Sunday, January 07, 2007

I"m back in London, shaking off the last of the la dolce vita before I head back to The 'Kan EWA and all those year ends waiting for me. We left the Amalfi coast after an utterly delightful respite there; we did get to Naples to see thee Museo Archeologico and it was all worth it and more. You want to vacation and fill your soul and texture your spirit, head to Italy. la dolce vita. It's real.

After several days in Amalfi, Positano, Sorrento and Pompei, we buzzed up to Roma, where we left exactly half of our gang at Fulmincino, they themselves having prior commitments back in the USA. Not us. We headed to Tuscany.

Base camp was in the Etruscan hill town of Fiesole. This allowed us site visits to the other Etruscan hill towns, an absolute extraordinary way to spend a week. We had such a delicious time, wandering around the green hills and valleys, eating pici pasta with wild boar's head sauce, roasted hare and bread soup, pondering those cinerary urns. I love the Etruscans. Smart, sexy, sassy people. Hey, actually, just about the antithesis of the Romans, who wiped them out because...the Etruscans were vicious. sigh. DH Lawrence is a must read on the subject.

But the thing about any international travel and any study of another culture is the keen insight you gain about both your nationality and cultural heritage. On New Year's Day, we went to Assisi to San Frescesco. This is the church built in 1228 as a memorial to St. Francis. (I think, this time, that San Francesco, the Cathedral at Amalfi and the Cathedrals of Volterra and San Gimigiano are the most beautiful
churches in all of Italy. ) Instinctively I guess, I didn't expect anything in particular out of Assisi; I have visited the church several times and as we approached, I was thinking about the crypt and the frescoes, particularly the Slaughter of the Innocents. I was looking forward to it all and was excited to be back. I wasn't really prepared to step up and face the 20,000 people that visited the church that day. That's right. 20,000 Italians were at San Francesco, high in the Umbrian town of Assisi, paying homage to St. Francis as 2007 surfaced. They held their children's hands, they prayed, they helped their aging parents light candles, they exercised reverent appreciation of the magnificent frescoes. They walked in the church in contemplative thought, their hands folded in supplication.

This was a spiritual, contemplative, reverent experience with the Italian people that I will always remember. On New Year's Day. Couldn't help but reflect on the walk back to the car that on the same day, most Americans were parked in front of the box, completely absorbed by college football and NFL play offs. Them. Us. Suddenly the cultural predispositions that each of our countries brings to the table, say in talking about Iraq or global warming or whatever, were crystallized.

What a gift. la dolce vita. Buon Anno, indeed.

On Location
Southwark, London

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