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Monday, 10.18.04: What... Italy?

I'm retroactively deciding why Italy will be the right vacation at the right time for us. I love a purpose.

A favorite purpose is an old standard: to absorb textures and colors. A simple creative boost. Input without having to produce output. This purpose serves well when I'm drained after a project or when the weather here has been gray for too many months running. This is pretty much what we did in Mexico last May.

My problem is that my idea of Italy is limited to very standard items:

Art. The usual ancient and Renaissance stuff.

Food. A primary attraction.

Politics. Chaotic.

Movies. I loved the movie Cinema Paradiso (1989) for its evocation of childhood and the discoveries of youth -- and then nostalgia for those sunbleached days. I ordered a couple of Fellini movies to see what they provoke. I remember seeing La Strada when I was away at summer school in 1967. I bawled my eyes out at its sadness. Sergio Leone and the spaghetti westerns with Clint Eastwood -- flinty takes on American myth.

Plays. Pirandello: Six Characters in Search of an Author. I loved this play because it twisted reality around.

The premise of the play is that these six characters have taken on a life of their own because their author has failed to complete the story. They invade a rehearsal of another Pirandellian play and insist on playing out the life that is rightfully theirs. Suggesting that life defies all simple interpretations, Pirandello's characters rebel against their creator. They attack the foundation of the play, refusing to follow stage directions and interfering with the structure of the play until it breaks down into a series of alternately comic and tragic fragments.

Religion. Catholicism and the Vatican. I hear Italians are not as hung up on Papal authority as Americans are

Recreation. Soccer. Not interested (sorry, Dad)

Opera. Puccini! Luciano Pavarotti! I love Madama Butterfly and Turandot. The grand emotion gets under your skin even if you don't have a clue what the story is.

Other literature. Dante's Divine Comedy. Never read it.

Fashion. Favorites of the Sex and the City set.

All this (except for food & fashion) seems sort of... dated. Like I could spend my vacation in the public library. I need (1) a sense of contemporary Italy and/or (2) an idea what I'm supposed to get from all those layers of history. The exploration begins...




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