24 February 2007

Arrivederci Italia

I sit now in Brindisi, a small city on the Adriatic Coast at the heel of the Italian boot. Today is the last day in Italy, for tonight I board a ferry to Volres, Albania. I doubt I will be able to post from that country, but perhaps I can find a internet cafe there. After a few days in Albania I will head to Meteroa, Greece, and from there Athens.

I forgot to write in the last post about one of the more unique experiences I've had on the trip. This past Wednesday I returned to Rome to recapture some lost photos, but mainly to attend the Pope's Mass for Ash Wednesday. The church, Santa Sabina, was a small one on a relatively isolated hill overlooking Rome. There were about 500 - 800 people attending the service, mostly nuns, monks, and priests. I met Sisters from Norway, the Phillipines, and Indonesia. The entrance procession was the longest I have witnessed for a Mass. When Pope Benedict XVI finally entered the church the congregation reacted as if a movie star stood before them. Considering he comes from Bavaria and that he helped save the university in Eichstaett, I hoped I would somehow have a chance to speak with him, but the chance never occurred. Security was tight, all attendees had to pass through a checkpoint to enter the church.

Actually, only those who had reserved tickets far in advance were supposed to enter the church. The rest, like myself, were to watch from a giant television outside. However, when rain appeared immient the staff allowed us to enter the church, where there were surprisingly enough seats for all of us non-ticket holders.

One my last day in Naples I went in search of my father's old house from when he and my grandparents lived in the Naples area.. My search took me two trains and nearly an hour of travel to the small town of Lucrino. With only a postcard view of the house and notes on its location based off my father's and grandparent's memory to guide me, I left the train station and took in my first views of the worn town. After asking a few of the locals to help point me in the right direction, I came upon the house. At that place only 40 years or so seperated me from my father. As I left town I wondered if my future son or daughter would some day journey to Eichstaett, Germany to visit the city and apartment in which I lived for nearly a year of my life.

I spent yesterday in transit from Naples to Brindisi. I stopped for a couple hours in the town of Alberobello, home of the trullis. These other-worldly buildings look like beehives with their unique white-painted walls and stone cone roofs. To be clear, the roofs are not domes, or merely slanted; they are true cones. The points of each cone are decorated with sphere, crosses, or other geometeric designs. The large concentration of the trullis in the town center is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walking among these alien sturctures felt like I was in a Dr. Suess book.

I had hoped to meet up with a friend I made in Eichstaett, Ilaria, here in Brindisi, but she will not be in town until after my depature.

Brindisi is her home town, and she spoke fondly of it around me and just about everyone else she met, often calling it the most beautiful town in Italy. Most of the others Italians laughed at that comment, but, actually, it is a very attractive city, at least in the center portion. It reminds me in more ways than one of Pensacola, Florida. The Italian navy has a few bases in the area, and its presence is strongly felt around town. The city center is abloom with flowes and palm and orange trees. Numerous fountains and sculptures dot the streetscape. I don't know about being the most beautiful town in Italy, but I can understand Ilaria's devotion to it.

I have enjoyed my two weeks in Italy, and I will miss it. It's a good country, except when its people try to rip you off or steal from you. Of course, those people are not the status quo. Most people I met were friendly and helpful, perhaps more so in the South. Much of it is a beautiful land, but it can also get nasty in certain places. I will miss the food: pizza, foccacia bread, gelati, and conoli.

The last item are pasteries that my family and I usually by from an Italian grocery store during visits to New Orleans. I had forgotten about their Italian (ok, Sicilian) origins until the pleasant surprise of finding them in a bakery in Rome. They soon became almost a daily staple for my stay in Italy.

I have seen and done so much in two weeks, it feels like I started travelling more than only two Saturdays ago. With six weeks left I'm excited to put Italy behind me and see what else Europe will offer me.


DadddyO said...

Nicholas, did you get pictures of the old house I lived in? I wish I could have been there with you. Would have enjoyed showing you places I used to play. Looking forward to your call this afternoon. Also your brother has taken a job, at a firm in Rogers close to that book store Mom liked so well. He starts March 15th. So guess we can say he is a praticing attorney now!! :)

Nick O. said...

Good to hear.