Saturday, June 8, 2013

Adventures in Tuscany

My conference this week was held at Il Palazzone, a 16th century villa in Cortona, Italy, constructed by Cardinal Passerini "as evidence of the power obtained by his family" [from the brochure].

I was on the organizing committee of the conference.  As evidence of the power obtained as an organizer, I was one of twelve participants invited to stay in the Palazzone itself.  My room was on the 2nd floor, overlooking the valley. 

To get to Cortona, one takes a train from Rome or from Florence.  I took the train from Rome.  As we passed mile after mile of olive and cypress trees, yellow stone houses and red roofed villages, I peeked at my English regency romance novel to help me stay awake.  Arriving at the Palazzone, and unpacking my things in a bit of a jet-lagged stupor, I thought I must be one of the fine ladies in the novel, and in any minute my abigail would come help me dress for dinner. 
I went to bed around 8pm the first night.  I woke around 11pm with a terrible migraine.  Somewhere, loud music was playing.  From my 2nd floor Palazzone room, still feeling like a grand countess, I wondered to myself if the common people always played their music so loud.  I downed a couple of migraine pills, and listened as the music became fireworks -- it turns out that June 2 is an Italian holiday.  And then I slept again.
I awoke to a thunderstorm at 4am, and then lay in bed thinking that it was far too early to get up, and I must stay there until a more reasonable hour.  But the roosters gave up on sleep at 5am.  They must also have been jet lagged.  If they could get up, so could I.  I finished the regency romance novel before breakfast. 
The conference talks were held all week in the above room, painted in the 1500s with all sorts of gory scenes from Roman history.  Apparently it was the Cardinal's drawing room back in the day.  When conversation became dull in the drawing room, one could stare at the walls and imagine how much worse life could be.  Murder, death, rape, battle.  Staring at the walls worked for conference talks, too.  The talks this week were never dull. 
I love European conferences.  At dinner this evening, I shared antipasti with six people, from England, Greece, Ukraine, France, the Netherlands, and Russia, respectively.  All but two of them now live in the U.S.  All but one of them I knew before this trip, and I consider them to be friends.  We laughed and spoke in English.  No one spoke any respectable Italian.  Terrible tourists. 
Now, back in my room on the 2nd floor of the Palazzone, I am packing up, preparing for an early morning train back to Rome.  And I feel sad.  Disappointed, even.  Tomorrow I will no longer be a fine lady living in a Renaissance villa.  Tomorrow I will be just another traveler.