We have had quite a lot happen this last week;
  1. Guy started his language classes at Machiavelli Italian Language School
  2. Lyn finished her second week at Il Bisonte
  3. We went to Venice for a day trip on Saturday (yesterday)
Guy's First Week At Language School
In a nutshell .............Arrrrrgggggghhhhhh!!!
After learning vocabulary and sentence construction for a year online and going to three months of morning school in Gisborne after I retired, along with an intensive week of Italian in Melbourne before we came, I have come to realise that this Italian stuff is not so easy!
I came back to the apartment on Monday afternoon feeling like a "stunned mullet"!
There are seven people in the class; a French guy, two Japanese girls, a Japanese guy, a Chinese girl, an American and me.
Nico (the French guy) is the best in the class and I reckon that he should probably be one level higher as he speaks quite good conversational Italian.
The Asian guy and girls are OK and Bob the American is a bit better than I am but has the same problem as I have - "brain freeze"! I know the words, but just can't get them out.
I was starting to feel a bit better as the week progressed, but then on Friday we had to "quiz" a partner in the class and I just couldn't do it. I had to go and have a coffee to get my head back in order!
I left on Friday feeling pretty despondent, but then we went Venice for the day on Saturday and was able to make myself understood everywhere we went, so maybe all is not lost!
It will be interesting to see how the 2nd week goes.

Lyn's Second Week At Il Bisonte
I finally finished the Xylographia (wood-cut) workshop without cutting myself.  I will put photos on of the few prints that I did. Some of the other students did very classical types of woodcuts; classic side on images of young women or old women, except for Tony who did a wild doodle-like reduction print with lots of colours called "Open Mind".
Ben's print was was a bear-like figure clutching what looked like a guitar (but wasn't).
He did 3 images, printed on top of each other to create the final finished print - they somehow fitted together. Ben has done a year long residency in Japan a few years ago so he knows how to fit everything together.
Frederico does amazingly quick woodcuts that are almost like cartoons - the last one was of a wolf. Most of these young people have done woodcuts as part of their fine art degrees and just got straight to it, whereas I was petrified of stabbing myself with the sharp tools and couldn't work out how to drive the tools into the wood and not my fingers! I did work out that if I oiled the surface of the wood the night before it was easier to cut. I don't know if it is accepted practice, but as Ben said "whatever makes it easier!"
I won't put on photos of their prints because I haven't asked them if it's OK.
I am not sure if I like doing woodcuts, it's hard to work out what images will work, it's also hard to use the tools, especially if they are blunt, I am not very good at sharpening them either. We did get a large piece of better wood on the last day of the workshop and I am trying to do something a bit different.
The other students are technically much better but I think those of us who didn't do fine arts in Italy are probably a bit more adventurous in our choice of subjects. I know that Manuel and Vincenzo are interested to see what we come up with.
   My first attempt; no blood stains- it's supposed to be a magpie!
I  tried to do a background; didn't work! Manuel said it looks like "una ombra sull'acqua" (shadow on the water)
Worked a little bit!

No background

Next woodcut; spider webs and leaves

Plain black and white print

Next attempt on the back of the first plate; statue in Boboli Gardens. Just as I finished this, a large knot appeared where the face is and it all caved in - luckily Manuel was able to put in a wad of putty and it looks like she has a fancy hair style!

Prints of leaves and spider webs; needs work (more ink??). When Manuel asked me when I was going to it print again I "domani" (tomorrow) and he laughed.....

Our Day Trip To Venice
One the first day of language school, they gave me a list of activities that the school offered and one of them was a day-trip to Venice @ EU69/person. Both Lyn and I were keen to see what the place was like so that we could go back and "do it" at a later date, so we signed up straight-away.
What a trip!
We will be suggesting that anyone who comes to stay does this tour. We left at 7:30am and got back at 10:00pm which is a big day, but it was totally worth it.
Our tour leader was an older Italian professor (Francesco) who teaches at Cambridge, England every Wednesday(!). He spoke excellent English, had a real wit and obviously loved what he was doing.
We went to Venice on a tour coach which took 3hrs to get to a town called Mirano which is the closest we could get to Venice by road on our bus. From here we took a short 10 minute train ride into Venice via the access causeway itself. This train-trip gives a really good idea of the geography of Venice as you cross the causeway.
From here, we got a water-taxi from the station to St Marks Square that took around 20 minutes. Apparently this is a EU100 trip if you wanted to do it on your own!!


We then walked into an area behind St Marks Square to see a Murano glass-blowing exhibition where the guy made a glass decanter in about 3 minutes flat! After this, they showed us some of their goods in their showroom - trying to sell us stuff. I, for one, was totally scared of breaking something in the shop and was glad to get out of there, but the things they made there were pretty amazing.
We were then left to ourselves to have lunch and have a look around St Marks Square before walking back through the maze that is old Venice towards the train station, all the time being told about the history and architecture of the place. On the way, we had a short gondola ride and saw a part of Venice that is out of the tourist spotlight - very interesting.

Late in the afternoon, we made our way back to Rialto Bridge which is one of the main bridges in Venice where we had about an hour to wander the markets and canals.

From here we again walked through a maze of streets to find our way to the train station in time to back back to the mainland and catch our bus. By the time we got back to the station, it was starting to get dark, so the light around the canals was pretty impressive.

It was a great trip and we now know that we want to go back and spend some more time there - an amazing place.

Ciompi Antique Market
On the last weekend of the month, there is an big antique market in the Piazza Dei Ciompi north of Piazza Santa Croce.
There is a small group of permanent antique shops in this piazza, but once a month, the whole square becomes one big antique/collectable/rubbish free-for-all.
We decided to head over as Lyn wanted a bone-handled knife (like the old canteen cutlery) as they make excellent paper-cutting tools.
We spent about 2 hours wandering around and saw some fascinating stuff - icons, lights, books, furniture, knick-knacks, etc.

We also found a Russian guy selling all sorts of "stuff" that had obviously come from the Russian military (range-finders, knives, bits of uniforms, hats, etc). he was a very interesting character.
To finish off the afternoon, we had a coffee and cake in one of the small cafes on the edge of the market and watched the world go past for about a hour.


  1. Love the woodwork and pics of Venice. When we visit you, we plan to take the train from Florence and stay in a hotel near the railway station so that we don't have to lug our luggage around. Keep practising Guy - sure your Italian is much better than you think! Ciao!

  2. I sympathise with you Guy. Learning another language at our ages would definitely be hard. Being full time in the location though will make it a lot easier.
    I love the woodcut prints Lyn. Reminds me a bit of when I did some silk screen stuff at school. Sharp tools and pushing with your fingers from the surface are the key to cutting the wood in a safe way.
    Love the photos. Good work on the camera. Sounds like a great day in Venice. Really enjoying reading your blog. Keep up the great work.