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!

The seders were different too, each with their own distinct Italian flavor. The first seder was at our house. We invited friends from Doreen’s Italian school, Esther and Jonathan Dostrovsky and Emma Argiro. And we also included Tony D’Amico, a Sienese friend of mine for more than 25 years now, and his niece Francesca, a friend of Sarah’s. We were nine in all. Toronto, Perth, Siena and Lexington were all represented. Doreen cooked a great meal and I put together a special Haggadah in Italian and English. Hiding the Afikoman in the Duomo was particularly fun! The second seder we celebrated in the Synagogue with about 40 or 50 others: some of them from here in Siena, and others, like ourselves, from other parts of the world. It was in Hebrew mostly and a little bit of Italian, including the song Had Gad Ya, for example.  Who could have imagined?

Cinque Terre, Carrara, Pisa and Livorno

Kate and Maria
Early the next morning, Wednesday the 7th of April, we started the first part of our trip with a reunion of sorts. Maria Rimini, Kate Hall and I all attended Corvallis High School in 1976-77, my senior year. Maria was an AFS student from Milan and stayed with Kate. Now all of us are married now with kids. Kate is a Psychiatrist in Iowa and Maria is an Engineer at Bosch in Stuttgart, Germany. So we decided to take advantage of Kate’s sabbatical year in Amsterdam and our Easter vacation and meet in Italy.

We started in Cinque Terre which was absolutely spectacular. (Unfortunately, we lost our photos, so you’ll just have to wait till we can scan and/or post some of Kate’s and Maria’s). The next day we all went to the marble quarries of Carrara where Maria’s sister and her family joined us. Although it was raining steadily, we had a wonderfully spicy guide with stories and songs from the old days of quarrying stone in Italy and then said good-bye temporarily for the next part of our trip.

Carla's cane
On Friday evening, we headed for Carla Bisciarri’s house near Pisa. She has a wonderful place with a great fireplace, loft, and a killer view of the Aupuana Mountains. She was a great hostess trying to accommodate our dietary requirements for Pesach. And we loved her dogs and missed Annie even more.

Saturday morning we said goodbye to Carla and went to services at the synagogue in Livorno. It was very interesting to see a vibrant Jewish community. They were very warm and welcomed us to the Rabbi’s house for Kiddush. We met the nephew of Professor Lattes, several of the members and the Rabbi individually. After a great fish dinner in a restaurant recommended by Carla, we shopped a little bit and returned to Siena.

Back to Siena
Kate and Maria's children David, Joanne, and Alexander
Having fun with Alex

The second part of our vacation we acted as hosts for Maria, Kate and Maria’s sister and their families for three days. Laura’s husband, Dario, teaches Italian and History in middle school. He had been to Siena many times before as a guide so they needed no help at all. On the contrary, he was full of great information and insight. But I did have fun taking Kate, Maria, their families and Doreen, Sarah and Alex to the Pinacoteca, the Duomo and finally to the Palazzo Publico to see the Allegories of Good and Bad Governement by Ambrogio Lorenzetti.

Hosting our Italian AND American friends together in Siena: is that cool or what?

Ravenna, Padova, Venice and Lecco

Wednesday the 14th we were on the road again, beginning the third part of our vacation with a ride to Ravenna. After we had our fill of mosaics, we headed to Giovanni and Giulianna Andreatta’s house near Padova for the night. (Long-time friends of Bob Davoli and Eileen McDonagh and Robert and Edward Price, we had met before on several occasions in the Boston area and then at Edward’s wedding in LA last year).

Thursday, we took the train to Venice and back. Friday, Giovanni took us to see the synagogue there, to learn a little about the Jewish community and its History, and then to see the Chapel of the Scrovegni where we saw Giotto’s frescos. We also made it to the law offices of Benedetto Costantino and Margherita Crimaudi where their daughter Marta also practices law. (This is Beth’s family in Padova). Although we didn’t have much time to visit there, we did a little later when Benedetto treated us to an excellent lunch and were joined by their daughter, Eugenia. See Sarah's Story on our stay in Padova.

We decided that Padova would be a very nice place to live, even though it rained the entire time we were there.

Friday evening we left Padova and drove to Merate, a suburb of Milan a few kilometers from Maria’s family’s home in Calco. The next day we went for a walk in the mountains from a town called Civate and saw some beautiful mountains and a church with Romanesque frescos from the Eleventh Century. We worked up an appetite and then enjoyed a wonderful meal and even better conversation with Maria’s parents at the Rimini tower. With Maria there from Germany, her sisters and sister-in-law and all the children we were about 18, as near as I can figure. What fun!

But of course, it couldn’t last. Maria had to return to Germany and everyone had to work on Monday, so we took our leave Saturday evening and went to bed early. Sunday the 18th was a special day, reserved for shopping. We went over the border to Switzerland, spent some money, and then returned to Siena by around 9:00 that night.

Whew!  Now we need a vacation.

COMMENTS from the original blog

2004-04-21 19:04:3943 david
I was suffering withdrawal.  I feel much better now.  Sounds like another wonderful adventure within your already wonderful adventure.

2004-04-26 16:47:1743 marv
Re: We're Back from Our Vacation
Is Livorno considered part of Liguria or Tuscany?

2004-04-29 10:27:52 stefano
Livorno is part of Tuscany.  It was created as the port for Pisa.  Here is the official web site for Livorno.

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