Memories of a medieval city, a late orange tree in blossom and sail boats on a sunny day.
There are some memories so perfect that one is scared to pen them down. One is scared that putting them into words might taint them, lower their sheen a little. But on the other hand, I am scared that if I don’t write things down, I may forget them forever. So here I go, painting my impressions before the business of every-day living wipes my heart clean of the November love of my slipping memory. And the journey begins…
A medieval city wrapped up in sea and mist. Little bridges cutting across emerald green canals. Suitcases trundling over flagstones. Sunday washing stretched across crimson skies, crisscrossing from pulley to pulley. Small restaurants nesting by the waterfront, serving all kinds of sea people. Masks, Columbine, Pantalone, Arlecchino, Made in China. A garden made of glass in Murano, an old lady spinning a lace wedding gown in Burano, the endless colours of Vivaldi, the strange nude in the middle of an Ocean, the only blemish on San Marco’s Square. Difficult not to be enchanted!
A cobbled city of palaces and art. Bangladeshi hawkers in San Lorenzo market promising to sell original Prada bags without labels. Dark taverns with drunk tourists – some drunk on art, others on the chill, some on the opera but mostly people drunk on just being in Florence. Tutti shops selling winter fashion. The beginning of the Gelato trails. Mikhalangelo’s Dawn and Dusk crafted from stone, teasing out tears from many wasted hearts. A small city that makes you wish you could spend a lifetime in it, just standing on the Ponte Viccio, watching the sun set over the arched bridges of Florence.
A late orange tree in full blossom, resting against a yellow house crafted from old stone. A land bursting with colour. The colours of a season past, the colour of a season to come, the colours of waiting and then blue. Blue of an infinite sky, reflected in a fall choked river. A smooth ride, cruising up and down little lanes and resting churches. The many towers of San Gimignano, the world famous Gelato shop in the main market square, roast boar at the end of an immense curving courtyard in Castiglion Fiorentino, the open markets of Barbarini and the valleys of orange and yellow shorn of it’s purple fruits – remnants of a summer wine in Tavarnalle, Chianti.
Forbidding religion on white cliffs. The looming castle of the Dominican order. Friars, priests and nuns walking solemnly from cathedral to cathedral. A road built at 90 degrees. A lost car shivering in the night, bumping along. Cold, dark, lights. Here lived the God from the Old Testament, all alone and then Rome….
A city of tourists and friendly taxi drivers. A mad lady in a BnB recommending lots of short eats. Little stores selling pan-seared risotto balls with fresh mozzarella cheese, fried fish, aracinis (rice balls with mince and cheese), platters of antipasti and house wines from all over Italy. Bernini’s Rome, handcrafted with churches, pizzerias, fountains, catacombs, angels, peepholes, gardens and ruins scattered in equal measure across its many miles. Rome, with its umbrella pine trees still and endless on both sides of a languid Tiber. Rome, with its fashion divas packed into little cars rushing off to work. Rome, with its many mysteries. Why doesn’t it rain through the big hole in the ceiling of the Pantheon? How do you maneuverer your schedule to see all the wonderful sights in the short window when the Roman is not closed for breakfast, lunch, mid-day siesta, tea, mass or mass protest? And how do you manage not to fall in love with it all?
A city built to acclaim the temporal power of God on Earth. A city intricately woven in marble legend and golden leaves. A city filled with busloads of tourists, all queuing up in the immense courtyards for a glimpse of Papa Francesco. A city which does not belong to Italy but to the world. A city of incense and more Bangladeshi Muslims, manning stalls selling Christian memorabilia. A city of brotherhood and then… the Sistine Chapel. A mammoth work of fear imagery invoking the punishment of the afterlife, and then the Pieta. The longing of the Pieta, the suffering of the mother and the humanness of it all. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust under the watch of the Swiss guards.
The coast of Amalfi is like a piece of wedding cake wrapped up in the foamy tissue of the sea. Houses cut into rocks communing with the sea from a potty. An orchestra made of drunk limoncello bottles, bathing in the sober light of day. Prosciutto wrapped in cheese, dipped in chilli olive oil. Sail boats on a sunny day. Porcelain shops selling painted jars. A lazy breakfast, which rolls into a long wintry lunch. A story book on a small terrazzo. Droopy eyelids lulled to sleep by sunlit waves and a full belly. A blanched almond coloured Moorish church glowing, as the sun slips into a rose sea. A ship glides across a silver ocean that lashes and licks the house, while a descending night inks out shapes, horizons and perspectives. The stars burst into being and the living God blesses all those who roar at the waves, claiming their lives to be divine.
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