Ahh, Italy, Italy.
I had a wonderful time. How could one not? (Thank you for all the good wishes!!)
I was lucky enough to have a base outside the normal run of hotels etc - my auntie was as it happens cat-sitting in Rome for a few months and the cat generously allowed me to stay (in return for plenty of worship, holding his plate up for him to eat and brushing him the wrong way up). TOTAL La dolce vita vibe - neighbours' washing hanging over the back yard, local market with everything fresh and home-made, other neighbours having near-fatal screaming match in the early evening, scooters, amusing and sophisticated octogenarian company... (oops, not my auntie I'm referring to there, but new acquaintances!). Despite plenty of Cultural Stuff (including a visit to the Galleria della Villa Borghese - my goodness the Bernini sculptures are beautiful!), I think my favourite day consisted of a trip to the market in the early morning, short social visit, train ride to the seaside (costs one Euro each way from central Rome - bargain! - however had been given three-day travel pass so all was included), sunbathing and swimming in the sea, a long walk in the pineta (pine forest, a little inland in this case, smelling delicious and utterly peaceful), another swim and drying off, then back to the flat and cooking amazingly eccentric pasta, bought at the market and apparently unique to the maker, for dinner, washed down with robust Italian plonk.
Of course all my previously pretty fluent Italian has been utterly snarled up by the process of learning German. I confidently assured my auntie (when she was laughing her head off at my Italian) that it was simply a stage, and that when the German was solidly fixed in, the Italian would return. I can but hope. And have to admit that the confusion was at times rather embarrassing. On the first morning, I enquired of the waiter whether the cornuti were included in the bill I was paying. As soon as it was out of my mouth, I stumbled over myself to say that I really didn't mean cuckolds (coming to a language via opera means you have some damned weird vocabulary), but rather cornetti - croissants. And I scared the life out of a nice Thai lady who had given me a massage on the beach (what a luxury!). She'd quoted five Euro. Wonderful value for money - I was marvellously relaxed at the end. So much so, that I slipped back into German when paying, offering her a 20-Euro note and saying distractedly, So - sechs? (Now you see, in Germany this would be perfectly normal: five Euro asked, you want to give a tip, you say, OK, six (Euro) then?... unfortunately given language misunderstandings on both sides, her eyes widened, she virtually threw my change at me, and belted off down the beach before I even realised what I'd said...
Stalked up and down the Via del Corso for a while searching for the Ricordi shop (music). Eventually found it lurking inconspicuously behind a van and went in hoping that they'd have a copy of the vocal score of Respighi's Il tramonto. First of all, I've been told by a few people that this is a work that would suit my voice; but more importantly, seeing Rome, I automatically think of his Pines of Rome - so, when actually IN Rome, under said pines, I thought of him often, and wanted the music as a souvenir. Surely, learning a piece of music thoroughly, whether as a performer or an engaged listener, is of more worth than the most expensive tangible souvenir? (Mind you, that said, I did rather fall in love with a set of underplates decorated with cabbages etc which I saw in a shop off the Via Veneto and which made me smile. Turns out, damn it, that they were Limoges. One of these days... But I did have an amusing conversation with the shop owner.) (Oh yes, and I did find the sheet music in the end!).
(And I really should at some point hand over the story my college singing teacher passed on, about the concentration camp survivor and the Verdi Requiem. Too serious for now, though.)
Coming back, I was routed via Paris, weighted down with half the contents of the morning market (and that's AFTER handing over a load of spoils to the Sainted Aunt - one stall owner kept stuffing tomatoes into my paper bag long after he'd weighed it, for example. No way to run a business, I told him - except, of course, it IS - and it works, and it's a sight more civilised than most of the alternatives.
Italia mia amore x