It’s hard to write about Italy sometimes when you read the press and the politics and talk to people living there of the hardships and the precariousness of the everyday. The same people keeping the dream alive for the rest of us. If I were in Perugia this afternoon I’d take a walk up Corso Garibaldi. At the very end there’s a temple. To beauty as much as anything. And I’d sit a while.
I emptied my bookcase on Saturday. Stacked the books. Dusted the shelves. Dusted the books and restocked the shelves in a new location where the sun wasn’t quite as fierce. (Fading is a big problem in Australia). Dimmi cosa leggi e ti diro’ chi sei. Well if that’s true I’m either a change-seeking design fanatic who’d rather be in Italy or a Eurocentric Italy lover who deals in interiors. Both are true, on and off. It all depends on the day really.
A couple of weeks back, a comment Daniela left on the blog got me thinking. She wrote about the ‘accidental’ signs we leave around the place. The ones about who we are and what we really want but are maybe too shy or scared or superstitious to say out loud. Maybe even as we’re busy telling the world another story entirely.
But books don’t lie. Along with clothes and shoes and bags and our choice in house plants, our books are some of our clearest markers. After a while they make their own patterns. There are seasons. Clusters. Themes emerge then fade away as we change. And others get stronger.
What are you reading? On my bedside table I’ve got Stuff Parisians Like by French blogger Olivier Magny. I’ve just finished Mezza Italiana after recommendations from Lisa and Carla, so I knew I was in good hands. With the latest Alain de Botton waiting in the wings. See what I mean?
Bene. Now it’s your turn…
Does anyone remember that eighties wall poster Porte Toscane? The one with the grid of beautifully rustic Tuscan doors? They seemed so exotic, looking back. The poster hung in the first proper architectural office I worked in as a graduate. We were a long way from Tuscany, but one of the architects, the nicest one and a director of the firm, Mr Davidson, was an Italophile before anyone much knew what the word meant. The poster was his touch. He even had a house in Radda in Chianti which, now I think about it, must have been quite a rare thing at the time.
When eventually I decided to fly the coop and go off to see Italy for myself Mr Davidson was lovely. He even wrote me letters of introduction and gave a handwritten list of some of his special addresses. I remember one was the Villa San Michele on the Isle of Capri which I still haven’t seen, but I want to.
I take photos of doors myself now. I wonder sometimes if it’s something I would have done anyway. But then I think of Mr Davidson and his poster so I guess I’ll never really know. I’ve worked out one thing though. The doors in the poster were never about the architecture. At least not the architecture we were making. Mr Davidson, John, would have explained that too if I’d asked.
But then again, there are some things we just need to see for ourselves.
This is hard to say out loud. Hard to know quite how to say at all really. (I’ve had this post whirling around in my head for days.) But more and more this blog feels like the most creative work I’ve done. Maybe ever. Which is strange because working as a designer you’d think I’d be doing all sorts of creative things all the time. And I do. But not like this.
I’ve never been much good at making things with my hands. Always more of a planner, worse luck. But writing the blog I get the smallest hint some days of how a craftsman must feel when he puts his heart and soul into his work. When he does what he does because he has to. Because to not do it would mean keeping a huge, important part of himself just to himself. The best part.
Good. We were in Italy. Better. We were in Umbria. Best. We were going to Assisi. It was Friday. There was hardly a soul about. And, for January, the sun was amazing.
As evening fell we waited ages for the bus back down to the train station at Santa Maria degli Angeli. But we kept calm. It wasn’t hard to be patient.
Top Tip: For lunch in Assisi we went to Trattoria da Erminio. When we walked in I realised it was a restaurant I visited two or three times on my first stay in Umbria 20 plus years ago…. It hadn’t changed much. Marabella had the local sausages cooked over the open fireplace in the corner of the room. She loved them. It was a quiet lunch service but I liked seeing a regular client, the classic older Italian gentleman, and a savvy Italian couple enjoying the food too. Da provare…
Trattoria da Erminio, via Montecavallo 19, Assisi 075 812 506
I’ve got while yet, but sometimes I let myself imagine what it would be like to live out my days in Italy. It could be the smallest little house in the village. A tiny flat. I’ve never cared too much for big rooms. But I’d love it all the more if it had a view.
In Todi a little balcony with a single red chair facing the view caught my eye. It looked like it belonged to someone who’s been there a while. Todi’s had a lot of foreign interest over the years but the balcony looked too well-loved for that. Too familiar. I wonder if its owner ever dreamt or dreams of living someplace else. We never really know how lucky we are.
This week I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a combined photography plus fitness boot camp for travellers to Perugia. I think being back at the gym four mornings a week lately is making me homesick for some proper medieval steps to climb for a change. Not to mention the scenery. Variations would include ascending and descending Via Appia or the Scala di San Ercolano with or without fully laden bags of shopping on each arm. (And I speak from experience here.) Probably best too if the photography part happens before we hit the shops. But I’m open to suggestions.