Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas in Arezzo

One of the things we love most about living in the historic center of Arezzo is that here almost everyone is on foot or on bike.  There are cars (which the Italians navigate with expert precision - the other day we watched dumbstruck as a construction worker maneuvered his truck into an impossibly tight space with the dexterity most people have with a shopping cart!), but for the most part the centro storico is devoted to pedestrians.  There is nothing more charming for us than seeing couples, families, and groups of friends strolling along the street arm-in-arm stopping to speak with people they know. 

This experience is at its peak at Christmas.  The streets are adorned with strands of twinkling white lights; the shops windows are filled with tantalizing displays; and the streets are teeming with people bustling about with their packages.  Honestly there are times when there are so many people out and about it’s difficult to make one’s way through the throng.  This doesn’t happen just at Christmas however, the evening passagieta (stroll) is a fundamental daily ritual.

It’s clear that the city is not a collection of unrelated individuals, it’s a community.  The piazzas and streets are not thoroughfares, they are the central gathering places of the community.  People come outside to be together.  They come to meet, eat, share news, gossip, see and be seen.  As we stroll among them we feel as though we’re walking through their living rooms.  We experience the same kind of feeling in Seattle when we go to the farmer’s markets.  It’s not really possible to just pop in and out of a farmers’ market.  You run into people you know there.  You’ve got to actually stop and talk to people.   You’ve got to slow down.  Picture this happening EVERY DAY and you get a sense of what it is to live here.

We have noticed that displays of crèches are popular here.  As we passed by the window of someone’s home recently we saw the following crèche:

The doorway.  The blue fabric suspended above is printed with glittering stars.

A close up.

We were delighted not only by the display itself, but perhaps more so by the fact that it was set up to face the street – an offering to passersby.

Another of our favorite sights was a small Christmas tree on display outside a woodworkers’ studio.  The tree itself and its decorations were made entirely out of scraps of wood that would have otherwise been thrown away.  As we stood admiring it, one of the people from the studio arrived.  In her characteristic way, Gabriella enthused with delight about the tree (picture lots of exclamation marks!!!) and explained that we were so delighted by it that we had stopped to take a photo. 

On Christmas day we will be having dinner with our dear friend Federica and her family.  Federica
(who is originally from Arezzo) was our Italian teacher in Seattle for over three years.  We’re very honored and excited to have been invited to spend Christmas with her, and being with her will help make up for how much we are missing everyone we love back home.  We hope that all of you will be spending time with close friends and family during this holiday season.

      Buone Feste e Felice Capodanno!


  1. Merry Christmas you two! It sounds like you are in heaven and I'm so glad. See you in 2012 and in the meantime - bravo to you both for taking this grand adventure.

  2. I just discovered your blog after looking for photos from Arezzo at Christmas. I've stayed in Arezzo twice-once for a month and earlier this year for two weeks-both times attending Cultura Italiana. Is that where you are studying? If so, can you tell Paola that Janie from California (who takes small groups to Italy) says hello. I really look forward to all your posts! If you haven't been yet, you should eat at La Torre di Gnicche up at Piazza Grande-a small wine bar with wonderful, simple food.