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.
People here speak about the importance of smiling. In interviews, people have frequently said that it is the smile that make this place special to them. Paola often speaks of a ‘sorriso condiviso’ (shared smile), what a difference it can make to someone’s day. Angela tells me that smiling is so important with all the sadness in the world. And, when I interviewed Milva in Il Pizzicagnolo (the grocer’s) a few years ago, she said: ‘I have my heart in this town … we always have a smile on our faces when we meet, and we greet each other; it is lovely – a sincere smile.’ Last week I did an interview with her on life in Anghiari during covid lockdowns. Streets and piazzas where strangely empty during that ‘sad time’. People were fearful when they came into the shop (one of the few places that was open), and encounters had to be brief, but, there was the smile, and that connection mattered. As everyone was wearing a mask, it was all in the eyes, she says, looking me in the eyes.
In every shop and bar on my morning round, there is a smiling greeting – in the newsagent, Caffè Garibaldi, the butcher, Pizzicagnolo, Forno Bindi … Buongiorno’ – ‘good morning’ is really meant: ‘here is a new day’. And then, when I leave, there are the shared ciao, arrivederci, buona giornata, wishing each other a good day. All heartfelt, sorridente.