Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We kick off our vacation with a memorable concert and a sciopero

Saturday, March 21
Arrivederci, San Salvatore. All morning and into mid-afternoon, we pack our belongings into boxes—the things that will stay here for next year—and suitcases to take with us. Then we catch a train to begin a two-week Italian-style vacation.

One could argue that our whole time here is a vacation, but most of the time we stay in one place while we try to fit into the daily routine, learn the language, study my family history and write. Lucy has also made two baby quilts for anticipated grandchildren. But now we are going to try out the daily routine of Italians on vacation. We will spend a week in Sardegna at a resort popular with Italians and rarely visited by Americans. After that, we’ll take a five-day trip with the Italian cruise line Costa.

After leaving San Salvatore, we check into a hotel in Lucca. From there, we go back to the train station to purchase tickets to take the little diesel train up the Garfagnana valley to Ghivizzano, where we will attend a concert. Oh, what’s that on the wall? We see a sign posted announcing a sciopero dei treni, a train strike, scheduled for tomorrow. This won’t affect our travel to the concert, but we are supposed to take a train to Livorno tomorrow. We have prepaid tickets to take an overnight ferry to Sardegna at 10 p.m., an eight-hour trip that has cost us more than 100 euro. Once on the island, we also have prepaid car and hotel reservations, so we don’t want to miss the boat.

We had wondered how we could have lived here almost six months without experiencing a sciopero, and now we have encountered one at a most inconvenient time. Strikes, of course, are supposed to be inconvenient, to draw attention to the important services the strikers provide. Italian strikes, however, are very civilized, because they are announced in advance, allowing people to make alternate plans. There is even an Italian website where all the coming strikes are listed on an easy-to-read schedule.

We are lucky to have seen the sign, because we don’t listen to the Italian news and might have been scrambling to make alternative plans at the last minute. We quickly develop a backup plan using the bus, though the local service will only get us as far as Pisa, and from there we’ll have to search for another bus to take us the last half hour to Livorno, but that’s a problem we will leave for tomorrow.

This is the war memorial, taken from
an Internet source. On the back side is the
Donati name. There was also a Natucci.
Now we are off to Ghivizzano, a small hillside town about 25 minutes north of Lucca by train. It is not far from San Romano, the birthplace of sisters Leona and Renata Donati, who moved to America as children and married into the Seghieri and Spadoni families. In the town square, we find a monument to those who fell in the wars, and we see the name Donati, but my camera battery has conked out, so I don’t get a photo.

The concert is a free community event and features choirs from the two major churches of the city and a group of young adults called Stereo Tipi. The headline group is the Chorus of the Alpi Apuane, 40 men who sing Italian folk songs of the hill region. All sing a cappella, unaccompanied, and the acoustics in the old stone Chiesa del Sacro Cuore are perfect for showcasing the amazing range and harmony of these singers. I can’t find the words to describe it, but my family will understand if I say that the concert began at 9 p.m., ended around 10:30 p.m., and I never once came close to falling asleep (I am notorious for nodding off during plays, movies and concerts).

I found this online photo of the Chorus. It was taken at a different
church and I don't think all the men were present this night.
Afterwards we enjoy an Italian rinfresco, with healthy snacks such as meats, cheeses and breads, although there are some delicious varieties of torta as well. One of the performers, Andrea, is music director in the Valdese church we attend, and he gives us a ride back to Lucca. We arrive after midnight, and we realize a train strike has its bright sides as well. Though our hotel is right next to the train station, there is not a sound all night, because the sciopero has begun and the trains are still. 

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