Wednesday, March 17, 2010

March 15

After our first night of much-needed beauty rest at the converted convent, we were awakened from our slumber by the toll of an an early morning bell. We then proceeded to have our first Italian breakfast which consisted of creamy cappuccini and cornetti. After an improptu photo shoot in the cloister garden and communal devotion in the prayer niche, we continued on foot (like real pilgrims) to the Vodafone store. While Professor Alchermes was rectifying technical difficulties, we caught up on the latest Italian street fashions.
We then followed the Arno River, only to find ourselves face-to-face with the Leaning Tower, locally referred to as il campanile. The grass-covered piazza was swarming with feisty Italian students, testifying to the enduring importance of the Cathedral complex as a communal gathering spot.

Our first stop was the Duomo, where the archbishop led a musical mass. Like sauce on spaghetti, young Italian boys descended upon the Conn Coll pilgrim women as they raced through the crowds towards the Baptistery. Once inside, we climbed to the second-story gallery where we could fully appreciate the pointed dome and the impressive acoustics, as demonstrated by the singing guard. We ended our visit to the Cathedral complex with a tour of the beautiful Camposanto, or hallowed burial ground.

We then made a mad dash for the Pisa station to make the 14:09 train to Villafranca, wiping out the panini case of a local bar on the way. On the train Professor Alchermes pointed out important sites, as we discussed Carrara marble quarries.

After disembarking at Villafranca, we began the "two-mile walk" to our hotel, which MapQuest estimated would take 45 minutes. Three hours, seven miles, four mountain ranges, and ten thousand calories later, we arrived at Il Giardino della Luna, only to find that our luggage was still in NY. We sent out a couple of kind pilgrims to find temporary provisions, including extra large T-shirts, tighty whities, and toxic toothpaste.

The perfect remedy?
A spiritual five-course meal, inspired by local flavors and traditions. The first course featured local salumi and fresh-baked focaccine. The primi consisted of meat-filled ravioli in a tomato sauce, and was followed by roast pork, served with mashed potatoes and a smoked chestnut gravy. After, we enjoyed a fresh salad, and last, but definitely not least, a chocolate pudding sprinkled with amaretti cookies. We ended the meal with limoncello, and, after an intense game of steal scrabble, slept like happy pilgrims.

(Sophia Lindsay Allegra Will)

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