Arezzo Antique Fair

This week has gone really quickly. The weather has been much colder and it has rained quite a bit. The Florentines are rugged up even more than usual, and actually so are we. Last Thursday Guy and I were at our classes and it started snowing! The snow only fell for a short while and didn't settle on the ground, so the photos I took didn't show any snow. However, Liam and Joanna in Little Paxton in the UK sent a photo of our granddaughter Alba outside in their backyard in the snow.
Alba in the snow
Last weekend we went to Venice and the next day we were so tired that we slept in and didn't go anywhere until the evening. It it was really cold, but we decided to go out for a walk on Sunday night after dinner. The streets were empty- very few people around, we took some photos to remember how it looks without hoards of tourists!
Ponte Vecchio

The Campanile From Via Calimala
Lyn's Week at School
My week at school continued with woodcuts. I realised that I had to find a subject that was really very graphic - Guy had taken a photo of an old mobile crane when we stayed with Liam and family in the UK, so I used one of those photos to do a woodcut of the truck. I used GIMP and posterised the photo using just two colours and then reversed it so I could see what I needed to cut out off the wood block (have a look at GIMP - there are some tutorials on You tube, it's sort of like photoshop but free and I think it is easier to use).
I can sort of understand woodcuts now, but I still feel only a few steps away from cutting myself really badly! Ben helped me understand what to cut away so I could do a second plate and have another colour - that gave me a three colour woodcut; grey, black and white (I used the back of the first plate for the second plate).
I had trouble with the spider webs, but then found I could use a very sharp pencil to draw them on the block and they actually came out OK!
The original photo of the truck

First side of the woodblock

First proof of the plate on tissue paper

Final print on Japanese paper using both blocks

Finally I finished it, made a few copies on the Japanese paper we all bought as a group and then Vincenzo asked me if I wanted to do another woodcut and I told him;
"Ne ho abbastanza!" which means "I have had enough of it!"
This was on the Thursday that it snowed and I spent much of the morning in the courtyard freezing to death (sto gelo!!) while I was preparing my zinc plates.
We were supposed to start etching on Monday but everyone had got so involved in woodcuts that they put it off.
Line etching is called aquaforte, I had thought they meant aquatint but in Italian aquatint is aquatint....
Vincenzo sent me off to buy some zinc plate from the office and I bought 50 by 50 centimetres - it cost me 30 euros.
I marked out the plate sizes I wanted and he cut them for me on the big old plate cutter in the courtyard.
He then showed me how to prepare the plate; I first had the bevel the edges (to a much flatter bevel than we use at home, more of a rounding of the edges) with a flat file and then smooth with a half round file, trim the edges with the cutter end of the burnisher and then burnish the edges till they were smooth. The next step was to sand the plate with three grades of sandpaper and lastly degrease and then polish with metal polish! It took me about four hours to do my 7 plates! Who needs a gym....
I brought home a fully prepared plate with hard ground on it and I am going to etch it on Monday. I am back in more familiar territory now, even though we are using zinc and I am more used to using aluminium.

Guy's Week At School
This week as a bit better after the first week of terror/horror/OMG moments!
The spoken language is still really hard to get a grasp of, but by the end of the week, I was getting the words out without making a compete idiot of myself.
One "oh dear" moment was when we had to listen to a short Italian dialogue of a guy interviewing another guy for a job, asking about name, address, telephone number, work experience, etc.
The idea was that we had to listen to it and write down all the relevant information that the interviewee told the interviewer.
At the end of the 1 minute of listening, I looked at the American guy in my class who is roughly at the same level as me and we both just shook our heads and thought aarrgghh!!!
Coffee anyone!
The grammar is not such an issue and I am....err.... reasonably comfortable with that.
We had to write a short story of what we did over the weekend using two of the past tenses (FYI, there are at least six past tenses, most of which I do not want to even know about!) and I must say that the written language flowed quite easily.
I have to say that I am enjoying the classes a bit bit better than two weeks ago when I started.

The Next Step In Obtaining Our Permesso (Permission To Live In Italy)
On Tuesday, we had to go to our "interview" at Immigration Headquarters, the second step to being granted permission to live in Florence.
All of the paperwork had been filed at the Post Office when we first arrived (2 weeks prior) and our applications were then investigated to make sure that we were of "good character".
We had an appointment time, but we had learned from the American at Guy's language school that this did not really mean much and that we should get there at first opening and "just queue up".
He was right - the whole area was full of people when we arrived at 8:50am!
We had also read on the net that this step might take us most of the day, so we should take food, books, etc. to keep us occupied. We were fully prepared  for the worst!
A really nice official was screening people at the door and when he looked at our paperwork with the appointment time, he signed the appointment forms and told us to go to a counter that only had two people in front of us.
Waiting in line, we saw the sad side of refugees and those wishing to immigrate to Italy for a better life. At least Italy accepts these people and does not lock them up as soon as they arrive. Everyone at the centre was being treated with dignity and advice.
We had to present our passports, sign a few documents and have our fingerprints taken. The lady official was very friendly and the whole process was very quick.
We had allowed for the day to get this done and the whole thing was done by 10:00am!
The last step (hopefully) is when we have to return to the Immigration headquarters late in April(???) when Guy has to have more fingerprints taken and the proper permesso ID cards will be issued.
As a student, Lyn does not need to be fingerprinted again. Guy also has to go to an "orientation getting" around the same date to help him "integrate" into Italy!

Yesterday we decided to go to Arezzo to the antique fair.
It involved a train trip (about 70 minutes in the direction of Rome). We had taken a flyer from the market at Ciompi last week about the fair and I had looked it up on the net - it sounded like a good day out.
The antique fair takes over the whole town on the first Sunday and the Saturday before the Sunday (so in other words, not the first weekend!).
The day looked pretty threatening, so we hoped it wasn't going to rain. We walked to Santa Maria Novella Station (SMN) and bought 2 tickets from the ticket machine (surprisingly easy) remembered to validate the tickets and got on the train.
The closer we got to Arezzo the more snow appeared. You can see the mountains from the train and they had a fair bit of snow on them.
Surprisingly enough, it wasn't as cold as we thought - we got off the train and headed up to where the fair was.
Arezzo is a lovely town, relatively small with about 90,000 people. There weren't many people there, but there were lots of stalls with their contents ranging from junk to amazing antiques. We found our Russian stall holder (the same guy that we met at the Ciompi antique market the weekend before) and I got a jewellers loupe for 5 euros (so I can check out the aquatint dots).
Guy got some fancy (cheap) magnifying glasses for 12 euros so that he could check out the problem with his old phone that was damaged by the Vodaphone UK SIM chip when we were in the UK.

He also saw his dream bike - an old Moto Guzzi mo-ped for 120 euros!! If he could have worked out how to get it onto the train back to Florence, get it up 4 flights of stairs to store it, get it packed and then send it back to Oz, I reckon that he would have done it, but unfortunately, it just wasn't practical.

The dream bike

More antique stalls

The park in Arezzo 

The view from the park in Arezzo 
We found a nice little forno (like a bread shop but sells little pizzas as well as bread, cakes, beer and coffee) and had lunch, then caught the train back to Florence.

Today is the first Sunday of the month so all the museums are open free to the public. We decided to go to the Palazzo Vecchio as we didn't get to see it last time we were here. I didn't take any photos as they wouldn't do it justice - it's a magnificent building, you spent most of the time looking up at the frescoes on the ceilings.
We went for a bit more of a walk around town and I took this photo on the way back to our apartment.

The streets were full of Japanese tourists. Looks like the whole of Japan is in Florence!

The weather has really gotten cold now, so it seems to be true that February can be the coldest month in Florence.
Fortunately, the apartment is staying quite warm with the radiators. I think that we are fortunate that we are on the top floor as we get the benefit of the rising warmth from the other apartments.
I wonder what it will be like in summer though!


  1. Great update. Love the truck woodcut. Shame Guy couldn't get the 'Guzzi.

  2. It sounds like you're both settling in: by the time you get really comfortable, you'll be planning the trip back! For some reason, reading about the class makes me think of the boys doing woodwork in High School which is funny 'cos I have no idea what they were doing but it soundd like that! Hope you have something special planned for your birthday next week! Happy Birthday!