ROME & AREZZO
So, this morning I was up at 4.30am. I couldn't sleep, so by 6.30, I decided to forgo trying and just greet the day. I was up on the sunny & delightful rooftop deck by 7.30, working on some UCI stuff. At 8.30, Eli & Jaymi met me. We ate a great breakfast, and then checked out of our hotel and taxied to the train station, where we met up with Benny & Cambria. After buying our ticket, we discovered that our train was a running late, so we killed time by learning the rules of Scopa and talking to Eli's camera. Here's Benny & Jaymi examining the departures board for an updated departure time:
Once we got on our train, we snagged the only completely empty couchette car. With all of our bags and everything, we just squeezed all in. I'm not sure if we were technically supposed to have a couchette car, but since the conductor never came by, there was no one to tell us no. On the train, Eli decided that his clown needed to come out, and that mean that his teeth needed to go in:
The beautiful sunny day in Rome gave way to clouds as we moved into Tuscany, and by the time we finally got to Arezzo (just two hours by train), this is what greeted us:
Lots and lots of rain. Coming down in buckets. With big cracks of thunder and lighting. Cold rain. The kind that gets you wet. We met up with Holly & Michael at the train station, along with some other folks from the festival. An attempt to wait out the rain resulted in 45 minutes spent standing in front of the train station arguing about when the rain would let up. 'Never' was apparently the correct answer.
We finally got going to our respective housing units. Eli, Holly, & Michael got an apartment, but they were all supposed to sleep in the same room. They have since moved. Cambria & Benny are sharing a hotel room (with separate beds, natch). Jaymi & I seem to have gotten the sweetest deal. We're in two rooms of a four-room B&B. The rooms are fine, but we do have to share bathrooms. Our kitchen has a balcony, and our balcony has this view:
Jaymi & I grabbed lunch (a slice of pizza, small sandwich, and four glasses of wine ran us 9 euros – these ain't Rome prices) and then unpacked. She set up some of the glowing orbs she brought while I made sure that the gear I brought had survived the trip (it had, fortunately).
At 6.30, we were supposed to meet the rest of the participants up at the top of the town hill for a dinner. We got there early, so we wandered around. Here is the church where part of LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL was filmed:
And here's me in front of a lovely Tuscan valley.
Even in the rain, it's pretty stunning.
We found the rest of our clan before dinner, and they all posed for a quick snap:
That would be Jaymi, Holly, Cambria, Eli's head emerging from Michael's shoulder, Michael, & Benny. Dinner was incredible. Fresh meats, cheeses, salumi, zucchini eggplant, peppers, roasted fennel, wine, juice, tomatoes. Delicious. There were probably 125 of us all dining in a little piazza, and from one of the windows facing the piazza, a woman in a red sweater was staring at us. From a distance, the contrast of her sweater to the yellow wall was beautiful enough to merit a photograph, but if you look closely at her, she doesn't seem to be enjoying herself.
After dinner, we waited while the organizers tried to set up a video projector. I snapped this photo just as the sun was finally setting. Love those colors.
While we were waiting, outside in the main piazza, some people were re-enacting the blessing of lances in the church in anticipation of a jousting match. There were large drums and horns in the church, and it sounded amazing. Very reverberant. I didn't take any photos because my hands were busy making an audio recording of part of the sermon.
When the video projector was finally set up, we watched some short films that each group had made about their project. They were all pretty lame. Unfortunately, we weren't able to sneak out without drawing attention to ourselves, so we had to endure the whole event. It's now 12.20, and I'm hoping that I can get some significant sleep tonight. I won't be able to post this right away (no internet) but hopefully soon…