June 10th, 2008
This weekend, I went to not one, but two Italian cities! Here’s the obligatory photo of the leaning tower of Pisa:
I think this picture looks like it could be on a postcard- the weather was so beautiful when I took it! But as the next photo shows, the weather was pretty variable that day:
Yes, it really does lean that far! Pisan architects have devoted a lot of time and money into making sure that it doesn’t lean any further than that, going to the extent of which, for several years, there was what looked like a catapult attached to a rubber band around the middle of the tower! But right now, the tower is safe, even to walk around inside of. We saw tourists going all the way up to the top! But my group didn’t do that. We were busy seeing the other sights of the Piazza Dei Miracoli, or Miracle Square. These included the church, the baptism dome, and the cemetary, because apparently in the middle ages, the three stages of life (birth and baptism, life and mass, death) had to be kept in separate buildings. I took a lot of video, but I’m still figuring out how to upload it.
And of course, some of my favorite sights in Italy are the ones that remind me of home, like this lovely storefront:
Cool huh? When I see stuff like this, I remember my Italian heritage. While a lot of things weird me out here, a lot of things remind me of home, like graffiti of my Dad’s name, making pasta, and the way that on Sundays, we eat a big lunch with a small, late dinner afterward. In fact, one of my teachers, Roni, told me that if I wanted to, I could go to the post office and apply for Italian citizenship just by proving that one of my parents or grandparents was Italian. There are a lot of benefits to being an Italian citizen, such as being able to live, work, and travel anywhere in Europe with minimal hassle, but I’m not going to apply because 1) it wouldn’t be recognized by the US, and 2) any transaction at the post office takes a minimum of 6 weeks. It was really neat to hear that though, it made me feel more connected to Italy.
In the evening, we attended a live concert with the band Assalti Frontali (Frontal Assault), who perform all over but are native to Pisa. There was a big protest that day- Doctors Without Borders was protesting in the streets that they ought to have the right to treat immigrants for free in a public building, but the Pisan government was not cool with the building they were using. Assalti Frontali was the perfect band for this kind of activity, since they’re very political. They remind me of a cross between The Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine: white people rapping about left wing politics. Here’s a video clip of one of their songs, “Zero Tolleranza”:
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For those of you who understand Italian, sorry- there’s a little bit of bad language. But you can see that the main point of the song is that war is stupid (especially the wars being waged by the US, if you listen closely) and we should really all have peace talks instead.
The next day, we went to Lucca, a small town thirty minutes from Pisa. Pisa and Lucca used to fight a lot in the middle ages, because Pisa was always very Italian, and Lucca was always very Jewish. I took a picture from the top of the tallest tower in Lucca, which was privately owned by a nobleman when it was built in the middle ages. As such, it has 6 trees growing on top- one for each child he had lost. It’s beautiful that he was able to build a tribute to them in that way.
That is why you see a tree at the top of this photo, even though I climbed up ten billion stairs to get there.
A lot of people were tired, and the weather was bad, so I didn’t get to see much of Lucca. I did however, see the black jesus, who is a huge deal because he came here mysteriously from the Orient on an empty boat with no crew. We weren’t allowed to take pictures though, hence the link. This might explain why racism against black people is almost nonexistent. Here, people simply are racist against the Albanians for the same reasons people in America are racist against Mexicans- they think they are stealing their jobs. Seeing the same phenomenon in two different countries really makes a person put their countries own beliefs in perspective. For example, Italians think Albanians are taking their jobs, but Albanians only take jobs that Italians wouldn’t want to do anyway, like work as janitors and fast food workers. And isn’t that what many Mexican immigrants do in America, too?
I’d like to say a lot more, but I have to have a quick lunch and then get to class. Next post- cooking class!