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01 December 2010 @ 11:55 pm
2010 Travel Advent-ures of Brammers, part 4  
HOW can it be December already?

OOH! Advent calendar chocolate! Right, now that's sorted ...

When last properly discussing travel adventures, we were back in Viterbo. This was a town I literally picked at random on a map. Having picked it, I looked it up on the internet and asked all my friends if they had ever been there, because I am a cautious bold daring explorer ;-) Only the nice Greek girl in my fave local gelataria had been there, but she gave it rave reviews. She was right! It's a beautiful town about an hour north of Rome and perfectly placed for exploring the local area. After my trip to Montefiascone, I was going to visit the Monster Park at Bomarzo, but the weather was so awful, I decided against it, given it's a lengthy walk from and to the bus and there is not much cover to be had there.

So instead I spent a day wandering the old town and popping into museums. The Museo Civico was a strange mix of good Roman artefacts and bad Renaissance paintings, but had a fantastic record of designs for the Machina di Santa Rosa -- a huge decorated tower that is carried through town every September 3 in the Festa di Santa Rosa. Having missed the festival by a few months, I popped into St Mary of the Roses, the convent that had refused Santa Rosa admission in life, but which makes a pretty penny from celebrating her and her miracles now. It was one of those very strange places that is probably full of meaning for the devout, but is a bit crowded and incomprehensible to the rest of us. Happily, it was Sunday and there were lots of the devout about, so I enjoyed watching them be amazed instead.

Walking about the town was highly enjoyable, even through the rain and wind. Ducking down an alleyway I found this graffito: 

It is the Dr Martin Luther King quote: 'We have learned to fly in the air like birds, and swim in the see like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers.' In the midst of much internal turmoil within Italy, it was refreshing to see that even the street artists are trying to look to a better future.

Near here I was accosted by a cat: 

It was convinced that I would be able to take it home with me, we worked out an arrangement that saw me give it a good patting and chin scratching instead.

I had a delicious lunch, and the waitress decided that I looked Jewish (my Random Foreign looks coming into play again) and warned me that my fish choice contained pork. This was very lucky as the only two things I cannot eat are cheese and pork products (both make me throw up). Extra tippage was left behind on top of the service charge, but she insisted that she was just being culturally sensitive, so I told her to give the extra to the cook in that case. She pocketed it with a laugh.

The day was growing colder, so I did a last lap of the old town and took many photos of fountains. Each of them had a story attached, they were built partly to provide water to the townspeople, but also partly to show off the wealth of an area or a donor or a church, and the many layers of decoration and iconography in each design indicates the level of one-upmanship in play.

That night I ate in my hotel -- the Balletti Palace, which was very cheap and really quite nice for what it was. Huge rooms for a single, cable and free wifi, safe in each room and a good breakfast, all for 60 euro a night. I had chatted with several of the reception staff in both Italian and English and found them all to be very friendly and helpful. Most were Very Serious, as hotel people usually are, but one had a sense of humour and would let me practise my Italian at him while he practised his English at me (the hotel's guests were mostly locals). He was on duty that last night and when I went down to see what time the station opened, he was singing along to the radio. It was Mika's Kick Ass theme, so rather than let him be embarrassed, as he started to be, I joined in and we had a fun duet before discussing how much we liked Mika's music.

I had decided to decamp to Firenze, where things are more indoors, in the morning. The train was early, but I had enough time to pick up my tickets at the station before it was due. Things were slightly less smooth than they could have been due to the machine eating my tickets three times, happily I had ordered them at the window, so the woman at the station wrestled the machine into submission and I was on my way with good wishes and a shared hatred of machines expressed in comedic mime well in time to make it to the right platform.

The trip to Attilgliano-Bomarzo was without incident, save for the gorgeous views from the window, but when I reached the station at which I needed to change, I had a very pleasant meeting with a local elderly gent. He smiled at me as I dragged my suitcase down the platform to the steps and asked if I would like to see his fennel. Deciding that I was translating the word finocchio correctly, I said I would love to. He held up the biggest, lushest bulb of fennel I had ever seen. Apparently he grows veg in the station gardens and had just picked it freshly. I congratulated him on the size, and he offered to let me smell it -- again, I told him it was a very superior fennel and I wished I had enough Italian to talk with him about how he had grown it. He grinned and wished me a safe onward journey, and I set off for the correct platform, wondering exactly what it was about my face that invites discussion on horticulture.

The rest of the journey was spent cataloguing names of stations along the way that each called to me -- one year soon I will have enough time to travel through Italy at less than a lunatic pace. For now, it was enough to look at the beauty and watch the sun climb steadily upwards into the first fine day of my trip as the train hurtled towards Firenze.

I was going to go on to Florence in this entry, but LJ has managed to eat most of it twice, so it can wait until tomorrow!
lilian_cho: Aziraphale also worshiped bookslilian_cho on December 4th, 2010 05:34 am (UTC)
My first thought: finocchio is (derogatory?) slang for gay =P

If only all graffiti consists of inspiring quotes!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 4th, 2010 05:41 am (UTC)
But also for actual fennel, which he was holding, so I felt confident that I was making the right translation ;-)

And YES! Though I also like humorous graffiti. My very fave was one I saw on my first trip to Sydney. Some hateful person had written 'God Hates Hommos!' on a wall, underneath which someone else had written 'But does he like tabouli?' Alas, it has long since been cleaned away, but I still love person number two.
lilian_cho: Bradley smileslilian_cho on December 4th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)

I had to Google fennel and tabouli (I've seen fennel seeds but not the whole plant)