28 June 2012

Arrivederci Lucca!

Niko enjoying one last ride 

The last days went quickly, a swiftly revolving door of packing, transportation arrangements, farewells, final trips into town and on the walls, cleaning the house, and in preparing to leave our home away from home the poignant moments outnumbered the mundane, pangs of what we knew we’d miss grew stronger, and we felt like we were finally beginning to feel our roots anchoring slightly, our connections with the people and places in Lucca deepening.

Racing down Viale Europa towards the walls. Monte Pisano in background.

The easy to get to activities never abated, either. Niko and I went out one morning and walked to the roundabout not far from our house where we could look up at a bridge where traffic usually flows down heavily in the morning. This was a Sunday, though, and a bike race was in store. The pack of five hundred cyclists glided faster and faster toward us and we almost got clipped by a couple of them who had been forced up on the sidewalk portion of the roundabout. We jumped to the grass and enjoyed the phalanx of streaming color, the gust of air, the whir of wheels without motors. 

Three of more than thirty Fiat 500s

Afterward we walked in to town through Porta Sant’Anna and saw a few dozen Fiat Cinquecento owners with their pride and joy lining up for a yearly rally around the walls.

This 'taxi' is so small Niko could almost drive it
              A couple of nights later we rode our bikes to Leo’s, a pizzeria in San Concordio where we’d eaten once before. While enjoying our meter long pizza and watching Italy versus Ireland in the Euro Cup a group took a table across the aisle from ours. I tried not to pay too much attention to them and, indeed, the rest of my family didn’t know who it was I was trying not to pay attention to. We concluded our meal and stood up. I had a very cool situation before me to practice some Italian and meet an icon. When would I ever have a chance like this again? I went up and excused myself for interrupting and introduced myself and family to…  Mario Cipollini! We talked for much longer than I thought we would considering he was eating dinner with a friend and his two daughters and is one of the most famous Italian cyclists ever. He was very nice and seemed interested in us, unlike the impression you might get from the press and reputation he had. Toward the end of our conversation he even said, “Too bad you’re leaving now, I would’ve asked you to help my daughters with their English.”

Saying Goodbye to Friends

We began to see people we knew more often as we went about town and both expressed amazement after going to pick up Ingrid from a friend’s house when the mom had us in and we sat down and talked with her for an hour and understood most of what she said!

Four models of English  for the Italian children: Australian, British, American and Canadian!

Some expat friends of Lauren with whom she created an English reading series for Italian children at the library joined us for a solstice/going away party at Marina di Vecchiano, a beach south of Viareggio, two nights before our flight. Most of the day’s beachgoers were headed home by the time we got there close to six. The weather was still warm but had begun to cool off, the water was wonderful and Niko gathered his courage to have me hold him as the waves crashed against us and he squealed in delight. Ingrid played with a friend and we relaxed with a tasty picnic dinner, fire, and conversation with friends as the sun set. After I dropped the family off at home around ten I made it for coffee with my photography class at the end of the final dinner at a restaurant out of town and said some more goodbyes.

Porta Santa Maria- One of many entrances to get Dentro le Mura in Lucca
I set about on a little project of filming passage through the walls and into town by way of all Doorsand passageways, hoping to eventually edit them down and piece them together to show others a bit of the everyday magic of the town’s set-up. Actually, it really was probably more of an excuse to help me say goodbye to Lucca. It did occur to me more than once that we wouldn’t have gone in and out of these amazing entrances nearly as much if we had lived in the historical center, an advantage to living Fuori le Mura we hadn’t thought of one year ago.

Ingrid officially passes Italian 4th grade and is admitted to 5th!

         It was around then, eleven or so months ago, that I started the blog and wrote how we hoped to find adventure and that “… we wanted a challenge, but we didn’t want it to be too exhausting. We wanted our kids to be appreciated and to have a reasonable chance of making friends in our new location, but we wanted them to learn about another perspective on life and on the world via a different language and culture, ones that would be within their grasp and ours.” Now, almost a year later, we look back and see we had adventure and challenge aplenty. Nikolai and Ingrid were appreciated for sure, made friends, and ended up speaking Italian much better than us.

End of year performance at Nikolai's Pre-school followed by 'Graduation' & Diploma.

         We’ve been in and out of the revolving door a bunch the last couple of weeks and are now back outside it for good, on the other side, and are still a bit dizzy from the spinning. We’re back home. Lucca and our year there seem suddenly so far away and I’m already getting used to English surrounding us, becoming reacquainted with our house and woods again, gearing up to move back into what was our more familiar life before we left—or will that familiar life be a different one now, even though we’re back home? In some ways, it must be. I can’t find the words or structure to sum up our year much better other than to say that knowing what we know now we would still have made the choices we made despite some rough patches along the way. This year has been a good teacher.

Just before heading off to the airport.
       I’d like to thank my employer for making this opportunity possible and to thank our family and friends for their support (we’ll try not to constantly talk about our time in Italy, promise, but if we forget, just remind us!). And thanks to you for reading, for sharing in this year of adventure with us. It’s been fun writing my first blog; I encourage you to try one if you haven’t. With that said, our year in Italy is now over, and so too this blog. Arrivederci a tutti! Arrivederci Lucca!