When, in 2018, I interviewed Paola, the wise street cleaner in Anghiari (Part 1,Part 2), she said ‘when I clean at La Croce in the morning and I look towards the valley, that valley that Leonardo and Piero della Francesca also looked at, it is a great joy. . I’ve recalled these words as I look with wonder at the view from the apartment where I am staying. It is quite simply breath-taking – the light, the colours, the Apennines around and beyond. But it is the cultural and historical richness in this view that particularly holds my attention. As Paola suggests, alongside all the visible historical changes, you can still imagine those renaissance artists in this landscape. (It has been a great joy to reconnect with Paola, who is very happy to do an interview with me on life in Anghiari during covid.)
With respect to changes, I’ll start with the river. The place I am staying in has been called ‘Tiber view’, but, in fact, you cannot see the Tiber from here. With the construction of a dam a little north of here in the post-war period, the river was reduced to a shallow trickle. Completed in the ’80s, this construction involved the flooding of homes, churches, and all the attendant downstream problems that go with damming, including the loss of a variety of species of fish. I understand that, over the centuries, the course of the river has changed, and that, in the past, not only did it flow fuller and deeper, but, at one stage, came quite close to Anghiari.
On my return to Anghiari after 4 years I have once again received a very warm welcome. Maybe even more heartfelt this time, after these years of covid. I run into acquaintances and friends in the street, in the piazza, in shops, in bars, and am warmly greeted with big smiles, and, frequently, hugs and kisses. Milva, in the alimentari, looked as if she’d seen an apparition when I walked in – she was so excited to see me. And to tell me that Lorenzo, her son, smiling next to her, was getting married in July. They had thought of me in those years of absence, she said, wondered how I was doing. Well, now, here I am back in the life of this place. And it feels like a home coming.
I took this photo on arrival – the view over the Tiber valley from my bedroom window. This time I am staying in a different place, located in the medieval walls of the town, with a view over the valley from every room. It has a wonderful address: via delle mura di sopra (‘street of the upper walls’). There is also a via delle mura di sotto. Once again, on arrival, I am struck by the distinctive light, colours, smells, sounds of Tuscan spring. In this photo you can get a sense of the soft light of spring here. When I open the windows, I am greeted by the smell of spring that I recall from my first stay in Anghiari, 20 years ago. There is a constant sound of birds, Italian spring birds, and, early in the morning, I hear hens and roosters in the valley. Every morning, the bells ring in La Badia, the 12th century church located right above my house. And, in the evening, they ring in the 13th century church, Santo Stefano, at the bottom of the hill.