Further Travels in Italy

Tonight, my study abroad program comes to an end, with a big party in the piazza, for my classmates, teachers and Cagli locals. Tomorrow, most of us will take a bus back to Florence, where we will split up; some traveling a bit more within Italy, some traveling to other European locales, and still others flying home to the United States. I will take a train to Milan, where I have a rented apartment waiting for me, and where I will spend three nights before flying back to the waiting arms of my family.

While here, our group has traveled to Assissi, Urbino and Rome, as well as exploring Florence and getting to know the village of Cagli and its residents.

These are some of my favorite images from Cagli:

IMG_9287 IMG_9289 IMG_9282 IMG_0626 IMG_0726 IMG_0731 IMG_0804  IMG_0906

The dogs are truffle dogs – truffles are a big thing here, and frequently hunted, found and harvested.

The first picture is the sun setting over Old Cagli from the bridge which separates it from New Cagli (and such luxuries as water pressure, air conditioning and wi-fi).

As always, click on any picture to see the image larger, and thanks for stopping by!

Observations from the Piazza

For our writing assignment, we were asked to observe a scene on Cagli’s piazza, take notes, write a few paragraphs, and leave ourselves out of the story. Unfortunately, I did not make any images of the scene about which I wrote, so I’ll give you a few of my favorite photos from our time here, instead.


He moved as fast as his short legs could take him, pulling his hand from his mother’s and running to the gelato stand. His curly red hair sticking out in all directions, the boy strained to reach high enough to see into the glass display case. He stands his blue tennis shoes on end.


His mother, in her bright, multi-colored top, stood away from the tables, blowing cigarette smoke away from the groups of people. Her long, tanned, shorts-clad legs crossed as she casually surveyed the scene on the piazza.


She dropped her burned-out cigarette to the cobblestones and strode to a table where another woman and baby waited. She called to the boy, who reluctantly shuffled away from the gelato display to join the women, his feet moving much more slowly, the toes of his shoes dragging on the cobblestones.


Shortly after, the women and children walked slowly away from the gelato stand, one woman pushing a red stroller, the other carrying the baby. They talked animatedly while the boy hung his head in silent lament. No gelato today.


The Language of Failure

Whenever I step outside the apartment doors, I ask myself, “What are the words I will use to greet an Italian?” I go through words and sounds in my head, typically starting with Spanish. Buenos dias. No. Bueno. No. Buona sera. Nope, it’s morning. Buon; bon-something. Ah, Buongiorno! That’s the word! As I walk to class, I repeat over and over in my head, “buongiorno. Buongiorno,” yet when I see a local, I simply nod.

Has it really come to this? Even my coffee is called

Has it really come to this? Even my coffee is called “Americano.”

I find myself going through that thought process every time anyone speaks to me, or I am planning to speak to someone. I am so uncomfortable with my Italian that Spanish words come out of my mouth. A year ago, I was in Cali, Colombia, with Gonzaga’s ORGL program, and couldn’t come up with any Spanish other than hola, gracias, and some menu items. I have no idea where these Spanish words are coming from – as far as I know, they don’t exist in my head (at least not when I need them!).


To say I am uncomfortable with languages would be an understatement. I knew, going in, that I would be expected to speak to the locals in their native tongue, and I studied before I arrived, but all my studying has left my head. It’s probably somewhere on Turkish Air Flight 7299.


I know that before I leave here, I’ll have at least some competence with a few words and phrases, and my classmates speaking words and short phrases helps me. I hope I don’t become that classmate who the others baby along, speaking for me whenever I encounter a local. I want to be able to carry on a rudimentary conversation, and find my way around a train station when I return to Milan. I know it will come, but it’s slow, and my brain is resisting.



Cognitive Dissonance

Anyone who has traveled internationally knows that the farther you get away from  the tourist areas of town, the fewer signs are translated into different languages. If you don’t speak the language well, it becomes difficult to navigate, and can increase stress. If you decide to take local transportation, it can be even more stressful. In a metropolitan city like Milan, most of the people speak at least passable English, if not better than passable, but once you get into a subway station, one needs to have a fairly clear understanding of which station is their final destination. Train stations are similar, but the traveler must figure out which track his or her specific train is on, which is nearly impossible on a day when the communication system is down, and the displays, which generally let travelers know which trains are on which (of 12-15) tracks, and what time they will arrive, aren’t functioning. This is what occurred as I attempted to depart Milan for Florence early Monday morning. I left my apartment and walked to the nearby subway station, bought a ticket and found the right track without incident. When I arrived at my destination, I lugged two suitcases and a very heavy camera bag into the train station, then up and down four or five sets of stairs until I got to a ticket sales kiosk. The kiosks had English translations, so I was able to purchase a ticket, leaving in half an hour, for Milan. More suitcase dragging. I looked at the ticket (no English here), and tried to determine at which track my train would arrive. The information wasn’t listed. Video screens were blank. A man in a business suit and tie asked if I needed help with my bags, and by this time in the journey, I was happy to give up the heavy one. He asked which track, and I said I didn’t know. He got out his smart phone, checked his app, and took me to Track 3 (after I’d lugged the luggage up and down unnecessary stairs to Track 6). Once there, I verified with a female passenger that this was, in fact, the correct track, and she took pity on me and escorted me onto the train (I allowed her to help with the lighter bag). We were getting off at the same stop (still in Milan), so she helped me off the train and to another track. She was interested in hearing about my master’s program, and why American students of communication would come to Italy to study. Once on the new track, she departed, and to verify I was in the right place, I asked a young man whether this was the train to Firenze. He assured me it was, then hustled away, as if to avoid further conversation with the crazy Americano. My train arrived. A bright red, fast-moving machine. I got on, and noticed my assigned seat was occupied. I moved farther into the car, and took another seat. After getting settled, I looked at the train’s electronic board, and noticed it was a non-stop train to Rome. I was on the wrong train! I grabbed my belongings and started toward the door, when a woman carrying a child got on the train and walked down the aisle toward me, blocking my escape. I moved back to my seat to let her pass, then started for the door once again. I made it two steps before the train began to move. I guess I was going to Rome! When the man came by to check tickets, all he said to me was “Grazie.” I wondered why he hadn’t at least mentioned I was on the wrong train, but thought perhaps he hadn’t wanted to embarrass me, since I’d surely figure it out at some point. About halfway through our three-hour trip, a young woman stopped to tell me I was on the wrong train, and she helped me purchase a ticket from Rome to Florence. She didn’t charge me for the extra distance I would be riding with them, above and beyond what I’d paid for, which was both kind, and good customer service. Eventually, we arrived in Rome, and I wandered around the train station (no extraneous stairs, escalators to and from the tracks) a bit, checking the (working) video boards to find my track. I wandered down to Track 12 and waited half an hour for a train. It was, in fact, my train, as I was able to verify on the (working) video board above the track. An hour later, I was in Florence, and 15 minutes after that had met my roommate and classmate for the next two weeks. Plus, I now have a good story, and I can say I’ve been to Rome!


Stranger in Milan

I’m having a battle with my computer, so allow me to pre-apologize for the errors which are bound to happen.

Once again, my graduate program has provided me the opportunity for a fantastic study abroad program (not study a broad – I checked); this time, in Florence and Cagli, Italy. I flew into Milan late last night and spent much of today walking around, exploring, and crashing a wedding.

Some of my favorite images are here:


OK, you got me. This was not Milan. It was the Boston-to-Istanbul leg of the journey, and this little one was enthralled by Turkish Air’s flight safety video.


Flower girls. I did mention I crashed a wedding, right?


No idea what this little one’s role was. She walked down the aisle just before the bride’s parents, and stole the show.


Bridegroom, awaiting permission to enter the church.


The bride, in all her glory. That veil kept going, and going, and going …


The couple at the altar of a fabulous church.


Some detail from the church.



If someone can explain to me why Baby Jesus lives inside Saturn, I’m listening.


A little public art in the piazza in front of the church.


Looking down a side street at men selling knock-off purses.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow involves a train trip to Florence, and the possibility of photos along the way.

As always, click on any picture to see it larger. Thanks for visiting!