Thursday, June 28, 2012

Amy Levy

In the long, sad time, when the sky was grey,
And the keen blast blew through the city drear,
When delight had fled from the night and the day,
My chill heart whispered, " June will be here!

" June with its roses a-sway in the sun,
Its glory of green on mead and tree."
Lo, now the sweet June-tide is nearly done,
June-tide, and never a joy for me

-from A June-Tide Echo

I loved Amy Levy's portrayal of a different London then we most commonly know in Reuben Sachs, and am so grateful Persephone republished it (and that Carrick brought it back from the shop personally)...her poetry is also something not to be missed...

Can you guess where I am leaving for on Sunday with this weeks postings?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

The True Deceiver

As beautifully as Tove Jansson described summer life in The Summer Book, she captures the same magic of winter in The True Deceiver.  Both recommendations came from Simon at Stuck in a Book, and I couldn't be more appreciative.  I've been introduced to an amazing writer.

Katri Kling and Anna Aemelin are two women living in the same village from completely different backgrounds.  While Anna is older, admired and originally from the village (everything is written in reference to lightness with her), Katri is yellow-eyed, mysterious, brutally honest, always in black and an outsider with her younger brother.  Katri is a genius with numbers and has 'helped' all in the village.  Anna a bit of a air-head (?) is her next victim, so-to-say, and the story continues on from there.

The relationship morphs subtlety but fiercly all with the background of the endlessly snowy winter transforming into spring.  As the story continues we start to wonder who really is the victim is it Anna or Katri?  The townsfolk were also incredible characters in their own way, gossiping, showing their mistrust to any outsider, all with a blue-eyed smile. 

Ruth Rendell aptly said:  "I felt transported to that remote region of Sweden and wheni I finished I read it all over again.  The characters still haunt me."

The landscape reminded me of the snowy winters back home in Rhode Island near the sea.  I took the above photo last year before I moved to Italy.  And I leave you with Lykke Li, who's video I kept referencing in my head whilst reading about Katri Kling.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Shall we let this lovely video welcome us into the weekend? 

The good news is Sigur Rós is coming to Verona, so I'll finally be able to go see them.  The bad news is no one I know here knows who they are.  A solution must be found!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Una Barca nel Bosco

Gaspare Torrente, in Una Barca nel Bosco (A Boat in the Forest) by Paola Mastrocola, is the son of a fisherman, a brilliant Latin student who grew up in a small island. His teachers insist he has a promising future ahead of him, so to Torino he moves with his Mother, leaving his father behind. Both of his parents sacrifice so much for him as they want him to have a better life than they did.

The novel follows his experiences moving to a city from a small island, his struggles to fit it, his falling in love, and the good and bad decisions he makes. He is like 'a boat in a forest,' a fish out of water in this new life. It read a bit like Charlie's story in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a favorite of mine. The moments of discovery were so relatable you can't help but twinge/chuckle to yourself. Gaspare also has this somewhat brilliant obsession with raising plants that makes you wonder if has some sort of autistic tendencies.

But where The Perks of Being a Wallflower ends when Charlie isn't quite finished with high school, Gaspare's tale thankfully continues on to University. His best friend Furio leaves for Berkeley, leaving Gaspare somewhat alone, and somewhat spiteful that he doesn't have the money to leave Italy for school and that he can't leave his plants behind. Instead of becoming the great Latinist everyone (including himself) thought, but instead a Graduate of Law, writing a thesis that is published in an important magazine.

Years pass and Gaspare and Furio meet by coincidence in the bar the Gaspare now owns. He didn't become a Latinist, he didn't become a lawyer, his plants were to occupying, so he opened up a bar. Furio saves the day by using Gaspare's knowledge of botany and his engineering background to invent living apartments, where they become a great success.
The last chapter is a lovely letter to his father who passed away alone on the island, recounting everything that he regrets, what really happened while he was away, and how he wishes somethings were different. In my opinion, the last chapter made the book.
I felt great similarities with Gaspare, which I think is the reason why my teacher recommended it to me in the first case. We both have father's who are fisherman, and at that age I stupidly felt quite ashamed of his profession. We just wanted dad's who have normal office jobs. I think if I left home at 14 I would have similar feelings about missing the sea like Gaspare did, as I miss it everyday and I'm 25. My teachers in high school always told me I was going to be a CEO of a company by time I was 21 and obviously that hasn't happened. Just like anyone, life happens and the dreams of childhood aren't always the right ones.

It's a pity Mastrocola hasn't been translated into English, as this book would be so poignant for everyone at any age. It won the Premio Campiello, a prestigious literary award, in 2004 and needs to be in the hands of more people. Maybe my career as the next William Weaver (sarcasm) will someday start with this book.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

La Sicilia

This past weekend was spent visiting my friend's family in Agrigento.  Are there words to describe Sicily?  I think not, other than it was so much more than I expected.  Imagine a land of rolling hills like in Tuscany, but instead of the steady green found there, you find endless shades of gold, yellow, reds, and umber.  Being a volcanic island it's very easy still to this day to sea it's proof, with little volcanic peaks covered with fields of grain scattered here and there.  What Sicily is missing the most, is the annoying, fat, red, sweaty tourists who demand menus in their own language (cough cough english!).  I fell absolutely in love.  Especially since my friend grew up on a gigantic farm where her father to this day still makes organic....everything!  Cheese, milk, fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat, etc etc.

The overgrown road up to the house

Il Pastore

Views from the house


Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Stumbled across this lovely birch forest the other day on the blog of Geneviève Bjargardóttir, an Icelandic girl live in Göteborg, Sweden.  Her images are so transporting you can almost smell the moss and fresh air. The fact she uses an analog makes it all the more otherworldly. 

Perfect to look at if you're reading Tove Jansson's Summer Book.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Northern Light

Some friends from Copenhagen (and a Norwegian from the US) have just left, taking my heart with them.  We ate gnocchi, took boat rides, drank spumante, laughed till we cried and did Downton Abbey impressions...they also left me with the song which I can't get out of my head...
Come back!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pasolini and Calvino

What I would give to be at this table.  Maria Bellonci is probably at the right. 

And again I beg, why wasn't I born earlier?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mariano Fortuny

While on my first trip to Venice last November, I developed a bit of an obsession with Mariano Fortuny.  His palazzo was where Axel Vervoordt showed his exhibit for the Bienniale, and if it wasn't for that I'd probably never had gone to the Palazzo Orfei.  The only thing I knew was the name of the impossibly expensive Fortuny fabrics; I didn't realize that in his life he accomplished so much more.

He now is of course most famous for his lavish fabrics, still made secretly in the same factory in Venice.  But he also was a master photographer (see previous Henry James post), able to figure out the camera before many others.  A famous fashion designer: Sarah Bernhardt, Marchesa Casati, Lady Diana Cooper, Isadora Duncan to name a few were all customers.  His name is even mentioned by Proust in The Remembrance of Things Past.  Master inventor: 22 (!) patents were taken out in his name, most of which were for the theater which are still used today; ie: lighting controlled back-stage, the lighting of quarter-domes found in most theaters, photographic papers, fabric printing techniques, etc. Not to mention painter of countless paintings and sculptor...The man was a genius.

Delphos Gown, 1909

He rented a few rooms in the Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei with his wife to work and gradually bought the rest little by little until the entire palace was his home/studio, and thankfully today we can go and explore it ourselves.  The Vervoordt exhibit was amazing, but I think discovering about him and his work, seeing where he worked, smelling the oil paint (still!) was all the more thrilling!

I read a brief biography about him, but can't really find something more substantial...does it exist?  If it does, please let me know.  If not, I think I want to write his full story.

I can easily say this is my favorite place in Italy I've seen so far, so if you come, please visit it, or better yet, let me know and I'll meet you there.

Editor's update:  For more information get thee to Acquired Objects well-informed and fascinating posts (here here and here)that completely put mine to shame!  You will not be disappointed!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

For a stormy Saturday

I feel so intensely the delights of shutting oneself up in a little world of one's own, with pictures and music and everything beautiful.

-Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

Image: Book Shop in Venice

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Remarriage of Henry James

Mariano Fortuny. Venetian Woman. 1910.

Months ago, you may remember, I announced my divorce with Henry James.  Mayhaps I was a bit too hasty, having only read one, a certain Wings of the Dove.  Quite honestly I was bored for those painful months, he put me to sleep, I couldn't follow what he was saying, my mind would wander, I wanted out.   A recipe for disaster. 

I'm not sure what triggered me to read The Aspern Papers (maybe it was your encouraging comments!), but I'm so glad I did and running back for forgiveness I've done as well.  How could I loose faith?  I should have given you a second chance!  Don't look at me like that!  PLEASE!

Mr James managed to combine all of my favorite things (crumbling palaces, crazy spinsters, subtle mystery, Venice) into a gorgeous novella that I couldn't put down.  Our narrator is in search of the supposed letters or papers of Jeffrey Aspern, a Romantic poet (based on Percy Bysshe Shelley) who left them with his muse, a now ancient Juliana Bordereau.  Miss Bordereau is an American that lives with her neice, Miss Tita, shut away from the world in a massive palazzo in Venice.  Our narrator, somewhat whimsically ("My tastes and habits are the simplest; I live on flowers!") asks the ladies to let some rooms in order to write and work in their abandoned garden, of course not telling them he's in search of the papers kept in the clutch of Miss Bordereau's talons.  They accept with a high price and he discovers little by little about the two (a 19th century Bouvier Beales) and the city in which they lived and live.

I found so many passages extremely beautiful, including the one found when Miss Tita decides to take his invitation for a ride in his gondola...

She had forgotten how splendid the great waterway looked on a clear, hot summer evening, and how the sense of floating between marble palaces and reflected lights disposed the mind to sympathetic talk.

...but I think I loved most how he beautifully portrayed Venice as if it was a character in itself...

I don't know why it happened that on this occasion I was more than ever struck with that queer air of sociability, of the cousinship and family life, which makes up half the expression of Venice.  Without streets and vehicles, the uproar of wheels, the brutality of horses, and with its little winding ways where people crowd together, where voices sound as in the corridors of a house, where the human step circulates as if it skirted the angles of furniture and shoes never wear out, the place has the character of an immense collective apartment, in which Piazza San Marco is the most ornamented corner, and palaces and churches for the rest, play the part of great divans of repose, tables of entertainment, expanses of decoration.

Such a drastic change in my opinion of him I have that I'm almost embarassed!  Has this every happened to you?  Nevertheless, I recommend you read this lovely gem, and if you are going to Venice in the future I would read it while you are there.  It's an enchanting place and James really captures it perfectly.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Il Sognatore

Yesterday I was walking around with my friend and she and I were discussing how our dream job would be to work in a great library or an old bookshop.  I'm sure most readers of this blog would agree with us.  With a great twist of fate, I had the most vivid dream last night that I worked in a library like the one above found in a secret passageway of the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele.  After entering said passageway, a staircase was found which brought you down and then up to the library.  I could smell the paper!  I could hear the creak of the floorboards!  I wasn't rich of course, but could pay my bills.  The library was filled with clever, bearded men with occhiali tartaruga, cardigans, famous artists and women with white streaks in their hair.  What a misfortune to awaken.  This library has been in my thoughts since daybreak.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

So don't mind if I fall apart

A week ago I was waving goodbye to my family as they cruised down the Grand Canal on a water taxi.  My dad stood up, turn around and waved one more time as I stood at the embankment near San Stae.  Probably one of the most dramatic partings of my life, but fitting for our family trip throughout Italy.  We laughed, ate well, I translated until my head hurt, we enjoyed ourselves, laughed at each others jokes, and while driving my sister and I discovered we know every word to more than a few Carly Simon songs.

Como, Bellagio, Barni and Barni

Porto Venere

On the Chiantigiana

Val D'Orcia

Castello di Verrazzano (one of the best places I've spent a week)





Throughout the trip I couldn't help thinking that I've lived here for seven months and really I've seen nothing!  But even the Italians feel the same.  Every tiny town, every village, every castle is unique and filled with history and it's own set of stories.  I've made it my goal to do some more exploring...I haven't even made the lightest scratch of the surface.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Enchanted April

Have I titled one of my blogposts with this same name?  I believe so...I digress.

The family arrives in just hours, and I'm busy making preparations.  All very Emma Recchi of me hustling from here to there, although scrubbing the shower and floor, would probably be below her.  My apartment's as shiny as the top of the Chrysler Building!  I hope to spend our time together like in the book The Enchanted April, under wisteria (see above), climbing endless hills, exploring towns (hopefully) less traveled, and nibbling on fegato.

The weather report seems more optomistic than previously reported and if I have anything to do with it, will surely prove to be gorgeous!

I''ll see you all in a few weeks, loaded down with photos and stories of vineyards, ancient monasteries, and white sneakers.  Now I'm off to make that Bolognese, need to feed the creatures something!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

It's a luxury to be understood

Where in the world have you been?!  Don't you care about us anymore!?

Of course I do and even if I wish I spent this last (gulp) month in the room above, I was in reality just busy with work studying and daily life.  I also recieved about 400 bills in five days, so it was touch and go for a bit.  Enough about me...How are you!!?

Wouldn't you love to lock yourself in the room above for a month with a steady supply of tea and see what happens?  I'm sure you'd discover some spectacular things.

This past month I haven't read so much as I've been tryingto finish my first Italian book cover to cover.  When I finished it on the train yesterday I was ready I was ready for a marching band to go off, but alas! no such thing happened.  I also discovered Gianricco Carofiglio isn't my favorite writter (of the "gialli" or mystery varietal) and found myself learning how to say things like 'ooze' 'stab' 'gash' etc etc, but it feels like an accomplishment nonetheless.

My parents, sister, brother, aunt and uncle are all coming next week and I'm so excited I can't even breath.  We're going to Tuscany and as I haven't really explored the country I've been living in for six months now, I'm even more thrilled!

Have you ever read a book in another language?  Could you understand all of it?  Was there a technique you used whilst reading it?  I'm so curious!!

Monday, March 5, 2012


When I have to test my students and I can see they are so nervous they look like they're about to pass out, I like to ask where their favorite place is in Italy, and to describe it to me.  Answers of course vary greatly, but many say Naples.  Yet Naples is like Venice, some people love it and some absolutely hate it, and if I'm testing two at once, it's happened where a great debate over it's pros and cons transpires.

In my opinion it seems like a fascinating place, I've heard you can walk down one street and feel like you're in the Middle East and the next a boulevard of Paris.  The Neapolitans are definitely the friendliest, funniest (they never want to speak English during lessons) and all miss their home city terribly.

I found this clip, from the documentary O'Mast about tailors of Naples by Gianluca Migliarotti, a few weeks back at the lovely Fox and Flyte blog and it has me yearning for a trip down the coast.  And not to sound too Milanese, but I really can barely understand what they are saying.  Let's go this summer, shall we?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Be the ocean, where I unravel

I'm sure all ten of you loyal readers are wondering where I've been, and I can tell you it's pained me to be separated from you!  My neighbor who's wi-fi I've been using for the last five months seemed to have discovered my clandestine activity and restricted his 'donation' of service so I had to go and get my own internet set-up...and since this is Italy, a month has gone by!  Quelle nightmare!

I believe where I left you I was freezing to death, wondering where the next meal would come from and dying of TB?  Thankfully all is better now, and I've just returned from a lovely trip to visit friends in Belgium.  I've read a few books, two of which are totally out of my normal reading radar but wonderful nonetheless.  Things Fall Apart is the Nigerian masterpiece by Chinua Achebe, a portrayal of tribal life at the time when the missionary's first arrived in Africa.  A tragic pageturner.  I found A Thousand Splendid Suns in my school library and picked it up rather half-heartedly...The next thing I new I was missing trainstops left and right, not answering my phone, and coming this close to calling out of work!  Gorgeous!  And I had a good cry on the plane to Brussels, not even caring that the man next to me was incredibly uncomfortable!

I must say I love Belgium!  After six months in noisy, chaotic and confusing Italy, it was a pleasant change to visit tranquil, well-designed and clean Belgium.  Everyone's house looks like it belongs in a design magazine and the food is amazing. There is also a strong vibe of melancholia with its grey sky and Gothic architecture which was just what I needed.  Being there you can really see why Dries van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, Raf Simons and Axel Vervoordt are such creative geniuses.

We also went to the sea, something I haven't seen in five months.  As someone who, grew up seeing it about five or six times a day, it has been torture to be separated.  When we reunited my chest was pounding, my heart was soaring, tears were streaming (maybe from the wind)...I was all verklempt!

Maybe the Romantic surrounds overtook us, but my friend Lydia took a series of photos in a 10th Century Cathedral that came out down-right spectral...below a sample: