martedì 21 ottobre 2008

Everyday Heroes

Sunday morning was the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Blood Donors Society. As we were cleaning up after breakfast a marching band could be heard outside our window and we went to see what was happening. The marching band was leading a procession of stendard carrying participants. From all over the Valdichiana representatives of the blood donors groups came congregate and remember the loved ones lost during the wars by placing wreaths at the monuments. A bittersweet celebration which can move one to tears as these proudly altruistic individuals marched down the Via Nazionale-each banner brightly colored many lovingly hand embroidered to proudly proclaim which chapter from which town was participating in this show of solidarity to this heartfelt cause. To give to others, to take time out of busy lives to share and give a gift of life. Italy has long been a community of volunteers. The ambulance drivers, hospital volunteers, are a tradition which date to the Misericordia fraternities of the middle ages.
But it seems that people are involved in many different charity organizations. Setting up fund raising dinners for the cancer society, selling apples in the piazza to support multiple sclerosis research, hydrangeas for the child abuse hotline telefono azzurro, the rummage sales for the Caritas. As the year unfolds the piazza can host sales of gardenias, of chocolate easter eggs or ceramics, sales organized to raise money for many worthy causes.
Italy has been a nation ready to give, the victims of hurricane Katrina and the tsunami which hit Southeast Asia received millions of Euro from Italy, 2 Euros at a time when people were asked to donate via SMS . Each message sent would automatically deduct 2 Euro from the credit on the phones and be sent as a donation we were told.
As I watched the Blood donors reverse their direction after laying the wreaths and march back to the Piazza Repubblica it was easy to see the proud faces like the elderly man who marched with his two age worn hands firmly grasping his lapels. I thought about a blood donor I had met, a man in his 70's who proudly told of having made 70 donations of blood. That's at least 210 people whose lives were touched and hopefully healed due to the generosity of 1 man.
It doesn't take wars to make heroes. It only takes generosity of spirit and the willingness to give. Hats off to Everyday Heroes.

giovedì 2 ottobre 2008

Love is in the Air! Weddings in Cortona-

September blew by us in blurry flurry and the word was weddings! The big wedding here in Cortona was Jovanotti's (remember the Italian rapper? see previous capers posting) September 6th wedding. We hosted our first destination wedding guests last week! Excitement of all the celebrations just vibrated through the house. The groom was a Chinese-Italian, born and raised in Milan and the bride a lovely Korean woman born and raised in London. They had met in university and were joined by their family and friends from literally all over the world! Our house was abuzz with energy and planning.
There's something incredibly romantic about Cortona- for the past number of years there seems to be at least one wedding a week-most in our town hall but many at some of the many beautiful churches. We have 3 separate wedding planning services working full time in Cortona and they all seem to stay very busy.
One day while out on the street I heard the wailing music of bagpipes in the distance. At first I thought it was the Christmas zampagnari coming early for their tips, I was informed by a shop keeper that it was a Scottish wedding party. She told me that the tradition was for the bridal party to be led to the festivities by a bag piper.
I didn't believe it until this afternoon when I heard piper's music first in the distance than passing under our open window. Sure enough as the music grew closer, I looked out my window and saw a group of kilted men and silky gowned ladies all making their way down Via Nazionale. As they passed by, the little feathered head dresses that the brit ladies seem to favor for these occassions and the hems of the kilts fluttered a bit in the autumn breeze. The impeccable jackets with shiny buttons arranged in almost a horseshoe shape on the back of each one, and shiny, sharp black shoes with special laces were the accessories to the kilts. I wondered, do these men all own kilts? I started to have silly thoughts, such as, do kilt renters exist? Thinking back to prom night with tux rentals and mint green or baby blue ruffled shirts to match the girl's dresses.These wedding goers definitely looked less silly then we did at the prom.

This summer we saw one of the most unusual choices of wedding garb here. The bride had a dress which seemed to be a real life version of the Disney Cinderella gown-complete with bows around the hoop supported skirt! and the groom was dressed as a prince-complete with shiny silver breastplate armour-his long hair perfectly coiffed into long sausage curls! They were out and about in Cortona by night, taking wedding pictures on the medieval facade side of town hall. The reflections from the armour lit up the piazza.

When Luciano and Jeanette got married in Town Hall in 1989, they didn't know they were having a destination wedding. They thougt they were having a simple, no frills ceremony for intimate friends and family.They should have got the hint when a Danish tour group walked through their wedding ceremony and they were able to pass off the flag thrower's demonstration in the Danes' honor as a carefully planned part of their wedding celebration.

Romance seems to live here-and it seems that more and more are continuing to plan weddings in Cortona. Casa Chilenne will be hosting more wedding parties this year and in 2009-so this seems not to be a passing trend.
Optimism lives, love lives and Cortona seems to be the perfect backdrop.