My visit to Italy is almost over… and it's finally feeling like a vacation! For the last few days, my mom, grandfather and I have been staying at the Amalfi Coast, which is near Napoli. The Amalfi Coast, and the general region, was known as "Felix Campania", which means "happy land" and was some sot of vacation paradise for them. It definitely lives up to it's name nowadays. When we left Narni, we drove for over four hours… the mountainous Umbrian terrain soon gave way to low valleys and extemely blue skies, and then to brilliant turquoise water and steep cliffs splotched with citrus trees and clinging herbs and wildflowers. The water mirrored the shadows cast by the cottony clouds, turning it into a leopard patterned blue mirror. On by winding highway, fruit stands appeared as ubiquituously as those in Manhattan.
When we first arrived, we sat at a cafe and ordered some drinks to get the internet password. I had a glass of orange juice, half a glass of limoncello, and some amazing olives. I didn't think I would ever like olives, but these were amazing- meaty, buttery, salty, with a mellow olive oil tang. I liked the limoncello much better than that I had in Firenze.
During the last dinner there, we had paid SEVENTY DOLLARS apiece several weeks back to reserve dinner at a very fancy Italian restaurant. I wore my black velvet cropped top, pink neovictorian skirt, and gothic makeup. The food really was amazing, and I think I'm starting to pick out different styles of the different regions. Campania's is very SUNNY- light herbs, zingy with lemon, with delicate olive oil. Umbria's seems "forestier", and the olive oil is heavier and richer. Toscana's has a lot of meat, but that was no problem for me because the pasta is out of this world as well. It was excellent seeing my grandpa there again, and hearing his sassy remarks about the bel canto institute, and how he would have run the dinner. It was a freaking six-course dinner, and it's no wonder I can barely fit into my shorts! When I get back home, I must exercise! Anyway, at the end, Jane gave all the adults a glass of limoncello. In case you don't know what that is, it's a hard liquor made with sugar and lemons, and it's usually from the aforementioned region, Campania. My grandpa took one taste, made a face,and handed me the glass. I sipped it. "Not bad" I thought, but then the fiery liquor hit me! It burned as it went down, but… I liked it! It tastes like lemondrops made of dragons and fireworks. I downed the rest and then noticed that my firends sitting at a neighboring table were laughing at the face I made. I don't think I was tipsy, but I was rather giggly that night. Maybe.
I had a really great last day in Firenze- me and my friend Emily made plans to go to the Uffizi gallery. If you guys (if anyone reads this blog!) EVER go to Flirenze, you MUST go! People say that you need to get reservations months in advance, otherwise you have to wait three hours in line, but I found that untrue. Emily and I got into line at 8 AM, before it opened, and were one of the first people in there! Also, since I was under eighteen, I got in free. So, that's my little travel tip to you.
The museum itself was AMAZING- it was all renaissance art and ancient greek/roman statues that the Medici family collected centuries ago. There were some TRULY amazing pieces, including the famous painting with Venus coming out of the ocean on a shell. They put the renassance Italian section at the Met to shame! Then the ceilings were half the splendor. They were meticulously painted with figures of greek myths, floral scenes, pastoral scenes, portaits and animals, and inticately bordered with gold leaf. I was really very glad I went.
I was quite sad when I said goodbye to my voice teacher, my new friends, my roomies, and of course, my host mama, Maria. Even though it was extremely difficult to be in the Bel Canto institute, I would miss the friends I made, and really, the voice lessons made my voice amazing! It's so much easier to sing broadway style, too!
It was soooo good seeing Valentina and Matteo again. I had watched all of my mom's students perform, and I was amazed at how much they all grew as pianists! Valentina was very reluctant to play classical music, or do scales, but it made her play much more fluidly and fluently. Then we went to dinner at everyone's favorite karaoke bar, where I belted out "I will survive" and "all that jazz". It was SUCH a relief to sing musical theatre again! I missed it so much. I also got to perform several showtunes at the concert where my mom was hired to play the piano in Amalfi, which is why we went. She played a bunch of "salon pieces", plus my favorite piano piece of all time, "Rhapsody in Blue", by George Gershwin. I'm always reminded by that adorable animation done by "Fantasia 2000" when I hear that song. My mom killed that song! (I mean it in the good sense f the word!) Then I sang "Summertime", also by George Gershwin, and then two songs from "Annie Get Your Gun". The latter two I had to explain to everyone… in Italian. I feel that my Italian's gotten a lot better this month; while I'm not fluent, I'm very comfortable speaking it, and I can understand almost everything people say if I concentrate. I was a little bit nervous when I left Toscana, because I had heard that there are, like, 20 different dialects in Italian, but the only thing that changed was the accent, although we did meet this one guy that spoke in the Neopolitan dialect, with a very thick accent; I couldn't understand him at all.
It really is like paradise here. I got to swim in the ocean two days in a row! The water was very salty, making it very easy to float, and making my skin shimmer when I dried off. The day after the concert, we had a real, proper vacation day… no schedules, no rushing, no work… just lemon sorbetto and napping on the beach.
Yesterday we went on a tour of Amalfi, led by a tour guide who spoke English, and led us through narrow tunnels and alleys that we had never noticed before to see the REAL history of Amalfi. It was one of the first independant maritime nations from the Roman Catholic church, and they were extremely successful because they had a trading triangle (not sure how you would call it) with the Arabs, and the Byzantine, and when the church was like, oh you guys are more Arab than Christian, the Amalfitani were all, yeah, we dress like Arabs, eat like Arabs, and talk like Arabs; it's true! If any guide book says that the Arabs conquered Amalfi, they're lying. As he put it, they married the Arab culture. Our guide pointed out the Middle Eastern influence of the church. Also, it was one of the few places in the world at the time (medieval) when women had equal rights! One of my favorite facts was that they got attacked really badly by pirates, so they had a system planned out. Amalfi was very poor when the pirates attacked them, so they took their women and children to sell as slaves. SO, they trained a bunch of women who could run fast to get the pirates to chase after them, through all of the winding alleyways and tunnels, then the women would run off to a sidetunnel, and BAM! The pirates were scorched by boiling oil!
After that, we attended a truly god-awful musical ABOUT the history of Amalfi, in Italian. It offended me as a writer, actress, and singer, and afterwards, my mom and I had to listen to the Yeast Nation and Ella Fitzgerald songs to cleanse our ears of the filth that we saw. It was the worst musical we had ever seen, and we had seen some PRETTY BAD musicals this year. The one good thing we could say about it was that the lights were pretty. The acting was bad, the story was poorly written and broke one of the biggest rules of writing/acting- SHOW, DON'T TELL. Not to mention, most of the singers were bad, and the songs were inapproprietly placed.
Currently, we are driving up north to Lazio, where we will hang around in the Milano vicinity until we leave on Saturday morning.