Days 8 & 9, Ascoli Piceno

So, time has slowed considerably here in Ascoli Piceno. In Rome and Florence we seemed rushed, despite our attempts to slow down. There was so much to see and so little time, that every day seemed to be chock full. Perhaps it’s because Ascoli is so small that we feel relaxed. Perhaps it’s because we have more time here to see everything–and the amount of sites is substantially lower than Rome or Paris.

Perhaps it’s because my family is here and they have a la dolce vita view of life. Whatever it is, it feels good to have a day where we can just hang and take a nap, have an espresso, go for a walk or just enjoy the atmosphere.

On Thursday night we were sitting in our hotel room feeling a bit peckish. I suggested we go to a local restaurant called La Luna. My family knows the proprietor and I’ve been there many times. The restaurant is situated on a hill with a view of the valley. It was a hike up the hill, but we got there. Upon arriving, who should I see but my cousin, Sergio, who lives in Turin. Sergio had originally told me he had planned to arrive on Sunday. His face was wiped by a look of shock as we caught each other’s eye.

As it turned out, Sergio had had an appointment in Bologna and decided to come down to Ascoli to surprise me. Instead I surprised him. We laughed and laughed. A few minutes later my aunt and uncle came out of the restaurant wide-eyed and laughing at the turn of events. The surprise had been wrecked, but no matter. We were together.

Anyway, beyond that, we’ve been taking it somewhat easy. Barry spent yesterday hiking around Ascoli and photographing homes and fortresses.  I did get a chance to accompany my cousin, Mauri, to a private art showing. Maurizio has been volunteering with a local artist on his art projects. This artist, Giuliano Giuliani, creates sculpture out of travertine which is in ample supply here. If you’re not familiar with travertine, it is a dense type of marble with small holes and tunnels in it. Mr. Giuliani takes one ton slabs and manipulates them into art forms that truly amaze. A block of marble is turned into a relatively paper-thin, scroll-like sculpture, a hollow box or a vertical tube. His technique is a “secret” he told me and, observing his work, is absolutely mind-boggling. Trying to understand how he could create a 3′ x  3′ empty “box” with only a small hole as an entry point out of a slab of travertine was too much for my mind to comprehend.

Today we visited Castel Trosino, a small burg built onto a mountaintop. The town was once a small kingdom. It has been completely transformed into a residential area with a small bar as the only commercial center and gathering place. Virtually every corner and every window was spellbinding. The view from top was magnificent.

Today I also had the opportunity to speak to someone at Immigration about the possibility of attaining my Italian passport. In explaining my unusual situation (son of an immigrant who moved to Italy, given up for adoption in America, met my biological family and traced my roots to Italy), the woman in the office told me she felt the easiest way would be to get a DNA test from my uncle, or better yet, my brother. Then I would need to petition the “tribunal” with an attorney.

This would be the only way I could do so because there is no documentation that I am the son of an Italian immigrant. Because my father was born in Italy, it makes the entire process a bit easier. I will most likely need to get a copy of his birth certificate and his entry documents into Canada. I’m not sure of this, though. I keep thinking that the DNA test would be proof enough. I have to see if it’s possible to get a DNA test with my uncle before I leave. It would be difficult to schedule a time to be in Italy at the same time as my brother. But it would be difficult because I live 6,000 miles away and cannot get here at any time like he can. It’s baby steps, but I’m slowly getting closer to my dream.

Last night my aunt and uncle invited us over for pasta and pizza. Poor Barry was buried in pasta. My aunt always serves me first along with any guests I bring along. After serving everyone else, she takes the remaining pasta and dumps it onto my plate or that of my guest. Barry ate about a pound of pasta and pasta sauce. But he loved it.

Afterward, Barry wanted to sing. There is no better way to engage my cousin, Maurizio than by handing him a guitar. For about an hour he regaled us with Italian folk songs and some American pop songs (which Barry and I participated in. I will not see Mauri again this trip as he and his wife, Daniela are taking a road trip on his motorbike to Sardinia. Saying goodbye to him and his beautiful heart is always difficult for me.

As for Barry and I, we have been scheduling the rest of our trip. Even though we had an itinerary set, we had not yet made reservations for any hotels. Barry is a free-spirit who likes to go by the seat of his pants and not plan too much. I’m completely anal-retentive and want to know what’s going to happen every minute of every day. But, I decided to go with Barry’s flow because it was something different.

And you know what? I’m enjoying it! I’m learning to slow down and not stress as much. It was only on Tuesday that we finally reserved our hotel rooms in the other cities we are visiting. Our next stop will be Innsbruck on Monday, July 7. Initially, it was supposed to be Salzburg. But we changed our minds. And it felt great to be able to do that–not to be tied down by an itinerary. We’re finding great digs for great rates and it’s kind exciting to know that we can go anywhere we want. The transportation is relatively inexpensive and we have the freedom. It makes the concept of an itinerary almost a quaint irrelevancy.

The only sticking point has been the anticipated train ride to Moscow from Budapest. We were to leave Budapest on the 18th of July and arrive in Moscow on the 20th, traveling through Poland and Belarus. It wasn’t until we arrived in Europe that we realized that we need a visa to enter Belarus, a former Soviet satellite. Since we do not have said visas, we cannot take the train. Now we will most likely be flying to Moscow, which gives us two additional days to spend in one of the cities we are scheduled to visit, or in some other city.

Last night we were looking at lodgings and travel to a number of other cities. Barry, magnificently casual, grabbed city after city from a European map. In his mind, why should we limit ourselves by adding a day to one of the cities we’re scheduled to visit already? We looked at Copenhagen, Kiev, Bucharest, Cairo, Warsaw and Tel Aviv. Barry is leaning towards Kiev. I prefer Tel Aviv. I’ve always wanted to visit Jerusalem and this would be a perfect opportunity. The situation in Ukraine right now is dicey and I don’t want to be blown up by a terrorist. Of course, Jerusalem is not exactly Peoria with a recent bombing by Israel in Gaza.

The flight between Budapest and Tel Aviv is quite reasonable as is the flight between Tel Aviv and Moscow. Lodging in Jerusalem is economical, too. Perhaps if I ply Barry with enough beer, I’ll get my way.




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