I have no reason to complain, no reason to be ungrateful, and no reason to wish to come home. But homesickness hit hard last week and luckily, I came out on top. Regardless of the negativity that comes with wishing you could be with familiarity, I cannot help but recognize the incredible week I’ve had, the moments that stirred me, and the amount of change I hope that each day has on my life.
Friday, September 23 was the date of another one of Filiberto’s becoming-infamous excursions. The most recent trip was to an ancient Roman town called Urbs Salvia (anyone else catch the irony?). This town is mostly buried underground, as it has been covered by hundreds of years of earth change, but recently, excavation has begun. Walking through the old amphitheatre was a different sort of experience, especially when you think about the fact that only a foot or two deeper are the steps of gladiators, actors, politicians, and whoever else stepped into the arena (arena comes from the Latin word “harena” which means sand, as sand is what generally covered the floor). People fought and died there, as well as some lives were spared there. And there we stood, stomping on leaves, discussing a time period we could never really imagine. We walked among the ruins of the town; we saw parts of the old temples covered in frescos and arches, seemingly in perfect condition, lying neatly on their side. It was as if, after some sort of natural disaster, the town was buried and forgotten (ironically, a prediction by Dante in “Paradiso”).
After exploring more of Urbs Salvia, we made our way over to Abbazia di Chiaravalle di Fiastra, a monastery and abbey that are still in use today. We had just learned about the Roman use of the arch as well as the shape of many churches from that time period, so witnessing it first hand with Filiberto’s endless supply of knowledge, made the ancient structures so much more impressive. The history of the monastery is fascinating enough to me: it was once a monastery, inhabited by monks devoted to God’s teaching. It then was taken over by the government and used as a holding place for people that would eventually be sent to concentration camps throughout Europe. It is an awful thing to try to imagine: they had no idea why they were at this palace-looking place and no idea where the government wanted them next. Little by little, the compound would receive a list of people and where they should be sent, but no one knew why… it wasn’t until years later that people found the real reasons why. After the war, the compound was owned by a prince, who used it as his palace. After he died, his wife donated it to a charity with the sole intention of it becoming a monastery once again, with the only stipulation being that the prince’s tomb remains in the abbey. This is where it stands today and this is the state of the monastery once again.
The abbey itself, unlike any of the other churches we have seen in Italy, is bare. There are few statues or paintings on the walls, most of the awe coming from the giant pillars as well as the simplicity of it all. Each window was covered with yellow glass, which left gold light all over the abbey. Now, I’m not a very artistic person, but the lighting here was something I had to catch on camera. I have never seen something so simple yet so picturesque before, and in that moment, I almost felt like a photographer. (Almost... don’t get too excited.) After we had been in the abbey for about 15 or 20 minutes, the bells rung, indicating one of seven times in a day that a monk must pray. A few minutes later, four or five monks came in and began their praying ritual. We sat in the pews and just watched, all thirty of us in complete silence. I have never witnessed something like that, and I feel so blessed that I could! What a culture and belief system different from what I am used to. After touring more of the abbey after the prayer, taking a lunch break, and touring some more, we boarded the bus once again and made our way over to our last destination, the winery.
The Cantina Degli Azzoni is a winery about thirty minutes from Macerata and is one of the largest in Marche. They own vineyards all over Italy and bring their many different kinds of grapes to this winery to juice, ferment, bottle, and sell their wine. We got to witness the arrival of a truck (accompanied by quite a few happy bees) and then the process that follows. We drank maza, a juice that is pure grape juice, no sugar added, nothing purified. It was delicious! (If only I knew how to cook with it, I’d have some very happy roommates). We were able to see large tanks of wine as he explained the necessity of having the wine remain at a specific temperature, so the fermentation does not go too fast. After all of this education, we were taken to a room for the wine tasting portion and a table full of food- after such a long day, it did not take much to convince us to chow down! This was followed by me buying more wine than necessary and trying to figure out how I would get it back to the states to share… this answer is yet to come J
The excursion was awesome, the people I am here with as well as our fearless leader make every moment a memory, as cheesy as that is. We have so many more excursions to go, basically one a week; I cannot even imagine what each Friday will hold. (This Friday, I do know that we are hiking somewhere and have been instructed to wear good shoes and that eventually, we’ll need a walking stick. Hm…)
This past weekend, following the excursion was a quiet one. I relaxed and caught up on my life. I started reading a book for class, got some sketching in, cleaned the apartment, and re-organized my things. As a reward for my hard work, I took myself shopping J I felt even better after turning down some very affordable Armani pants, reasoning that I had already treated myself to real Italian leather boots and had a coat that I had my eye on. It was a good decision overall, I have never been one to buy something based on a label alone and I couldn’t let Italy and Georgeo get the best of me! A night out with some of the girls on Saturday was relaxing; a few hours of chatting and red wine have never been a bad thing.
And now we get to Tuesday night, tonight, and my true “Eat, Pray, Love” moment. My roommate, Mary, another girl, Rosie, and I decided to try out a yoga studio a few blocks from our apartment, as for this week only they had free trials of their classes. After getting there we discovered that tonight’s class was less yoga and more meditation, something none of us knew anything about. The class got started and everyone stood in a circle as she explained what we were about to do. Every once in awhile she would look at us and say “capiti?” We always answered “si” even though we almost always meant “no” but we figured that as long as we followed the lead of everyone else, how difficult could it be? Fake it till you make it is what I’ve always heard. Well, we were right. It wasn’t difficult at all. Basically, when she said “meditation,” she meant “dance around to music with your eyes closed, slowly first, then get a little crazy.” So that’s what we didJ After the dancing came the sitting and then the laying, followed by either questions or stories, I’m not sure which, by the participants. It all sounds a little weird, I understand, but it was definitely one of the coolest things we have done yet on our own, apart from the group. It was oddly spiritual, something I may have needed since an English speaking church is hard to come by here, and it was oddly refreshing. It was fun to let loose and be a little different, everyone else was ironically doing the same weird stuff so no one cared. Of course, maybe my experience would have been slightly different had I known what was going on, but when in Rome, right?
We’re back at the apartment now, worn out and sleepy from our class, despite my afternoon nap. Tomorrow is a full day so I might as well catch some Z’s while I can! We’re taking a cooking class tomorrow night with one of the teachers here so I’ll come home knowing how to make Pasta Carbanera! Woohoo!
Goodnight world, love, hugs and kisses J