Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category


Originally uploaded by LucilleHuffman

Turkish Market and Abandoned Spy Base

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Robin, Sadie, Will and I have a day of exploring:
















Happy Holidays!


My Life is Full

La mia vita e’ piena! Non ho avuto tempo libero per questo blog, mi dispiace!


I’ve been ignoring the blog, which bums me out a bit but, it’s because I’ve had so many things to do which makes me feel really lucky.  I think I was a bit overwhelmed with trying to write or show pictures of every place I visited, it’s just not possible.  Allora, once things are a tad less hectic (because not being hectic at all wouldn’t be my life or preference) I’ll be back in the saddle again.  Until then; go drink some vin brulee or cider and read these fabulous blogs:

I’m sure I’m missing some, deal with it.


Quando mia Mamma ha arrivato da Firenze siamo andate a San Giovanni Valdarno e siamo andate una classe di fresco con la scuola.  Mia Mamma ha fatto una fresca bella, certo, lei era modesta ma e’ veramente brava con l’arte. Brava Mamma!

After my Mom arrived and we dropped off her things at the Bed and Breakfast we were off to our Fresco class at il Sillabo. It was a two part class, first we laid down the sand and mortar mixture and then a week later we applied another smoother mixture which we painted into.  Here are the results, Mom’s first:








I went with my school to Perugia a while back, it was my second time visiting the city (the first time 3 years ago for the Chocolate festival when it was over run with tourists). We had wondeful weather and beautiful views and of course Orazio explaining all the architecture and history to us which is wonderful.  I wish I had time to write more but I’m going to have to go with mostly photos:

Ho visto Perugia per il mio segunda volta con la scuola.  Abbiamo avuto una buona gita, sempre con Orazio aveva i viaggi bene. Ma, adesso non ho tempo libera per scrivere e allora i foto:












Slovenia by the Sea

My last day in Slovenia Aneja and I went to the coast to visit some small towns, unfortunately the rain was still coming but we enjoyed ourselves none the less.  We stopped for a wonderful breakfast in the first town where we people/rain watched for a bit.


The Adriatic Sea was gorgeous and despite the weather we could still see Croatia in the distance.





Just as we climbed to the church on the hill of the second town the weather got better.  We saw yet another rainbow and enjoyed the rich colors drying in the sun.






Then we stopped to have lunch in the third little town of the day which was the biggest.  I promise to add the names later but for now I don’t have my notes with me.  I didn’t take many photos there but I did like this statue.


Then we drove up a very windy road to visit a gorgeous castle with a view.  I felt the need to spread my arms as wide as I could just to take in the enormity of it. At a safer distance from the cliff I spun around and skipped, new places get me all excited.


The fourth and final little town was not on the coast but had a beautiful view of the rolling hills.  The dark clouds returned but by then we had seen weathered worse.  We strolled around the empty town and enjoyed the park.



That night the whole family went out for an amazing Slovenian dinner, everyone ordered something different and we each tried the others plates.  My favorite were the mushrooms, native to Slovenia and especially fresh, all of the food was delicious not over complicated with too many flavors but made with careful choosing of the perfect ingredients.


The whole weekend was really wonderful, Aneja and her family were such wonderful hosts and in a time when I really needed it.  I think every traveler will tell you the best thing about traveling is the people, you and your interaction with them determines your experience.  We had horrible weather the whole time but I will always fondly remember this trip because I really felt so welcomed and cared for by them.

While Aneja and I were packing Vlada came into the room with two beautiful glasses of Slovenian strawberry wine and a smile on her face.

When There Are No Words

A few weeks ago I was walking on a back street in Florence when I looked over and saw an older woman sitting on the sidewalk clutching her ankle.  She was in a classic dress suit, with stockings, a hat, and the type of elegantly comfortable older woman heel that is so common here in Italy.  She looked half asleep and very sad.  I walked over to her to offer a hand but she barely acknowledged me. I asked, “posso aiuta?” Can I help? She just slumped a bit more and clutched her ankle.  I noticed some women walking nearby who were coming over to help; they asked her some questions in Italian but she just started to cry out in quick short screams.   A minute later an ambulance was coming around the corner, someone must have called them earlier, and the two women and I got out of the way.  They started talking to her and lifting her up, she was screaming louder now but seemed to be letting them help her up.   The men acted like it was nothing, common, I guess for them it was.

From the moment she didn’t respond I had been at a loss for words, what could I say? And I wanted to ask them if she was ok, if she was crazy, if I could help but I just stood there.  The two Italian women didn’t say anything either and once they realized it was under control they were on their way.  I left too, walking much slower than before, but I heard her screams for the next block.

This past Friday my friend Barbara came to San Giovanni to meet me for dinner, she came early and we decided to go for a walk. It was a gorgeous day, warm enough to go without a jacket, and lots of people were in the park.

We strolled along the Arno chatting then we both noticed this young man that had walked past us had stopped behind a tree and it looked like he was peeing.  Then I realized he was not peeing and told Barbara we should turn around.  He awkwardly ran past us to hide behind another tree in our path.

He was obviously touching himself and once we passed him he again ran ahead of us to find yet another spot.  There were more people but he still found a spot near the passageway under the bridge, so we decided to cross over the busy street rather than pass by him again.  Once we got away from the park he left us alone and we walked back towards the piazza then later to my apartment.

These things happen, usually in cities but; in any case Barbara and I agree that we never felt in danger, just disgusted and a bit shocked.  We just were made to feel uncomfortable cause this guy got off on it.  I’m not writing about this to alarm any of you, please don’t freak out.

I’m writing about it because both these situations are the type of thing I never really thought about without English.  It was really disorienting to have nothing to say and to understand nothing in a situation where communication is essential, especially with the older woman.

Barbara and were talking about the park situation the next day, we both felt guilty about not reporting him.  It wasn’t a huge deal to us but we started to worry about other people he might do this too, had we failed them? We wondered how our friends and family would react.  Neither of us had any idea how someone would be punished in this situation here in Italy; in the US I think they would be arrested or at least taken in and reprimanded, Barbara said she thought the Italian police wouldn’t do much but we both hated the idea that they would do too much.  This guy was a kid, about 18, and yes what he did was wrong but he needs some counseling to learn how to deal with it in a healthy way not to be ostracized from his community which would only lead to him feeling worse and acting out in more unhealthy ways.  We kept coming back to our conversation about it. What do you think?

I don’t want to give the wrong impression of my experience; these are only a few poor moments in the months rich with wonderfulness.  So please no worries friends and Mom!

Non parlo Italiano bene, mi dispiace.

Also known as my first day of class at Il Sillabo.

I arrived early to take the placement test which basically looked like random letters sprawled across the page with the exception of a few words I recognized. I guessed my way through the first half, forcing myself to take deep breaths. Then came the last question, write…..summer….or description….nflasnflandlkandnnsf. Ok. I wrote about three sentences and then came to the swift kick of a realization that I had no idea what I was doing.

All the while I noticed students walking by the front desk having short quick conversations with the teachers in Italian. I was sweating and overly aware of the clueless look I couldn’t get off my face. I had forgotten how disorienting it is to be unable to understand everyone around you.

Another woman was escorted into the room to take the placement test, I heard her say thank you in English and my ears perked up. The woman was Carol a woman from Australia that ended up in the beginners class with me.

After a short walk for fresh air I realized how utterly dramatic I was being. I opened my note book and glanced at the four other girls in the class. Francesca, our teacher walked in, with a reassuring smile on her face, “Buongiorno!”

classroom with Carol on the left

our classroom with Carol on the left

She led us through completely in (very slow) Italian and at the break we were led to the other school (the new school, another building across the Piazza) where we got to meet the other students. First they gave the greeting speech in Italian, and my dumbfounded face came back despite my efforts to hide it, then (Hallelujah!) she repeated it in English. We were told the activities for the week and then we ate some delicious sandwiches and cake.

I quickly found Anna (my room mate), she introduced me to Alex. Now, in this very unfamiliar situation I must admit I was a bit to quick to cling to what I knew so when Alex said he was from Boston I kind of went without stopping. ‘Oh Boston! That’s where I went to school, I love it there, where in Boston? My school is in Kenmore Square…” Now he looked confused, “Bos-NIA, I’m from Bosnia.” Mortified, I apologized and he, Anna, and I went for a cappuccino before heading back to our classes.

Later we headed to COOP, the grocery store at the edge of town, and I met Aneja from Slovenia, one of Alex’s room mates. We spoke English the whole time.

Later that night we went for the guided walk with Stefania and dinner at a restaurant across the river called ‘Las Vegas.’ She would tell us about each place in Italian and then in English, she was hoarse by the end but I was so thankful.

inside the church

inside the church

my school is just to the left of the man on the bike

my school is just to the left of the man on the bike

One of the main streets

Students around the plaque with the original layout of the city

Stefania telling the Sillabo students about the history of San Giovanni

then we walked along the Arno to go to the resturant

then we walked along the Arno to go to the resturant

Mom, I took this for you.  We have some gorgeous clouds here.

Mom, I took this for you. We have some gorgeous clouds here.

le pizze, at Las Vegas

le pizze, at Las Vegas

Aneja (giving a sweet smile), Angela, and Felicia

Aneja (giving a sweet smile), Angela, and Felicia

we finished with some Limoncello.

we finished with some Limoncello.

After saying good night to the other students Anna and I headed back to our place.  Now when I first arrived it was only Anna at the house and the man that dropped me off didn’t stay to give me any explanations.  So Anna and I were under the impression that it was just the two of us in this apartment that looked like it was often rented out to students.  There are tons of random odds and ends from all over the world; an ashtray from Nicaragua, tea tins from London, etc.  The kitchen was well used but empty except for a half a bottle of white wine so the first night Anna and I had each had a glass and exchanged travel stories (she came by bus from Poland, which took 24 hours!) and back round.  Va bene, everything was great.

Allora, on this evening we came home to a surprise.  One of the doors that had been locked was open and someone was in the house.  All of a sudden a rather tall, thin, and blond woman comes out; she seemed just as surprised to see us as we were to see her.

Turns out we do have a Host, it’s this woman (Tatiana) and she had just returned from her vacation.  She and Anna go back and forth in Italian; all I understand is that she is wondering where her vino went and Anna is saying sorry a lot.  I start saying sorry.  She tells us not to worry, just keep the kitchen clean and make sure to turn off the lights when you leave.  She goes back to her side of the apartment (on the first floor), Anna go upstairs and exchange ‘oh my god’ faces then everyone goes to bed.

Pronto, provo scrivere solo in Italiano.  Mi dispiace perche, non ha molto bene grammatica.  Ma, provo e dopo forza bene.

Allora, primo, vado per una passeggiata con la scuola.  Ha molto informazione di San Giovanni Valdarno, molto interessante.  Dopo andiamo per cena in il ristorante, ‘Las Vegas.’  E buono.

Mi piace San Giovanni molto perche e una citta picolo ma e molto activa, e tutti persone e simpatici.

Grazie per tua pazienta!


San Giovanni Valdarno

As we got off the plane I was having trouble with my heavy carry on bag, which was in the overhead bin.  All of a sudden this arm reached from behind me and helped me lift it down then out of nowhere the arms body said, “Langley? You’re from Whidbey Island?”

I knew there was a reason I kept the Langley luggage tag on my bag; this young girl happens to be the sister in law to a girl I went to high school with!  Her name is Adriana (If I remember correctly) and even more brilliant, she speaks Italian and was just at La Tomatina.  She was on the first leg of a long trip home after living in Sienna for three months where she was learning Italian.

It was the strangest thing to meet someone at the end of what I had just started.  She was incredibly sweet, we caught the train to the Pisa train station then she was helping me buy my ticket and missed her train.

After some lunch we took the next one together, she got off a few stops before me.  I could not have done all of that transferring so quickly without her though.  The girl has some seriously good karma headed her way.

So I get off the train in Florence to switch trains for San Giovanni.  It was so surreal being back in that train station, it felt so comfortable and it was the first time in the last couple weeks that I knew and felt comfortable in the surroundings.  I even knew where the secret bathroom is, in the back corner so I didn’t have to go buy something in the McDonalds.  It made me happy.

Of course I wanted to run out of the train station past the Duomo down Via Cavour to Piazza Liberta and my old home, Hotel Meridiana (where I lived for 4 months when I studied abroad two years ago) but I am not here again for that experience; I am here for the new one.

There were a big group of guys on the train that had just been at a Firenze Futbol game, they were covered in purple and white and still on a high.  They sang songs and chanted.  It seemed like even the older people that were rolling their eyes at the noise were smiling with a sort of pride at the same time.

And finally, only 40 minutes outside Firenze, I arrived in San Giovanni Valdarno.  My first day and the start of the 103 day stay countdown.

San Giovanni Valdarno Train Station

San Giovanni Valdarno Train Station

The room, house, and town are larger than I expected.  Anna from Poland is in the room next to mine.  I have a terrace although it faces the back of another street and is a little dirty.

my super awesome room from the door way

my super awesome room from the door way

from the left side, where the terrace door is

from the left side, where the terrace door is

my terrace door, which is on the left side of the room

my terrace door, which is on the left side of the room

door way with my shelves of random things

terrace, from the half way point, it's pretty big

terrace, from the half way point, it

I took a walk around town, just behind my building there was some graffiti in English:

“Welcome back my Love”

I found a foto booth to take a portrait in my anxious and surreal state.