Essere, Avere, Parlare, Scrivere, Dormire, Vetro

Pretty amazing stained glass.

Pretty amazing stained glass — the process of restoration.

After studying a few languages over the years — French in high school, Hebrew in college, Greek in seminary and Spanish post-doctorate — I like getting down to basics. Tell me how to conjugate verbs, s’il vous plaît. Fill my head with vocabulary, por favor. Pronouns and prepositions, בבקשה. I’d like some adjectives, παρακαλώ. So today was a productive day of learning Italian — we covered many of the important basics. Before class I reviewed essere (to be), and avere (to have), then in class we moved on to present tense of regular verbs with the three main endings: parlare (to speak) represents the “-are” family; scrivere (to write) represents the “-ere” clan; and dormire (to sleep) fills the bill for the “-ire” group. So if I were being a good student right now I would drop the blog and instead be reciting in my mind: “parlo, parli, parla, parliamo, parlate, parlano; scrivo, scrivi, scrive, scriviamo, scrivete, scriveno, dormo, dormi, dorme, dormiamo, dormite, dormono” etc.*

Instead I had lunch, went on a tour of a stained glass restoration shop, took a nap, and updated you on my life via this blog.


A slide of typical old city Italian life just a block from our lunch stop.

I dined with Thomas, Patricia, Roxanne and Dieter at Piazza Republica for lunch. Afterward I joined a group of about 8 of us for an excursion to a stained glass restoration company. Although the tour was exclusively in Italian, I could clearly make out that the glass was beautiful, it was difficult to restore, that the building housing it was very old, and that this company’s glass is in lots of famous churches, and also a cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

Before going on I should announce that I do know a little something about stained glass. In the mid-1980’s at the Fall City United Methodist Church I was honored to lead the congregation in installation of beautiful windows, produced by Perry Stained Glass Studio in Issaquah. They put together some gorgeous windows for the church, a real highlight of the old, 1890’s building. Then when I was in Wenatchee I led in the restoration of its leaded glass windows, once again by Jim and Liz Perry. Then as pastor in Seattle our building committee chose Mark Eric Gulsrud as designer for two, beautiful, contemporary windows. Jim and Liz built them and they are just lovely. In between all of this I briefly took up stained glass as a hobby, but more importantly I often visited Jim and Liz in their studio while they were laboring away on windows for my churches. They built a beautiful small window for me, too, which I still have an will hang when I have just the right place for it.

Glass has been in the blood of her family for five generations.

Glass has been in the blood of Madelena’s family for five generations.

So, I was looking forward to seeing how the Italians do glass (vetro). Our little group from the school arrived at a bit past 4:00 in the afternoon and were greeted by a mid-30’s Italiana, Madalena, a fifth generation glass maker who is justifiably proud of the traditions of her glass-making family. She welcomed us into her family’s home/shop and as we entered we walked past shelves containing file boxes of correspondence going back over 250 years.

She took us through the earliest shop, a small room with an ancient oven for glass, followed by a larger studio with designs from the early 19th century, then into a more modern studio where glass currently is restored. I was intrigued to see that the company does make some of its own glass, but was particularly surprised to see that the shop makes its own lead came. I’ve only ever seen the mass-produced variety.

I have never in my life seen a stained glass window with this amount of detail and beauty. Truly awesome.

I have never in my life seen a stained glass window with this amount of detail and beauty. Truly awesome.

Most impressive of all, though, is the 19th century glass in the realistic style. In the past I have not been a big fan of this kind of art glass, which relies on a great deal of surface painting to achieve its effect. But a life-size window that depicts a woman in a blue dress is mind-bogglingly detailed and vivid in its colors — quite extraordinary and far beyond anything I’ve seen in this style.

Once our tour was over I headed with our group up the hill to Centro Storico, as the historic center of Italian cities is usually called. I wandered through the large bookstore off the Piazza Republica and to a gelato place for an irresistible sweet, then I hit the sack for a much-needed sleep. Ah, yes. Dormire.

Dinnertime came with a tap on the door from Thomas. Graziella had prepared another feast of pasta as primi, followed today by chicken for me and beef for the red meat eaters. I’m sad to say that Thomas and Flavia have only two more days with our little family. Presumably Monday will bring a couple of new students to share Graziella’s airy apartment. I’ll be the senior Italian student then, which should be scary to contemplate. Flavia has already advised me to put in a request to move to Thomas’ room, which has its own bathroom as well as a panoramic view of the city and the green hills beyond.

Oh, one last highlight of the day. There’s always a treat on the reception desk at our school. Today it was ……

Nutella®, as omnipresent in Italy as espresso.

Nutella®, as plentiful in Italy as espresso.

*Note to my Italian-gentsia friends, I’ve intentionally made one error. Can you find it?

9 thoughts on “Essere, Avere, Parlare, Scrivere, Dormire, Vetro

  1. don’t worry about not staying in your room conjugating verbs. you’ll learn far more and far more quickly but being out and about with Italians as you are doing….

    • You obviously gave it a good shot, Bebe, and “dormitzvah” is a very good guess showing very strong language skills. I’ll end the suspense now — it’s “scrivono,” not “scrivener.”

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