This time last year I was busily preparing for a trip to Italy with the Potter's Council. I diligently practiced my Italian with the help of Italianpod101.com and eagerly checked for the word of the day which popped up on my cell phone and in my e-mail. Hard to believe that almost a year has passed!
My advice to future attendees--or any travelers--is as follows:
1. Pack light. You will thank yourself and me when you are actually in Italy. You're welcome in advance. Walking up and down narrow staircases and getting on and off trains and buses will be easier! You will be seduced by the many ceramics at the bottegas you visit and the textiles and other treasures you find in open markets, museums and places of business along your path. Not to worry if your bags are still bulging.....you can always ship your booty home or ask Claudia Bruhin of La Meridiana to help you with this task. When you arrive home, you will have a wonderful package from Italy to look forward to opening.
2. Pack allergy medication if you are prone to allergies and even if you are not. You will encounter blooming beauties especially in the Tuscan countryside. I have not had allergies for years, yet my downfall was riding on the second tier of a hop on hop off bus in Ravenna. We wanted to make the most of our day visit by seeing as much of the city as we could, including the water and thought this would be the best way. It was and gave us the opportunity to hop off, at the places we decided to visit. It was beautiful, fantastic, wonderful at the moment to ride atop the second story bus and take in the city, the water, the rolling hills and countryside outside of the city......until the evening when I began sneezing uncontrollably. Others had the same problem and we shared allergy medications (over the counter medications!)!
3. Be prepared for puntura di insetto or better known as mosquito/bug bites. We all shared mosquito ointment, too. In Certaldo, our hostess Chiara, told us to keep the windows closed at night because the mountain mosquitoes were large and their bites were unpleasant. This is true! Not to worry, you will be so caught up in the wonder of all you are doing and seeing you will hardly notice the itching and swelling! If you do forget the ointment, stop by the nearest Farmacia where you will find a cure!
4. Study some Italian! Although not necessary, it is so much fun to be able to say something to the locals. They appreciate the effort although, Giovanna, the owner of the Italian cooking school in Certaldo Alto, asked me to please speak in English!!! I was trying to purchase her cookbook at the end of the day on the last day of our visit and all my carefully practiced words were no where to be found! I did have a lovely conversation with an elderly woman in Faenze who pointed out all the streets I needed to visit and what to look for. She saw me photographing doorways, mosaics on the sides of the walls and windows, etc. and told me about avenues I should check out. These moments are very satisfying. In some cases you will want to practice your Italian as you ask for directions and Italians will want to practice their English. Very fun! And... you can say things like, Ciao tutti! Hi everyone! or Piacere, pleased to meet you; Va bene, It's all good; Allora, Oh well then; Brava, for a job well done...you get the picture.
5. Be prepared to enjoy yourself thoroughly! Marcia and Carolyn are the perfect guides and both possess the patience of Job. Marcia Selsor, Professor Emerita of Montana State University-Billings, has done numerous residencies all over the globe and is the quintessential teacher. Carolyn Stockdale Dorr, "El Jefe," of Potter's Council, is a no nonsense, salt of the earth, good person, and very organized. My middle daughter, Maria accompanied me as a non-potter which made the trip extra special. So, wether you are traveling alone or with a friend/spouse/adult child, wonders await you! If you get a chance read La Bella Lingua, My Love Affair With Italian, The World's Most Enchanting Language by Dianne Hales because it is informative, funny and divertente!
I am excited for you! Non vedo l'ora ( I can hardly wait)! You will see mind blowing art, and..... you get to play with clay!!!!! What could be better? Until my next post, Ciao tutti!