Friday, April 27, 2007

Sunday evening in Castiglion Fiorentino

Here is the scene just ouside the walls of Castiglion Fiorentino, an old town just south of Arezzo, overlooking the Val di Chiana, towards Montepulciano and Monte Amiata in the west (south west).

It is Sunday evening, at the end of a lovely warm spring day and it is the time of day that Italians take their passeggiata, gathering at a town square to meet their friends and walk around, looking at who else is out, maybe look at what they are wearing and talk about the events of the weekend, the politics, the harvest, the football or the latest scandal.

The men will have been out alrready in the morning, but their wives will have stayed indoors (maybe after church) to cook the family lunch, but now, in the evening, men and women meet up for their wander.

Many years ago, maybe in 1994, Fred and I took Fred's parents to Tuscany where we stayed at an old rented cottage near Cortona, just south of Castiglion Fiorentino. Fred and I would come here every third day to go swimming, the two days in between having been taken up with driving around and visiting the country towns and villages of Tuscany, this third day being our rest day. A curious thing about some Italian swimming pools is their insistence that one wears a plastic skull cap when swimming. This always struck me as being very German, having first come across this in the German part of Switzerland many years ago. Anyway, however German it is, it is ceainly very Italain as well.

One day we took Fred's parents who were now 80 (his father) and 75 (his mother) to Castiglion Fiorentino, to walk around the medieval town, up to the castle and the archeaological park at the top. It was reasonably hot at the time but both managed it very well. A trick we used to have was to drive to teh top of any Tuscan hill town and drop them off there. I would go and park the car and we would gradually walk our way down, stopping off to visit any particular places of interest, which often included a local grocery shop, where Fred's father would like to look at the variety and quality and the prices of the fruit and vegetables on sale. At the end of our walk, I would go back to find the car and bring it round to pick them up again, ready for our next destiantion.

This time in Castiglion Fiorentino, it was exceptionally busy and it turned out that there was a street antique market within the walls and a traditional archery competition in the main square, with participants band judges all dressed in clothes and carrying arms and flags as if they had just appeared from a Piero della Francesca painting.

Just as in the instance of the passeggiata, it is remarkable to see how certain Italians remain close to and true to their traditions, despite the relentless advance of commercialisation and consumerism.

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