November 22, 2005

11.22.05-- A Firenze

This morning, I bought a ticket for the 82 Water Taxi to go to the train station to Florence. While waiting for the taxi, I met the nicest family from Connecticut. Stacy, a senior at Ithaca, is studying in Florence, so her parents and sister came to visit. We rode the taxi together and waited the hour for the train. Stacy showed me how to figure out what car I was in (1st Class, Car 1, Seat 56) and how to punch the ticket before getting on board. What it made me realize, most of all, is the importance of language to personality. Without language, I am quiet, shy, withdrawn. Though I have much to say and to express, my inability to express myself with words makes me feel impotent and unimportant. I feel that I need to blend into the background, to become part of the scenery as opposed to part of the scene because I cannot add my own thoughts. With language, however, I am so different. I saw it with these people from Connecticut, as I kept them laughing. I can be funny, outgoing. I have a voice, a personality, an opinion. I am of strong mind and will when I can speak for myself, but without the use of language, I tend to follow more than lead. Again why I advocate for the teaching of language in schools. At the same time, it has been very interesting to see how quickly I have picked up the language-- how more rapidly I am willing to try to speak by Day Four than I was on Day One. I am sure that is because I am tired of following.
I am still on the train and really enjoying first class! They came around asking if anyone would like to make reservations for lunch in the dining car. Then, they brought around a newspaper cart and a drink cart, much like on a plane.
The view outside is quite enjoyable, as well. Small, white-walled houses with tiled roofs stand alone among green fields that have been freshly plowed. Church steeples loom in the distance, the bells casting a grey shadow onto the roofs in the village below. The sky is clear today, and as we enter Rovidgo, it is possible to see apartments for miles-- low, flat buildings, in sand and rose colors, each with wrought iron balconies.
Just as quickly, we return to the fields, where the land is flat, with few trees and no hills anywhere in the distance. Tomato vines lazily climb along many garden ladders, dormant for the winter now, but clearly plentiful come spring. Olive trees march row after row for miles, obviously a "fruitful" source of income for the farmers.
The land here is dry-- few rivers pass through these fields-- and yet many of the fields are still green. Just as many have been harvested, however, and are already brown. The trees that do cluster together, usually around the tracks or the houses, have all lost their leaves, and only the green of the pines grows tall.
It all seems very familiar. I could be in Spain or Germany and see similar landscapes. I could be in Nebraska, and though the houses would be different, the land would be the same. We're all so similar, really. The world is so small. Traveling brings to light not only the vast differences between cultures, but also the marked commonalities that make us globally connected.
As we rolled on towards Florence, the terraine became much more hilly. Green and brown waves of land, mostly fields but sometimes scarred with yellowing trees now began to rise up just a few 100 yards from the train. Now, instead of farm houses, apartments seemed more common, though 1 or 2 buildings would sit on quite a large space of land and then there would be miles of nothing.
The tracks, too, began to change, as the ride became more bumpy and tunnels became a regularity. The darkness of the tunnel, as we made our way beneath a mountain, was quite a juxtaposition against the now cloud-scattered sky. As we pulled through the longest of the tunnels, my ears kept popping. We emerged and I looked down onto the rooftops of the village of Merzio, a tiny community whose importance to Italy's economy is apparently not great enough to merrit a stop on the EuroStar Express.
In addition to grass and trees, rock was now visible where before there had been fields. The higher we climbed, the fewer fields I saw, until the sight of 2 farmhouses at the top of one mountain was actually a surprise. Meanwhile, what appeared to surprise my Italian travelmates was the lack of cell reception available in the mountains. Guess they're not that far ahead of us!!
It was rather obvious when we neared Florence. There was simply more. More houses, cars, apartments. Everything suddenly existed after such a sparce landscape for 2 hours. What was most interesting was the bit of stone wall peeking out from beneath the grass on the side of a hill. Obviously centuries old, I'm taken to wondering whether that was once the wall around the city?

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