because distance always makes things clearer...
01.06.2012 - 03.06.2012 29 °C
There is nothing better than getting up in the morning, brushing your teeth, getting dressed and heading to an Italian train station.
Everyone is going somewhere, so many different directions. One look at the destination board and you realize there are so many places you can go. Napoli, Roma, Torino, Trieste, Venezia. Padova. Genoa. Anywhere!
And that is a metaphor for life, so you better start thinking about that change you're dying to make.
Pack your stuff and just goooooo. What could happen? Worst case, you go home.
So I'm on the Trenord, not exactly luxury travel, but as the train passed through the lush, green Lombardian countryside, I didn't care. My thoughts went as fast and were let completely loose. I forgot how good it felt to travel alone into the unknown and just the kilometers straighten out my mind. So much better than any therapy you will ever pay for. As long as you keep your eyes are open.
53 minutes later, I headed outside from the old -school station and was welcomed by a big city square that was drenched in the perfume of bushes, trees and flowers. It was fantastic. Coffee scanner eyes immediately spotted a cafe - lo and behold, an old Italian pasticcieria with absolutely delicious sweets, brioches and breads. I ordered a capucho and brioche at the bar and observed the local Cremonese sit back and enjoy a quiet, peaceful Sunday. How other countries could only dream of such peace and tranquility. One of the biggest things overlooked and under-rated by Italians today if you ask me.
I walked towards the duomo, because in Italy, you always ask "per favore, permesso, sto cercando il Duomo..."
Less than 15 minutes later, I found myself wandering small narrow roads, home to many terracotta coated homes that easily go back to the 18th century, surely even earlier. It was very charming and the stillness of it all was just what I needed. Everything in its place, where it belongs.
After walking down Via Manzoni (a patriot and very well known philosopher in Italy), I arrived at the main square with the majestic cathedral and the Bapetsry of Cremona with fantastic gothic art. Really a splendid site. There was a literature & music festival - readings from new books and cover songs by Italian artists - one of the books were about the childhood of an Italian journalist now living in Milan but grew up in Sicily in the 70's and 80's and tells about life among the mafia - the accompanying music was by a grudgy guy with an incredible voice singing The Beatle's "Come Together" - it was a fantastic performance accompanied by just a guitar, totally unplugged.
He's actually my friend's new boyfriend - what a way to get back on the horse with a great rocker...
Lunch was a no-brainer - not too many options for an urban dweller but how can you go wrong on a Sunday in Cremona? For a town that's crowned the violin-making capital of the country, every gelato, every panini is a slice of music!
And then, I chose to get lost. Literally.
I just wandered the alleys, looked inside the windows, admired the architecture, drifted into the churches empty of any living soul except myself and the presence of Jesus's spirit of course, sneaked in to little gardens, visiting a local art gallery, took photos of residential courtyards, deciphered interesting graffiti on the wall. And I had to pay my cultural dues - I visited the Stradivari museum, home to a great violin collection designed by Stradivari & sons. for ages in Italy. Truth be told, no orchestral performance is quite complete without it, adding drama and emotion to the dialogue between the instruments. Think Mendelssohn, Brahms, Mozart. Turns out, even the famous Henry Ford owned 3 Stradivaris himself even though he never really learned how to play professionally. The oldest on display dates back to about 1595, outliving the man who crafted it with his very hands.
It made me think - people don't live forever but what they leave behind can be fantastic. What are we going to leave behind?
What will I leave behind 30+ years from now? Words. Are words enough? ..
I still had some time to kill before my 5:30pm train back to Milan so I had a lemon & strawberry gelato and sat in the park, watching Cremonese families play, couples wrap themselves around each other and old people stand back, gazing at it all as if it were they themselves 'just' 40 years ago.
On the ride home, I reflected back on my day and life's recent events (withheld here) and watched the long stretches of fields unroll before me - and I felt better. Somehow, the only time I ever really feel free and myself is when I'm on the road, discovering a new place, alone with just myself, opening my mind to history and clearing eyes to new sights. It's so stimulating. Since I'm writing on a travel website, I'm sure that makes sense. But does that make sense? Some people find that very pleasure at home, in the convenience of their four walls. To me, though, that just sounds - so boring.
I'm going to take on more weekends from now on - perfect time in Italy for that. And you never know what the open road might bring.
Finally, today is Venus's transit, crossing the sun and supposedly visible this afternoon - I heard a really interesting sound bite on NPR today and recapped it here below - life, my friends, is all about timing:
It's all about time.
The next time the orbits of Venus and Earth will line up just so, the phenomenon will be visible to an unborn, completely new generation on earth.
We usually think in year long' cycles '- i.e. our dreams for a home, summer vacation, looking forward to the weekend so we can rest. The time horizon of our lives never stretches more than a few years. And then comes the Venus transit - these long time horizons aren't easy to digest in the framework of our lives, we don't have experience with these kinds of time horizons. And while the astronomical aspect of this transit isn't news, the celestial mechanics of life and the universe are an ongoing story.
We are so busy worrying about getting to work, securing a meeting with the boss, getting to school on time, etc. that we completely forget that time spins in many different cycles. The solar system continues on a steady dance made up of gravity matter and motion. The sky is the original clock - there are times and cycles that dwarf our own. This kind of reminder is very...timely.