ITALIA: June 19, 2007

I’m allergic to Italy.

There’s really not much I can do for it. I could conceivably go to an Italian allergist, but the need to communicate in specific nouns baffles me even in contemplation. Something here—and I do so hope it’s just the current season and living in an agriturismo—is making me congested, sneezy, water-eyed and headachedy. No fair. No. Fair. In addition, I am like Nutella™ for every G.D. creepy crawly that inhabits this country. I don’t know if it has to do with my sheet-white flesh, or some biochemical odor, or what, but I have about three or four new mosquito, spider and ant bites daily. Finally, I tan like a little bitch. (You may have noticed an effort on my part to avoid using specifically explicit language in this ‘blog. It’s a conscious decision, and I adhere to it even in breaking it. Sometimes the colloquial is the only language to express an abstract idea with sufficient specificity.) I tan like a little bitch—like the new convict who lets an old-timer beat him on the first day then spends the rest of his term conning cigarettes off other felons for said old-timer. The only parts of my body accustomed to absorbing vitamin D are my face and forearms, and somehow the rest of me is covered by clothing at the peak opportunities for breaking the curse. The end result is that I have a farmer’s tan that degrades into a partial wife-beater tan, and my legs either burn irreparably or never change from lily, making me at best a perpetual mood ring of melatonin.

In spite of all this, I love this country. The more I see of it and experience it, the more I love it. New, old; refined, decrepit. Love it.

Today we began with a light breakfast, than headed straight of to il lago. It was a lovely day for it; not too sunny, but warm. The weather is growing altogether (“the weather is warming”) warmer here as we move past the actual one-year anniversary of our arrival last year, June 17/18. As soon as we hit the lake, I took off on a jog, which I needed in part because I strained my right hamstring during our impromptu clown performance yesterday. (How do you like that, Todd? Twenty-four hours missing you and already I’m experiencing sympathy pains.) It was great. I headed out to a nearby harbor town, walked the piers for a bit, then jogged back. It helped clear my sinuses, further convincing me my difficulties are allergic, not viral. We must have spent a good three hours at the lake, during which I mostly sunned, but you can’t go there and not surround yourself with that clear water at least once.

We were directionless thereafter—a first for us since arriving. I admit my impatience with that encroached a bit on my experience of our time, but overall it was great to have such a day. We drove around an unfamiliar side of the lake seeking a boat tour, but could find none that would allow us to stop at an island as we desired. So we drove from town to town, admiring architecture and vistas while all of Italy enjoyed its afternoon siesta. David began seeking out properties for sale, rather in earnest. This is a possibility he’s always flirted with, and it was bitter-sweet to see him taking specific, albeit preliminary, action toward it.

Eventually, after some acqua frizzante and cappuccino, we directed ourselves to the mountain town of Pitigliano. We were rather famished, having had a movement-filled day and skipping lunch (never again), but the city would prove more distracting than our hunger. It’s gorgeous, if just a bit touristi moded. It’s in Toscana (Tuscany, tu Americani [I know: you’re smarter than I am.]) We walked the long and short of it. It’s one of these cities that dates back to the Etruscan era, carved out of the rock of the mountain itself. The clock tower is fascinating; it’s clearly an Etruscan structure that has been enveloped at its bottom half by the stucco of the Catholic church constructed next to it. From one side of the town you can see a vast, lush valley with multiple waterfalls ensconced. The walls tower over the valley on three sides, and some version of Italian crows (smaller, with silver–gray heads) circle at the city’s height and make their homes in holes in the outer wall. If I hadn’t fallen in love with Orvieto first, Pitigliano would have swept me off my feet.

Perhaps most exciting about our visit was also our most accidental. On the walk in from parking, we noticed a poster in a shop window for a local production of Othello going on the 22nd and 23rd. I suggested we could catch it, setting our imaginations in motion, but without any real information to sustain the fantasy. On our second trip through the city gates, after circling the place once idly sightseeing, Heather noticed a sign of a pair of doors for a theatre. David poked his head in, but said the lights were off. As we left, a man popped his head out the door, so we spoke to him. Turns out we had found the back door, and this was indeed the theatre producing Othello this weekend. We inquired about tickets, and he popped in to find someone who could help us. He returned to tell us she was coming, and in the awkward, semi-improvised chit-chat of differing nationalities David asked him if he worked for the theatre. No, no, he said, “Lavoro attoro.” Oh really, what part? “Otello.” So the lead actor and house manager sold us tickets in the balcony for the Friday evening show, at 9 Euro a head. We left wishing him “in bocca al lupo,” and hoping for ourselves we could corner him afterward to talk to him about our purpose here.

Even on our day off, we managed to conduct some exciting business. Plus I finally get to see a show in Italy. Tomorrow we’re off to a new city to see Andrea perform in a medieval festival, an all-day affair I encourage you not to think of as an American Renaissance Festival. I now make my way quasi-drunkenly under the covers, sniffling and sneezing contentedly.