have stuck with that class I dropped out of last summer!

There are 2 people from Australia (mother and daughter), one from Germany and a woman from Ohio. She has family in Italy and wants to learn Italian to talk with them. She will only be in class one week but has had another Italian course.

I keep starting new notebooks to try to organize my info but then I get more info and have to start another notebook. I am keeping the supermarket in business with dog food and notebooks! OK, and cookies :)

Seymnour has adapted to the new class of people and the classroom by mostly sleeping next to me.

It rained here last night - thunder and all. Today it is very cool but I don't know the temperature. Some people are wearing coats - I am just wearing long sleeves. I can't see the coat coming out until it gets much colder.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Grazie Google Translate and Vadafone!

My life has just become easier. Now that I have access to the internet at my house I used Google Translate to replace my much missed room mate Paulina. I wrote my questions and responses in English and Fiorella read the translation in Italian. We had a wonderful personal conversation this morning and I think that helped both of us get to know each other better. Much of our conversation I will keep to myself but we did talk about the cost of things. Electricity here isn't as expensive as water, but then they don't have A/C or dryers. Pensions are pretty low here but then social security is also little. She has lived in her house for 38 years. She keeps it beautifully.

The school didn't tell her who my new room mate would be or where they are from so it will be a surprise to both of us. She only takes women in her home so at least we know that much.

I tried to take a video of piazza grande this morning but somehow only 2 seconds recorded. I will practice more so I can add videos periodically to this blog.

Seymour and I went to the supermarket again this morning. I am now getting 6 cans of dog food at a time. I will have to up my food budget! On the way down we saw a small parade with drummers and a few people in Rennaissance costumes. On the way back, the parade grew very large and there were many groups of period costumes. I'm not sure what it was about. I tried to ask Fiorella (without using google translate) and I think she said they were students but since they were all ages, I probably didn't ask the question right. I will post pictures of the parade later today.

Fiorella is cleaning the house to get ready for the new student who will be staying a month so Seymour and I are back at piazza grande. There are lots of tourists and tour groups in town. I love feeling more and more like a local. Seymour is getting used to the church bells. In fact they are going off right now and he is shaking a little but is still resting beside me. I can't say the same for the drums in the parade. They really scared him and passed by closely so I had to hold his ears and hold him close to me to calm him down. Piano, piano.

I am very comfortable here but will be more comfortable as my Italian gets better. In fact, I get sad thinking of leaving Montepulcian in two weeks. I went to buy my bus ticket to Chiusi today. That is where I catch a train - to somewhere.

But at least I have 2 more weeks to enjoy this city.

BTW, I did see that the Italians and French have the longest lifespan in all of Europe and surpass USA. We need to exercise and drink more wine!!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Montepulciano Statistics

Many of you have asked me questions about this city, including population, where people work, etc. I found this website that will do a better job at telling you this information that I would. I did see that the population has stayed close to the same over a 10 year period. It is at about 13,870. See the website below for more details and great pictures.

Yipee! Ipad is Working on 3g

After paying for 2 months of 3g on the Italian network Vadafone, I could not connect. This morning I walked back to the Vadafone store - which is further downhill than the supermarket - which means a further walk uphill to my casa. When I got there he asked if I had the phone number he gave me yesterday so he could call Vadafone. After minutes of digging through my purse I realized that I didn't have it with me. So, I had to walk back up the hill to get it from my room and then back down the hill. I also had a time schedule because he (and other shops) close from 1 till 4 pm. I got back to his shop at 12:30 and there were 3 people in front of me.

Now, people don't move fast here - except while driving - so I knew I was cutting it close. Finally it was my turn and he used 2 phones to call Vodafone - not sure why - but after lots of talking, clicking on his computer and on my computer - it is working!!! How nice it is to be on the computer in my room instead of always sitting on a step somewhere. I don't even want to think what my butt has been sitting in! I will still go to piazza grande just to save some data download costs and will use the school wifi, but it will be great to be in my room to make phone calls and look for places to stay for the next phase of this trip.

I am sorry that the cell phone I bought - and paid for an Italian SIM card won't work, but if I have internet at least I can email people. Lots of lessons learned on this trip already.

After Italian Class on Friday

Finally finished our 2nd week of Italian class. I hope to spend some time this weekend organizing my notes. Thanks to my poor understanding of spoken Italian, I heard that we were having a lunch after class and since I haven't gone to many activities, I decided to go. Another student was going to show me where the phone store was located so I could get the battery in my European cell phone replaced. It wasn't holding a charge. But I told her about the luncheon and she also decided to go. BTW I think we both would agree that we have something in common - basic Italian language skills. About 10 min. into the luncheon (where they had to add more chairs) she said to me "I think we were supposed to sign up for this". Then I noticed that everyone at the luncheon was finished with class and were leaving- all but the other student and myself! Oops! Everyone was polite and we had a good lunch but I am smiling at having made another mistake.

After lunch we went to the supermarket since the phone store was closed until 4 pm. As with many stores here, they close from about 1 to 4 - and 4 is an "ish".

I found out that my phone battery won't work in Italy and it would cost me almost as much for a new battery as a new phone. I will make sure I do an Amazon review on that useless phone! So I opted out of using a phone to call around Italy. I did purchase a sim card for my iPad at 39 euro for 2 months of service. If it works, I will not have to go to piazza grande to use the Internet AND I will have access to goggle translate at my house!! What a help that will be since Paulina leaves tomorrow and Fiorella and I both call for her help when my poor Italian is not understood. Cross your fingers for me. I should know if it works within an hour or so.

We then took the local bus to go home and decided to stay on to see all of the town. This bus went to the old church I have only seen from a distance. We didn't get off because we both had heavy bags of groceries.

When we were getting up to get off at piazza grande (a very good place to exit the bus because both of our houses were downhill from there). We saw that there was a wedding going on. Here is the bride:

There was also a circle of men singing beautiful harmony near the bride. I don't know if that is tradition, but it was amazing. The acoustics there were perfect. Here are the men-

There was also a table set up near my well:). It was decorated for the wedding but I couldn't tell if they were serving food, wine or both. Sorry the picture is so far away.

I was told that the wedding usually takes place in a church but they also have to go to city hall, which is at piazza grande. It's like the reception was being held right in front of us. These experiences really make this city special.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

New Moon Pic

This picture is for my friend Joan. They do sell New Moon Tee Shirts here but they are pretty expensive. This will have to do. Someone took pictures of the actors when they were in Montepulciano and made this collage.

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Italian Homework and Class Work

I'm probably the only one in class who actually does their homework for hours every night. Most others seem to open their book at the beginning of class and just say the answers. I admit it, I am the slow one. I will be repeating this course starting again next week.

Just a little view into the work I have been doing - and this stuff is in piles.

In our last few days of class, we are having "fun" doing competitions. We are put into teams and have to do things like name all of the animals we know. Now, I have hundreds of pieces of paper and not one is related to animals. I know "cane" because I have one - not a cane, a dog with an accent. I want to know where everyone else learned the names like cow, bird or horse? Needless to say that whoever is stuck with me on their team pretty much ignores me. Yep, those are sure "fun" competitions.

Next week some of the students will graduate to the next level. I will be looking up animal names.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Going to the Post Office in Montepulciano

I finally went to mail a few postcards yesterday and it was another interesting experience. First you go a machine where you take a ticket related to what you want to do, ie get stamps, mail a package (OK, I'm making up what each ticket means since I still can't read much Italian). But Paulina told me which ticket to take. It said:
"Posteitaliane standard Montepulciano Postamat E009". E009 had to do with the reason I was there and you had to watch a screen to tell you which window to go to.

Well, that didn't work because my number never came up but a person nudged me toward a window (I felt a little Italian disgust in the nudge) so I went to the window. I shoved the postcards into the slot and the woman behind the glass window counted out stamps, shoved the postcards back at me with the pile of stamps. It cost 1.6 euro to mail a postcard which is about $2.00. I wish I had something important to say on those expensive postcards!

I then took my stamps to an empty ledge in the post office and put them on each card. I could not figure out what to do with the cards when they were ready to mail so I went outside and found a slot that looked like a letter slot. Hopefully, it was. They have taught us nothing about how to use the post office in language class - not that I would have understand them.

Oh, and the post office is only open until 1 pm and our class isn't over until about 1:15 pm so I had to spend my one 30 minute break in line at the post office. Not that I mind but Seymour looks forward to his walk at that time!

I sure hope those postcards get somewhere beside the garbage dump!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Artist in Montepulciano

When I was at the market on Sunday I saw an artist who painted watercolors of local scenes. She had a beautiful one of the piazza grande but it was large and I wouldn't be able to carry it. I asked if she could make a small one for me of the well where use my computer to be able to get public wifi. She agreed and I gave her the money - 35 euro - and the address of my school. I saw that she had already started working on it when I went back later in the day.

Yesterday she dropped it off at the school. Her name is Ellena Contini. Here is a photo of her painting. It will be a perfect memory.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Over-indulging in Montepulciano

I am feeling a little under the weather today - mostly due to too much food and wine last night! I found that you cannot buy "aspirini" in the supermarket here. You need to go to the "farmaci", so I will be heading there soon.

Yesterday was Fiorella's son's birthday so she make a great feast for everyone. Her son is (I think) 37. He and his girlfriend came over and Paulina and I were also there. So much food!! We started off with something that tasted like rice casserole, then went on to a rolled pork in onion dish, and cubed potatoes. I must say that their potatoes don't look like ours. They are more yellow, but maybe they aren't potatoes - I don't know how to ask!

The next course was a pear and cheese dish that I think we poured honey over. Then she made a custard that she said was a Spanish dish. On top of that, we had to have the local wine and I did have a few glasses. The wine here is called Nobile and there are MANY places that sell it and that you can taste it. My wine loving friends ( and I'm not calling you winos) would love it here. I am actually getting a bit tired of wine. I bought a beer at the supermarket that I have chilling in Fiorella's refrigerator - but my stomach is not quite ready for it yet.

This morning my head and stomach hurt and I only had coffee for breakfast. Luckily, she made me a grande coffee this time. It is now after class - about 1:30 and I still can't think of eating. I did purchase a ready made salad at the supermarket that I might eat later tonight. And I always have cookies in my bedroom . . . so I will not starve.

Staple food here is pasta, of course, cheese, prosciotto, bread and pizza. One of the students from Israel said they don't like the bread because it tastes like it is day old. I actually love it. I can buy a large piece of crusty bread for about 36 cents (which is about 50 cents in dollars) and about 4 pieces of some kind of cheese for about 1.9 euros and that makes most of a meal. Fiorella does make some kind of salad for dinner also, but I don't eat with them very often since I didn't pay for 2 meals a day.

There are little bars/cafes all over the city. Within one block, there are probably 6 or more. Most have outside seating but some only have tables inside so I probably have missed counting those. I have gotten friendly with staff at 2 restaurants at the piazza grande, so it is nice that they remember me - or at least remember Seymour.

Now that I am writing about food, I am starting to get hungry :) I have to say that I have not had better pasta than the dishes Fiorella makes. No restaurant has compared as yet. Maybe I should have paid for 2 meals a day!

Seymour is eating more than usual. He likes the Caesar brand dog food and has been eating about 1 1/2 cans a day. There is very little choice of food for him, though. And forget trying to find his favorite chicken chewies. I don't know if it is the exercise or boredom (he does have to sleep in class for 5 hours), but he is a hungry boy. I usually get 3 cans of his food at a time from the supermarket but may have to up it to 5 cans to keep up with him - and to save me from walking up the hills so often!

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Free Italian Lesson for You

After a week of Italian, here are some pointers I have learned:

1. Although it seems that all men are named "Louie", "lui" actually means "he".
2. Don't ask me who thought this up, but "she" is pronounced "lay" but spelled "lei".
3. When people try to speak Italian and end most of their words with an "o" - "I-o need the bathroom -o", just about all verbs (at least the ones I've learned so far) do end in "o" if you are taking about yourself. So, I is "Io" which is pronounced "ee-oo" (like in the Farmer in the Dell) and the verbs would be "telefono", "parlo" (talk), or "domo" (sleep).
4. All nouns are masculine or feminine, like in Spanish (not that I knew them in Spanish, either). If the noun ends in "e" or "o" it is usually masculine, so you have to know if you should use "il", "l'" or "lo" and if the noun ends in an "a", it is usually feminine and you add "la" or "l'". Then there are lots of exceptions and that is where I usually glaze over.
5. Pronouncing Italian words is harder than it looks. It is physically impossible for my tongue to get into some of the positions for certain words. I try to write them phonetically and my tongue still won't cooperate especially if I have to say another word after it. "Io ho voglia de una caffe" is pronounced "ee-o o vwa -yah dee un-a caf-faa".
6. Even if you learn to pronounce the basic words, you will not recognize them when an Italian says them to you. You will hear "yoowavdeeunacafa" and you just say "si".
7. To say, nicely, that someone is older, they say "piu grande" and don't even think of asking me to pronounce "piu". I just know that my mouth contorts into a strange shape when I try to say it. It might be "poo-ey", "pwee", or even pyee-oo". I haven't remembered it from one day to the next.
8 Conjugating verbs isn't too hard if you have a cheat sheet. The problem comes when you try to remember what each of those verbs mean. I can conjugate all day but don't make me say something meaningful.

OK, so that's lesson number one - stay tuned next week for more exciting information about the Italian language as I know it.

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Week 2 at Il Sasso - Italy

I need to buy more aspirins! The good news is that there are some words in Italian are the same as in English,like:

So, I know those words :)

The rest are all jumbled in my head. I hope something comes together by the end of the month. I did hear that a few women from my class went out together this weekend and made a mistake like I usually do. They were telling someone that they were taking a class at Il Sasso,and pronounced Sasso wrong - so they ended up saying they were taking a sex class instead of a language class. Thank goodness that wasn't a mistake I made! Of course now that it is in my head, it will probably come out my mouth one of these days here.

Back to our daily life here, when Seyour and I take our walk at 7:30 am, there are always workers sweeping the road and a truck picking up trash. I usually bring my trash out to the street and drop it in one of the bins along the street because I don't know how to ask Fiorella where to put the trash.

Seymour has learned that when he has to go to the bathroom, he will find very few trees or bushes so he actually has just used the street. I have already gone through a roll of poop bags here. Seymour is getting to dislike some of our walks and I will post pictures by tomorrow of his typical morning. Even with his complaining, he is a great travel companion.

Tonight Fiorella is having a dinner party for her son. I don't know if I am invited or not since I can't understand what she is saying, so Paulina said she will ask.

Yesterday Fiorella let me do laundry at her house. (I may have already said this, I'm forgetting what I'm writing) Anyway, I got to see what was behind the door on the first floor - the washer room. It is interesting that the room was cut out of rock, so it is a little like a cave. She does not have a dryer, so she gave me a large drying rack to dry my clothes. Since I almost always hang my clothes out at home, this was fine. It was great having clean clothes!

Seymour and I are done with class for the day so I'm going to drop off my books and computer and walk to the supermarket to get him more dog food. I wish they also sold doggie toothpaste because I can hardly stand Seymour's breath!

Even though I've been walking up and down these hills for over a week, I am still tired by the time I get from the supermarket to our house. Paulina did show us that there is actually 2 elevators in the park that will save us some walking on the hills. Siena had 3 escalaters to get from the bus part way up the hill to town. I guess I'm not the only one complaining about the hills!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday in Montepulciano

I should be studying but I keep falling asleep! After I explored the market at the piazza, Seymour and I walked around town. I noticed that many people smoke, but there must be a law against smoking in buildings because they all stand outside. Speaking of outside, although there is a street outside of my window but no bars, people seem to congregate to talk and laugh most of the night outside of my window - especially on weekends. No wonder I'm always tired!

Anyway, we walked to the supermarket and found that it is only open from 9 am to 1 pm on Sundays (it was 2 pm) Seymour has some canned dog food left but it is not his favorite. Hopefully it will hold him over until after school tomorrow.

I stopped for pizza and a coke - cost about 3.7 euro - which was reasonable. Here is a pic of pizza and beer I had the other night.

As you can see, their pizza is very thin. It has some sauce and some cheese but it is not overdone. Maybe I am just spoiled, but I prefer Betos pizza in Pgh! Looking at this picture makes me want another beer right now, but I do have to study! I will have to write down the name of this beer because it was good.

Here, you order your food and stand at a bar to eat or drink. If you want to sit at a table, there is a table charge of about 20%. They do not expect tips in Italy so it comes to about the same as a tip. I don't like standing because by the time I stop to eat or drink, I am tired and want to sit.

I am wondering if people in Italy live longer than Americans because of the exercise, olive oil and red wine? Hopefully, I am working on extending my life :)
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