Thursday, September 25, 2014

Five Beautiful Things: Ivrea, Italy

This evening seems like just the time for Five Beautiful Things.  

Five beautiful things is a practice in which you take notice of five beautiful things as a way to shift your energy.  It came into my life throughTara Mohr via my friend Laurel Holman. I highly recommend experimenting with the practice yourself.  Its essence grows out of mindfulness, but what I like about it, is its willingness to linger on beauty.

After a full week of touring and jet lag, I'm tired, and feeling homesick for Graham, for the kids, for my own bed, for my writing.  So am turning to this practice to give me a quick surge of creative energy.

Over the last two weeks I've been immersed in research about my Great Grandfather Camillo.  First at Stanford, where he taught in 1893, then in Ivrea, Italy, the town where my family is from (and where my uncle  and cousins still live).  It's hard to pick just five things to share from Ivrea, but the trick here is to be quick--I've still got to pack to get out of here at 6:45AM tomorrow.

Five Beautiful Things from Ivrea

The Dora River flowing under Ivrea's old Roman bridge.  The water of the Dora descends from the mountains, arriving in Ivrea like an aqua opal--it's not clear, but the water is remarkably beautiful.

A corner of the frescoes that line the walls of Il Convento--the home where my great grandfather raised his family.  The frescoes are in a chapel that had been used as a barn for many years, but was restored in the 1950s by the Olivettis.  For anyone out there who is an art history buff--the frescoes are beautiful in execution, and incorporate both Italian renaissance elements (perspective, human form, etc) and Flemish renaissance elements (glowing light, nighttime scenes, luminous details).  This was the second time I've had a chance to see this work of art--the first time brought me to tears--that something so beautiful had been curated in my lineage.

A hand drawn sketch of the original Olivetti logo from the Archivio Storico Olivetti (the Olivetti historic archives).

The Olivetti M1, the first typewriter shipped by Olivetti in 1908, with the logo from above.

And a sweet ending.  This is the "Torta Nove Cento,"  Ivrea's traditional regional dessert.  Imagine something between a chocolate lady finger and a chocolate meringue that floats on the top and lines the bottom of something that is like a chocolate mousse, but lighter, more fluffy--almost whipped cream.  I had never had one before, and my aunt served one for dessert my last night in Ivrea.  I liked it so much I asked my father take me to the bakery the next morning so that we could have it again for breakfast.  I want to save that single moment, sitting in a pasticceria with my father, eating dessert for breakfast.  It was simple and sweet, a totally unplanned surprise, and yet the very reason I made the trip--to learn more about where I'm from and savor time with the Olivetti side of my family.

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