Siena, Italy

Although it is rather unexpected to find a passage about Siena in a book about fine bourbon in Kentucky, self does have good memories of visiting this part of Italy with her niece, Irene, in 2015. Maybe later, when she has time, she can find a few pictures from that trip and add them to this post.

Wright Thompson travels to Siena so he can watch Siena play Florence. He’s met at a train station by his friend, Fred Marconi.

Rows of trees lined the road, pine and cypress. Castle keeps rose from the hills.

Marconi’s family has lived in Siena for at least five hundred years . . . and he is proud of his history. This wasn’t some old man talking. He was a forty-two-year-old graffiti artist who plays bass in a rock band. He’s got a Ramones tattoo. He baptized his three-year-old son on the 750th anniversary of the battle that took place on the peaceful field he was driving me to see.

“This was one of the biggest battles in the Middle Ages,” he said. “It was September fourth, 1260. Dante talked about this battle in The Divine Comedy and said it was a terrible day. The Sienese turned the Arbia River into a red river of blood.”

Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last, p. 20

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

BREAD AND SALT: STORIES

Excerpt from Story # 1: Il Piccolo Tesoro

I chose this Ligurian village in the sensible way, by spreading a map of Italy across my kitchen table in Toronto, closing my eyes, and sticking a pushpin into destiny.

Stanza in affitto: one of the phrases I know by heart.

At the door of the rambling house, I knock assertively.

“Good morning.”

These stories are mostly about women who travel. Alone.

Self doesn’t pretend to have anything in common with Valerie Miner. Not. In. The. Least!

It’s been ages since she’s been in Italy. Or maybe it just feels that way. 2015. The world was so different then.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Arranged Marriage

Still Chapter One, The Charterhouse of Parma:

There now occurred a great event in this family. The Marchese had arranged the marriage of his young sister Gina to an extremely rich personage of the highest birth; but the man powdered his hair: on this account Gina received him with peals of laughter; and soon committed the folly of marrying Count Pietranera.

The Charterhouse of Parma, Chapter One

Milan, 1796, at the Palazzo of The Marchese Del Dongo:

Eight days later . . . when it was widely acknowledged that the French were guillotining no one, the Marchese del Dongo returned from Grianta, his castle on Lake Como, where he had valiantly taken refuge at the French army’s approach, abandoning his sister and his loving young wife to the chances of war.

In Another Country

Food in this story: chestnuts. In Milan. In the fall. The war is just over (Which war? Self had to google: World War I)

Also, the Café Cova, “next door to the Scala” which “was rich and warm and not too brightly lighted, and noisy and smoky at certain hours” (a tourist trap now, according to Yelp)

We were all at the hospital every afternoon, and there were different ways of walking across the town through the dusk to the hospital. Two of the ways were alongside canals, but they were long. Always, though, you crossed a bridge across a canal to enter the hospital. There was a choice of three bridges. On one of them, a woman sold roasted chestnuts. It was warm, standing in front of her charcoal fire, and the chestnuts were warm afterward in your pocket.

 

Sentence of the Day: BR, p. 37

While the narrator and his boring chum Collins take themselves to Ravenna (which no one will be going to for the duration because COVID-19) for the summer:

  • I wrote long letters to Sebastian and called daily at the post office for his answers.

Ah, the pining!

Stay tuned.

My Cousin Rachel, Ch. IV

The callow young nephew is off to Florence (his first trip to Italy) and this sentence perfectly captures his confusion:

  • Used to the silence of a well-nigh empty house — for the servants slept away in their own quarters beneath the clock tower — where I heard no sound at night but the wind in the trees and the lash of rain when it blew from the southwest, the ceaseless clatter and turmoil of foreign cities came near to stupefying me.

Beautiful sentence, where it starts and where it ends is a complete arc. It is so balanced.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

New Books for the Reading List

Stanford professors, the editors of Stanford University Press and Bing Overseas Study Program staff were asked to recommend books for summer reading and they came up with some interesting titles:

Books To Shift Your Perspective

  • An Act of Terror, by André Brink
  • Sometimes a Great Notion, by Ken Kesey
  • The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
  • Hadji Murad, by Leo Tolstoy
  • Stoner, by John Williams
  • The Removes, by Tatjana Soli
  • Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta, by Michael Copperman
  • Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, by Bruce Handy

Books on Globality and Migration

  • Brother, I’m Dying, by Edwidge Danticat
  • Signs Preceding the End of the World, by Yuri Herrera

Books for Travelers to:

Australia

  • In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson and Ellen Titlebaum

China

  • Age of Ambitions: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, by Evan Osnos

Germany

  • Memories of a Nation, by Neil MacGregor
  • The Reluctant Meister: How Germany’s Past is Shaping Its European Future, by Stephen Green

Italy

  • The Italians, by John Hooper

Japan

  • A Geek in Japan: Discovering the Land of Manga, Animé, Zen and the Tea Ceremony, by Hector Garcia

Cape Town, South Africa

  • Keeper of the Kumm, by Sylvia Vollenhoven

Spain

  • The New Spaniards, by John Hooper

Tom Holland’s RUBICON, p. 90 – 91

Italy’s “Warlord” period:  A general named Sulla vs. the son of a defeated general, Marius. Marius’s son is 26. Upon hearing that the temple of Jupiter in the Rome’s Capitol has been set ablaze, the 26-year-old rushes to the scene, ignores the statue of Jupiter and the recorded predictions of the Sibyls, but hauls away “temple treasures” that he uses to pay to raise “more legions” to fight for him.

The tide of battle favors Sulla. He is joined by an army led by a boy — Pompey, “barely twenty-three.” But what a boy. He was referred to as the “teenage butcher.” He killed not with the passion of youth, but with cold ruthlessness.

Sulla knew how to destroy his enemies: if he suspected them of disloyalty, he would provoke them into rebellion, then massacre them, all the while assuming the mantle of the defender of law. This was how he wiped out a mountain people called the Samnites, who wore “gorgeous armour and high-crested helmets.” While Sulla was battling his way across Italy, the Samnites headed for an unprotected Rome. And there, “before the Collins Gate,” Sulla caught up with them and engaged in the “late afternoon” — the battle lasted into dawn. Sulla’s ferociousness had everything to do with the fact that no conqueror had ever entered Rome, and he threw everything he had against the Samnites.

Then Holland breaks from the battle to discuss the seven classes of citizen, and how voting was determined by voting blocs. The rich had the most voting blocs, the poor practically none: “Disproportionate voting power” is how Holland describes it. OMG, so many parallels.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Transmogrify 4: Florence, London, San Francisco

McDonald’s is everywhere, even in Florence. Such a pity:

dscn1414

McDonald’s in Florence

Whitechapel, London

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Street Art, Whitechapel, London

Tattoo Parlor: Moth and Dagger, San Francisco

dscn0160

Photo in the Front Window of Tattoo Parlor MOTH AND DAGGER. The words on the man’s chest are the words to the Lord’s Prayer.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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