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.
By good fortune, a few moments later, there was the sound of a car coming from further up the hill. (There are very few cars on this road, for which one is usually grateful, given the difficulty in passing.) They stopped when they saw us, and I explained what had happened, not that it needed much explanation. From the luggage in the car, they were clearly not locals, and, as it turned out, had been staying at a nearby organic agriturismo, whom they were now calling on my behalf. They reported that Mario, husband of the couple who run the agriturismo, would come and help, and suggested I call Carine, his wife. She was very reassuring, telling me not to worry, that these things happen. As it turned out, this was a constant refrain in response to my apologies for making a stupid mistake and putting people to so much trouble.
When Mario arrived, the first thing he said to me was piano, piano which is such a familiar expression here, literally meaning ‘slowly, slowly’, and often accompanying con calma and tranquillo. A friend of his arrived soon after, and, with calm precision, step by step, they got the car out of the hole. What an impressive, confidence inspiring procedure that was. Once again, I was apologetic, and ever so grateful for all their help. Di niente (‘not at all’), un piacere, (‘a pleasure’), succede (‘it happens’), all said smilingly. They were so gracious in their assistance, as if it really was a pleasure, rather than a nuisance. And, Mario’s response to my thanks was an invitation to visit them at their place, Il Pozzeto (in the distance, in the photo at the beginning of this post.)
We decided after all that to do some of the walk that had been planned. I could breathe again, that wonderful spring air high up in the hills. At a short distance away, a bird of prey swooped in and out of the bushes, of juniper and wild roses.
That evening, I sent an email to Carine and Mario, thanking them again and asking them to pass on my thanks to the people who had initially stopped to help. They responded immediately with a warm invitation to visit. I’m going up there next week.
With thanks to Roger, in Australia, who is always on hand to help with computer issues, and who has been putting this website and blog in order. He is kindly posting these pieces for me.