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Vecchio Citta Pistoia

Written on: Tuesday January 6th, 2009

A journal entry from: Nuovo Anno

As I write these words I am sitting in the living room of the very comfortable home of a very hospitable Pistoiese named Anna enjoying the most incredible view of the trip so far.  The cupola of Chiesa di Santa Maria dell'Umilita, a medieval church in Pistoia, sits just one block away and it fills the entire view through an antique glass window framed by the spectacular fresco in the room.  

It is not a stretch to say that this place, a B&B named Canto alla Porta Vecchia, was the best value of the trip but also the warmest welcome, the biggest and most beautiful room and the most pleasant stay overall.  Personally I enjoyed the cities of Firenze and Milano, but they are cities.  The people with which we interacted, the waiters, hospitality staff and vendors, all had things to do and though they were usually friendly, they did not have time to spend to chat with us.  Spoleto and Pistoia are clearly different.  Nearly every person we talked to in these smaller towns was more friendly and usually made the extra effort to help us understand and speak more proper Italian.  That's a good thing too because, unlike the bigger cities, most of the people don't speak English well enough to have a conversation.  If you want to communicate, it's going to be in Italian.  For me, that's exactly what I want.  I didnt come to Italy to speak English.

Speaking of the Canto alla Porta Vecchia, if you are ever in Pistoia you should stay  here if only to meet Anna, one of the proprietors.  When Katharine and I arrived in Pistoia yesterday we found ourselves unable to get the car where we needed to go because of the one-way streets and traffic limitations.  Not knowing what else to do I called up Canto alla Porta Vecchia and, in rough Italian, explained what I needed to Anna.  She immediately offered to come our to where we were and take us to the parking area.  Once we arrived at her home, about a US city block away, she even carried Katharine's bags up the stairs, as there was no lift.  Since we had skipped breakfast that morning and it was already 1pm, we were both famished and found a  recommended spot in which we found a bite to eat.  It was strange though that the town seemed so sleepy.  The large streets were abandoned, except for a few pedestrians here and there.  All the shops were closed with the security gates pulled down.  We assumed that it was just because it was a Monday and that the city was recovering from a holiday.  We snapped a few pictures of the city and headed back to the B&B.  When we arrived we asked Anna about it and she explained it was La Pausa.  La Pausa is the traditional break in the work day.  Italian shops, negozione, are open from 10am to 1pm, then they close until 4pm, when they reopen until  8pm.  In the middle of that 3 hour break everything shuts down.  Even the restaurant in which we ate was deserted at 2pm!  Anna invited us to enjoy a caffe while we chatted, us in broken Italian and her in broken English.  I have really come to treasure these experiences the most: getting a chance to work on this new language while enjoying the perspectives and stories of the locals.  Anna was very patient as she told us about the history of her building and of Pistoia.  We talked about Italian customs, the origins of her guests, her writeup in the Lonely Planet book and many other things.  

After the caffe and conversation the day had progressed past 4pm so we decided to try to find a yarn shop so Katharine could get some double-pointed needles.  Upon hitting the streets we were shocked to find the difference a few hours made!  The streets were alive with hundreds of pedestrians and all of the shops, previously shuttered, were open and thriving.  It's hard to overstate the transformation from the afternoon to the evening.  We had become used to the larger cities like Milano and Firenze, where, if there was a La Pausa, the shops ignored it hoping for more tourist dollars/euro.

 This is our last night visiting Italy.  Tomorrow we will drive up to Milano and stay at the hotel near the airport for our early morning flight on the 7th.  Tomorrow I will post a summary of the Italian experience.  For now I'll let my pictures tell the rest of the Pistoiese story.


From Delores on Nov 25th, 2011

You couldn't pay me to inorge these posts!