Welcome Back to Anghiari

Yes, this is the same title that I now always give to a post on arrival in Anghiari, and I’m going to repeat myself again because, once again, I have received such a warm welcome. Every time I arrive here, I discover anew this wonderful experience. In the street, in shops, in bars, in restaurants, in the piazza, I am hugged and kissed and greeted with big smiles – ‘ciao, benvenuta, bentornata!’ And invitations. There is, however, a subtle difference from last year, when, after 4 years of covid, people were excited by my reappearance. Now, the welcomes are as warm, but there is a sense that my returns are expected, people are not surprised to see me – ‘it only feels like yesterday’. So, I feel accepted as part of the place in my coming and going. And with a certain lightness, I happily resume my daily Anghiari routines. Despite jetlag, it took only a couple of days for life here to feel full, yet calm, without any rush. And rich with everyday encounters. What an enlivening return.

I have already made new connections. For example, I have met Stefanie Risse, who moved here from Germany in the mid-80s and has been involved with the Free University of Autobiography since its inception in the 90s. She has invited me to join a letter writing group that meets every week (Circolo di Scrittura Autobiografica a distanza di Anghari). I was warmly welcomed when I went along on Tuesday and, for next week, I’ve been invited to write and present a piece on my first memories, for which I’ll probably do something about horses! I am already getting more suggestions for people to interview on a sense of belonging. Stefanie has also introduced me to her yoga group (in a bar, of course, post lesson) which I’ll be joining. So, I feel almost too busy with living life here to write posts! We’ll see.


I am staying in the same place as last year, an apartment located in the medieval walls of the town that has a view from every room over the Tiber valley. The photo at the beginning of this post is of sunrise from my bedroom window the day after I arrived. It is such a pleasure opening the windows in the morning – the ritual of opening layers, first the shutters and then the windowpanes, somehow makes me more aware of the connection between inside and outside. (As you can see from the photo, the windows-shutters are the same width as that of the very thick wall.) Most places also have external shutters, so opening to the day involves leaning out of the window as well as opening shutters inwards. As I open the windows, I am greeted again by that smell of spring I recall so vividly from my first stay in Anghiari, 22 years ago. It’s as much a sensation as a smell – breathing in freshness, Tuscan spring. At dawn, there is a burst of bird song around the base of the walls, with the background sound of traffic in the valley beyond. A little later church bells ring through the town and I watch people hanging out washing and bedding from windows behind my place.

I arrived in spring. Greeting me with a big hug in Caffè Garibaldi, Paola Foni, who has now retired from her job as street cleaner, said ‘you’ve arrived with the swallows’. Now, it has turned to winter again and there is snow on the mountains across the valley – beautiful, if somewhat disturbing, particularly as, I’ve been told, there was no snow in winter. Here is a photo of the baroque sky I woke up to yesterday.

PS I have just bought a handmade knife for preparing artichokes. As with all these sorts of shopping experiences, there was a good deal of attention to detail – which was exactly the right knife, how to care for it and so on – and then careful wrapping. It will get good use because it’s artichoke season and there’s quite a variety to choose from, which means discussions about which ones to buy, if and how I’m going to cook them….

This afternoon, I’m going to the opening of an exhibition of Paola’s paintings in the museo della misericordia which is a couple of minutes from here.


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