Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lions and tigers and bugs tee hee

So, when one moves to a new country one must learn about the new critters one may come in contact with.  The ones that we are likely unfamiliar with.  I have almost started to rate countries based on the list of deadly critters. New Zealand may just be the place for me, there is nothing deadly there.  Australia has a list of deadlies as long as my arm, but I still think fondly of my time there and have tried often to move back since we left 5 years ago.  Canada has bears and cougars, and thankfully I have come across neither.

I also find that each time we embark on a new country there are always a handful of people who are more than happy to share with you the deadlies to look out for.  I was warned by one kind person to be careful about the deadly cane toads.  Yes they are poisonous, but one would have to lick the toad and i actually did see a cane toad while living in Australia and it was not exactly the type of thing I would go around licking.  My first few days in Australia, I was nearly blind with fear of deadly critters, that they would kill me or my baby.  (I am pretty certain, travelling with 3 children under the age of 5 and a healthy dose of jet lag did not help).

So now here we are in Italy and while I am happy to receive helpful advice about the things I should be concerned about, I sometimes find that the information can be biased and widely interpreted.  I did know that there are vipers and while trying to find out if they are a real threat, I have been left somewhat confused.  I also knew about scorpions.  My experience in the past is that scorpions are deadly, but here, they apparently give a nasty sting, like a wasp and that you should be aware of possible reactions.  Luckily I was armed with this information when Finn ran in from a lizard hunting expedition to inform me he had been stung by a scorpion.  I was not however prepared for red ants or poisonous (stinging) caterpillars, though I was familiar with the latter from our time in Australia.  One night I felt something crawling on my forehead, and when I crushed the little ant, I was left with a little 'burn' from what ever they carry on board.  Finn has had the same experience.  Yikes I am itchy just thinking about it.  Finn also had a nasty reaction from the caterpillars.  And now our latest experience, ticks!!  Thankfully not on us, but on our dog.  And we even gave her a dose of anti-tick medication.  Luckily we have found them before they get a good hold on her, but they are creepy.  Ick!!! More itching.

The girls are getting pretty freaked out and each time they learn of some new threat, they decide the solution is to go home.  I remind them that ticks are in Canada too.  But okay, we don't have vipers and scorpions, but we do have cougars and bears.

I know I can't judge a country by it's critters, but learning to deal with all these new things has been an experience, and lets just say I hope the viper is as elusive to us as the the Canadian bears and cougars have been.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Butterflies and the Slow Emerge from Winter

Wow, it is already April and I believe I may have left some of you hanging with my last post.  Just like the butterfly  I have emerged from my winter cocoon and am flourishing in the spring sun.  Yay, to Italian spring.  It comes early, which can be alarming to the winter body (think trying to buy a swim suit in March, eek!), but it is warm and delightful.  And blossoms, wow, they are a plenty.  We live in the countryside very near to fruit orchards.  As we drive into the city we drive past rows and rows of beautiful blossoms, and the lilacs are out already, and there are other varieties of blossoms that I have never seen before.  The fields are coming alive and the landscape is slowly changing colour, it is truly magnificent.  The scenery here has inspired thousands of years of poets, painters and writers and it is clear why this is so.  It is inspiring.

So, why have I not written.  Well, I have been busy.  Mi scusi!

We have been busy enjoying the beautiful weather as well as working, homeschooling and taking advantage of what  is on offer here around us.

We traveled to Siena one day and wandered the lovely cobblestone streets, we then sat and had lunch in the Piazza del Campo.  Piazza del Campo is a wonderful scallop shaped piazza with a beautiful fountain.  In the warm sun it is a busy piazza and is great for sitting and watching people and enjoying the beautiful surroundings.  The is a tall bell tower, called Torre del Mangia and I climbed to the top with the four children.  The view from the top were really amazing.  Mark did not come with us, as we couldn't bring the dog, so he waited in the piazza and bought some chocolate in the chocolate market that was on that day.

The Gaia fountain in Piazza del Campo, Siena

Piazza del Campo from the Torre del Mangia

Torre del Mangia and the Palazzo Pubblico

The next week, I had the opportunity to travel to Florence with a university art history class.  I was excited to brush up on my art history as well as having a day to myself.  We looked at a number of churches relating to the work of Brunelleschi and then climbed to the top of the Duomo.  It is a 463 stair climb, that also winds around the inside of the dome and then leads to the outside where you can take in the view of Florence.  I had a fantastic day, learned a lot and reignited my passion for art and history.

Me at the top of the Duomo Firenze, with Santa Croce in the background.

The beautiful Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore, Firenze

The next day I was fortunate to return to Florence, this time with the whole family and to meet some Canadian friends.  Another great day in Florence, we had pizza and wine in the piazza outside Santo Spirito and then visited a couple of other churches.  I am on a bit of a church bender, there are so many here to view and they offer a treasure trove of beautiful artworks as well as amazing architecture.  And let me just tell you, two days in a row with Art Historians in Florence is a pretty special way to see the city.  We ended day two with a hike up to Piazzale Michelangelo and then walked up to San Miniato where we were fortunate to be able to hear the monks who live there sing Gregorian chants during late-afternoon vespers.  It was an amazing end to a great day, as the sun set over the Tuscan hills.

San Miniato al Monte, Firenze

I enjoyed a day at the San Giovanni terme with a group of friends and loved the beautiful rolling hills and warm thermal pools.

This past week we went to Cortona.  A beautiful hillside town.  There are winding cobblestone streets that lead up the hill and interspersed you will find little gardens, some that are almost hidden.  We wandered all the way up to the basilica of Santa Margherita, it was a warm sunny day, and the views along the way were breathtaking.  We wondered down a different way along via Margherita, a street lined with mosaic of the Stations of the Cross. 

The religious symbolism and iconography is plentiful, I am very taken by it and continue to snap pictures of the beautiful Madonna's that appear on houses and corners and the edges of fields. 

So it has been a busy and enjoyable month. I am slowly learning more Italian and really enjoying our lovely little village and the people that we are surrounded by.