Today was our one full day in Viterbo, a medieval walled city that was a seat of popes in the 13th century, and now among other things is the site of L's school for this year of high school. Our hotel is just outside the wall (got a nice view of the very high wall from my window--the top is a little above this 2nd floor (US 3rd floor) room height). We're right at Porta (gate) Fiorentina for easy access to the old city.
L and her older sister A.L. spent the night at her host family's apartment, and arrived at the hotel for breakfast with the plan for the day: shop at the Christmas market, go to host mom's shop, find lunch, then split up so the kids could shop alone and adults could do boring adult stuff like sightseeing. Breakfast, incidentally, though a less elaborate spread than the hotel in Rome, was nice, and the large cups of cappuccino delivered to your table will be very missed when we get home. The Rome hotel defaulted to a pot of coffee and a pot of hot milk, but I think I should have been asking for cappuccino...
We did explore the Christmas market, a collection of tent/booths at a piazza at Sacrario. Some gifts were bought in not-so-secret exchanges, we bought a bag of mixed dried fruit for the train tomorrow, and generally just wandered. We then went to Emilia's shop where Robbie bought a gift for someone, then went in search of someplace open for lunch on Christmas Eve. That concluded with the younger generation having pizza and the older with gyro-like sandwiches (probably chicken) from a 'kebab' spot, all eaten on the steps of the Fontana Grande. Next was a stop at "Happiness", a little coffee-and-pastry shop with free wifi (and a bathroom!) much frequented by the School Year Abroad kids. We got drinks, used the wifi and the toilet, then split up. Actually, Brian had headed off on his own after the lunch stop to go wandering with his camera.
Robbie, her mom, and I set off to walk along the street bordering the oldest part of the city, peering down narrow streets and looking at old buildings. We found the Piazza della Morte mentioned in my guidebook, then went on to the Cathedral and the Papal Palace (by far the most famous building in Viterbo) then to Chiesa del Gesu. Then we walked around to a parking lot near the Christmas market to see the modern sculpture of a man clawing up out of the ground (pictures will follow either on twitter or Facebook, eventually). Up a hill to Piazza San Faustino, and we were then at the wall and near Porta Fiorentina, and back to the hotel.
Tonight will be at L's host family's apartment, and will be the traditional Italian Christmas Eve fish meal. Whether it will be the "Feast of the 7/9/13 (pick your odd number) Fishes" I've googled about, or just a few fish dishes, I don't know. It will be the 7 of us (counting L), 4 + Nonna (grandmother) from the host family, and 13 other guests for a party of 25. Also unknown is whether any of the other guests will have any English. Of the host family, the mom has a few phrases and the 13 year old has pretty good school-girl English--she and L can sometimes jointly work out a translation when neither alone gets there completely. Anyway, we are prepared with gifts for the host family and our smiles, which provides a pretty universal language.