A week ago, or at least I think it was a week ago the graduate students were forced to have a sleep over in a monastery on top of a hill in Tuscany. It starts with a “c” but I can’t remember the name. Consentino, casatina, I don’t know. Anyways, we weren’t told anything about the trip, only told to show up early in the morning at a car rental place in Florence. Our graduate advisor Lorenzo was waiting for us.
I have Fresco that morning at 8, on two hours of sleep. Even though it was my own problem because I was drinking all night on thursday, I was still feeling really picked on for having to go. I went, I did a fresco, drank 5 cups of coffee and listened to Mario tell Luigi that he thinks I drink too much. “I can understand you” I said, “Well so fucking what you know, you drink a lot” he said. It’s almost impossible for a teacher to be fired in Italy, so they can say, “so fucking what” at you. It means nothing. They can also tell you that you are getting chubby. Thanks Luigi. Anyways, so I went to Fresco, left class early at 11, ran my ass home to pack for the weekend, and was at the car rental place by 1130. I’m a ninja. It’s FAR.
I arrived at the place and Lorenzo was asking for those of us to have a credit card to raise their hands, because congratulations they were renting cars for the weekend. Four unfortunate people, and my room-mate Anne had to do it. The process took twenty minutes, then we piled into cars and Lorenzo peeled out of the garage going 90. We were supposed to follow him. Anne, Jason, Jessica and I were afraid.
We followed him as closely as possible but essentually it was like follwing a drunk. He swerved, weaved, and would abruptly stop or speed up then bolt off of the freeway only to get back on. The car behind us was almost hit by a Semi truck. We almost killed someone on a motorcycle. Anne said her vagina was clenched so tight that she was doing perpetual kegals, and worried that she would be virginal and impaired when her boyfriend came to visit. I recommended a shoehorn.
We arrived to a small store somewhere in Sia 3 hours later. We were starving, Lorenzo didn’t tell us how long the trip was and we didn’t eat or bring food. We went inside and started shopping. The crazy lady that is our room-mate and old, and again crazy yelled at me and told me to stop being snotty to her. I laughed because all I said was, “okay”. I don’t know how one word can be snotty and I was quickly reminded of the fragility of female emotional stability. Vagina equals bananas half the time. The other half it equals boring, or deadly and fun. I chose deadly and fun, which is why I keep cyanide in my cervix. Moving on. We shopped, and went to the monastery.
We were greeted by a dwarf speaking in tongues. Or, piccolina nonna. The little grandma. She was tiny, old, and speaking the fastest Italian I have ever heard. She was cute. She unlocked two large renassaince (I can’t spell, shut up) doors and we walked through a corridor with a garden in it. We went through another double door and were suddenly in a giant, rustic, stone floored, home. The windows were draped in velvet, the fireplace took up half the enormous living room. It looked like the kind of house that would house knights, and I expected at some point to stumble upon a wall of axes, and swords.
There were ten bedrooms each with two beds. We all found our rooms and threw our stuff inside. I wanted food. I went to the kitchen and soon enough half of the women were inside the old kitchen putting fruits and veggies in baskets. boiling pasta, and cutting up bread to drizzle in olive oil. Also, we had opened four bottles of wine and were chugging them. I was cutting bread and looking around at my school mates. I would NEVER be friends with most of these people at home. Pero, but, here we had something in common. We were all hungry, okay no really, we were all artists. Most of us could relate to the embarrassment of telling other people that. We could relate to our families thinking we are huge failures, and were could all understand the idea of taking out giant loans to make us happy for now, while ruining our lives while we pay it back. We talked about our thesis ideas, our various preferred mediums, and we talked about boys and our experiences of being a foreign student.
It IS difficult being foreign when you live somewhere. Visiting is not the same and you can’t really understand the difficulty of moving out of your home country until you do it. Here, I never do anything right. We are usually being yelled at by Italians, teachers, people living in our same apartment building, etc. Learning the customs of a culture this anal takes time, until then you just have to get used to being called stupid. Constantly. Ugh.
We made spaghetti with tomato sauce and a giant salad. The table was set and we were ready to serve. We handed out plates and were telling everyone to fill their plates then go sit down when Lorenzo burst out with. “NO, NO, NO. We don’t do things like this!!!! You sit and serve the food at the table! No like this! This is not America”. We looked at eachother trying to hide our smirks.
At the table we were yelled at again for setting the table for thirteen. Not because there were 18 of us and it wasn’t enough, but because 13 is an unlucky number in italy. YOU REMEMBER THE LAST SUPPER!? He asked. We nodded. “Fix, fix” he said and we quickly set more spaces.
We sat, ate, and drank.
And drank. Next thing you know my drunk ass is lying in front of a medieval fireplace writing in my journal. Then I’m outside making shadow puppets on a wall out on the terrace with Chule, Lorenzo, and then I am running down a hall screaming like a crazy person when I realize that the holy place is full of scorpions. BIG, BLACK SCORPIONS. By the time I went to bed I had seen 5 or 6. I slept in a caccoon with only my face sticking out worried one was going to sting my eye.
The next day I was woken up by Mark and Kyle screaming, RISE and FUCKING SHINE, IT”S MORNING TIME into my ear. It was 8 am. I went to bed at 5. I got dressed in five minutes and literally had to run out of the door in order to get into a car before Lorenzo left us.
We arrived at S. Frances’ church somewhere in Tuscany an hour later. We hiked up a hill for thirty minutes surrounded by gorgeous views, random stick crosses, green fields full of flowers, and the whole time I couldn’t stop thinking about how bad I needed to pee. In an effort to forget about my need for a bathroom I had Kyle take photos of me running through a field. I fell spranging my ankle. Then I fell over a fence and hobbled up the rest of the mountain still needing to pee, and also in pain. Lovely.
At the top of the mountain was the location where S. Francis got his stigmata. Jason, one of the many Jews (is it wrong to say “Jews?” I really don’t know) on our voyage was leaning up against a cross saying, “I’m not kidding, I can’t be here, I feel like I have stigmata now”. My hands started itching and then I felt like I had it too. Then worrying about it made me worry about the fact that humans are very psychosematic, meaning things they think happen, and I began thinking I was going to give myself stigmata by thinking about it. I didn’t want to bleed all the time. Wouldn’t I get anemia? Also, all of my clothes would be stained all the time. No thanks.
I found a group of nuns that I followed around posing next to for a while so everyone could take my picture with them. I never see nuns in Utah, and so to me it’s like seeing the easter bunny, or santa clause. They tried to solemly ease away from me while I leaned further and further into them smiling doing a “thumbs up”.
Anne and I went to the church and were looking at the clothes S. Francis used to wear. They had blood on them. I got sick and started walking out only to bump into Jason who whispered into my ear, “Look at those friars! That one is hot! The things I would do to him”. I laughed, “well he’s catholic so the chances that he likes young men is high…right?”. We giggled, and then my hands started hurting and again I was thinking I had stigmata as punishment for talking about man sex in a church.
Jason left and Anne and I stayed for a moment to watch the service. It was beautiful in it’s original Latin. I would probably go to church if it were in Latin, and I could make up what I wanted them to say. And right now he’s talking about how in heaven everyone gets in, and everyone gets a gift bag like the ones they give out at the MTV awards, mine would be full of chocolate, wine, and a mute Ashton Kutcher in boxer briefs.
I bought a rosary for Bobbi, a cross for my mom, and then we left. We had lunch at a ristorante, and then we went to look at the Burri exhibit somewhere else in Tuscany.
I have never seen more penis’ and vaginas in my life. Not even in hustler. This guy LOVED to paint sex organs, and by the time I left I had never been so sexually frustrated. Every penis was suddenly a weird fantasy of me getting laid. Then the other girls started looking at the painting in the same way and soon we were all standing around shifting our weight uncomfortably saying things like, “wow…how longs it been?”.
When we arrived back to the monastery we made food again, and I texted Nicola that we needed to just be friends and that he needed to stop harassing me about it. He said he was sorry. I spoke with Lorenzo about my art work and he gave me a major professor in charge of mixed media. He told me that I needed an Italian lover because that’s the only way to really experience Italy, and learn the language. I laughed, and he said, “I’m serious, find a nice boy your age, it would really settle you into Italian life”. I shrugged and thought of Nicola. But, what if I don’t want a boyfriend? Why can’t I just find friends, or stay with a host family? “No.” he said. Then we all went to sleep.
The next morning, Sunday, we went to a small contemporary gallery on top of a mountain. We got to the top of the mountain by driving straight up a donkey trail in tiny euro cars. He made us go down the path, then drive straight AT the mountain gaining speed so we could fly up it. I was laughing too hard to be nervous. It’s ludicrous to expect students to do this in the states, but here he was so shocked that we wouldn’t want to do it. He flailed his arms, annoyed by any objection, and then next thing you know our car is flying up a mountain, losing traction and slipping, rocks and dust everywhere, and the car behind us almost falls off a cliff. At the top of the mountain all twenty of us climb out of our cars obviously discombobulated and pissed off. Lorenzo only looks at us, turns and heads for the gallery.
The gallery is nestled in between two huge hills. The art work not of my taste, but the place was wonderful, ran by a very sweet woman who gave us wine and bread. I like anyone with food nowdays. I sat on Jason’s lap and ate, looking at the view around me and feeling extraordinarily lucky to here in Italy with these views of the rolling green tuscan hills, the orange sunset, the amusing artists and creative spirits around me, and most importantly to still be alive.
On the way home we almost rolled off of a cliff, got yelled at for not knowing how to pump diesel gas into a euro car, and then cat called all the way home by drunk Italian men in our Florence streets. We threw off our luggage, cursed at tourists in our way, and sat at our favorite Italian restaurant across from our apartment for dinner. We recreated the weekend, and laughed about how these experiences could only happen in Italy because there is still a freedom here that doesn’t exist at home. Where people are more worried about your inability to set a table, then the threat of a lawsuit for you falling off a cliff at a school outing.