More and more I am appreciating the importance of ‘buongiorno’ (which becomes ‘buonasera’ after lunch). From the moment I set foot in the street, I share this greeting with others. And it feels like stepping into life.
As people pass each other, walking up and down the street, in the piazza, at the counter in the bar, they say ‘buongiorno’. Everyone says it. The other day, a man walking down the street in the same direction as me, turned as he passed, looked me in the eyes, and said ‘buongiorno’. A gracious gesture. Each one of these meetings matters; they never have the quality of ‘have a nice day’ on automatic pilot. In this moment there is a connection.
If there’s a pause, at the bar, for example, there’ll be something about the weather. And, right now there’s a lot of this because it has got bitterly cold, with variations of sleet, icy rain and snow. ‘Fa molto freddo’, and even ‘troppo freddo’ (too cold). The other weather condition that draws a comment at this time of the year is sun: ‘c’è il sole’. Weather makes a difference, to our shared lives. (There are practical considerations too: for example, the butcher says that, although it is forecast to be very cold, the annual festa di porco will proceed.)
‘Buongiorno’ has the same quality as the ‘good morning’ shared by people engaged in daily rituals on Bondi beach. And, in both places, these greetings happen both between people who ‘know’ each other, and between people who don’t. But, for me anyway, the experience of connection on Bondi stands out as a contrast to much of everyday life in Sydney. Here, in Anghiari, on the other hand, everyday greetings are integral to ordinary public life. It might not be going too far to say that, in their ordinariness, they are life-giving.
I had wondered if this experience was so much part of life here that it was taken for granted by the people. And, just as I was about to write this blog, I learned something about this question. I was interviewing Simona and Matteo (mother and son) from the tutto shop two doors down, about their sense of belonging to Anghiari. When I asked Simona what she liked about living here, her immediate response was ‘i saluti’ (the greetings), the way everyone says ‘buongiorno’ as they pass the shop. That makes it a special place, she said. As it happens, they are often the first people with whom I share the day as I step into the street!
During the interview I also learned that their main business revolves around kitchen gardens, and so spring is their busiest time, when everyone is planting. (Actually, they seem to have a thriving business now, in winter.) ‘You must come back in spring’, says Simona, having drawn me a map of their own kitchen garden, from which comes the most delicious olive oil!