Yesterday L played his first official match with the soccer team he’s been practicing with for months. While it may be hard to believe, given Italy’s reputation of being relaxed about so many things, they are uber-serious about even kids having to have resident’s status before they can play in any league games. Not only do you have to prove residency but you have to complete an opus of paperwork to be officially registered with the league. I’ve never seen anything like it. In Germany, it was one sheet of basic information, a copy of his passport and a photo, and he was a full member of the team, and of course the same in the States.
So the reason he was able to play yesterday is not that we are suddenly full-fledged members of the Italian club, but simply that it was considered a ‘friendly game’ and not an official one on the way to the tournament. That said, it seemed as official as any other match I’ve been to. Whatever the game was, it was a true pleasure to get to watch my son play again. This boy lives to play soccer and when you watch him you can understand why. He has a sort of gazelle-like grace with the ball that is hard to miss. I know I’m his mother, but when I heard the Italian fathers behind me say his number “Dieci-siete…” in approving tones, I know I’m not the only one who sees it. He scored the goal that tied the game, thereby cementing the respect of his teammates for his first game out.
The whole experience of watching the game as a parent in Italy was, you could say, amusing by way of just comparing the differences and similarities between cultures. In one way, parents going to their kids’ game is simply universal and looks the same everywhere. You don’t need to understand the language to know what everyone is saying. I of course could not bring myself to cheer, just because I would have been the only one for miles speaking English, and my Italian is not good enough to cheer beyond ‘Vai!’ (go!) and “Dai!” (come on!).
The biggest difference in the whole experience you could point to is the little refreshment hut which naturally, had the requisite cappuccinos, espresso, apertivos (a Campari or Aperol cocktail), and beer, plus candy. And I can certainly attest to everyone being quite expressive during the game, both coaches and parents. The coach for the opposing team yelled non-stop at the top of his lungs at his players. Finally, one kid, clearly in exasperation at one invective from the coach, threw up his arms in a typically dramatic Italian fashion, and yelled back, ‘Ma come?!’ – ‘But how?!’
Personally, I hate coaches who yell constantly. It’s hard to see how it helps them. I was grateful for our lovely, low-key Brazilian coach who kept his sideline instructions to low, concise sound-bites.
All in all, a lovely afternoon out and L was invigorated and proud of himself, as was I of course. And now we have a three-day holiday ahead of us this week as Italy celebrates ‘Carnevale’. The last few days it has gotten increasingly common to see people, mostly very young ones, walking the streets in elaborately painted faces, masks, capes, and various outrageous costumes. Methinks another trip to Venice is probably in order, the heart of it all.
Gondola parking lot, Venice
This week I have been preoccupied with trying to understand the byzantine Schengen Visa laws for tourist travel in Europe. I have spent far too much time on traveler message boards where people with too much time on their hands swap a mixture of advice, warnings, or horror stories of scrapes with immigration authorities in various countries. The Internet can be both a wealth of information and a dangerous place for travelers. Sort of like when you have an undiagnosed health ailment and you decide to google your symptoms. If you’re not catatonic with fear after this little exercise, you obviously have too slow of a broadband connection. The same can be said when looking for travel advice.
As to the Schengen Visa laws, well I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I didn’t even know they existed when we started out on this journey. My information was a bit outdated, I admit, as I was relying on past experience from my backpacking through Europe days 20 years ago. At that time, you could indeed spend up to 3 months in each European country and easily execute ‘visa runs’ to another country, then turn around, re-enter and set the visa clock ticking again. Oh, those days are long gone, my friends.
The Schengen Treaty, signed in 1995, now mandates, in simplest terms, a 90-day in a 180-day period rule. This means that you can spend up to 90 non-consecutive days in any 180 period in the Schengen territory (most of what we consider Western Europe) as a whole, not per country, after that you must exit the Schengen and remain outside of it for another 90 days before re-entry is permitted. Now apparently, different countries are more strict about enforcing this rule on travelers, than others. According to all the reading I’ve done, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands are the toughest. But be careful where you exit to: the UK and Ireland can be tough on Schengen overstayers, either deporting them directly back to the country they left or on to their home country. Deary me. Unfortunately, I’m fairly sure that ignorance of the law is not a defense against violating it. Although it seems like it should be! At any rate, it will certainly mean some readjustment of plans for us.
Meanwhile, back at the Italian ranch, this week we took an afternoon and went to Venice to pay a special visit to the Leonardo da Vinci Museum which is housed in an old church, la Chiesa di San Barnaba. I know ‘old’ and ‘church’ in the same sentence are rather redundant when talking about Italy. More of an exhibit, than a museum, it was nevertheless fascinating. There were actual reconstructions of many of da Vinci’s machines and many of them you could get your hands on, turn the cranks, and see how they worked. L’s favorite were the flying machines and Archimedes’ screw, which I gather da Vinci experimented heavily with and perhaps improved upon.
We actually walked a hugely circuitous distance to get to the museum, following our noses (with a little help from the smartphone GPS), rather than the map, which requires far too much stopping and studying along the way. The temperatures were frigid as the wind was blowing off the Adriatic. This was alleviated somewhat by frequent ducking into bars for hot drinks, cicchetti (tapas-like snacks), and even gelato. For L, it is never, ever too cold for gelato.
The week ended especially well for L, as he got to go on a ‘field trip’ with his school which was basically a day out sledding and playing in the snow in the foothills of the Alps. It was hard, but someone had to do it.
Clockwise from L to R: the fate of shoes left in gondolas; a group of cadets visits the school; 'It is NOT a tea cosy mom!'; tired mama; the school; Italian political poster pulls no punches.
actor-writer-director, improviser, mother, traveler, general renegade and rabblerouser.