Sabauda, parte due. Savoy, part 2. Or, how I got a lemon-lime soda when I ordered a Pepsi.

You came back for more?  Andiamo!

When I had wandered around the Palazzo Reale for maybe an hour, going in and out, hither and yon, and following the red carpets and staying behind the stanchions and cords meant to dissuade visitors from entering certain rooms, I successfully re-engaged my jaw so that I could close my mouth (after being jaw-droppingly impressed from my post yesterday, remember?), I re-encountered the guarda who had let me enter without a ticket.  I know she could tell I was a happy camper.  I could not help but remark to her, in my best italiano, that the palace was amazing.  Si, si, she smiled in reply, it is a very impressive place.  I told her I worked in art museums in the US and she conspiratorially asked me if I wanted to see the palace’s formal dining room.  Vero! I exclaimed!  May I?

I followed the lovely guard as she moved stanchions and signage and led me to this dining room.


My jaw hit the floor again.  “Here,” she said, “is where the king and queen dined and entertained their special guests.”  I nodded in agreement and amazement.  She invited me to take pictures.


Again, I wish I’d had a real camera with me, but the iphone does a pretty good job in a pinch.

After thanking the kind guarda, I encountered another piece of good fortune, for the custodian was just then unlocking the armory for visitors at precisely 14:00.  2 p.m.  I am not usually very interested in the art of war-making, but perche no?  Quando en roma, eh?  So I followed the other 5 tourists who were more or less in sync with me (but they didn’t get to see the dining room) by this time, and pretty soon I was snapping iphone photos of, of all things, suits of armor.  Because honest to god I have seen a lot of things in my life, way more than the average bear, and yet I had never before seen an intact suit of armor for a child.  But I did yesterday!

IMG_4850 IMG_4851

Unfortunately, these 2 pix don’t capture the scale of the child next to the horse and rider.  SInce I have my trusty Piedmont pass, I plan to go back and get better pictures of the child-sized armor suit because it is really quite something to see.

One of my goals in life seems to be to capture photos of some of the bizarre things I encounter as I make my way through this lifetime.  These next pictures belong in that category.  See the small sign between the knight’s feet?  Here we have a complete suit of polished armor mounted high on a wall in an armory (again, scale is not shown well here), with a little sign between his feet telling you you can stop at this point for an audio explanation of the suit.  That just slays me.  The internet and computer age inserted into a Renaissance palazzo’s armory.

IMG_4846 IMG_4847

Okay, that’s enough for today, so come back next time if you want to hear the Pepsi story.  It’s funny.

I broke my bed today.

I wish I were kidding. And I wish it were for reasons other than I had to move it to find something that went flying under the bed when I dropped it. And I wish that something was more exciting to report than it actually is.

When I moved the bed, one of the legs fell off the frame.  And despite my (completely absent) mechanical ability and engineering genius, I can’t fix the leg even though I can see what went wrong.  I can’t lift the frame for starters. And so that leaves me with 3 legs holding the springs and mattress up and one corner failing.  My mattress now moves like a teeter totter.  So, I’m sleeping on the couch from now until later.

It is definitely at times like this that you need your partner. ;-))

Today I became completely Italianized


Because when I looked outside at this beautiful view from my bedroom…


I thought to myself…I know!…


Let me hang my laundry outside! on the line just below my bedroom window!…


And I did!  I dried my laundry outside my apartment wall for the first time ever.


And that’s when I knew the transformation was complete.

(oh, and p.s., last night I tripped the breaker by running too many modern conveniences in my apartment at one time.  My landlord told me that I became officially Italian when I underwent that particular baptism by experience.  It was all really just too damn funny!)


Yikes, this will give you vertigo!  But I wish you could see and smell how fresh my beautiful laundry is!

Being of uncertain provenance and without context

Usually I don’t indulge in fun making of English translations of Italian.  Not everything translates, as everybody knows.

But, sometimes it is just too funny to not make a comment.

I’m in the Archeological Museum in Florence, just minding my own business and looking at art and artifacts and reading an occasional label, sometimes in Italian, sometimes in English.

And, for some random reason that I will never truly understand, I read this particular label, maybe because it comments on the path I’ve chosen for this lifetime of mine.

And, usually when reading English labels of Italian originals, my mind starts wandering while my eyes try to find the real information hidden amidst the tangled, mangled translation.  But this time, I stuck with it through at least the first paragraph.  When I got to the final sentence of paragraph one, I thought for a moment that someone would call a museum guard to pick the hysterical woman up off the floor.

Because, here’s the funny truth about not only the objets owned by the Archeological Museum, but indeed about everyone and everything on earth.  In truth, we are all purchased or donated, and should be considered as a part of the collections themselves, while at the same time

“being of uncertain provenance and without context.”


Which I think will be the title of my next book. :-)

Seriously considering renaming my blog (joking! for those who need a playbook)

to “my life as a sherpa.” I am becoming an expert in a kind of mountaineering, like it or not. :-))

I’ll not address the fact that it is necessary to descend and climb Mt. Everest at the beginning and end of each day, and sometimes many times in between.

I’ll not address the fact that are a lot of steps on a very steep incline.

I refuse to address those issues and deflate anyone’s idea of la dolce vita.  In particular, la mia.

But here’s what I will address: the idiot canadese couple who said, oh sure you can come to live in Italy without a special Visa!  We do it all the time!  Who cares as long as you don’t get sick or file for social security.

And then I, after 10 weeks in Italy, can still be gullible said, seriously? You can? Posso?

And then il marito della due mi parla, “Si, e che non solo scopo, ma uno supermercato grande e meraviglioso e molto vicino la tua casa” and you can walk there faster than you can say “likety split.”  Ha ha.  I am still walking.

E e vero e non divertente a me. Seriously.

I swear it all started with the rope

Generic hardware store from Google Images but with double the space you’d find in an Italian hardware store. Just sayin’.

Plus, don’t forget to factor in the second layer of merchandise hanging from the rafters.


So, naturally I was standing in the hardware store in my Santa Croce neighborhood in Florence, experiencing pure happiness because I had finally found the rope department.

I was looking for an especially delicate kind of rope for a very specific task.

I needed to tie down my duvet.

Don’t ask, but I wanted to make my pretty finely-made duvet smaller. It had something to do with my obsession at the time, which was all about packing lighter and smaller. And that is all I really want to say about that obsession at this moment.

Finding the hardware store in the first place is what deserves a toast with a prosecco. It had taken me weeks to notice this small negozio near the Sant’ Ambrogio market.  If you’ve ever been in that part of Florence, you know what I mean. There are a lot of distractions.  Every store, every person, every cobble stone vies for your attention.  At least they do for mine.

One of the first things that you must adjust to, if you want to live in the historic center of any Italian town without a car or bicycle (think about that. Where will you park your car, never mind manage the drivers, medieval streets, in Italy? [It is almost beyond comprehension once you start thinking about the details.] Your bike? Have you heard of this crazy little thing called theft?), is getting over the idea that there is such a thing as one-stop shopping.  As in, I’ll just be gone for an hour and check off everything on my shopping list in a couple of quick stops, in my car, then I’ll grab a quick latte at Starbucks, and be back home in time to watch the latest episode of TRHNY on Bravo.

Because you ain’t ever gonna do that here. Even though I do know how to get Bravo, but that is another topic for another day.

As I was saying, there is no one-stop shopping in Italy. And, even though coffee is off the hook here, and after all the Italians invented caffe lattes, there are no Starbucks in the boot. Grazie a dio. It’s a really refreshing break from American culture.

But, back to the rope, etc.:

Repeat after me. There is no such thing as one-stop shopping in Italy.

There might be.  But you can’t count on it until you don’t need it. Let’s say you are after a particular item, such as a battery (have you ever thought about how many kinds of batteries there are in the world?  Right. Neither had I) or a light bulb.  Or delicate rope.

Because as soon as you have figured out where to specifically buy your battery or a certain kind of light bulb, and you have successfully negotiated that particular negozio, and stocked up on your favorite item for say the next 12 months then, and only then, will you start to see that type of battery or light bulb for sale every where you go.

But, if you hadn’t already purchased those items, you wouldn’t see them anywhere you went.  You with me? Because, it’s complicated.

I had been on the hunt for a nice, light-weight rope for several weeks.  I like to plan ahead.  I  never was a Girl Scout but I was a Brownie.

And so, naturally, on this one fine winter’s sunny, but chilly afternoon, I stumbled upon the hardware store on a street I had walked down, oh, I don’t know, maybe a hundred times before, but on those other occasions I might have been looking for tomatoes, or an ATM, or maybe a converter/adapter so I could plug in my hot rollers without tripping my palazzo’s electrical line.  And obtaining each of these seemingly quotidian items requires a specific establishment, requiring you to be on the look out at all times.  It’s helpful if you have had explorers in prior generations of your family tree, but not everyone is that lucky.

So, on this particular winter afternoon, my brain registered for the first time that the unlikely (to me) conglomeration of the snow shovels (there is no snow in Florence that I have ever seen. You talk about your planners…), bird cages, and rolls of plastic sheeting like you put down over a carpet to protect it from foot traffic meant something notable.  That seemingly random cluster signaled a synapse in my brain to think hardware store and–ipso facto–rope.

You get that, right? snow shovels + bird cages + plastic sheeting = hardware store.  At last! Va bene!

Naturally I made a beeline to the front door (it turned out later that there were two front doors on two different streets, but that is yet another story for yet another day) of the hardware store and, I might be mistaken, but I thought I heard a chorus of angels on the sound system.  It could have just been in my brain.

But of this much I am sure: I was immediately overwhelmed by sheer number and variety of goods on offer.  This hardware store had become my everything in less than five seconds.

And I wanted to buy everything.  There was the cheese grater I had been missing; there was the bar soap that I like; there were an amazing variety of tandoor and other ceramic cooking vessels that would put any American Williams and Sonoma to shame.  Please understand that I had shopping bags on both of my arms, not to mention a little cart to wheel stuff home, from my previous stops that day. And we are not talking Dolce and Gabbana, but like bread and milk. Life in Italy is a lot of work just to keep your head above water.  If you think Italians are all busy with la dolce vita all the time, come spend a month in Tuscany in winter and then get back to me.  Try life here without il sole e il vino and then don’t forget to email me.  We can talk.

And hardware stores, like every other place in Italy, are necessarily compressed into really tiny real spaces that bend the mind. History, it turns out, requires real estate and Florence has a lot of history.  Let’s just say I had to duck to avoid hitting baskets and the like hanging from above.  Not only are my feet longer, but my entire body is taller than the average Italian shopper. And maneuvering your body and parcels through a tiny space requires a lot of attention on the part of the hand/eye/leg/foot coordination if you don’t want to bring the entire production down to a crashing halt, which would be super embarrassing for somebody trying to be invisible or at least someone who really really tries to blend in.

And, as I wandered through this wonderland of every imaginable kitchen gadget and electrical appliance and nut and bolt, I remembered the reason I was there.  Which is a small miracle in itself, if you really think about it.

First I saw the chains in big round bundles, big circular bundles such as you might find in a butcher shop in the USA back when there were butcher shops.  And, somehow my brain knew enough to send my body in that direction.  And I forced my brain to slow down and study each shelf as if it were a library with the Dewey decimal system from A to Z.  Or whatever that system was based upon.  Mr. Dewey on acid, I presume? Even the Library of Congress eventually realized something had to change.

Eventually, I spied the rope.  Or, close enough.  It required zeroing in on specific shelves and looking carefully, longingly, for just the right rope.  I had a lot to think about.  Such as: did I want to buy rope from a bolt which would mean interfacing with an actual human, therefore speaking and betraying my heritage.  Because I try to look Italian.  And most of the time I can pass.  As long as I don’t speak.

So, I was really busy on the inside, even if it might have looked like I was standing in front of Michelangelo’s David on the outside.  Like maybe I got mixed up and I had suddenly found the true Accademia dell’ Arte that everyone else has bypassed. Like I had discovered the face of David in a metre of Chinese-fabricated prepackaged twine in the Sant’ Ambrogio neighborhood of Florence.  Forget il Duomo.

I don’t think so.  I mean, I taught art history for god’s sake.

Did I want to buy rope from the bolt? thereby asking for molto assistance?  Or, should I just take one of the prepackaged rope products and what exactly was that rope made of and would it cut my duvet instead of shrinking it?

And, if I did choose the prepackaged rope variety, how many packages would I need?  How long is a metre or a centemetre anyway.  Why didn’t I pay attention in math class instead of trying to be invisible.  Oh, yeah, that’s how I got in this predicament anyway, the not paying attention part.

And how big was that duvet anyway? If I stand here longer, will it come to me?  Or should I just cry and leave?  Which at times seems like a perfectly viable option.


Plus, I have this modern habit of preferring not to talk to anyone when I am purchasing things.  Just me and my credit card and the merchandise, per favore.  Or, I can use cash if need be because you have to plan for these things, but please, no talking.

And it was just about at the same moment that I noticed a small in stature but large in personality signora who was talking to a clerk who was obviously trying to help the rather demanding Napoleonic lady (have you ever noticed how true that truism is?  The smaller the person, the louder they talk?) find what she wanted.  And the signora did not look at me or make eye contact with me but, at that same moment, she spoke about me as if I weren’t standing right there listening.  She said the item she wanted was just behind my head and she referred to me “as that foreign woman standing there.”

Totally fair, I am a visitor in her country and I am certain that I appeared to her as uncouth as the Visigoths who rained down on Italy centuries ago.

But I really thought I was being invisible.

And, what she didn’t know, but I really wish she had known, is that I have just enough command of the Italian language to understand what she was saying, even if I don’t have the skills to interject unexpectedly with the shrinking sarcasm that I would normally apply in such a situation, if there were a similarly tiny hardware store filled to the brim with every imaginable object in my native land, the lovely and truly amazing enterprise known as the United States of America.  I thought to myself, va bene, wait until you are in Seattle in a hardware store and I want the paint thinner behind your head.  Like that will ever happen!!  (Once a woman on a Manhattan bus warned me the next time we sat together I had better watch out for something. I’m like, yeah, because that is going to happen in your lifetime).

Now, honestly, that Florentine hardware store in and of itself is worthy of a short story. You don’t often pick up a paper or magazine or book and see the three words “Florentine” and “hardware store” stitched together, but basically I am here to tell you that the should be. Because that hardware store was a marvel.  You could buy handmade local ceramic dinnerware, a plumb line weight for architecture or sculpture, and electric blankets as well as every kind of nut and bolt known to man.  Or woman.

And then there were the two owners; twin men roughly my age who were very handsome and i swear to god it took me 10 minutes to realize I wasn’t hallucinating, but that there were two middle-aged and kind of amazingly handsome men in such unlikely (to me, at the time, although as I write this it seems utterly obvious) environment, not to mention that it looked like the same man was in two places at the same time. These guys seriously looked alike and were even dressed alike and I gotta say, who does that at my age?

Actually, the more I think about it, the sight of these twin men alone was worth a trip to the hardware store in my neighborhood in Florence.  And this isn’t the tourist b.s. that you read 90% of the time when you pick up a book on Italy.  It’s a truth.

Not the truth.  But a truth.

Because that is all any one of us can ever know, yes?

But, I digress.


Another generic hardware stored because I need a little visual break.

Okay, grazie, and btw, I got the rope I wanted and then some.

Ciao ragazzi!

Con amore, L

Quick, somebody get me a latte!

These boots were made for walking


I just noticed that the heels on my boots are almost worn away to almost nothing. But, I can’t take them to a shoe repair shop (does anybody say cobbler anymore, or is that just so Pinocchio?), because I only have one pair with me and even though they are wet and worn down, I still have to wear them!

But, don’t fret, because all my issues are First World problems.  The rest of the world should be so lucky.

I can’t go out and buy another pair of boots here because, for starters, I have longer feet than any Italians you might meet!  I recently moved from Florence to another unbelievably beautiful spot known to the world as Lucca. And, because it is my hope to return to Florence forthwith after a trip home to see my boy and other miscellaneous things, I left a lot of my stuff in Florence with a friend. Including other boots and shoes.  Because I wanted to travel light, you know.  So, in my disciplined packing, I forgot to factor in that it is winter in Italy, which apparently means a lot of rain (who knew? Google? probably. Didn’t think to check that before I left things in Florence. Dumb, dumb, dumb). So, predictably, I expect, it is raining gatti e cani here.  I have a new understanding of the word “cold”.

So, you see how I outsmarted my own damn self, don’t you? Packing light. Torrential rains. Winter. Extra long feet. You get the picture?


I don’t have a photo of my well-worn boots, but they are riding boots, sort of like this one above, and may I just say that the they are truly gorgeous. There is a lot of irony tied up in my boots that you wouldn’t think about at first glance.

Because, to begin with, these boots were made in Italy, but since Italian women don’t generally have long narrow feet like mine, this size of Italian boot is not generally sold in Italy. I bought mine in Seattle at Nordstrom.

And, on top of the irony, there’s a whole lot of history tied up in that last paragraph. When you think about the rich heritage of the trading and bartering of goods that has been a part of human history reaching as far back as we know it, the mind starts to bend.

The history of commerce is the one thread of the human story that every sentient being lives with all the time because, of all the things that humankind has invented, nothing has ever trumped currency. And the one currency that all people desire is money.

Think about it.

Because, as a very wise man once said over a gorgeous dinner in Morocco one night, “we all know she is right.”