Friday, August 14, 2015

Roaminations Across Italy

Umbria, Italy (October 28, 2007)

Before I took my two suitcases on a plane to l'America, I was very much into caves. Living in Trieste, at the center of a region crisscrossed by deep caverns and tunnels as if it was a form of swiss cheese, it was just a matter of time before I would fall into one of these holes. And indeed I fell, multiple times, in fact, together with my friends in our exploration of the karstic underworld.

Sarteano, Tuscany
One could argue that the caves where, in fact, an excuse for other kinds of exploration, more attuned to the study of human nature, rather than hidden geological mysteries. Adventures typically involving good wine, food, and other forbidden pleasures that are not fit to write on a respectable blog. Yet this was all part of a journey of discovery across the landscape of Italy and its people, above as well below the surface of a land that barely exists as a country, yet is impressed in three full millennia of recorded history. And we traveled a lot, along the forgotten paths meandering across the mountains, peppered with small medieval villages still preserving the memories of multiple centuries in their walls of recycled stones, stolen from an ancient Roman road. But it is not the stones, or the marble in the monuments, that we were looking in our roaminations. It is the people we would meet on the road. The boy still carrying the face immortalized half a millennia ago by a Raffaello in some Renaissance painting. The owner of the closed bar that had run out of cheese when we were begging for food during the afternoon break, but still opened his store and made the best lard sandwich that I will ever eat in my life. Or the old lady that two of my friend helped back to her house on the top of the hill, disappearing then for hours because she insisted serving them a five course meal, in gratitude, before they could leave.

If you truly want to discover a country you may perhaps skip its muddy caves and concentrate on its surface, but please dump your Baedeker and find its living history in the people you meet.

Perugia, Italy (September 15, 2009)

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