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Angels in Toscana

a journal entry from Italy.

I sit on a bench in tiny Piazza Angelio and soak up my surroundings like lady fingers in tiramisu. Every other building in this town is a shade of pink. Arched door frames, chocolate shudders, and sprays of jasmine adorn peach, rose, terra cotta, and dust.

Across the way I can see a young woman practicing opera in a music studio. She uses a cd and a piano to guide her. Her shuddering lilting voice streams in broad currents across the court yard. It flows upward and trickles and sprays and gushes and then waterfalls down on top of me as her crescendo hits that high loud pitch then scurries sweetly down to the low notes.

I have been wishing we could be here during opera season, Barga has a festival in the summer and has a beautiful opera house, but somehow this is better. To be sitting in the middle of my own real stage, the wings and backdrop of which glow pink in the evening light, and my own leading gentleman shuffling in from stage left to tell me that he has pulled out enough money from the bank machine and it’s time to get some dinner.

All of the restaurants are closed. Nobody eats here until 8pm. We sit a while longer.

A man somehow manages to drive his beat up truck through the cobble stoned alleyways and parks it haphazardly among the other tiny cars. As he gets out with a box in hand everyone lounging outside the osteria shouts out Ciao! and excitedly banter to him about what he has. He enthusiastically hands out foraged mushrooms from his box to his friends. One man chases after him and takes an herb and laughs. Grazie!!

We go to the specialty shop across the street from a weathered church with a fading fresco of red angels. I get chestnut flour pasta. A specialty in this valley. A woman there takes Harry’s hand and looks into his eyes. “Bello. Bellissimo! Angelo.”

It’s true. He has been our tiny cherub here. Everyone lights up when they see him. They want to know how old, his name, and then do everything they can to get him to smile. When we say his name is Harry they get a confused puzzled look on their faces so we’ve taken to calling him Jericho. (Pronounced Harrrico). A woman on our flight told us that was the closest sounding Italian name she could think of. I don’t know why, but they seem to really love that name here, and get even more excited about him when we say it.

The name is fitting for how many towns have crumbling walls here, too. Barga has remnants all around the town and a beautifully preserved main gate that’s lit up like the Italian flag at night.

We walk up to the duomo at the top of the hill behind the town. It was built 1,000 years ago, but the wall here, beneath it, is enormous and strong. The ancient stone building has medieval glyphs and marble carved insignias. The giant doors are painted a light stony purple. The bell tower, looking like Rapunzel’s ramparts, stands high above all else in the town. The view from here over the orange rooftops, into the valley, and up into the mountains, is stunning. More tiny towns pop up out of every hill, each with its own bell tower. The entire sight evokes a feeling of mystery and adventure in me. I can imagine a thief jumping from roof to roof and hiding in one of the terra cotta pots that dot every rooftop garden. Beau says he can picture someone doing parkour. I guess that’s much the same thing!

The sky is filled with enormous puffs of blue and gray clouds hanging low in the sky. The sun is breaking sunbeams through and choosing an occasional hilltop town to be lit up in a glow of bright persimmon. It looks like it’s deciding which place holds the arc of the covenant.

Up here on top of the world, with our angelo in arms, a heavenly real life fresco backdrop, and the curtain of clouds falling ever so slowly over the valley, our opera crescendoes.

We are about to plunge down the sweet waterfall to the end. I am aching for the sorrow of it, delighting in the beauty of what has been, and thrilling at the excitement of the grand finale, whatever it may be.

2 thoughts on “Angels in Toscana

  1. you have such a way with words. and pictures. and paintings, and people, and food…the list goes on and on. thank you for sharing this incredible description with us!

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