I have returned home to Anghiari from a trip to Turin over Easter (la pasqua). I have never been there before, but Mirella, who is working with me on Anghiari interviews, lives there, and invited me to visit.
Turin is an elegant city of Baroque architecture, porticos, arcades, ‘terrazzo’ pavements and floors, bookshops, stylish cafés with waiters who treat their work as a profession, bustling markets with stall after stall of fresh local vegetables and cheeses. And yes, restaurants with great local food and wine (chilometro zero)! I am a tourist here, and there is a lot to see. But, what I find most interesting is the encounters I have, in the street, at the bakery, at the markets, on the tram, in bars, restaurants, at concerts …. Every time I venture out.
Almost every day I have been asked for directions, which has led to the following sort of exchange: Sorry, I live in Australia, just arrived here, in Turin… Oh, how fortunate you are… I have a brother/sister/cousin… who lives there …un bel paese. The young woman in the local bakery remembered me on my second visit and that I came from Australia. She greeted me warmly, told me about relatives in Australia, and we talked about differences between the two countries and so. I left that shop feeling cheerful.
I have also noticed small courtesies that make a difference. Here is an example. We have been to concerts almost every night, and, where I am staying is a little way out from the centre, so I have been getting taxis home. Each night, the taxi driver waits till I get safely inside the apartment block before leaving.
In fact, these concerts have been the highlight of my Turin visit. They have been quite simply, wonderful. Every night, from Wednesday to Saturday, we have been to a (free) ‘holy week’ concert in a different church (baroque or medieval), with different musicians and singers. The music has included the whole of Rossini’s Stabat Mater one night, and selections of versions from the medieval, through Pergolesi to Liszt the next. Each of the four concerts have been carefully arranged to give a sense of a whole, and the audience have been requested to desist from applauding until the end. The churches have been packed with people, of all ages, remaining quiet and still until that moment.
This festival of music actually began in Anghiari. On the night before we left, we went to a ‘concert for holy Tuesday’, in one of the 7 churches in Anghiari, performed by a local ensemble playing on period instruments together with a local gregorian chant ensemble. It seemed fitting then, that, in my wanderings around Turin on Saturday, I came across a notice on a church about a mass for Easter Sunday, to be sung in Gregorian chant. I went, of course. A just perfect, glorious way to complete this Easter music experience, with the sound echoing around and through the church. Interestingly, on both occasions, the choir was out of sight, which made me wonder if this was a tradition in Gregorian chant. The absence of any identifiable origin or destination of the singing somehow worked to enhance that sense of being surrounded by, and part of, the music.
The sun came out on Sunday, for the first time since my arrival in Turin. With clear skies, I could now see the mountains that surround the city! Snow covered mountains, so very different in appearance from the Apennines, were visible at the end of every avenue of elegant apartment buildings. Fortunately, this weather lasted through Monday (la pasquetta), as this is a day when Italians traditionally go out for picnics. We spent the morning walking along the Po. By lunch time, the parks were full of people picnicking, and, with cheese and bread from a busy market on the river bank, we joined them.