Thursday, January 28, 2010

Visions in Siena

We left Sirmione on Lago di Garda, and headed back toward Rome through Tuscany with its terraced vineyards and olive groves, stone farmhouses, and hilltops crowned with castles and churches arriving finally at Hotel Montaperti in Casserta, an art filled, architecturally pleasing residence among ancient farmhouses and cypress clad hillsides.

After indulging in a swim beneath huge papier-mâché fish painted with brilliant rainbow and circus colors that spun in the breeze, we set out on foot to find something to eat. The Jolly Café and Bar surprised us by hiding a small restaurant where we dined on a delicious risotto with artichokes, paper thin veal cutlets, and salad accompanied with the ubiquitous effervescent water and, of course, house wine. The Italians drink wine so modestly, filling the glass only a tad with an occasional splash for seconds that we almost felt deprived during meals shared in common. On our own, we indulged: one carafe per meal.

Siena that evening, I wondered if travelers such as we were, return changed or improved from such journeys or if memory alone sufficed to justify such bounteous experience. I have memories of trips through Italy with my deceased husband Vittorio and tried to ascertain how they related, collided, and merged with those I was experiencing with Bill. Just as Italy has changed, so have I changed. I like the me I now am, much more than the immature Beryl I was 30 years ago. Yet Vittorio loved that Beryl, a fact that sends me to my knees in gratitude.

Making our usual quota of wrong turns and almost parking in a tow-away zone, Bill and I finally found the Il Campo parking lot and headed down Siena’s ancient cobbled streets toward the Piazza, an immense open square with bricks laid in a fan-like pattern that converge at the Palazzo Publico, each panel representing the various city-states of Tuscany. The Duomo had just closed, but as we walked toward it’s crypt we came across a cross marking the spot where Catherine of Siena was supposedly pushed down the steep steps by the devil without being hurt. I savor these stories, finding it tantalizing to enter the realm of legend in cities so chock full of stories.

At Trattoria Dino, a pleasingly simple restaurant presided over by a handsome young man and several women family members who did all the cooking, a customer -- whose square chin and dark eyes resembled Vittorio’s – looked directly at me. Fearful of wild imaginings, I focused on Bill’s dear face, reminding myself that the dead don’t return in other’s bodies and that Vittorio would delight in the love that led Bill to suggest a return to Italy.

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