I continue to be amazed by the hospitality of the people here in Anghiari. Last night we experienced this hospitality yet again.
To celebrate my companion’s birthday, we went to a restaurant that we’d not been to before. As we walked in, the wife of the husband and wife team who run it greeted me warmly, by name – ‘Anna!’ (I’d made the booking by phone so she didn’t know what I looked like). We ordered two antipasti between the four of us, but there was a surprise: a chickpea puree was graciously served to each of us before the antipasti were placed on the table. The meal that followed felt extraordinarily welcoming and comfortable (and, needless to say, the food was delicious). As we were finishing our dolci, our hosts arrived at the table with a plate of ‘petit fours’ and a lighted candle: they had worked out that there was a birthday. We all sang ‘tanti auguri a te’. While everyone was getting themselves together to leave the restaurant, our host presented me with a bottle of red wine: ‘for your birthday friend’.
By chance, there was a concert (gypsy-funk-jazz-rock) in the mediaeval walls that night, just around the corner from the restaurant, so off we went. The young man on the entrance desk wouldn’t accept any payment from us, because we are visitors. We spent some time talking to him. He has a degree in chemistry from Perugia University, but now has returned to Anghiari where he has two jobs, neither of which has anything to do with chemistry. He told us that he wanted to come back to Anghiari, to where his family have lived for a long time, so that he could give something back to the place that has given him so much.
Another occasion of hospitality happened on Christmas day. It was a glorious day. We took the 4km walk along a ridge from Anghiari to Il Carmine, a 16th church. The road looks over the Tiber valley on one side, and the Sovara valley on the other, with views to the Appennines on both. It is popular for morning and evening passaggiatas, walking and running. Having viewed the presepio in the church – a particularly detailed Tuscan scene, which included, as well as the usual sheep, olive trees with ladders up them and little bags of olives – we walked around to the courtyard of the old monastery. As we entered, we were greeted from an open door on the other side. Across the courtyard came the lady who owns the shop in our street that sells everything (I now realize that it is, in fact, called ‘tutto’- everything!). Christmas greetings were exchanged. She explained that this is where she lives; I said it was beautiful; and her response was ‘paradiso’. She then invited us to join their family for lunch. We declined this extraordinarily kind offer, explaining that we had lunch preparations under way…
We walked back along the ridge in the sun, marvelling at the spontaneous invitation we had received.