I feel as if I may be boring you all with my account of the weather here, but coming from Adelaide it’s just so novel to have rain! Boy does Tuscany do a good storm though. We’ve had thunder and lightning here for over 36 hours and rain….so much rain. It’s the type of rain you would find in the tropics, except it’s not all that warm here. It’s a real soaking rain with big droplets. Today there was even hail. We see lots of snow on the mountains now. The air is moist too and it’s very hard to dry your washing. I’ve had clothes on the line for 3 days and they’re still damp. We had to go and buy a clothes drier yesterday which was extra fun as I’d forgotten to look up the word for it and did not have my dictionary with me (for anyone who may find themselves in an Italian appliance shop in the future, it’s “la asciugatrice”). We managed in the end though, as we always do.
At the end of the third day of school, I am pleased to report that all is going well with the boys. Denver has had some challenges at times and tells whoever will listen that he wants to go back to Australia, but if you know Denver at all you will realize that it’s mostly talk and he loves the drama. Balin is Mr Popularity and is adored especially by the girls in his class. He is fitting in very well by all reports and is picking up the language rapidly. He does find the maths lessons difficult though, even if he is especially gifted in that department. They seem to be so much more advanced with their curriculum and the sums he is doing look more like grade 5 or 6 standard. The Amazonian-looking headmistress (she has a name: Lucia Baracchini) invited us to her office for a “chat” yesterday. It’s never good to be summoned to the Principal’s office, but Lucia is such a helpful and kind woman! She had visited the boys at school already and saw that Denver was a bit lost, although very happy to have an English girl (Beth) as his helper. She called the school while we were there and we got to talk to the boys. They both seemed fine, but we thought we might pick them up early anyway just for that day as it was a very long one (they’d caught the school bus at 7:10am and normally wouldn’t have gotten home until 4:45pm).
Lucia was also very concerned about our Permesso di Soggiorno and thought we should be actioning it sooner rather than later. She had made calls to the Patronato as well as to the Questura and arranged for us to have the paperwork done. In Italy, you need to have friends…….that is to say it’s highly desirable to know someone or have a cousin (however distant) in an office of some influence. I think Lucia knows everyone in the Lunigiana area. She also wanted to ask us if we’d mind spending some time with her niece (Alice, pronounced “Ah-lee-chay”) who is studying English at University. It’s a win/win really as she can translate for us.
We met up with Alice this morning in Villafranca at her mother’s shop. Melanie (or Steve), if you’re reading this, Alice is the Italian Melanie. She looks just like Mel, has a similar personality and is about the same age. We meant to take a picture (and we still will) so you can see what we mean. Her English is OK and we seem to spend equal amounts of time speaking Italian as we do English with her. Many times she did not know the English words, so we told her to speak Italian and we understood her better! She’s lovely though, and came with us first of all to the Patronato. The Patronato office is on the main piazza tucked in just beside a Bar (a bar is more like a cafe in Australia). We entered the building which smelled of damp and resembled a 1960s school building and climbed some wet(!) stairs up 2 levels to the dingy little office. A bored looking older man directed us to the cramped waiting area where we sat until the clerk was free. The damp smell was not obvious in this office as it had been replaced with the reek of cigarette smoke. Finally the clerk was free and we filed in to a small office dominated by piles of papers and the clerk who resembled our good friend Steven Bliss. The Italian Steven Bliss and the Italian Melanie spoke in Italian while we answered questions and sat mostly talking amongst ourselves throughout the painstakingly slow process of compiling our papers. ISB was nice enough, but soooo slooooow in everything he did. After almost 2 hours in the stifling smoke-filled office (and yes, he even lit up a cigarette while he was doing our forms!!) he had the papers prepared and we were then told to go to the Post Office.
Is there anything an Italian Post Office DOESN’T do? Again, we waited for our turn at the counter. The Post Office lady was a bit of a bitch actually. She took her sweet time (while we waited right in front of her) cleaning up and arranging her desk before reluctantly taking our forms and processing them. She mocked us when we spoke Italian and kept correcting our pronunciation. We spoke English to each other and to Alice when we needed help and she kept telling us to only speak Italian. (Yeah, alright luv, let’s hear YOUR English then!). I think she thought she was funny, but by the end of it we both felt like hurting her. Badly. Eventually it was all done and paid for and we were issued with an appointment to see the Questura in Massa in a couple of weeks time. It’s annoying that we still have to drive to Massa, but Alice kindly offered to come with us and help out. So the quest for the mythical Permesso di Soggiorno continues…..I’ll let you know when it’s done and tally up the total hours it took to obtain it (hours of our lives that we’ll never get back!)
On the way back, Alice introduced us to the proprietor of a local restaurant and we had lunch there. I would consider this to be our first real Italian restaurant experience and we let them choose an authentic dish that was unique to their area. We ended up having “testarolo” which is a bit like flat chewy squares of pasta with a pesto sauce. It was pretty delicious and VERY filling. Here’s a pic:
One last thing: I’d just like to say that Chris is doing an awesome job at adapting to this life. He’s learning to be an excellent fire builder and can make a roaring fire quite successfully most nights. His driving skills are impressive (besides the little retaining wall incident) and he’s used to driving on the right-hand side now. His Italian is also coming along very well. He’s very enthusiastic with speaking and can understand more and more every day. I’m still much better at it than him (well I AM!), but I’m confident he’ll equal me one day soon 🙂 We make a good team. Ti amo mio marito xxx