Sunday, August 22, 2004

Dartmouth Alumni in Siena (by Steve)


I understand that someone -- some "friend" -- leaked our story to the Alumni Mag.  For you readers energetic and thorough enough to bother checking us out, welcome!  (Energetic and thorough are "code" for "type A" and "obsessive" you know....)

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Reentry (by Steve)


Well, we're back.  And I must admit that there are a number of things that are really attractive about these United States and that six months away is enough to appreciate them again.  But having a few more weeks off and entertaining Italian guests has made coming back a real pleasure.  Everything is just so, well, transparent.

What is Going to Happen to the Website? (by Steve)


Some of you may be wondering what will happen to the site now that we are back.  Well, I would like this site to remain in a sort of suspended state as a memory of our trip.  I will be investigating ways of doing just that.  However, in the mean time, I'm not sure we're ready to close it just yet.  I think it's important to keep it open for a few months for a few reasons....For example, I know that I still have a story on the history of the Contrade and the Palio and another one on the Palio itself.  And there are still two or three hundred photos to publish.  At a rate of 20 - 30 per week (in current photos album) that will take till September.  And finally, I also think that there are some comments still out there waiting to be recorded.

Get those comments in NOW for posterity.

COMMENTS from the original blog

2006-10-21 14:09:54 stefano
after two years...
I have rehosted the site at a different hosting service in a different CMS called Drupal.  The photos are still in an open source application called Gallery.  Enjoy.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

And the winner is.... (by Doreen)

SIENA (#68)

To the delight of Onda and the despair of Bruco...Jockey-less Giraffa (the contrada Onda sold their rider to in order to help keep their arch enemy, Torre, from winning).

Bruco led the race until passing the deadly curve of San Martino.  Giraffa was trying to pull ahead when all of the sudden its rider fell off.  Bruco's jockey pulled ahead again but then he, too, fell.

Then Bruco continued to lead (with its unknown horse and young inexperienced jockey) to its contrada's joy and amazement --not something they even thought could happen).  Then, calamity stuck. The 2 front runners caught up and started to lap Oca (the goose)'s horse (who had lost its rider in the second lap).  Bruco got boxed in.  Oca (finishing its second lap) started to run faster and was a nose ahead of Giraffa at the finish line.  I (and probably 1/3rd of the others), thought this was Bruco's horse. Instead, Giraffa's flag was hung outside the Palazzo Publico, as the winner.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Palio Marches and Trials (by Sarah)

SIENA (#67)

We thought we could have a little rest for a while after our trip and all our guests, but NO WAY! We are all busy seeing friends all the time. The Palio is on Friday, and this whole week is going to be busier than ever.

First, there have been the marches or giri of the contrade. Each of the contrade have their turn to march or girare through the streets of Siena and pay respects to friendly contrade, the Commune, and the Bishop. The marches started about a month ago. Mom and Dad went on the Onda giro on Sunday.

Some Guests and Packing for Home (by Sarah)

SIENA (#66)

The 14th of June, the same day we returned from our vacation to the South, we started seeing a number of families and friends from the US.

First, the Zimble family arrived. We showed them around Siena and had a great time. The next day, we met with Rick, a friend from Lexington. On Wednesday, we went to mercato and then met with the Zimbles again for a wine tour in Castellina. After, we went back to their agri-tourism hotel and swam in their pool. We all helped to prepare a fabulous dinner, and then came back to Siena. The next day, we had a dinner with the Ducci family and with Rick. On Friday, Dad drove Rick to the airport in Florence. Saturday we went to Lucca and to the beach with the Gherardi family and with the Zimble family. We stayed in Lucca for the night at a hotel called Corte Degli Angeli. The next day, we went to Cinque Terre (the second time for us) with the Gherardis and the Zimbles. We had a great time and then headed back for Siena.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Our Trip to the South (by Sarah)

SIENA (#65)

Hey. It’s been a while since we have written anything. I decided to take the initiative and update all of our loyal readers on what the hell we’ve been doing this past busy month!

Both Alex’s and my school ended on Saturday, June 5th.  On the following Sunday, early in the morning, the contrada of the Giraffa made their march around the city, so I ran outside before we left and saw my friend Simone in complete uniform and throwing a huge flag up in the air along with others in the group.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

The Contrada System of Siena (by Steve)

SIENA (#64)

Donatello Giallombardo
One of the things that contributes to the distinct character of Siena today is a unique social institution called the contrada.  One way to define contrada is “neighborhood association” because each one of them is mapped to a distinct geographical area of the City. Or you could define the contrada by the horse race that takes place every year in the town square, called the Palio:  the contrada would be like the team whose horse and rider compete in the Palio.  The problem with this approach, however, is that if you don’t know what the Palio is, it can’t really help you understand the contradas (or contrade in Italian).  

The Palio is more than a race and the contrade are much more than a neighborhood or sporting club that one can simply join. They are conservative social organizations with deep historical roots. Although they have been remarkably stable for centuries and are inherently traditional, they are alive, dynamic and continue to evolve. They have broad social, economic and even psychological functions and assume a dominant role in everyday, modern life in Siena. And as far as I can tell, the contrade are quite unique in the industrialized West.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Making Cheese in Front of the Duomo (by Steve)

SIENA (#63)

We were in front of the Cathedral or davanti al Duomo of Siena.  It was 1979, perhaps the third week of our 10-week Language Study Abroad program in Siena, Italy.  I was a Sophomore, completely overwhelmed with the expectations that one could really become fluent in a foreign language in 20 weeks (10 of which were here in Italy).  I was particularly concerned with so much depending on linguistic proficiency.  I really couldn't imagine how I could get credit for College-level Art History and Italian Literature Classes conducted completely in Italian, including the oral and written exams.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Local Heroes (by Shari Zimble)


I am excited to read your postings and to finally (I hope!) have subscribed to your newsletter.  This has been an extraordinary week throughout Massachusetts, but certainly in Cambridge.  It's as if the whole city is aglow.  There are flowers and balloons and signs of celebration on a grand scale as the first gay and lesbian couples are married.  We were not among the hundreds of people at the courthouse when the clock struck midnight and forms for marriage licenses were distributed (how was it that we did stay up for the last Harry Potter book but missed this?  was it just that the book was released on a Sat and history changed on a Sunday night?!).  For the first time in years, it seems, I was eager to listen to and read the news.  I kept crying -- when is the last time that happiness was so palpable?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

My Field Trip to Parco Regionale della Maremma (by Sarah)

SIENA (#60)

This past Tuesday, my class and I went on our long awaited field trip to the Parco Regionale della Maremma. We hiked for three hours and stayed at a beach for two hours, and then hiked the three hours back. We were all so exhausted when we got home, but we all had a very memorable time! See pictures and don't forget to read on!!! We had been talking about this field trip for the past two weeks in science class. And when I say we talk about it in science class, we only talk about the trip and that's it during class! We were going for a walk in a park in maremma to see science and biology at its best.

7:55 am

I arrived at the parking lot and found most of the rest of my class waiting for the bus. Of course, the first thing we talked about was what everyone brought to eat. "Looks like another 'food-o-centric' field trip!" I thought to myself. The other class that was coming with us on the trip started to arrive. The bus came a few minutes after almost everyone was there.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Antonio's Liberation Story (by Steve)

SIENA (#59)

Liberation Day, April 25th and the 2nd of July are National Holidays in Italy.  They celebrate the founding of the 2nd Republic of Italy, not unlike our 4th of July in the United States.  I was surprised to find so little interest, however. Political leaders and journalists spoke and wrote about the urgent need to remember something, as if there were danger of forgetting it altogether and turning this holiday into an excuse for a picnic (gasp!).

It’s no wonder: most of the demonstrations of National unity we saw seemed ritualized, isolated from daily life and rather cold. I kept thinking about how different “official stories” are from the personal accounts of individual Italians, like Antonio Ducci’s. Later that same day while visiting the old Public Hospital of Siena, I was able to relate some of the larger story and the abstract ideas of Liberation to the personal stories of Antonio Ducci through this incredible monument.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Paying for the Gita Scolastica (by Alex)

SIENA (#54)

Paying for le gite scolastiche or field trips here is much different than it is in the United States.  These differences are similar to those of the rest of the education system. Here's an example:


The trip costs 50 euro. There are 20 kids in a class and there are five payments of 10 euro (IN CASH). One kid is chosen (a responsible one) to give the 200 euro to the selected teacher on the selected date. It is entirely up to the kids to keep track of who has payed and who needs change and all of that.  In Italian "CASINO" (the word means what it implies crazyness).  If the kid counts the money and there's 5 euro missing you hear sudden eruptions, "What the HELL are you talking about I ALREADY payed!!!"  even though the remark was directed towards no one in particular.  In general, things are left totally up to the kids to figure out (or not) for themselves.

Paying for the Field Trip (by Alex)

SIENA (#62)

Paying for field trips here in Italy is totally different than in the United States.  Here the paying process is left entirely up to the kids.  As you can imagine, things get much more complicated and also much more disorganized.

For example, let's say there is a trip that costs €200 per kid (my trip cost about that much). The kids are asked to manage their own trip money. This includes collecting and keeping track of all money collected. So they designate one responsible kid out of the class for the lofty task. If there are 20 kids in a class that means that the one kid would be handling €4,000 (or $4,400). And to add to it all, the kids pay in cash!

Packing for Verona (by Alex)

SIENA (#56)

While packing for the class trip to Verona I was thinking about how many clothes to bring.  I thought, "well, this is Europe, so the kids will probably have a little tiny backpacks with clothes, and they will wear the clothes for like 2 days in a row."  I managed to fit the full 3 days worth of clothes in by backpack, and I stepped back for a moment.  The backpack was exploding.  I thought of what the situation would look like everybody with their little backpacks and me with my huge one, but at least I didn't have two bags, right?

Happy Birthday, Alex (by Grandpa Karoll)

ST LOUIS (#58)

We can tell that time has passed by looking at your name.
Alexander, Allie, Alex, you're called, but none the same!

One formal; one - early on, perhaps childish or playful;
Your latest choice, more mature, developed, thoughtful.

As a grandparent fortunate for short exposures over time,
My thoughts about you tend to the happy and sublime.

Happy Birthday, Alex! (by Bubbie Barbi)


Dear Alex,

I hope the fun you are having, turning fourteen in Italy, would fill more suitcases than all the ragazzi carried on the Verona trip.  Someday when your son turns 14, you can compare his day w/ your special Italian experiences.  It is a really good present, no?

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Cena with Bread Gnocchi at Pieve Asciata (by Steve)


Carla Ducci is from Torino in the North of Italy. Although she does not make them all the time at home for Antonio (who is totally Tuscan), she does know a lot of very unusual recipes from the North in general and from Torino specifically. This is the first draft of a recipe for bread dumplings or bread gnocchi.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Which 25th of April (by Stefano Folli, translated by Steve)

With June 2nd, the Nexus of Our National Identity (#53)

Published originally in the Corriere Della Sera, April 25, 2004, page 1

Fifty-nine years later, there are still a thousand ways to remember the 25th of April, 1945: as many ways as there were ideals, hopes, and aspirations in those years.

The best way to remember it would be for each of us to look back on our own personal memories of that day. They are personal precisely because they belong to a person, a group and a culture and therefore they can never truly be shared. And such personal memories would never be replaced by anything common unless it were actually embraced by every Italian. Basically, there are as many memories as there are personal experiences of April 25th according to who celebrates it, who judges it, and who inherits it whether they are Catholic, Communist, Socialist, or stock-holders [owner-class]. And why not include anti-fascists and even those who are simply neutral: the “grey zone” described by Renzo Di Felice, whose new studies would be a mistake to underestimate.

Monday, May 10, 2004

The Cell Phone Crisis (by Alex)

SIENA (#51)

The teachers thinking reasonably decided that it might not be so great if the kids stayed up all night messaging their friends, so they made a very aggressive decision (at least according to my friends). They decided to take the kids' cellphones at 8:00 and give them back when they get up in the morning.The kids were outraged.  And they were all like, "I'm not giving THEM my CELL phone.""

They each independently said to the teacher, "I won't bring it."

And a few minutes later then you see them whisper to the person siting next to them, "Of course I'm bringing my cellphone!"

Click here to read more about my trip to Verona.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Pici con Sugo di Carne con Finocchio e Rucola (by Steve)

SIENA (#48)

We’ve tried this a few times and it is rapidly becoming a family favorite. Rucola -- they call it ROO-ho-la in Siena -- is a very delicate, small leafy green that is eaten raw as a salad. It has a wonderful bitter flavor that goes well with meat. For example, it is typically served with carpaccio, a raw, thinly sliced beef sprinkled with olive oil and shaved parmesan cheese.

The pici (pronounced PEE-chee) are the perfect pasta for this sauce: the big, chewy noodles are a lot of work to eat. Together with the rich and savory flavors, it makes for a thoroughly satisfying dish in every way, wonderful with a big red wine.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Talking About the Internet at Sarah's School (by Steve)

SIENA (#47)

Yesterday I addressed the 4th year English students of Professor Medaglini.  I had two objectives. First, I wanted to have a very American style discussion about the Internet.  But in addition, I decided I was going to develop the conversation as an example of why English is so important to learn.  I am pretty sure that most of them got the first message.  Some of them might have understood the second. And I had a blast.

Before starting, I had written my name on the board.  As I was writing, I overheard them talking about the spelling and the pronunciation of ‘Stephen’.  “It’s just like Stephen King,” one of them said in Italian to the others.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Italian Liberation Day, 2004 (by Steve)

SIENA (#52)

Yesterday was the 25th of April, the 59th anniversary of the Liberation of Italy from German control in 1945. Liberation was one of the two central events in the formation of the modern state of Italy, along with the subsequent creation of the 2nd Republic abolishing the Monarchy. It used to provoke passionate debates about what exactly happened in 1945 and in the war’s aftermath and why. But with the passage of time perhaps and dramatic political and economic developments which transformed the world, these historical events seem to have lost some of their power. And so have the intense political debates they used to provoke. Yesterday the crowds were tiny and most of the leaders spoke and wrote about the European Union and the need to remember something, as if the danger of forgetting altogether had somehow become more frightening and important than agreeing on what was remembered. I suppose that is how a national myth is made.

Sarah Gets a New Look (by Steve)

SIENA (#46)

Sarah has been bugging us for days to get her hair cut. Once we were back in town from our vacation and settling down to our routine, we agreed. So last Thursday while I was out, I made an appointment at a place that Laura Ducci recommended. Then at 4:00 yesterday Doreen, Sarah and I walked in to the parrucchiere or hairdresser. One hour and 15 minutes later we all left, but only one of us was transformed.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

My Class Goes to Ostia! (by Sarah)

SIENA (#45)

This Tuesday, I went with my class on a field trip to Ostia. It was really exciting for my class because last year, they didn’t have any field trips. So it was a big deal and everyone was totally psyched. See pictures from Ostia here.

We met in the parking lot near school at 6:30 am. I had to wake up around 5 so I could get ready and then walk there. I was pretty tired. Our bus left pretty much on time, and we were off to Ostia! It took about four hours to get there, so it was a great time to talk to all my friends, and just relax. We spoke lots of English and Italian. I had my music with me so I was able to let a lot of kids listen and I got to hear more of their Italian music. It was really fun. We only made one stop at a gas station where there was also a bar, so everyone got off and went to the bathroom and got food. Francesco had been complaining the whole bus ride about how hungry he was. We asked him why he didn’t eat breakfast, but it turns out he ate two sandwiches right before he got on the bus!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

We're Back from Our Vacation (by Steve)

SIENA (#43)

So Passover is over and we’re back from our Easter vacation. It was a blast. In some ways it seems odd to be taking a vacation from our vacation. But it’s true: our routine in Siena is much more like life than vacation and Easter and Passover were a nice break. We managed a very nice balance of keeping our traditions but adjusting to accommodate travel in the land of pasta and bread. We also alternated between staying put and driving around, seeing friends and seeing sights, revisiting some old places and exploring some new ones.


Every Passover we recall how “this night is different from all other nights;” but this year our Passover was different from all other years as well. Take for example the preparation. Instead of the Kosher isle at Stop and Shop, we went “shopping” at the Synagogue of Siena for matzah and other items. Professor Lattes, the caretaker of the synagogue, managed to keep something like a small kosher section of a supermarket in a closet in the hall outside the main sanctuary. We just gave him a call, walked over, and he opened it up for us. There was Matzah, cakes, wine, cheese, and even “turkey salami” (which looked, smelled and tasted more like boiled ham than salami). Then, after picking what we wanted and paying him, we loaded up and walked home across the Piazza del Campo, up Via Di Cittá, by Quattro Cantoni and the Questura, and to our home in the Duomo of Siena. Imagine that!

Friday, April 16, 2004

Breakfast, Temple, Frescoes and Friends in Padova (by Sarah)

PADOVA (#44)

We woke up on Friday to another pleasant morning in the house of Giovanni and Giulianna.  After our all-day trip to Venice the day before, we had decided to take it easy, enjoy breakfast at their house, see the Synagogue in Padova and then the Capella Degli Scrovegni, and then meet Margherita and Benedetto for lunch. I absolutely love Giovanni and Giulianna's house. From the outside, it looks like a normal house. They also share the house with a neighbor. On the inside, it’s really modern. All the floors are really gorgeous, dark wood. They had three really nice bathrooms. Most of the walls were white and there were modern looking lamps, so everywhere was always bright. The railings up the stairs were metal and at the top there was a plant that grew and was winding down the railings. It was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. They had a lot of plants around too and the atmosphere was just really nice. I hope my house is exactly like theirs.

Orna and Annie back in the United States
The other really wonderful thing about their house was their dog, of course! Franz is a huge German Shepard, and as sweet as can be, He has the cutest face! He’s open to all visitors and likes to be petted. When you pet him, he kind of leans up against you. It’s so cute. Another great moment was when Giovanni was going to take Franz for a walk, and he said the magic word “Andiamo!” (“Let’s go!”) Franz got so excited and started kind of jumping around in a circle. It was so funny and so sweet! It was great to have Franz there, but it made us all miss our dog, Annie, back at home.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

My Class Trip to Verona (by Alex)

SIENA (#50)

This is an outline of my trip to Verona and each topic on the first level will eventually be linked to a story I wrote concerning the sub topics.

Monday, April 05, 2004

It's all about the Basketball (by Sarah)

SIENA (#42)

Saturday night began as a regular night on the town with all my friends from school. When I met them, they were all really excited for some reason. Turns out that before I met up with them, they were all at the big opening of a store. For the event, the store had a few of Siena's basketball players there to sign shirts and stuff. For my friend Chiara, this was the best day of her life, because she met her favorite player, David Vanterpool. The other favorite of my friends is David Anderson.
We started to walk around and suddenly we saw two heads that were much higher than everyone elses. It was Vanterpool and Anderson! We followed them for a little bit while my friends told me all about them. It was so funny, because there were about 20 other groups of kids along with us pointing and following them too! My friends told me that Vanterpool is actually American, so I really wanted to talk to him! At first they didn't like the idea, but they finally gave in, and we walked right over to the famous basketball players.

David Vanterpool was as sweet as can be! (And he was REALLY tall!) He warmed up right away after knowing that I was American too, and we chatted a bit about the U.S.A. He lives in Washington D.C. and came to Siena to play for the basketball team. The whole time we talked, my friends had gathered around and actually brought more friends over, so there was a little crowd around us. They stood there, trying to understand, and staring with huge eyes and wide open mouths. I knew that Chiara loved him, and she wanted a picture with him, so I asked him to pose with her for a picture, and someone took it with her cell phone! I could tell she was so happy!

Sunday, April 04, 2004

B'nai Amoona Macaroon Recipe (by Doreen)

SIENA (#41)

Ok, so you are looking for some recipes on this site?  Well, since Passover starts tomorrow night... [we're having 2 of my classmates (+ 1 husband) from Italian school, Tony D'Amico and his niece here for seder...Laura and Giulia can't come  -Angelo is in  Vietnam for fun --an ironic idea....and Carla from Pisa has friends here from England'll read about that later].... for now, how about my macaroon recipe.

2 egg whites 1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup sugar 2 cups coconut

Beat egg whites until stiff.
Add sugar slowly and beat until smooth.
Add lemon juice, then coconut slowly.
Drop by tablespoonful onto greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 300 for 30 minutes or until brown on edges. 

Friday, March 26, 2004

How Should Italy Respond to English Hegemony? (by Steve)

SIENA (#36)

Francis Alberoni wrote an article called “English Hegemony? It’s Clear in the Decline of San Remo” published in Italian the Corriere Della Sera on Monday, March 8th, 2004 and translated here in English. In it, he observes that globalization is dominated by an Anglo-Saxon civilization and the English language and argues that as English dominates, it tends to diminish the power of ideas specific to other languages and civilizations in its path. Superficially, this seems true: one might even say, obvious. At a deeper level, however, it is fundamentally flawed because it does not really reflect how cultural exchange operates in the context of competition between civilizations.

First of all, there is nothing new about this process of cultural change driven by the competition between and dominance of one civilization over another: in fact, the Latin civilization and languages that Alberoni defends is itself the result of years of cultural exchange, assimilation and domination. Consider the Etruscans. Many believe that the arch, arguably the most important contribution of Roman Architecture and Engineering was actually borrowed from the Etruscans while other Etruscan arts and language were destroyed in the process of Roman assimilation. (Apparently these were less interesting to the Roman war machine). In their empire, the Latins tolerated religious and cultural diversity but insisted in a uniform code of law and justice and military system which left it’s mark everywhere it reached, including Anglo-Saxon England! In return, Longobards, Goths and Visigoths not yet assimilated left their mark on the Italian landscape with their initial invasions as did their Carolingian and Frankish Empires. Medieval Christianity and the so-called International Gothic Style were profoundly influenced by Nordic, Celtic and Germanic traditions. In Italy, the rise of the city states culminating in the Renaissance were also affected by Asian ideas introduced during the Crusades and explosion of Mediterranean commerce that followed in its wake. Aren’t we glad we don’t have to multiply Roman numbers? And where would we be with out the zero?

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Published Notes of Monestary Architecture (by Sarah)

Sant ANTIMO and San GALGANO (#31)

See my recently published notes comparing the Romanesque Architecture of Sant Antimo with the Gothic Architecture of San Galgano.


Saturday, March 20, 2004

I Promessi Sposi - The Betrothed (by Sarah)

SIENA (#40)

In Italian class, we are reading I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed) by Alessandro Manzoni. Practically every student reads this book in school, so no is really excited about it (except that weird American student, me!) So here is just a little of what I have learned so far…

Manzoni is one of the most important Italian authors besides Dante. In the 1400’s, Dante Alighieri wrote La Divina Comedia (The Divine Comedy) This was important because it was written in the Italian vernacular and basically created the Italian language of that time. Manzoni did the same thing only about 400 years later. His Promessi Sposi was a landmark for the modern Italian language of that time, which can be compared to Shakespeare for the English language.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Dad to talk about US Politics at San Bernardino? (by Alex)

SIENA (#39)

Today, at school, my father came in to talk to my Technical drawing teacher as well as the history teacher. He was going to talk about different ways they can include me in the class. By the time he left he had agreed to visit my History class and discuss Politics!

First, my dad talked to the technical drawing teacher when I was in History class. All went well, and the teacher agreed to photocopy some things for me, so that I could study the same material they were studying, but my dad could help with the translation. This is exactly what my father and I thought I needed.

Then my dad talked to the history teacher. During this time, I had a break while some of my other classmates were in Religion class. The kids who don't study Religion go to another study type room. For the past two weeks, I have been going with them. (I didn’t really find it crucial to learn about Catholicism). On my way downstairs to get to the unused room, I saw my dad chatting with my history teacher.

Monday, March 08, 2004

English Hegemony? It's Clear in the Decline of San Remo (Alberoni)

MILAN (#35)

Published originally in Italian in the Corriere della Sera By Francis Alberoni and translated here by Stephen Quatrano

It is hard for us to admit that there is an Anglo civilization with its own language, institutions, mentality, and specific modes of thought and feeling.  It is repugnant to think that England, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA by now constitute a distinct and diverse cultural entity that dominates the global economy, science, communications, literature, film, art and music.Between the wars this Anglo-Saxon force was hidden by the huge number of European intellectuals and artists who fled the Nazis.  After the war under the same banner, one lived with the illusion that there was a universal culture and that language did not make a difference.  In fact, for a moment, French culture even seemed to predominate.  We thought of the extraordinary weight of Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Camus, Levi Strauss, Aron, Lacan, and Foucault.  And Italian Film was second in the world at the time of directors like Fellini, De Sica, Visconti, Antonioni, Monicelli, Risi, Leone and actors such as Mastroanni, Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren.

Friday, March 05, 2004

So I Decided to Start School (by Doreen)

SIENA (#34)

So I decided to start school. The kids, now well ensconced in their schools and Steve, with his website to manage, no longer had a great need for me between the hours of 9 and 1:30. So I re-started the search for a school (which I had started in Lexington).

There are 3 “big” programs –the University for Stranieri (University for Strangers—not so sure I wanted to be a “strange one”), Scuola Lingua Leonardo Davinci and Scuola Lingua Dante Alighieri. (These can all be found when doing a google search.) In addition, on the web, I saw ”Saena Iulia” which boasted small classes and student –appropriate placement/help. It is also the closest to our house - just off the Baptistry (the other end of the Duomo). Steve took Sarah to school that day – it was sleeting/raining/snowing – one of his days therefore to take her, and I had the computer/web to myself. When he arrived home, it was surprised to see me thus engaged and said, “Classes start today, let’s go check them out.” So, instead of the long shower I had planned, I dressed and we took off.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Pitigliano: A Town from Lord of the Rings (by Sarah)


Today, I was surprised again by my dad waiting in the car for me right outside school! We went through the same procedure we did when we went to Sant Antimo and San Galgano and picked up my
mom and Alex at his school. Then, we started off on another day trip to Pitigliano this time!

Pitigliano is a town half way between Siena and Rome, high on a cliff with a strong Jewish community from the 1500's.

Sarah, Carla, Steve and Alex in Pitigliano
My dad had got in contact with one of his friends from the past, Carla.  She’s from Pisa and we had her over for lunch one day. We told her about how we don’t know many Jewish people but were interested in learning more about the community. In addition, we mentioned wanting to see Pitigliano. Turns out, she actually has a friend there. She happened to be nearby there today, and so she invited us to come on down!

After the one-hour and a half drive, we finally arrived at Carla’s cousin’s house. Her name is Costanza. They were very welcoming and served us tea and crostata! Then Carla took us into the town of Pitigliano. When we first saw it, we were astounded at the location. The town was built right on top of Etruscan caves. It looked like a city that was designed for Lord of the Rings; it gave off the same feeling as Minas Tirith did. We drove up, parked, and went to meet Carla’s friend, Adrian.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Our Second 20 Days of Food (by Doreen)

SIENA (#33)

Days 11-20: Steve is becoming friends with the shopkeepers ie the meals are getting even more interesting. Read more to see what we're up to in the Dining Room.

Day 11:
For lunch, we had pasta in marina, turkey cutlets in lemon, cabbage/carrot salad (conditioned with lemon, olive oil and salt/pepper, and fruit.

Day 12:
Lunch today was great. Steve made a Ribolita –soup with black chard (cavalo nero), ceci, carrots, celery, garlic served over stale bread and stuffed artichokes, salad, salami and cheese, wine and blood oranges and apples for dessert

Day 13:
We packed a picnic lunch (a choice of scrambled egg, cheese and salami sandwiches.

Day 14:
pranzo – risotto with porcini, sautéed cauliflower with fresh tomato, chicken meat, and salad. Artichoke pasta for dinner.

Lunch was delicious. Steve made a vegetable based risotto with cavalo nero (black chard/cabbage), beet greens, and red onions with a few leftover ceci. We also had bread, cheeses (lots of varieties –like 30 or so pecorinos in the cheese section), salad, fruit and wine. We’re really enjoying the cheeses and are starting to be more concerned with getting enough fiber and fresh vegetables, though we are eating them constantly, too, ie we’re getting a little caca-centric. Aging? No just change in eating/food habits and results….

Social Life in Siena (by Sarah)

SIENA (#30)

So, everyone knows about school, and all the cool historic places that we have visited around Siena, but what do I do for fun around here? Read about my friends and late night adventures!

Il "Corso" by night
Saturdays are the big days to go out. The main thing to do on these nights is to walk on the main street – the corso. Since everyone is there, you can meet up with people and then go get dinner.

The first time I went out with my friends was after my first day of school on the 16th a Monday. I didn’t really know anyone yet, but they asked me if I wanted to come out with them. Why not!?! Roberta called me and told me the details. We were going to meet at Piazza della Posta. There were only a few kids there because it was a school night. I could tell the corso was not that busy. I was planning to go home for dinner because dad was cooking. That actually was okay anyways because they had to wait until 9 to eat because they had to wait for some classmates who were playing in a basketball game. The guys that were in our group were very funny. We walked up and down the corso for a while, talking about where to go. I talked to a lot of them about the town and school. Of the kids I was with, practically none of them lived inside the city walls. They were all very impressed when they found out I was living in an apartment in the Duomo! We talked about school, and people and just about everything.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

The Duccio Exhibit (by Sarah)

SIENA (#38)

Today, we went to the current big show in Siena – Duccio’s works. We met my dad’s past professor, Professor Cornice, at the exhibit. He offered to take us along with a specific group of his friends. We stood in line for a while and went through security and we were finally ready to start learning.

Of course, as we followed Professor Cornice through the exhibit, he explained everything in Italian. Alex and I followed along for a bit and then we had no idea what was going on. We were left to read the text on the walls (that was in both English and Italian) while the group was lead by Cornice. It really was not that bad reading the English, Alex and I talked about everything we saw and discussed a little about the paintings and put together what we both knew. I’m sure it wasn’t nearly as intellectual as Cornice’s explanation, but it was a start.

Crucifixion from the Maesta' di Duccio
My dad was listening very closely and picked up most of the main points. We were able to go home, eat lunch, and then come back to the exhibit, and use our same tickets to get in. This time, we had my dad explain everything to us, and got a lot out of it.

During this time period, artists were mostly painting religious scenes. We saw how the crucifixion scene really developed over time. (See story on the Crucifix museum in Pisa).  Duccio was one of the many artists who painted the feelings, for example the hopelessness and sadness of the people watching him be crucified. We also saw many paintings of the saints.

San Francesco was one of the popular figures. The story behind him was that he was very rich, and decided to give away all of his belongings to the less fortunate. He wanted to have his own religious group separate from the church. He went to the pope and asked if he could have his own group, but each time, the pope turned him down. Then, one night, the pope had a dream about San Francesco. The church was crumbling, and San Francesco was beneath it, holding it up.  The next day, when San Francesco came to ask if he could have his own followers, the pope said yes. Now, for an explanation of the actual painting. The way that San Francesco was painted was of him in sort of rags, symbolizing him having nothing. It was actually painted very elegantly, which is ironic because elegance and wealth was everything that San Francesco was against. So, the catch was that through time, San Francesco became part of the church. He was incorporated by artists as “just another saint”.

Friday, February 27, 2004

The Servi (by Sarah)

SIENA (#24)

Today, we went on our first historical adventure! We started with a church called Santa Maria dei Servi. It is one of the older churches in Siena, dating to around 1261. The church was close to Porta Roma, which is like halfway across town, but it still only took us 20 minutes or so to get there walking from our house. The church was empty: no one else was there most likely because most tourists were drawn to the more popular attractions such as the Duomo, the Piazza del Campo or the Duccio exhibition which we'll visit and write about later.

At Servi we had a little lesson taught by my dad. He explained about how Servi was designed from the Roman’s idea about a church, but it was sort of flipped around so that the door was at a different wall and the altar was at a different place. In the Servi, there were 3 naves, and the cross part is called the transept.

But the highlight of the church was a painting of Mary and baby Jesus by Coppo di Marcovaldo. There had obviously been thousands of the same painting done, but this painting was different in one very big way. It was the first painting to be signed by the artist. I was able to apply this to what I had learned in school about the Renaissance. Secularism, individualism, and humanism were the three main aspects that characterized the Renaissance. In my eyes, this particular painting related directly to individualism; or the celebration of the individual. Coppo signed his work, and therefore wanted to be recognized as an individual. He started a whole trend, and he was looked upon as people nowadays look at rock stars.

Now, back to history, Coppo di Marcovaldo was a Florentine. Florence and Siena have always been rivals. There was a very bloody battle called Monteperti between the rival cities where Coppo was on the battlefield. The Sienese recognized him immediately because of his fame and captured him. His term of release was to paint his famous painting of Mary and Jesus. This was the painting at Servi that we saw.

Really interesting stuff.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Reaching Out (by Doreen)

SIENA, February 25th

Gaining phone and internet contact has taken a few extra steps, but...

You know, it really is a different feeling to “be connected.” When I went to Israel by myself in 1980, my parents had little way of reaching me, and it was too expensive for me to “reach out and touch” them. I think I called twice in the 3 months I was away and wrote about weekly.

In the 21st Century, though, things are different. We arrived on the 5th of Feb (Thursday), had a car waiting for us, and by the next day had a telephone card so we could us a payphone to call home etc. We, by Saturday, had a cell phone and checked in with our parents. We had made one brief webmail visit at the Ducci’s. By the following Wednesday, day7, we had a phone in the house. On day 111, also known as later Valentine’s Day, we received a call from Nick Sarah’s Lexington beau who stayed up until 2:40 am so he wouldn’t call too early (8:40 am). Internet was not available until Day 17 and without the rented modem available for another 10 days or so. As the kids are in school and Steve really wanted to work on the website, he was motivated to get us connected. He investigated different modem choices and gave in to buying one for 49 Euros. It doesn’t work exactly the way he had planned, but….

Without the internet, we had no responsibilities, sort of. It was great that the kids couldn’t be “online” with their home friends, but we also had little ability to pay bills (including my malpractice insurance, the rent, and VISA). I was a bit anxious to be in contact with Orna who is caring for Annie (oh, yeah, and our house).

Now, we are connected. Sarah was online last evening for about an hour with her Lexington friends. She has agreed to only be “online” once a week but can e-mail daily. Alex spent about 15 minutes answering e-mail. Ok, I spent about an hour between my hotmail, webmail and work accounts. Steve has been good, too.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

02138: The World's Most Opinionated ZIP Code (by Shari)

CAMBRIDGE, February 20th

Oggi Davin Paley, mio figlio, ha incominciato ad organizzare i suoi compagni di scuola in una protesta control l'aministrazione.  Oggi, Davin va a uno tavolo con amici del aula altro.  Il suo Principal Tim dice: ogni aula a suo propio tavolo.  Davin vorebbe stare con lei amici.  Davin capisca che cos'e che Principal Tim dice. Davin finisco suo pasto in ufficio di Principal Tim.  Davin scribe con amici gli segni che dicono, "Freedom of Seats."  Sta con suo t-shirt nero che dice, "Cambridge 02138: the world's most opinionated zipcode."  Oggi, un segni.  Domani, una manifestazione.

E difficile apprendere italiano.  E piu difficile stare una madre.


2004-02-27 06:29:48 stefano
Today, Davin Paley, my son, is has begun to organize other students in a protest against the administration [of his school].  Today, Davin goes to a table with friends from another classroom.  The Principal Tim says: "Every student to their own table."  But Davin wants to stay with his friends.  Davin understands what the Principal says.  Davin finishes his misadventure in the Principal's office.  Davin writes some signs that say "Freedom of Seats."

There is a black T-shirt that says, "Cambridge 02138:  the world's most opinionated zipcode."  Today a sign.  Tomorrow a protest march.

It is difficult to learn Italian.  It is more difficult to be a mother."

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Road Trip to Lucca and Pisa (by Sarah)

LUCCA (#32)

This weekend, we went my dad’s friend Marco Gherardi’s house in Lucca (not to be confused with Lupa – a contrada (area) in Siena). His family was very welcoming and hospitable, and I really enjoyed our visit. Read more, per favore!

Marco and Jane
Sophie and Mickey
To begin with, they had the cutest little beagle that was so friendly so of course we got all nostalgic about Annie and how much we miss her. We met Marco’s wife, Jane, and their kids, Sophie (9) and Mickey (3). They all speak English and Italian, except for Mickey, who is in the process of learning both.

Sophie is extremely smart and really impressed me. I was supposed to sleep in her room, which had a huge poster of Orlando Bloom as Legolas from Lord of the Rings. We had a long discussion about Lord of the Rings and books and what school is like for her. The one thing I will never forget about her was when she was talking about her school friends at the dinner table. She told us about how her ex best friend used to cut up dead birds and try to tie up her dog to a post and throw stuff at it! It was just so unexpected and surprising. I was caught completely off my guard and thought it was the funniest thing ever. Every time I think about how she said it I laugh.

When we were in Lucca, we had a day trip on Sunday to Pisa. We saw the Duomo there, and of course the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We couldn’t get as close to the altar as we wanted to because of a special mass going on. We took a few pictures and talked about the cathedral and walked around.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Steve and the Permesso: A Cautionary Tale (by Doreen)

SIENA (#28)

It seems that permission to stay (permesso di soggiorno) was more difficult to obtain than we thought initially. Steve visited the Italian consulate in downtown Boston three times starting in October, to get the appropriate documentation for our trip. He was told we could get permission to stay for 3 months, but not 5, but that it was a formality, no additional documentation was needed and that it would be easy with an American passport. Well, it turned out that it was not that easy....

Read this if you are even thinking of trying something as crazy as this!

On our 6th day here, we had a 9:30 (nove e mezzo) appointment with the Preside at Sarah’s school. That went fine, but then the red tape showed up. We needed a copy of her immunizations (translated and) ok'ed by the Public Health department. (I had packed a copy of both kids’ medical records but somehow were not found upon my search, despite my best laid plans….) So, since we needed the documentation (immunizations, permesso to stay in Siena) she was unable to start.

On Wednesday, Steve was off on the permesso agenda. He received a list of hoops to jump. He then got the 5 needed pictures taken, paid fees at the post office for 1. the permesso, 2. for registering for school (about $25), then went back to the Questura and, this time, got to talk with someone who said he needed someone to vouch for us and sign a paper.

At that time the permesso situation was not pretty. Steve was basically told that he might need to go back to the US to get the right papers filled out. At least it looked like Sarah would be able to start school on Monday. Sarah, Steve and I went and met Carla , then Laura at the mercato. Laura wrote out the letter for the permesso. (We didn’t shop long as it was raining.)

Friday, February 20, 2004

Carnevale in Siena (by Doreen)

SIENA (#29)

We ventured out for a subdued, yet representative day at Carnevale. My take is that Carnevale is celebrated from Feb 1 through Mardi Gras (24 feb, this year). We thought about going to Venice or to Via Reggio (near Pisa, on the Mediterranean coast) where a bigger celebration with 4 story high floats...

Instead, we went to Buon Convento, about 25 minutes away from Siena.

Buon Convento has been having a celebration for many years always swearing they won’t next. But they did it again this year. It started around 3pm. There was a band (of all types, shapes and ages) that played “Brazil,” and other Carnevale numbers from Rio.

There were 3 floats. One was a Pirate Ship, another of The Lion King, and the third, a Japanese Pagoda (complete with younger and later middle aged Italian women dressed in Saris scampering about in lines). The teenagers on the Pirate Ship had a loud speaker system blaring YMCA, the Macarena and some Chihuahua song (that Laura was surprised we hadn’t heard). Throughout the parade, kids threw confetti at each other and sprayed everyone with silly string.

Not much that I could associate with what I expect happens in Venice, including the costumes. No masks of the Commedia D’el Arte. Mostly Zorro (with swords drawn), Batman, Superman, Caspar, tigers, princesses,1 Mary Poppins, dinosaurs, cross-dressed teenage boys and 1 Wild Thing character. Very cute. Especially Giulia in her leopard costume.

My First Week of Schooooool! (by Sarah)

SIENA, February 20th

Well, I haven’t written for a while, so it’s a good time for an update! School is going great, although it could be better. Unfortunately, the only class I know exactly what’s going on in is English. READ MORE!!!!!

Last class, we read a whole article about how “Accidents Do Happen.” It was very interesting because of how the article was taught. First, he picked one student to read the whole article. This seems to be a common thing in all classes – to pick on one student for the whole hour. But anyways, the article was all about a train accident and how crashes like that can occur. I was surprised with the certain things that the teacher picked out of the article, and I actually learned a thing or two. For example, we discussed the word “plunge” because the train plunged down off the tracks. We also discussed the term “In the wake of…” When the teacher asked me how to define it, I said it was like a result or consequence of one thing. He also went back and showed the other meanings of wake – such as to wake up, and how a boat makes a wake behind it. I was very impressed with the depth of the lesson and the knowledge of the students as well as the teacher. Even with my 5 or so years of Spanish, I don’t think I would know as much Spanish as they know English.

In math, I am pretty sure that I have done what they are doing already. It’s hard because I had algebra last year and geometry this year. At Liceo Scientifico, they have geometry and algebra together. So today, we had a whole lesson on proofs and theorems and then we went into imaginary numbers and quadratic formulas. It’s hard to follow, especially because all the terms are in Italian, so just realizing that he was teaching proofs took a few days. I think I will end up doing alright in math as long as I have someone next to me for the first week or so explaining the terminology.

Technical drawing is another class that I will be able to participate in. It basically ties together geometry and art. We get different assignments and we have to make these solid shapes in numerous ways and transfer information from certain quadrants to others in order to see the solid in a different view. I’ve only made one so far, and I have to say I’m not very good at it. But with more practice, I think I will have a really fun time in the class. It is really interesting that the same teacher teaches both this class, and the art history class because of the connections he can make to what we are drawing. He’s got the whole “hands on” and “applying knowledge” thing going on, which I really like.

Science is a class that I am not too sure about. We are studying exactly what I have studied this year, endocytosis, exocytosis, and the whole biology story. I know what he is teaching, and could easily explain in English, but having everything in Italian is really hard because again, of the terminology. I think that the teacher thinks I can’t really do anything, but I’m not sure about that yet. I want to get a book for both math and science, and study the terms, and I think I’ll be fine.

Italian is really cool, believe it or not. Today we had a lesson on “Le Figure Retoriche” which is basically rhetorical structures. I already knew things like alliteration, metaphors, etc. but the way that it is being taught all together like this (my dad says its from the Greeks…?) is quite different than how it would be taught in the U.S. so it’s pretty neat to be learning it. I took some notes from the book, and with Arianna’s help (a girl who is very good in English) I could understand some of the examples. One funny point in the class was when I was called upon to repeat after the teacher, of course having no idea what I was saying. She explained (in Italian) that there are words that sound and are spelled exactly the same, and some words are almost the same (sound the same to me….) and mean different things. This was an example of “paronomasia” under the category of “figure di suono” which is basically putting words next to each other with the same sound but different meanings – a pun.

Latin, History, and art history are classes I am hopeless in. I have never studied Latin, so Latin taught in Italian is simply impossible. History I haven’t actually had yet, but I’m sure I’ll know somewhat of what’s being taught but it’s just so fast in Italian. Art history I am buying the book because there is no doubt it is very interesting material. The class is just not a good class to be asking questions and understanding in because as it is, the students sit quietly at their desks while the teacher lectures away – a common Italian teaching method I have learned.

I think that religion class is going to be very fun. I have it on Wednesday, so we’ll see how that goes. I met the teacher and she seems very nice. I’m pretty sure that what most of the class time is spent both watching movies and discussing religious views. Couldn’t hurt.

My final class I am taking is Physical Education of course! Unlike Lexington High School, gym is a simply delightful hour in which kids can either be lazy or have time to let all of their pent up energy out. My class, 2C shares gym time with another class, which I think is 1F, but I’m not sure. The class is also split up so the boys go in one gym, and the girls have a different gym. In the one class I have had, we ran (jogged at a nice slowwww pace) for like 5 minutes and did some stretches. Then we had a sort of physical fitness test where we had to sit with our backs to wall and legs spread apart and see how far we could throw this heavy ball. So we all waited around while people finished up, and then we played volleyball! It was the first time I had hit a volleyball in quite a while, and it was nice to play again. Some of the girls are very “girly” in the game and jumped away from the ball when it came near them. Others were very skilled and it was cool playing with them. They play very differently than I was taught but play very well. They always include everyone, which is really nice, but a bumping circle with like 15 girls is not very easy.

So, I have usually four classes a day, but some classes are two hours. This means that I get out of school at either 12:30 or 13:30, which is really good. I go home for lunch and don’t have to go back to school and it’s really relaxing. I have not had a lot of work yet which is very good because we have been able to go on day trips after school to see places (the Servi, the monasteries, etc…) and I have gotten to do a lot of sketching.

That's all for now! Keep checking for more updates!

The First 10 Days of Food (by Doreen)

SIENA (#27)

It seems my kids are hitting many other high spots, so I’ll brag about my husband’s cooking. We haven’t eaten at a restaurant yet. Steve has been excited by the gas stove and varieties of food available...only twice, with others have we had take out pizza.

Day1 Thursday:
Laura made pasta and salad for cena “chaina”(dinner).

breakfast stuff –cocoa, sugar, pane (bread), and brioche, pasta for lunch. We went out shopping and had sandwiches and lit candles.

Day 3: Saturday:
after grocery shopping (see Sarah’s COOP entry) Lunch/pranzo was at LaurAngelo’s – pre-cooked chicken, spinach, salad, cheese, salami and fruit. Dinner was take out pizza, here.

Day 4:
breakfast was fresh made Perugina cocoa for the kids and stovetop coffee for us with bread and butter and apricot preserves. We had also picked up some straciatella (chocolate chip) and coconut yogurt (which tasted more like ice cream than something good for you). For lunch, Steve had visited the Ducci’s and returned with some of Carla’s home-grown, home-made sauce and added it to some gnocchi. He had reconstituted some cecci and sautéed them with onions (in good oil) and served them with parsley added moments before serving.

Day 5 Monday:
Alex’s first day of school (see his story). The usual breakfast was followed by (after taking Alex to school and meeting the officials etc) pranzo (let the eating begin): tortellini in butter with fresh sage, followed by chicken sautéed in oil with rosemary, broccoli with sun dried tomatoes and salad. Dinner was less involved.

Day 6: Tuesday:
Pranzo: Steve made meatballs (polpetti) and snail-shaped pasta, salad and bread. We were stuffed.

Day 7:
Pasta e fagioli –aka pasta fazool, with beet greens on the side and salad---we were too full again for the apricot torte we bought yesterday before lunch. For supper/cena , we had pasta with polpetti and the kids developed a new favorite –grissini (breadsticks) with the thin salami or bresaole wrapped around them. Alex decided that would be his life’s work and that Sarah would be his salesperson. She would get the schools to buy them “just like Domino’s Pizza” at their school “only better for you.”

Day 8: Thursday, 2/12
Curly pasta with the leftover meatballs (polpette) Fagiolini (little white beans) in oil and vinegar, barbatole (sugar beet greens in garlic, oil and vinegar), cavalo (cabbage for cold slaw like salad), and salami with fennel in it, some more cheese and pane Pugliese (con sale - bread with salt vs. Tuscan bread, without).

Day 9: Friday
dinner/ciena: chicken, passing up the rooster with headpiece still intact, with baked potatoes, and salad –pasta first, of course.

Day 10:
pranzo risotto with porcini, sautéed cauliflower with fresh tomato, chicken meat, and salad. Cena: leftovers, salami, cheese, salad, fruit.

COMMENTS from the original blog

2004-03-02 23:59:01 Roz
Re: The First 10 Days of Food
Hi Doreen, I so appreciate your "reports." The permesso story is truly a cautionary tale. Ah, but the food diary--bellissimo! If you come back after six-months of that kind of fabulous dining and are still as slim as a reed, we'll have to re-evaluate our friendship!

P. S. All right with the Italian, girl!

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

To go to school... Or not to go to school?! (by Sarah)

SIENA (#78)

So, for the past two days, I’ve been trying to attend school (Yes – TRYING believe it or not…). Yesterday, we successfully dropped off Alex at his “scuola media” (middle school) San Bernadino. We then did the 25 minute walk to my school, the high school – Liceo Scientifico. When we got there we talked with a secretary and made an appointment with the “Presidente” (principal) for today, because she was too busy to see us. We met with her today and I still couldn’t go to school because we still needed to get our permission to stay in Siena among many other things.

Today, I also met the English teacher. He seems very easy going, and enthusiastic about our decision to live in Siena for the next six months. He had been to Boston before, and lived in the ‘burbs’. He said that the families there were horrible. They didn’t take care of the Italian students at all and just let them roam around Boston. Yikes.

I’m actually very excited about going to school. Alex seems to be having a great time and is walking around with some friends before coming back from school. I think that the middle school seems to be a LOT less serious than the high school. It makes sense I guess. So, it’s already Alex’s second day, and I haven’t even gone to one class yet! Some may say that I’m lucky, but I want to go to school! All day, I study Italian with Mom, walk around with my parents, and sit around and listen to music. And that’s about it, folks.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Living in Siena is Going to Be Exhausting (by Alex)

SIENA, February 10th

Today, I have done more work than I ever could have expected.

I assumed that carrying around 20 bags would be difficult, but I did not know that we had to climb 5 cases of stairs to get to the apartment. From just walking up all the stairs, my heart beats like a rabbit, so when I carried an 80 lb. bag up the stairs, I was surprised I did not suffer from a heart-attack. Just wait until we go grocery shopping, I guarantee that my mother will make me help carry them up the stairs.

In order to get to those five sets of stairs, we actually have to walk up the stairs to the Duomo of Siena.

Oh yeah, and when Sarah walks home from school a certain way, she can climb another huge flight of stairs as well.

Did I mention that our car is parked far away from our house? We cannot keep the car within the walls of Siena, so since we’re in the middle of Siena, we have to walk halfway across the city to get to the car.

In conclusion, I'm exhausted, and I assume I will be for the next five months. Hey there’s a bright side to this, I will be in amazing shape when I return, fat, but in shape nonetheless.

Our Trip and Arrival in Siena (by Doreen)

Siena, February 10th (#21)

Averting one pseudo-disaster and fatigue....we entered the grand Cathedral of Siena which we now call "home"....

We only had one “almost fiasco” on our way here. Through Steve’s quick use of the public telephone (since we got rid of our cells just hours before we left) and A-1 Taxi’s quick response, his suitcase (that also contained some of Sarah’s clothes) made it to the airport (and us through security) just in time to board. Sometimes that 2 hour window can be helpful.

We arrived in London Heathrow at 5:30am (12:30 Boston time) and then waited for our 8:30am Milan flight. We arrived at 11:30 and were met just outside the entry hall by the woman from Peugeot. The car is great and all our stuff amazingly fit right in… good we took those 6 boxes to the post office Wednesday morning (in addition to the 5 boxes we mailed in December—which haven’t yet arrived….).

When arriving in Milan, we thought 1 bag was missing (–since all bags were held “standby” until we got Steve’s, we weren’t sure what would show up). After a few AutoGrill coffee stops and about 3 hours, we called Laura from Poggibonsi (known from that famous song, “It’s a long way to Poggibonsi, it’s a long way to go”,) we drove to their house, so Laura could escort Steve to the Police department where they received the “permesso” to take a car into the city to drop off our luggage (2 medium suitcases, 3 carry-on black smaller cases, tennis racket case, 2 gym bags - full of shoes, 2 computer bags, and 4 backpacks) we arrived to “our house” il Duomo –the huge black and white striped building with gold mosaics on the front and stautes across the front -The Cathedral of Siena and shlepped up the 4 ½ flights of stairs to our apartment. Sarah and Alex woke up from the car just long enough to say a quick hello to Laura, carry bags up, choose a bed to fall into and return to sleep. They didn’t wake until this morning. Steve and Laura put the car in a parking lot, took the bus back, and met Angelo out on the front stoop – in front of the cathedral. Antonio and Carla drove by (he has handicapped permesso so can drive anywhere in the city) to say hello and drop off Giulia. Laura made dinner…she brought grocery basics and then prepared them !!! We hung and had fun.


The apartment is a really interesting, cool place. You can see buildings from our kitchen balcony –tiny but present –good for getting crumbs off the tablecloth. You get a slightly different view from the shower – yes, that’s what I mean. When it’s sunny and the scanner works, we’ll take pictures. Sarah’s not allowed to take the first shower of the day….gotta let the window steam up !!! The water is either scalding or frigid…we’ll figure it out, or we’ll adjust (in and out of the shower stream).


COMMENTS from the original blog

2004-02-27 22:54:16 alison
In general....
I'm so enjoying the journal entries.  It almost feels like I am there with you.  The writing just invites me to participate.  What a gift you are giving to all your friends and family logging in.

Thank you. Love, Alison

First Day of School --Part II (by Alex)

SIENA (#77)

The first day of school was great. The kids were really nice, curious, and not too intimidating. To read the continuation of this story, click on the ""read more"" button below for all the details.

Click here to read part one of the story.

After gym we had “grammatica” (Grammar {italian}) I expected to understand nothing, and since the teacher spoke only italian, I expected to be left out. I was right about being left out, but I did understand some of what he said.

For about 15 minutes, I think he talked about me, and how they would handle me in the class. He said he would give me a separate lesson, and separate work, and I would not be expected to participate. Most of this I understood, and the rest was over my head.

For the next hour, we had geometry. The teacher was not there (who was also the teacher of Algebra and Science). We had a substitute. Here, in Italy the substitutes are more like babysitters. She seemed very interested in me, and had many questions, so she devoted the class to people asking me questions.

The kids started out kind of shy, because they thought that their English was bad. So, they asked in Italian, and Kathy translated. The substitute asked, “Do you play an instrument?” I said no, and explained that I used to play the trumpet. The kids really started warming up there, and then they couldn’t stop asking questions. It was actually really fun. For about two hours they asked me questions, I answered questions, and then we just chatted about stuff. We talked about which teachers are good, which are not, and they tried out some English swears, and exercised their knowledge of American music, including:

Linkin Park
Black Eyed Peas
The White Stripes
Limb Bizkit
50 Cent
Blink 182
Michael Jackson

And they hadn’t heard of many of my “obscure” favorites. When the bell rang, they all asked if they could walk home with me, but that day my parents and sister were walking home with me, so I suggested that we walk the next day.

Il Primero Giorno di Mia Scuola Nuova (by Alex)

SIENA (#19)

The first day of school was great. The kids were really nice, curious, and not too intimidating.

First, my whole family walked about 5 minutes to get to my school. Angelo Giallombardo met us in the main hallway. He was our inside connection. Without him I probably would have been turned away from the school like the rest of the many people who have tried this. Well maybe that is an exaggeration, but it would have been much more difficult anyway.

Angelo took us to the principal's office where Angelo convinced her of which class I should be in (the one which might be more accepting towards a newcomer).

The class Angelo had selected happened to be the one studying music as an elective. When the principal asked me if I played an instrument, I said no reluctantly, afraid she would put me in the other class. The principle took the five of us through the halls big enough to fit one person. She introduced me to each of the teachers as a class of students peeked out of the door. I was eager to meet my classmates, but each was a fake out. I got tired of being so anxious.

Suddenly, (well to me anyway) Angelo asked, "do you want to go to your class?"

I said, "sure" but I admit it was more like "sure?" I was kind of nervous.

Angelo brought me into music class. Angelo asked the teacher if any of the children spoke English. She said that one girl did, so she sat me down next to her, and that was basically it. Angelo left the room. The teacher attempted some English, and pointed out the "stupid" boys for me. The teacher then continued the class.

The kids didn't warm up right at first. One girl introduced herself. Her name was Kathy and her English was very good, so she agreed to be my translator for a while.

When the class ended, I followed the rest of the kids to the next class. I was so confused. We stopped in a classroom, which I thought was the next class. We then left that classroom and went to a separate building. This building held the gym. We ran around in a circle, and did some odd, “touch the ground as you walk"", and then some arm spinning, then shoulder touching, and then the SQUARES OF DOOM!

It is a wood, grid-type structure. Click here to see a drawing. And you have to go up it weaving in and out of the squares as you spin around in circles, but the hardest, and worst part is that the whole class stands and watches as you go up. There was some specific way you had to put your hands, and every way I tried seamed to be wrong. I spent about 15 minutes doing it, and the class seamed to warm up a little after I made a fool of myself.

The gym teacher then walked over to another corner of the gym. In that corner there were two poles and a rope.

He said to me "vai" (go) and I did.

I went as fast as I could because I saw it as a chance to redeem myself. When I came down, he seamed impressed, and in fact he was. He had me race another kid, and I made it to the top of the 30 ft pole when he was about 20 feet up.

We then played some soccer, and they were not all that amazing. There was one kid, Damiano (Damien) who was very good. Later I got to know him better; his mother is English, so he is pretty good at English. He actually made me a schedule the next day without me even asking.

When the class ended, I was really hot. I had a great time, and the kids seemed a lot nicer than when I first showed up.

Ed note:  Here is the second post on Alex's first day.

COMMENTS from the original blog

2004-02-26 14:25:27 sarah
Re: Il Primero Giorno di Mia Scuola Nuova
LOL! Alex, my teacher pointed out the ""stupid"" boys too! Actually, he was just like, ""Stay away from these boys..."" and then he started calling them stupid idiots and stuff hahaha.

No wonder the kids like you so much! You are like the gym masterrrr! Phhh, please Alex, anyone compared to you in soccer is "not all that amazing"!

I love you, keep up the good writing!


2004-02-26 17:29:02 alex
Re: Il Primero Giorno di Mia Scuola Nuova

I love you too!

PACE out


2004-02-27 06:05:39 stefano
A 'Lovely' Thread
This thread (and original story) is enough to make a parent proud.  Lovely.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Update: We Have Arrived (by Steve)

SIENA, February 8th, 2004

We are here!  The house is wonderful.  The Giallombardo-Ducci family is also great.  As usual, they have been very helpful.  Without their help, we could not be doing this.

Antonio says that without their help, it would be a 'bel casino'.

We'll be filing more stories soon.

COMMENTS from the original post

2004-02-08 17:27:19 edp Re: Update:  We Have Arrived
woohoo!  congratulations!

2004-02-08 17:32:3814 edp Re: Update:  We Have Arrived
BTW, i tried for several minutes to figure out what the appropriate idiomatic meaning of ""bel casino"" might be, but i failed.  anyone care to enlighten me?"

2004-02-17 12:49:59 gretapasha Re: Update:  We Have Arrived
Hey there Quatrano Family:  We're so excited to see your website coming together - and know you must be so thrilled to finally be starting your adventure.  We'll be checking back often to travel with you.  Have an amazing time.

Pasha and Greta

Saturday, February 07, 2004

The COOP (by Sarah)

SIENA (#20)

So, today was the big day for none other than grocery shopping! We walked all the way to the Giallombardo’s house (30 minutes with a 10 minute stop for hot chocolate and coffee). We got to their house and then piled into their car so they could take us to our car, which was parked in a free lot. Giulia came in our car with us, and my mom went with Laura. For our shopping, we went to the Coop (pronounced ‘cop’).

I’ve decided that Italians have the coolest inventions. At the Coop, the carts are all attached to each other by chains. To get one, you have to put a euro into a slot, and the chain releases. When you put the cart back, and attach it to another cart in the line, you get the euro back! Also at the Coop, they had a sort of ramp with little grooves that moved like an escalator. The carts have these thin lines on the wheels that fit perfectly into the grooves. So, when going up or down the escalator, the wheels won’t move, no matter how heavy the cart is, so it can’t roll down! Another wicked cool thing at the Coop is the hand held scanner. Instead of the cashier scanning everything you buy, you do it yourself as you pick things up, so when you go to the cashier, it doesn’t take as long!

When we mentioned the high technology of Italy, Angelo responded with something like, “Well, we are descendents of Leonardo DaVinci…”

Meanwhile, Alex spent most of his time devising ways that these inventions could backfire. He wanted to attach our cart to another cart while that person wasn’t watching, and then get the euro back, and leave the cart attached to the other one. He also wanted to use the scanner and just not scan everything, so some stuff you get for free. There were many other neat inventions at the store, and Alex found ways to cheat at most of them.

We went to the Coop on a Saturday, which is probably the worst day to go. It was insanely crowded. But it was an experience. On our way out, we also got a cell phone. We are finally connected to the rest of the world again! What a concept!

After the Coop, we went back to the Giallombardos house. We had lunch there and watched the movie “Spirit” with Giulia. It was evening already when we realized we had to unload our groceries. We went to the Police Station to get permission again to go next to the Duomo so we could carry our groceries up. The police weren’t open, so we went to the Duccis to use Antonio’s car (handicapped). While we were there, I spent my time with Giulia and Carla. Giulia shared a chocolate egg with me, and then we watched as Carla made another torta, this time with ham, spinach, and pasta.

We finally got the car and drove down to our apartment. There was a couple that were being flirtatious and sitting on the steps of the Duomo. No one knew who they were, but nonetheless, Giulia wasted no time in getting in their faces, breaking them up, and “busting their balls” (“rompere le scatole”). The rest of us brought the groceries in while she sat next to the couple.

Alex and Angelo were already in the apartment when we got there (they had taken the Vespa motorcycle). Giulia used the computer with Alex and I, and dad and Angelo went out to get some pizza. We ate dinner and then they left and we went to bed.


2004-02-25 22:20:40 stefano
Re: The COOP
I can't resist the urge to comment on the creative mind of Alex, not at all unlike his namesake, Grandpa (Nonno) Allie.  Anyone for a game of cards?"

2004-02-26 17:41:29 alex
Re: The COOP
You forgot about the scale thing, that prints out a sticker with a bar code and all. You could put something light there and put the sticker on a heavy item! Bwahahahhhhahahahah.

Love Ya,


2004-02-26 17:42:21 alex
Re: The COOP
Wow, this kid is so amazingly smart!"

2004-02-27 05:57:58 stefano
Full Disclosure
For those newbies (new users) of news forums like this one, it is important to understand that the reader comments are not the work of the author...  and that the identity of the author should be carefully considered when interpreting stories, journal entries, or comments on stories.

Alex, have you considered the possibilities of a fake identity so that you can comment anonymously on your own work?  Benjamin Franklin (aka "Poor Richard") used this device successfully long before the Internet when "spoofing" had a slightly different connotation.

2004-02-29 15:07:35 Roz
Re: The COOP
Hi Guys!   I'm happy to report that (apparently) the descendants of DaVinci have created the same weight and sticker gizmo for the U.S.  Right now I have only experienced it at Wegman's a family chain of wonderful supermarkets, mostly in upper New York State, BUT trickling down to Virginia this month!    As I recall, tho, the produce here just doesn't have the color, beauty or taste of  its counterparts in Italia.

So, Alex:  are you going to work for the FBI, CIA or the Mafia?  That's a sinister mind at work, I'd say!

2004-04-04 21:04:0220 BubbieBarbi
Re: The COOP
It must be a genetic thing. Carrie always spotted all the ways the patrons in her restaurants could steal & cheat, too.  It doesn't come from me!  I still leave my purse on top of the lettuce while making a selection......   Bubbie BB