It's hard to know how to start when writing about my recent trip through Italy. It was one of those experiences that was so intense and full of details and affected me so deeply, like my trips to Mexico or Morocco, that it's overwhelming just thinking about it. I never wrote about those two trips or posted any photos from them because in a way I wanted to keep the memories personal and my words and photographs could never do them justice. Still, my travelogues provide a way of helping to preserve that memory, because once a memory has eroded you never know it's gone. My journal plays an active useful role in my daily life, I am constantly referring back to my travelogues when in conversation someone I've travelled with says, "Who did we meet?", "Where did we eat?", "What paintings did we see?" and so on. It reminds me of the stacks of journals that Gael meticulously wrote over our 5 years living on Sinclair Island, after we moved she would refer back to them countless times over and I'm grateful that she preserved the small details that often get lost in the flow of time. It's also interesting comparing my travelogues with my journal friends who have visited the same cities and how different our experiences and perceptions were.
So I'm going to write as much as I can about this trip as already I can feel some details slipping away, but I know that once I enter the headspace of remembering it that all the details will come flowing back and I will be able to immerse myself in them. Here goes. :)
Turin was a special destination and perfect city to start our Italy road trip. The reason it was so meaningful was my Dad used to live there several years ago when he was working with the Hell.com team to create an opening ceremony display for the 2006 Olympics. They were in close competition with several other media companies and ultimately another one won the privilege, which is a shame because I would have loved to see some snarg-influenced ceremony in a huge olympic stadium. The world really missed out! While living in Turin for over a year he made many good friends and part of the purpose of our stopping there was so he could see them again and I could meet all these wonderful people who I had heard so many stories about.
me before the party
The night we arrived my dad called his friend Seba who said he would take us to a party at "Mama Luca's", Luca being another friend who's apartment is a hangout for the artists, musicians, writers, and so on of Turin (and other nomads who may happen to be passing through). They call him "Mama Luca" because he always cooks meals for his visitors. Seba and Luca also performed at Benicassim with my dad and Gael and other no-such.com (the lower profile name for hell.com) artists.
I had no idea what to expect having only heard stories of these people, but I had confidence that anyone my dad considered a friend I would get on with also. I got ready (why don't most hotels have full-length mirrors?) and waited with everyone in the lobby for Seba to pick us up (which turned out to be an hour late, Italians have a fairly liberal concept of punctuality. :) He arrived and resembled my dad when he was a bit younger, with a head full of dark curls. They embraced warmly in the usual mainland European manner (why are the British so afraid of hugging and kissing, particularly between men? It is so refreshing to go where people aren't afraid to show affection). All five of us bundled into Seba's tiny car, not before clearing stacks of books and cds off the seats, and drove through the dark streets of Turin while he played loud music and talked. He told us he once had a friend's band visit and he gave them a "tour" of Turin and told them lots of untrue trivia, such as pointing at some random square and telling them that was where Julius Caesar was murdered. Seba had just returned from a book launch party for a book he wrote recently; most of what he writes is auto-biographical from his own unusual and varied life (such as once living in a windowless basement in Rome with a large Chinese family because he was broke). We were lucky to catch him when we did as the next day he was due to fly out to Bolivia with a photojournalist to document the Bolivian Revolution for 3 months. Seba was smart and full of humour and warmth, I can see why my dad considers him one of his closest friends.
the staircase and hallway to Luca's apartment
When we arrived at Luca's there was already a man and two women standing outside waiting to get in. The man was introduced to me as artist Sandro from Rome and the women as friends Camille and Lisa. None of them spoke English, but as usual when that is the case there is still a great deal that can be communicated through eyes and gestures. Somehow we knew we liked each other, even without speaking. I had always wondered what these great Italian buildings looked like inside domestically and now was my chance to find out. We all climbed the great big winding staircase, which appeared to have several hundred years of wear and tear on it, to Luca's apartment. Luca's brother, Matteo, answered the door and told us Luca was in the kitchen cooking. We entered to one of the most amazing apartments I have seen, with high ceilings painted with clouds, large corridors, wrought iron balconies, and every inch covered with paintings, bookshelves, and other random miscellanea, even a pinball machine in the living room. I would have loved to take photos of the rest of the apartment, but the lights were dim. Luca emerged from the kitchen, eyes tearing up and burning from chopping chillies, but very happy to see my dad and meet everyone. We drank wine from coca-cola glasses and everyone talked (in English, Italian, and French) while waiting for dinner. Eventually Luca brought out spaghetti with chilli and garlic, bread, and several bowls of mixed salad (balsamic vinegar, sea salt, and olive oil on the table to dress). It was simple and delicious. Later in the evening Luca's girlfriend, Marie, arrived home from her work at a restaurant. I got on with Marie fantastically, she was quick to joke and enthusiastic, we ended up talking together for most of the evening. All night as I took photos I would notice Sandro watching me carefully, later as I was taking photos of him talking to Lisa he suddenly starting gesturing at me, not sure if perhaps he didn't want his photo taken I started to put my D70 down when he beckoned me over and smiled and pointed at the camera. I handed it over to him and he inspected it, taking a few experimental shots. It wasn't until later that I found out he was also a photographer.
Espressos came out and then bottles of random liquors. One was a new purchase by Luca; it was supposed to be one of the best of this certain kind of liquor, but he hadn't tried it yet. Let's just say that if that was the best I would be afraid to try the worst. :) No one could drink it, or even struggle to keep their noses to the open bottle, it was like something between pine-sol and turpentine. Everyone had a laugh about it and moved on to a much more pleasant melon jenever-like liquor which went down almost too easily.
Towards the end of the night another friend arrived when he heard dad was in town, Enrico from peoplelikesound.com and his girlfriend, Lara. Enrico was sweet and his facial features and style of dress almost seemed more French than Italian to me, but I hope he wouldn't be insulted if he reads that. ;) Lara was friendly, but quiet. She kept staring at me throughout the night and I wasn't sure why, almost to the point of being uncomfortable, until when we were about to leave she suddenly jumped up and asked if she could take a photo of my tights (I dress very different from Italian women and had several questions from them about certain pieces of my clothing and jewelry; at first I wasn't sure if I was being scrutinized, but having Lara on her knees photographing my tights was too funny and a relief that it was just genuine interest and not critical).
It was getting late and the night winding down, Seba invited us to go to a party with him at a house in the Alps that frame Turin. I would have loved to, but some were getting sleepy after a day of travel so we decided to head back to the hotel. We hugged and kissed everyone goodbye, not knowing when we would see them again, if ever. It was a sad feeling, the usual random unpredictability of the people who come and go in life, but I will always remember that special night and the creative and friendly people I met there.
Lara and Enrico
Seba and Matteo
Seba (your eyes don't deceive you, that sculpture above his head really is what it looks like).
Luca and Sandro
Marie pouring liquor
Dinner at Luca's from Naomi on Vimeo.
I like how the only distinguishable english word spoken in this video is Colleen saying "marijuana".
Where's your after-party shot? Did you look demure and sober by the end of the party? :)
Parties like that are the best kind, aren't they? Especially the strange bittersweetness of knowing you might never see any of them again, and yet the possibility of running into one of them in some random place anywhere in the world.
The demure thing is all an act that deteriorates quickly; the sober part, well if we had stuck with just the first liquor I would have been fine. ;) I have no after-party shot which was a relief to discover the next day.
I do love parties like that, I think it makes people appreciate their brief time together even more. I've had some pretty unlikely small-world experiences, such as running into the American we had several drinks with in Marrakesh in a London bar months after, so you never know. :)
hehe thanks, sadly the stockings have been a bit over-loved and I can't find a replacement anywhere!
It's kissy here in a "stand 5 feet from each other and air kiss" kind of way, maybe it'll get down to 4 feet if you've known them for a few years. I'm the huggy American who startles everyone, but I think they like it once they get used to it. ;) M's father isn't the physically affectionate type at all, but he always greets me with a hug because he knows it's my custom, which I think is sweet of him. :)
It is funny you say that because that night was the first time I had ever spent a significant amount of time around Italians and the whole evening I was thinking, "They're so Italian!" partly because of how expressive and animated they were with their hand and arm gestures while conversing, it made me realize how reserved Americans and Brits are in comparison.
Oh, fabulous! Where are you going? We managed to fit Turin, Venice, Florence, Siena, and Rome into just over a week, but I'd sure love to go back for an extended stay (I would return to Florence in the winter so I wouldn't feel guilty about spending all my time in galleries and museums!)
I'm looking forward to reading about your trip - especially about how you got on in Florence for a week. Out of the cities we visited Florence wasn't my favorite, but maybe that is because it was spring and full of American college students there on spring break. ;) Although I did have one of the most perfect evenings of the trip there, eating aperitivos and beer while watching the sun set on the river Arno.
...about how some memories are nearly too overwhelming to write about.
And considering how often I move, I wish that all my handwritten journals were in digital form. They'd be a lot easier to pack and carry!
Lovely post. Thanks for sharing. :)
I can understand that, still it is kind of cool that you have physical objects that feel the same now as they did when you wrote in them and you know that it is safely archived. I sometimes wish I could have this journal in book form, when livejournal inevitability dies I'm not sure how I will go about archiving the past 8 years here - it makes me cringe thinking about it!
In the first meal photo, I love the effect of the guy moving his chair. It reminds me of a Placebo music video. I was about to write unintentional effect, but a few of your other shots feature this so perhaps you intended that to happen.
Amazing bread, amazing wine and amazing conversation. Sounds wonderful. Thank you for sharing the experience.
I miss Italy.
Hi Paul, it is good to hear from you again. :)
I wish I could say it was intentional, but in all the excitement of the evening I completely forgot my camera had an ISO button and shutter speed dial.
I really love Italy, I feel extremely comfortable there; maybe even more so than France. If it weren't for all the red tape I would even consider learning Italian and living there.