After a few days in Rome visiting such Greats as the Trevi Fountain, Campo di Fiore, the Monument to Vittoria Emmanuele (who’s up on their Italian Contemporary History?!), the Tiber River, Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Roman Forum including the Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum, we made our way to Tuscania. Though the other three American students in our group had not yet arrived due to massive flight delays in Hurricane Irene’s wake, we loaded the bus and drove about an hour and a half to northern Lazio to our new home. (Small note here – though the name may be deceiving, Tuscania is actually not in the region of Tuscany, but rather in Lazio, of which Rome is the principle city.) Describing this medieval town is difficult considering the egregious lack of similarly aged reference points in the United States. But, let’s give it a go.
This area has been occupied for thousands of years, and in fact the Etruscans (who pre-date the Hay Day of the Roman Empire) used it as a choice burial site for their rich and famous. Necropolises (literally translated as “cities of the dead”) are many in this area, and in fact restaurants, businesses, and residences are supported by ancient foundations constructed of mausoleums and aqueduct systems. The part of the town that is above ground, though, is similarly spectacular. The Historical Center consists of a fortified medieval stronghold. Think twenty-foot walls of miraculously hand-laid bricks hailing from hundreds of miles away and cobble-stoned streets. Our school Lorenzo de’ Medici, in fact, is located in one of the many medieval houses that has been renovated and modernized while maintaining the integrity of the building. Walking through the streets heavenly smelling family trattorias and gurgling fountains abound. Every little winding alley way is the snapshot of a travel agent brochure. After less than a five-minute walk from one end to the next you are constrained by the eastern facing side of the wall that contrains Tuscania from a thirty-foot drop to the valley below. Standing at this point the whole of the countryside is visible. San Pietro’s Basilica (a medieval Roman Catholic church ostentatiously situated atop the nearest hill) dominates the eye. Olive trees are neatly spaced in rows throughout the valley and in the distance the city of Viterbo can be seen nestled within the creases of Volcanic mountains.
Insomma (“to sum up”), this small town is picturesquely quaint.
Though my apartment is not within the walls of the Old City, it is its own shade of beautiful. A ten-minute stroll from school brings me to a second floor apartment more spacious, beautifully adorned, and modern than any of the housing I’ve occupied in Fort Collins. A palm tree, which gives way to a near-tropical garden belonging to the landlady and landlord who live on the first floor, marks the front gate. Up a flight of marble stairs sits a three bedroom, two bathroom flat. The kitchen is cheerfully painted in exclusively orange and yellow and stainless steel appliances give it a modern feel. The bed and bathrooms are simply adorned with pinky shades and floral print. As warm and comforting as the place feels even to me, if I were a girl who dreamed of being a princess, I would surely never leave.
Here geckos commonly scale indoor walls, pasticcherias (pastry shops) are one per block, and groups of old men congregate outside homes and businesses to lord over their little corner of the earth. It is clear that life moves at a different pace here. Truly this phenomenon is never more evident than during the daily afternoon siesta in which all shops (and even restaurants) close midday for a few hours to allow everyone a necessary break from their relatively relaxed existence. It seems Italians deeply value savoring even the most usual moments.
So the obvious question is, might I stay here and never return home? As truly wonderful as this nook of the world is, Dorothy’s words still ring true, “There’s no place like home.”