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Spoleto vs. Spoleto

Written on: Wednesday December 31st, 2008

A journal entry from: Nuovo Anno

This morning we packed up and hit the road.  All yesterday I had been calling hotels in the larger cities looking for a room for tonight.  Since we were not able to find any we decided to go ahead and make the drive all the way down to Spoleto.  Those of you who know of our connection to the Seed & Feed Marching Abominables know that the Band performs each year at the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina.  The Spoleto Festival is named for and related to a festival that runs each year since 1958 in Spoleto, Italy.  That festival, in the "real" Spoleto, is called Le Festivale dei Due Mondi, or Festival of Two Worlds.  It highlights a spectrum of performance and fine arts, including modern art, ballet, stage and musical events.  Since we do the Charleston Spoleto each year we wanted to visit the home town of the original Spoleto.

Today redefined the word "adventure."  My mastery of the Italian language is coming along nicely and I keep bragging to Katharine that I'll be fluent by the time we leave Italy.  Nothing like a little bravado to keep you motivated.  Well Katharine turned by bravado against me and I found myself in charge of calling all the hotels to negotiate a room.  In Italian.  On New Year's Eve.  The first couple of phone calls were a bit painful but as I got a bit more practice (and learned to disclaim up front: "Io parlo un po' l'Italiano/I only speak a little Italian") it became easier to ask what I wanted and even understand the response.  It's a far cry from when I was in Milano and asked for a few stamps from the Tabbacheria clerk only to be flooded with a metric ton of (to me) unintelligible sound.  It helps that nearly all of the hotel concierges speak good-to-fluent English, and without exception they were all patient and helpful as I tried not to mangle their language too much.  It is starting to become fun to speak in Italian with waiters, clerks and people on the street.  At this point I'm starting to "get" the verb conjugation rules, the basics of Italian grammer and the systems of counting/numbers, street addresses and street signs.  My biggest limitation right now is a very small vocabulary, but that is slowly improving.  Fortunately most people are very patient as Katharine and I rush to look up words in her iPhone Italian/English dictionary or in our phrasebook (which is already starting to show wear).  Some of them even want to practice their English on us as we practice our Italian on them.

Speaking of helpful people, we wanted to stay in the Hotel Charleston in Spoleto (for reasons that should be obvious) but, of course, they were booked for December 31st.  However this hotel went way out of their way to be accomodating.  When we initially called they informed us they were booked but that they would take our information in case of a cancellation.  When we called back to see whether they had a room, we were told there was no room available BUT that they had called around and found us a room at the Hotel Albernoz!  We thanked them profusely (since at this point we had pretty much resigned ourselves to trying to find something like a Motel 6 on the side of the road somehwere) and called the Albernoz.  Indeed a room was available and we could even see it before accepting the reservation.  What a relief!

Entering Spoleto by car was quite a trick.  The transition into driving within Spoleto was like the transition from Milano to Genova all over again.  Just when you thought the streets could not be tighter, they were.  On top of that it was now well after dark and raining.  We managed to avoid killing any pedestrians and found ourselves in a very nice 4-star hotel.  This hotel was created to showcase modern art.  Each room had a tasteful theme and original artwork integrated right into the room itself.  We tried to photograph our room with disappointing results.   Outside the elevator on our floor was a large geometric piece made from wood.  Inside the elevator glass walls revealed a vertical mural of acrobats that was viewed continuously as the elevator traveled up and down.  The entire thing was like a museum that happened to have beds.

Tomorrow we hope to visit the castle or fortress that overlooks Spoleto from a perch high on a hill.  We don't know much about it yet, other than it was used as a Papal prison for most of the 20th century, holding such notables as the wannabe-assassin who attacked John Paul II.  Happy New Year 2009/Buon Capodanno MMIX!