Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Day 7: Reggio nell'Emilia - San Quirico d'Orcia

The weather is overcast and threatening when we walk over to the theater for Diana to meet the group for this morning's school visit. I take this opportunity to stay in the hotel room for most of the morning and catch up on work and writing. By the time I stick my head outside around noon, the skies have cleared and it is warm and sunny.

Diana: My morning was wonderful. The school has 3 classrooms, one for 3's, one for 4's and one for the 5's: twenty-six children and two teachers in a classroom. The routine is similar to yesterday-3 1/2 hours - an introduction, time to observe and then q and a. All the infant-toddler centers and preschools in Reggio, whether run by the municipality or a private non-profit - cooperativa, they call it - are part of this same system. It's a case where the pedagogy - stressing group work, cooperation and collaboration, and the rights and capabilities of children, fit very well with the Communist politics of the city. The space is again fantastic. There is a central piazza, for meetings and other activities, the classrooms are all off the piazza in a circular way, there's an immaculate kitchen and eating area, a great garden. They don't allow photographs. I think the idea is they don't want superficial replication, which they think photos might encourage. The study group members are filling up books with notes and drawings. The rooms have areas designated for, say dress up, or blocks - similar to a US school- but the light, openness, lack of clutter, tidiness, and real beauty of everything is very different from the US norm. In the 3's room, some children are drawing, carefully observing and talking with the teacher about a vase with roses. The colored markers are arranged just so. Another group is studying a bird's nest and drawing or using clay. This work is part of a year long project (on the profumes of the natural world) that will culminate in a large group work. Others are painting or building something. Some work individually, some in groups. Some of the group art work is displayed on large pieces of clear plastic, some children are doing a mosaic on a glass table. It's hard to describe how beautiful everything is. Even the supplies are displayed in clear containers, arranged just so. In the 5's room a Tunisian woman is doing a lesson on culture. The city has had such an influx of immigrants in recent years, that the schools have a whole project on cross-cultural values. I'm afraid I could go on and on. The bottom line is that I am again blown away, perhaps even more so than on Tuesday. The q and a is excellent today, and the whole experience has been fantastic.

We check out of the hotel but before we get on the road, we walk over the main piazza to have lunch. We sit at a table in the sun, have a sandwich and a salad and enjoy our last hour in Reggio nell'Emilia. Two of the women from the Reggio group join us and we have a nice talk about teaching, the program and Italy.

Here are some pictures of Reggio nell'Emilia--taken by someone else--but they should give an idea of what the town looks like.

Reggio-Emilia pictures

About 2 pm, we are on the autostrada heading for southern Tuscany. The drive is uneventful......there is major construction on the busy and scenic route between Bologna and Florence (the first of the new roads are opening this summer) but the holdups are minimal. Leaving the Florence-Siena superstrada, we drive on the Via Cassia for the last part of the trip and we are immediately reminded why we love the landscape of southern Tuscany so much....the gentle rolling hills, the intense green, the seemingly endless vistas with hill towns sprouting all over the countryside.

San Quirico d'Orcia is a pretty village just off the main Siena-Rome road......traffic is limited but since we are staying inside the town, we have to drive in to drop off our baggage at the hotel. Before we enter the town, we wait at an intersection for the red arrow on the traffic signal to change. An old man sitting at the intersection watches us for a while and after a minute of so, motions with his finger that the light is not going to change and we aren't supposed to drive into the center. Once we realize that light isn't going to change, we do make the turn and drive across the entire town (not a long distance) to our hotel, the Relais Palazzo del Capitano.

The town is impossibly attractive...somewhat spruced up since our last visit, but still seemingly filled with locals and not overrun by tourists. The hotel is even more attractive....a restored old palazzo with a beautiful garden and redone with a very stylish vision. We wrestle the bags up the two flights of stairs (no elevator) to our room--which is a large, inviting suite with windows opening over the pretty garden, the rooftops and church towers of the village and the valley landscape beyond. It is sort of unbelievable....

Relais Palazzo del Capitano photos

We are staying in the suite called Vergine.

I drive the car out of the center to the parking lot just below the hotel and make the short climb back up to the hotel. After unpacking and resting, we take a walk around the village. There are several striking Romanesque churches, a not-so-busy main street with an assortment of stores--some catering to tourists, others to locals and a number of cafes, wine bars and restaurants. There is a large formal garden inside the walls and a maze of small back streets. The street we take on the way back to the hotel has beautiful views over the countryside and you can see Pienza and Monticchiello in the distance.

The restaurant affiliated with the hotel is closed on Wednesdays so the person at the desk makes dinner reservations at another restaurant that is located only steps away--Il Tinaio. When we arrive at 8 pm, it is already pretty full and we are surprised to see that most of the customers are tourists....but we get a warm welcome and the room is very inviting. Our dinner is excellent--Diana has her first prosciutto and melone of the trip--the melon is very ripe and the ham delicious. I have a Tuscan speciality--ribollita--a soup made with bread and vegetables and dressed with fragrant olive oil. Next Diana has a steak that she likes very much and an order of wonderful roast potatoes. My tripe alla fiorentina is very nicely done--a rich sauce and tender pieces of tripe. The vegetable loaf--potatoes, carrots and spinach--is just okay but the mixed berry sauce on the panna cotta is terrific. We have a very pleasant wine from the Maremma--a Morellino di Scansano--all in all, a very good meal. This is a place that we would happily return to.

It is literally 30 steps back to the hotel and two flights of stairs to our lovely room.....and very comfortable bed.


Post a Comment

<< Home