The afternoon of our arrival near Florence on November 7, 1998, this farm kitten has checked out Vicki, the cat magnet, and decided she is welcome.
We’re on our second visit to Italy. This time, we’re having our first look at Tuscany, the place of Vicki’s dream of herself in a peasant blouse, blue feet, a glass of wine in one hand, a plate of pasta in the other. She has dreamed of Italy since she was a child. Now, she’s here to connect dream and reality.
We flew into Pisa, spending two nights there before picking up our rental car and driving to Villa Saulina, an agriturismo –- farm with tourist accommodations –- outside of Florence. After visiting Florence, Siena, Lucca, Volterra, and many villages and sites of the area, we returned to Pisa for two more nights and our return to Silicon Valley.
I applied for a special retirement-incentive package in May 1998 and my retirement date has been set for December. We are here determining whether we are prepared to move to Italy for the next stage of our life. The answer is yes.
Before our detour while looking for the Appian Way (Appia Antica) on New Years Day 1998, we had walked past Area Sacra a few days earlier. We noticed the cats and we decided to take the tour that was offered on January 2, our last day in Italy on that trip.
At the tour on January 2, we learned that the cats were being fed by those who looked after the site. Considering how much subterranean structures there were, I suspect the cats were also being honored for their control of vermin. The tour guide’s narration was given entirely in Italian, but we did manage to stumble our way through the presentation.
It was raining at the beginning of the tour. By the time we left, it was raining so hard that we were completely soaked by the time we returned on foot to our hotel. We used the hotel room’s electric pants presser as well as we could to avoid packing wet clothes for our morning flight back to San Francisco. We laughed through the entire experience. We still marvel at that day and Vicki’s eyes twinkle when we reminisce our magical first visit to Italy.
[update 2009-04-16-16:22Z: Vicki just received a copy of the Pauline Marascutto and Anna Zane book, I gatti di Venezia. The photographs are wonderful, athough the narrative demonstrates how rusty even my limited Italian has become. The book was from one of the students at Moshier Arts Center where Vicki is a resident potter. What I did learn from the book is that I must change the title of this post from “Gatti a Roma” to “Gatti di Roma.”
I also just learned that the Schmap!! guide to Rome features Area Sacra as one of the sites in the vicinity of the Pantheon in Rome. You’ll find more photos there, including one from this post.
As many times as I have seen that announcement of the tours, it has only dawned on me at this moment that the 10:30 and 12:30 tours were to be in English, with the rest in Italian. I don’t know if we arrived at the wrong time or there was no English tour on January 2. The guide was careful to warn us that her tour would be entirely in Italian and we agreed that we wanted to take it. I don’t think we realized they were done any other way.]
Our first visit to Italy was the week of New Years Eve in 1997. New Years Eve Day was our second anniversary. On New Years Day 1998 we participated in the Roman custom of walking the ancient Appian Way (Appia Antica), closed to traffic on that day.
We had learned to get around on the buses and the Metropolitana subway, but had not ventured beyond the central areas. Our plan was to take a bus along a route that more-or-less paralleled Appia Antica, walk a cross street over to the ancient route, and then walk along Appia Antica back into Rome.
Coupled with our crippled parliamo italiana, no sense of distance, and unfamiliarity with the route, we missed an appropriate intermediate stop and ended up taking the little bus to the end of its route where the bus did a layover until returning toward Rome. Vicki used the opportunity to befriend a local cat. We had seen many cats in the city, and I was learning Vicki’s inclination to become acquainted with every cat in her path. Fortunately, we were far enough away (and our three) that they couldn’t follow us home.
And with the attention that Romans lavish on the local cats, I don’t think there was too much chance that one would stowaway to the US.
[update 2009-04-16T20:53Z I am also fascinated by these little Schmap!! widgets, so I am including one here. Once we came out on Appia Antica, we were close to the place shown on the map for it. I haven’t figured out how to have the widget show the map at a given zoom with the picture frozen in place. I am sure there is a way. Meanwhile, the lowest-right photo symbol on the map of Rome will locate Via Appia Antica. These photos on Flickr also have location maps.
update 2009-04-16T16:49Z I corrected the grammar of the title, from “Gatti a Roma” to “Gatti di Roma.” The explanation is here.]