Monthly Archives: June 2023

Summer in Anghiari

Summer has arrived and it is hot. I’ve never been here in summer before so this is a new experience for me. The deciduous greens are greener and denser, and, while this means that the views from walks in the hills are more obscured than they are in spring, I’ve been grateful of the shade of oak and chestnut woods. In the last few days it has become too hot to even do these walks. There is a lot of talk about climate change – only a couple of weeks ago winter had returned. ‘What happened to spring?’ people ask.

Yesterday, in the Florence pages of La Repubblica, there was a special section on the measures being taken in Tuscany to combat climate change, with particular emphasis on farming practices, care of the soil and water management. There is a push to return to traditional agricultural methods with schools being established to teach these. Interestingly, these methods have been preserved to a considerable extent with only 11% of agriculture in Tuscany being intensive. Experts say that even this will have to decrease for agriculture to become sustainable, and that there needs to be an increase in the agricultural workforce.

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From the moment I step into the street here in the morning, I share greetings with the neighbours coming and going, watering their plants, sweeping, chatting: ‘Buongiorno’. We might pause and have a few words about the weather, or a slightly longer catch up on this and that. Fiammetta gives me an update on what she has to do today. Alessia, pushing a wheelbarrow to the house that she and her husband, Tomi, are restoring, pauses and hugs me. Then, all the way down the alleys-streets to the main piazza, greetings are shared, and every greeting is sorridente, a smiling welcome into the life of the street, the town.

I have said this in previous posts, I know! But I have this experience anew, again and again, and marvel at it. The other day, I shared greetings with a woman on a walker, and commiserated with her. Throughout our conversation, she had a big smile on her face, despite the difficulty of negotiating the uneven stones. I felt cheered by our encounter.

Continue reading Sorridente/smiling

Il Pozzeto

This morning, I drove back up that narrow, windy road to visit Carine and Mario at their Relais Il Pozzeto (see last post on ‘kindness’ ). It would be a good day to visit, they had said, because they weren’t going to be too busy. When I arrived, I received a very warm welcome. Indeed, a remarkably calm, un-hurried welcome, given that they were still serving guests breakfast. It was a beautiful summer’s day, with a light breeze, up there in the hills above Anghiari.

While Mario continued with the breakfast (he does all the cooking), Carine showed me around their lovely place. It was built in the 17th century as a Francescan monastery – these monasteries all seem to have been built in stunningly beautiful locations. Carine and Mario have been here for 9 years. She is Belgian, previously worked for the European commission, and speaks French, Dutch, Italian and English. He comes from Anghiari, and previously ran a plumbing business there. Their guests come from all over the world – today, there was a party from Mexico – and they specialise in weddings.

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I am constantly amazed by the generosity and kindness of the people here. Invariably, when I meet someone they say that I must ask them if I need help in any way, and you can tell that they mean it. The kindness of this place is manifest in small everyday gestures – when I go to pay for my morning coffee, I will find that someone has already paid for me. It is manifest, too, in moments of crisis.

Here is an example of kindness in a crisis that happened a few days ago. I was taking my sister and brother-in-law, who were staying with me, to do a walk in the hills above Anghiari. It is a good place for getting lovely views of the surrounding countryside and mountains, and you can see Anghiari in the distance. The road up to this walk is narrow, steep and windy. I was taking care. Then, as I turned into the usual parking place, near the hamlet of Casale, I didn’t see a hole filled with mud. And there we were, stuck in it.

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Lively Anghiari

A friend from London has been visiting for a few days, and he has given me the opportunity to see Anghiari through different eyes. On reflection, I think that my first post might have given a rather pessimistic picture of the future for life in the historic centre. So, in the light of Mark’s visit, I’d like to revise that now. In fact, Mark noted how lively the town was, and that there was a real sense of historical continuity in everyday rituals.

First, I should clarify: Anghiari has not turned into a museum, like, say, San Gimignano, nor has the medieval part of town become abandoned like so many smaller hilltop towns, particularly in Southern Italy. The changes that I’ve spoken about are more subtle than this – they are long term trends. However, there are counters even to those trends which auger well for the future of Anghiari, and the community here is very active in keeping traditions and the old town alive.

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