ABOUT THE BOOK -- IN LOVE IN ITALY
Italy. Three little syllabus. I-TA-LY. But this one word has meant so much to so many people for thousands of years. This little peninsula, sometimes blazing hot and sometimes freezing cold has captured the heart of so many people, perhaps even your own. If you have ever visited Italy you know it is a country that pulls at your heart and your imagination.
This collection of short stories were ones I wrote the first year I was in Italy. I spent a year traveling throughout the country -- from the northern lakes to Tuscany, Veneto, Umbria to Rome and Sicily. The five stories take place in the towns and were inspired by the places I visited. I hope you will be inspired too, to go to Italy, to return to Italy or simply to remember to love life.
The first story 'On Venice's Shores' is the mythical story of a woman, part God and part human, who has lived for thousands of years. Her love of life is endless. She is a part of the life force in us all, one that reinvents itself again and again in order to survive.
The second story 'The Naked Madonna' is about a vision seen by several children on the island of Guidecca.
'Palazzo on the Canal' offers a glimpse of life in a Venetian Palazzo during the last days of World War II.
In "The English Pilot', a man is rescued by a family during the Second World War.
And the last story, 'A Widow's Story' takes place in the beginning of the First World War.
No matter what we have lived through, we have known the most precious gift of all -- Life. This book celebrates life and love.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.26(d)|
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In Love In Italy
By Barbara Lynn Blake
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Barbara Lynn Blake
All right reserved.
Chapter OneON VENICE'S SHORES
She cannot choose but love Venus and Adonis, William Shakespeare
It is not a widely known story. For those who have not heard the story, there is descended, from one of the Roman Gods, a daughter who still lives today. Lalina is the daughter of Poseidon, the Roman God of the sea. She was born half-God and half-human. When all the other Gods died, she by some quirk managed to survive until now, while we are living, two thousand years after the birth of Christ. Today she still walks the streets as a living and breathing creature. She has survived to this day, when all the rest of the Gods haven't, because of her ability to change. Like her brother Proteus, the son of Poseidon, she has the power of changing her shape at will. She could change into any living form. This is the reason she has been able to survive until this day.
At this moment, this daughter of Poseidon finds herself in Italy, in the land once so beloved by her ancestors, the ancient Gods. These old Gods—Apollo and Zeus and Venus—found the affections and praises of the people. Here, her ancestors reigned over the sea and the sky. Over love and war. In times of boredom the Gods played with the lives of these human people. It was on one such excursion that Lalina was conceived and then born of a human mother.
In order to preserve herself, Lalina has taken on many shapes throughout the centuries. Now in a park overlooking the lagoon of Venice, she dressed like her contemporaries of the 21th century as she looked out over the old kingdom of her long gone father, Poseidon.
She said to herself, "Times have changed, but the sea remained the same. Just exactly like it was a thousand years ago."
Lalina could change herself into any type of life form—a cat, a human, a tree—but she could not be a non-life form. For example she could not become a chair or a pair of shoes. Whatever she was, she must be living. She was unable, when she turned herself into a human, able to produce the clothes and accessories necessary for humans. This, at times, produced problems for her. Whenever she turned into a human being she was completely naked. And in most societies this was not acceptable.
Lalina, being Poseidon's daughter, was a very good swimmer. In one of her many shapes, she has swam as a dolphin with her friends in the Mediterranean Sea. It was here where once when she was swimming joyfully with the other dolphins that she came face to face with a shark. Thinking quickly she turned herself into a clump of seaweed. The shark nudged the seaweed and seeing it was not the dolphin he thought it was, swam past Lalina to devour one of her dolphin friends. Lalina watched in horror. She had, since that time, always a great fear of sharks no matter what life form she took on.
Lalina floated for several days as seaweed after that. She let herself be carried by the waves and the currents until she arrived on the shore of Italy. Wishing to dry out and to feel the beauty of the sun, she turned herself into a cypress tree. After sitting on the seashore for a long time, she became a dog. It was often as a dog or a cat or a bird she was able to observe her new home and learn the language. In her animal form she would roam the streets looking at the people and the manner of dress. Then, usually at night, she would slip into some dressmaker shop after having turned herself into a mouse. Inside the building she would take her human form.
To tell of all of Lalina's beings and all the places she had traveled would be almost impossible for she had been alive a very long time. She had gone to many places and done many things. But I will tell you a few of the stories I have heard.
Once when she turned herself into a woman she was almost found by the owner of a shop who heard a noise while he was sleeping. While she was looking for some clothes to wear she tripped over a chair. This noise woke the owner up. Rubbing his eyes, he got up to investigate the noise. If he had not missed a step on the stairs and slipped Lalina would have never known of his presence. The shop owner came very close to seeing a young naked girl in his shop that night. But hearing him fall, Lalina quickly turned herself into a mouse and all the man saw was a pile of clothes in the middle of the floor and a mouse. The man went to the pile of clothes on the floor and looked as a mouse ran away.
"It's as though the mouse was carrying those clothes," he said to himself. "But such things are ridiculous."
So the man put the clothes on a table. He would hang them up in the morning. After taking another look around the shop, he made his way back upstairs to his bed. He did not fall asleep quickly, but lay there for a long time while thinking of the clothes and the mouse and the night. Strange things happened at night and he was reluctant to fall asleep again in case more strange things happened.
As he lay there in his bed, the mouse climbed up the stairs and sat watching him. When he was finally snoring, the mouse returned downstairs to the shop. Lalina turned herself into a woman and quickly picked up the clothes. Opening the window she put them on the window sill. She then closed the window, turned into a bird to fly out by way of the chimney. Once outside the building she turned into a woman again, picked up the bundle of clothes and put them on.
The owner of the dress shop woke up the next morning full of suspicions from the night before. There were no clothes on the table. He searched frantically around his shop. He was sure he had been robbed. Calling the police, he reported his story about the clothes and the mouse, much to the amusement of the bewildered policeman and the neighbors who had gathered to listen to his story.
That morning she walked around the old town of Padua. It was then she noticed she had forgotten something—shoes. She had no shoes. Lalina was always forgetting about shoes. She walked with bent knees so that her long dress would cover her bare feet. She had to wait until nighttime when in the darkness she could find a shop and help herself to a pair of shoes.
Lalina walked to the city of Venice, a city that seemed as though it was made for Lalina because it seemed like it had emerged suddenly from the sea just as she had done. As she was walking along the street from the train station she saw a man with a picture of herself on his shirt. It was a picture of Lalina as she had posed for an artist several hundred years ago. She had posed as Venus, standing in a shell, naked, her long hair held in her hands. Yes, it was when she was a model for a man named Sandro. Lalina stared memorized by this reproduced image of herself. Its colors were faded and distorted by the shirt, but still it was herself as she had looked so many years before. She remembered Sandro well because she had fallen in love with him when she was a dog.
Lalina was a small dog then, with golden hair and a long nose. How Sandro had petted her, spoiled her with sweet talk and food. She would sit contently by his feet as he painted and rarely did he kick her. At night she would sleep with him, cuddled at the end of his bed. How warm he was. She had fallen in love with him. One day when in a fit of jealous he had thrown his mistress out of his house, Lalina, the dog, left too. She returned an hour later as a woman. She had turned herself into the woman Sandro had dreamed about—the woman with the long, golden, flowing hair. This is the woman Sandro painted. This was the woman now on the man's T-shirt.
Lalina was already in love with him when Sandro took her in as his model and lover. But to her sorrow, he treated her much better as a dog than he did as a woman. He often lamented about his poor, lost sweet "Kiki", the name he had given Lalina when she was a dog. Lalina was sorry she stopped being Sandro's dog and became his woman. Once when she knew he no longer loved her, she turned herself into a pigeon and followed him when he left the house. She watched him make love to another woman. So broken hearted was she, that she remained a pigeon for a very long time and resolved never to fall in love with a man again. But Lalina did fall in love again.
And so this living, breathing woman was now walking alone on the streets of Venice in the year 2000 just as she had done so many times before in the previous centuries. Venice was always a joy. The sun and the sea still reigned here as they had for thousands of years gently touched by the artistic genius of man. The sun was not nearly as harsh as it was in Alexandria or Sardinia, but with the gentleness provided by the fresh air of the nearby Dolomite mountains to the west and north which cooled the fiery heat of the sun. Lalina looked out toward the sea, the sea that was sometimes her home. A giggle found its way from her lungs out through her mouth. There was so much joy coming from such a long and versatile life—love to be encountered many different times and in many different ways. But also many sorrows—sorrow for those who exist no more, sorrow for loves lost. But still she managed to retain her freshness and her eagerness for life and was grateful for each love that came her way.
Now, sitting on a bench, Lalina watched a bee busy with its morning collection of nectar. She remembered once being a bee and her contentment among the flowers—the happy mornings spent flying from flower to flower—a busy life. A bee's life was one of constant movement. Even as a bee she had known love. Love for another bee, their fantastic mating and their quick and easy parting. She laughed to herself at such a memory. It's funny what you remember and what you don't.
As a human, Lalina had loved many men, but many were now forgotten. Their names as well as their faces had slipped out of her mind until she only remembered there had been many. Thinking of such things, she did not notice a man, a few feet from her, who had thrown something into the lagoon. But she did hear the cat that was meowing at the canal's edge, frantically pacing back and forth. She asked the cat what was wrong (for she once was a cat and knew the language).
The cat said, "Those are my babies that man has thrown into the canal—to drown them. My babies, someone help my babies."
Lalina, without a moment's hesitation, dove into the water and swam down toward the bottom. Once in the water she turned herself into a fish so she see could see better. She found the kittens in a plastic bag with rocks in it. She turned back into a woman and picked up the bag and swam toward the air. Lalina emerged as a woman a moment later from the lagoon. Tearing the bag open, she let the kittens out. They were wet, frighten and gasping for air. She looked at them, picking up their wet bodies and placing them on the warm cement. Their mother came to them, licking them in joy.
Lalina sat on the side of canal, her feet dangling into the water's edge. She, like the kitten's mother, began to rub them dry. The three little kittens purred in contentment.
Such was the picture the other human beings saw as they walked by the canal of Cannaregio that day. A woman in wet clothes, a plastic bag full of rocks and three wet kittens and an attentive, dry mother cat. Lalina was sad that such horrors could be committed by human beings. She knew no other plant or animal that behaved so cruelly. Although she was born a human, she often felt so apart from them. Despite the meanness of this man and so many like him she had known throughout the ages, Lalina preferred to live life in the human form. Yes, life could be quite pleasant as a clump of seaweed floating about in the ocean. Or as a seagull flying above the ocean and land. But life could also be quite boring and monotonous, day after day with nothing to do but look for fish. No, it was the human form she preferred—and the love she would so often find with it.
She had never in any of her forms conceived an offspring and so never experienced the joy of motherhood. So seeing the disregard of those baby kittens thrown by a man into the sea, she was struck in her heart with a deep sorrow. Now holding one of the kittens, she examined its little body—eyes still closed and its first sprays of hair appearing on it otherwise slick body. She marveled at its being. The kitten was only a little bigger than her thumb, yet it was all there—heart, lungs, stomach, brain, eyes, paws and even little claws. The little thing meowed taking air into its tiny lungs. It was the cry of the unwanted. Unwanted by some man but so wanting to live, these little cats pushed back death and grabbed life.
And so as Lalina was thinking about all these things as she walked along the streets of Venice back toward the center of the city. The man who tried to kill the baby kittens. And her own Sandro, who proved to be an unfaithful lover so many years ago. These thoughts made her feel desperate. She grew despondent with her life as a human being. Lalina walked along the city streets until it was dark. When finally it seemed that all the humans were asleep, she walked to the top of the wooden bridge near the Academia Museum. Standing at its peak she intended to throw herself off. During her fall down into canal below, she would turn herself into a seagull and fly away to the island of Torrcello where she had stayed many times before. There she could tell the stories of her life to the other seagulls, for they believed such things. And she was, after all, a very good storyteller. They would listen in awe to her stories about her lives as a bird or a fish. She thought it strange that the birds and the fish and the cats believed her stories, when the human beings with their large brains could not conceive of such things. Most men did not believe in things they did not see with their own eyes. And yet the most important things in life are things we cannot see—love, sorrow, laughter, wind, our soul.
"God gave each one of us a gift," she told the birds who had gathered around her. "And mine is story telling."
Her audience would agree with her whole heartily.
It was the middle of the night and seeing nobody on the streets, she climbed to the top of the bridge. Lalina threw herself into the air. But the moment before her leap, when her body was already in motion, she saw out of the corner of her eye a man standing at the base of the bridge. She knew he had seen her so that she couldn't turn into a seagull before his eyes and fly away. So she fell, as a woman, into the water.
The water, which was so comforting to her when she was a fish, was now cold. She hardly knew what to do when she felt another fish in the water. But it wasn't a fish. It was a man's hand. The man who had seen her leap off the bridge, jumped in after her. Grabbing her arm he swam with her to the steps on the canal. They were both wet as he pulled her out of the water. She was barely able to breathe because she had swallowed some water. The man held her tightly to him.
"Bellina, why do you jump?" the man asked her.
She did not know what to say, so she said nothing. He then took her to his house where he gave her towels and more towels. He told her to take off her wet clothes so she would not catch a cold. He promptly took off his wet clothes too and wrapped a towel around himself.
"It's alright," he said as he helped her remove her clothes and wrapped the towels around her.
Soon her clothes were just a wet pile on the floor.
"Stay here," he said before he left the room.
Lalina wanting to dry her hair went to the open window and put her head out so her hair would fly in the breeze. Stark naked she stood at the window, her hair playing in the wind when the young man returned.
"No, wait," he said running to her and pulling her naked body back from the window.
Lalina laughed and said, "I was only trying to dry my hair."
"O Dio, I thought you were going to jump out the window."
Excerpted from In Love In Italy by Barbara Lynn Blake Copyright © 2011 by Barbara Lynn Blake. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsON VENICE'S SHORES....................1
THE NAKED MADONNA....................17
PALAZZO ON THE CANAL....................23
THE ENGLISH PILOT....................65
A WIDOW'S STORY....................85