This weekend I traveled to Portovenere a stunning coastal city considered by many to be a part of the Italian Riviera. This Sunday was the Festivia’della Madonna Bianca (The festival of the White Madonna) in Portovenere. I started my journey as I always do checking the best ways to get to my destination. Depending on the where this could mean a bus, train, plan or a combination of all the above. Fortunately, my journey only required a train and a bus. Travel always requires flexibility. I have a portable charger for my cell phone, my camera, an extra pair of shoes in the event that I go to a restaurant that doesn’t allow sneakers. I have a make-up zip-lock bag that contain a very little make-up, a tooth brush, toothpaste and mouth wash. I am ready to go.
The view from Le Bocce resturant
To be an expat means you have to let go of the idea that life is predictable. Case and point I had arranged to teach a student for two hours before setting off for Portvenere. Upon arrival at the train station I discover no trains are heading to Pisa directly which is the train I need to meet my student. I take a train that is heading in Pisa’s direction. As my train zips past the train station where I am supposed to get off, I have to call my student and push my lesson to another day. So, bonus for me I will arrive at my destination earlier than I thought. A train switch, a bus ride after a quick stop at my hotel, three and half hours later I am in Portovenere. Portovenere is gorgeous. The boats, the people and the festive atmosphere is priceless. Snapping a few quick picks as I make a straight beeline for lunch. I am starving but I have a strategy. Eat a heavier than usual lunch because I am here for the Festivia’della Madonna Bianca and I want to stakeout my spot. After attending last year’s Palio in Siena I learned my lesson to arrive early sightsee then pick the best spot for taking picture and stay put.
Firori del madonna bianca
Walking along the streets of Portvenere is like escaping to another place and time when things where more rustic in the very best way. Camera in hand I start snapping away not sure what story my pictures will tell until I arrive home some 35+ hours later. While sightseeing I discover my spot for snapping pictures of the festivals procession. A full tummy means I won’t be distracted by hunger. A stop to the restroom speaks for itself. All that is left is to wait. Now Italy in August is like living in a oven with the lights on. The sun is beating down with afury. A hat is necessary if I am going to last long enough to get my pictures. I head back downhill which is very steep. May I add that I am terrified of heights. I buy a hat while I pondering if I should get something to eat or drink. Deciding against this idea as a bathroom break is a logistical nightmare as I am somewhat high on a hill and the walk to a bathroom would necessitate navigating a crowd of thousands and losing my precious spot. So I wait.
Bakery in Portovenere
As the sun begins to set the crowd begins to gather as do other photogs all with fair more serious cameras than my Fuji camera. Not one for intimidation I side-eye a photog eyeing my spot. Folding my arms across my chest I give the international symbol for back off buddy this spot’s taken. Reminiscent of a sentinel I stay glued to my spot not to be swayed by hyper active children and their over indulgent parents. Impassive I stay put as I am asked to snap a picture of French tourists who complain that I did not do a good enough job. The French. What can you do?
The sun has gone down and I snap away. I play with the setting on my camera. Flash on then flash off continuing to snap away not know what I will have at the end of the night. This is Italy so nothing starts on time so long stretches of nothing. Tired and wanting a cool glass of wine I am tempted to call it a night and head back to the hotel and get my wine. But like Karl Rove’s election prediction I double down that the best is yet to come. Snapping away I try to look serious while my fellow photogs adjust their light meters and tripods of which I have none. Finally the end has come the festival procession is over. I can go back and get my wine. The return to the hotel was nothing short of hysterical. It involves a human traffic jam to get to the bus stop. Being thrown off the first bus along with everyone else. Joining a human cue that was organized by Elmer Fudd. Jumping on the next bus and being packed in like a sardine hoping that whatever is touching my bum is something inanimate like a bag and not a dudes crotch. Yes that is a thing here. By means of my GPS I navigate the 2 minute walk back to my hotel only to crash from complete exhaustion. But, all in all I got my pics.
Procession by torch light
On to the next journey, La dolce vita, “The sweet life”, I am the accidental photog.