Well it’s the time of year that I very much enjoy here, Autumn. The vines have all been harvested hereabouts, the colours are rapidly turning yellow, gold and orange and those beautiful leaves are starting to fall now in increasing numbers, and all of them into our pool it seems. Our pool net has just started disintegrating too with truly comic timing so I’m taping it up just to get a couple more weeks use from it until we can close the pool up for the season. Our olives are close to being fully ripe and all the villages round here are hosting their roast chestnut festivals. The weather’s been fine for weeks but distinctly cooler, so it’s jumpers in the evening and roasted vegetables are back on our dinner menu. Salad days are pretty much over.
There’s a real end of season feel to things and we felt this especially as we said goodbye to C’s cousin P yesterday at Ancona airport. P’s been with us for the past week and it’s been lovely to have her company – our last guest of the year we think as E, S and the boys will not be able to join us at half-term now. All the guys are planning to come out for the New Year here which will be great fun and we can’t wait to experience Xmas for the first time here.
We’ve been having a torrid time work-wise with clients running out of budget and another unable to pay us until his clients pay him etc. This was compounded by somebody geting hold of C’s card details whilst we were over in the UK recently and clearing out our bank account just before P arrived. Thanks once again to the Gods of Fun. But we worked really hard during P’s stay (very late at night usually) and it looks like I’ve secured two new clients thankfully.
But we still had a top time with P – thanks in no small way to her kindness. The girls got some time in the pool (cool) and in the warm sun to top up their tans and C showed P the secrets of retail therapy Italian-style at a number of the outlet stores that proliferate around here. We had a leisurely afternoon just people watching in the piazza in Servigliano at our local chestnut festival and a really nice day walking all around the attractive hill-top town of San Vittoria where we also had dinner at our favourite local trattoria.
But the best day perhaps was a visit to Assissi, the home town of St Francis of course. If you’ve never been there, change your travel plans and make a visit. It is one of the places to (really) see before you die. We’ve been several times now and it’s a 2-3 hour schlepp getting there but we never fail to enjoy exploring the place.
I won’t give you the full history of the place – long story short it was a thriving Roman settlement which was subsequently sacked by the Goths, then conquered by the Byzantines, the Lombards, Spoleto, Barbarossa, the Perugians, Viscontis, Montefeltros, Napoleon and subjected to quite a lot of Papal domination. Amazingly the place has survived and it is stunning (but go see it out of season). Take a look at this view towards Basilica S Chiara taken through a gap between the tightly built housing, as I walked up from the car park:
Not bad eh and this is the tourist-free part of the town. The thing I like about the place, and you can make it out in this picture, is the beautiful pink stone that many of the buildings are made from. It just seems to absorb the light and heat and reflects it back into the town’s piazzas and streets creating a softness and warmth that I’ve never known anywhere else. We once arrived at the piazza in front of S Chiara just as the sun was beginning to set and it was the most sumptuous light that washed the scene. My simple words cannot describe its richness.
I was sat in the same piazza on Friday just remembering the moment when a young American girl came up shovelling down a large ice-cream. She was only a teenager but she was well on the way to having the biggest arse in Christendom. Clearly ice-cream was something she took very seriously; having finished off the tub she licked the spoon so clean it must have been sterile. She then went up to one of her tour mates who’d just emerged from the Basilica and asked without a hint of irony, ‘What’s it like inside?’ ‘Like a church’ came the informed reply. ‘Oh well in that case I’ll give it a miss’. I felt like going up to her and doing my best Basil Fawlty impression when in response to Mrs Richardson’s inane question he responded ‘What did you expect to see from a Torquay hotel bedroom window…herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the Serengeti, Krakatoa erupting in the distance…?’ But I suspect even that wouldn’t have persuaded her to check out the impressive interior of Santa Chiara. I do worry that kids have lost their sense of curiosity and all sense of imagination and true awe. ‘Awesome’ today describes nothing more significant than Britney’s latest hairstyle. Sigh.
I left these cultural/intellectual giants to their consumption of more arse lard and went and caught up with the girls and we headed off down through the town to show P some more sights – the busy Piazza del Comune, past the Temple of Minerva with its striking classical columns, along the quiet Via S. Giacomo and down to Assissi’s crowning glory, the magnificent Basilica San Francesco, built to honour St Francis.
Now I’ve been in many cathedrals and never failed to be moved by them despite my lack of religiousness. But this place takes the breath away. It is, like the town, light and warm inside. The walls are covered floor to ceiling in Giotto frescoes and the ceiling is painted in the most beautiful blues and turquoises. There are in fact two churches built on top of each other; the lower area is darker in colour but if anything warmer and it was thronged with people celebrating a mass. We were, as ever, entranced to witness it. Then down we went into the crypt which was only built in the 19th c – nearly 700 years after the first church was built – to see the exposed tomb. It’s absolutely chocker but there is always room for people to sit or pray or rest and look on, in deep respect.
P was moved by the place too – it’s hard not to be (unless you’re young, American and feckless I guess). We took in a coffee and ice drink in a nearby cafe and headed back along Via S. Francesco with its many shops and the odd museum for me to pop in.
We got back late that night but it felt like a great way to end P’s stay with us. We hope she’ll be back soon so we can finish off showing her more of our favourite places over here.