Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas in Italy

A little over a month ago I began noticing quite a bit of activity in the piazza below my kitchen and office windows. Men were pouring a concrete pad and I found out it was to support a huge Christmas tree that was being delivered very soon. Everyone was talking about how exciting it was going to be because the tree ornaments were made of hand-blown glass from Murano, Italy.

Murano is a little island near Venice where many beautiful glass products are made. I visited Murano in 2000 and found out the glass used to be blown in Venice, however, after a huge fire that destroyed most of Venice, all glass production was removed to Murano.

I decided that I wanted to capture the development of the tree by taking photographs of each stage/day so I could share it with my blog readers. I positioned my camera out the office window and took the first shot.

A few weeks after the pad was poured, electricians begin to add wire all around the amphitheater and in long covered tunnels which led directly to the tree. My excitement grew as I envisioned a lovely traditional Christmas tree with beautiful glass ornaments. I kept wondering how they were going to prevent people from removing the ornaments and how long it would take to decorate it.

I heard a lot of cranes and large trucks drive in to the piazza one morning and saw some huge metal cylindrical objects in tow. In addition, there were many very large boxes with colorful tubes in them. I couldn't imagine what was happening.

The cranes began to remove the cylindrical pieces from the truck and men below positioned them into place. After the first piece was secure, the men had to ride in a hydraulic lift to position the top two pieces. The first night, they hooked up the electrical and all I could see when they turned on the light was a bright, very tall metal protrusion coming from the ground. It is about 100 feet high!

The next day they began adding the ornaments which ended up being various colored glass tubes. First they added the little curlicue pieces to the top (via the hydraulic lift) and then started adding different lengths of the glass to the different sections (smaller at the top and gradually getting larger at the bottom). When they completed it the following day, I wasn't sure if I liked it or hated it.

I went down to walk the dogs and saw the men who had been working on it all looking at it with complete satisfaction and awe. I stood there for a few minutes and said "bello" (beautiful) for a lack of a better word. One of the men pointed out a man who was supposed to be the artist. They explained to me that the tree had been in Piazza San Marco the previous Christmas and Lucca was special enough to be able to have it this year. That made it more intriguing to me.

I told the artist that I had been taking photographs of it and would be happy to send him copies if he gave me his e-mail address. He promptly handed me his card and a special invitation to a Spectaccolo that was to take place on December 6 during the official lighting of the tree. There were to be acrobats, fire-breathing and sword-swallowing performers and all kinds of other wondrous things. I was thrilled and asked him to sign the invitation for me since he was such an important person.

A few months ago, I began a Meetup group in Lucca so I could meet fellow expatriates and friends who might be interested in joining English-speaking friends for social events. I added the Spectaccolo to the calendar and on December 6 we waited patiently for the big event.

It had been raining all morning and apparently, the circus performers and other activities had been cancelled. The rain had stopped mid-day but by that time, it was too late to ask them to return so we heard a very short speech (in Italian) followed by the official turning on of the light switch. No hooplah - nothing, nada, niente!

I saw the "artist" standing next to the tree and went over to say hello to him. He introduced me to his son, Simone Cenedese, who was actually the real artist. It's so fun trying to comprehend things when you aren't fluent in the language...

I gave a CD of the photos to a representative of the artist a few days ago, and they were so pleased that they gave me several complimentary gifts in return - one of which was a beautiful necklace made of Murano glass.

Now, for a few other details and such. I saw and experienced a wide range of things/events this past couple of weeks.

First and most important - I got a job as a Business English teacher! I completed my TEFL certificate and it paid off! I met a wonderful American woman who hired me and have five students. After my first very intimidating day, I relaxed and now I thoroughly enjoy it. I have many other private students who want me to teach them beginning in January.

I will be returning to America this week to get my work visa stamped by the Italian Consulate and preparing for that has been a huge drag. I have been working non-stop on completing my certificate, preparing lesson plans, gathering documents and finding pet sitters that I haven't had time to breathe. I think it's all coming together though and hope everything works out well in America with the Consulate.

I saw two movies this week - one on television and one at the cinema. I am very proud to say that I understood the majority of what was being said - thanks, Ada, for being such a wonderful Italian tutor!

After a hectic few weeks of paperwork and craziness, I was delighted last night when a friend asked me to go to Pisa with her to see a movie. Pisa was so beautiful with Christmas lights everywhere. I didn't realize the Arno River flowed through the city and was frightened and amazed at how fast it was flowing due to all the storms we've been having. I had a terrible experience in a river (rafting) one year and it brought back bad memories.

We had a wonderful pizza and glass of prosecco each before watching the movie and it was great to take a break. Now, I can look forward to spending the holidays with friends and family in America.

Happy holidays!