Rogue Carver on the Loose in Italy
Part 19, A Quiet Week in Rigomagno
After my rather eventful and slightly traumatic arrival in Rigomagno the week I spent there proved to be one of the most pleasant, relaxing and altogether indulgent seven days I have enjoyed in a very long time: the weather was well-nigh perfect throughout, the quiet isolation and solitude provided by my lovely spacious apartment in the Caglioni family’s restored Tuscan farmhouse was a sublime treat in itself, and the family proved to be wonderful hosts… always making me feel welcome and at home, while allowing for a degree of privacy that is hard to find when travelling for an extended period. All-in-all it was really all quite magnificent!
Not that I actually did very much, but that was the point, after almost two months of continual touring and sightseeing and travelling and going here-there-and-everywhere it felt quite splendid to simply pull the plugs for a week and hop off the merry-go-round for a while. And besides, the fact that the local railway station was no longer accepting trains, combined with the harsh reality that the buses seem to run to a schedule of their own accord and along convoluted routes that defy imagination let alone logic… everything, all the stars – sheer common sense told me to hold still for a while, put my feet up, enjoy the sunshine, the garden, the views, the dog, the parrot, the wine and relax. And relax I certainly did.
I did find time for a bike ride or two, but a few hours of peddling under the hot Italian sun soon put the matter in perspective: Tuscany is a hilly, hilly place! The furthest I made it was the 4 or 5 kilometer dash over to the pretty hilltop town of Lucignano, but the blistering heat of the return leg convinced me of the foolhardy nature of such expeditions and the bike remained parked in the shade for the rest of the week. The furthest I strayed during the days that followed was the 2 kilometer stroll into Rigomagno itself in order to slake my thirst with a glass or two of the coldest beer I think I have ever encountered.
The bar itself was an absolutely wonderful and refreshing oasis but a somewhat iffy affair in terms of opening hours – and walking the last few paces towards the tiny square my justifiable apprehension centered around whether or not it would be open once I turned the corner. It was always such a sad blow when I found myself confronted by a shuttered doorway.
From the many and varied trophies displayed proudly around the room it appears that tiny little Rigomagno has enjoyed much prowess on the football field, and over the course of the week I enjoyed a little game of spotting the now slightly older, let’s say ‘stockier’ former players from their time-capsuled pictures on the wall… arms linked around one another as they pose in two rows behind their latest silver cup.
I really found the tiny medieval village quite beautiful. Just one of countless such hilltop communities they never-the-less took quite obvious pride in the place as exemplified by several beautiful gardens squeezed into the few remaining square feet of space available for such relatively frivolous indulgences. The roses really were quite magnificent – superb, as were the tiny terraces where a few extremely well-tended vines offered a shaded patio wherein the long wooden tables looked well-used and, to my eyes, inviting indeed.
A highlight for me of my stay however were the times I simply tagged along with the family, or pulled a chair around the kitchen table and partook of food, wine and flowing conversation. Particularly fond memories are of the time they invited me to come along with them as they pruned their beloved olive trees. They own over seventy in all and I was introduced to the patient and thoughtful trimming process that, I was assured, was most essential to the production of quality oil. The weather, the colors…the golden reddish hues were quite stunning and for a moment I felt a part of something both time-honored and essential – the quintessential Tuscan experience!
Another lasting memory took place on my last day, Sunday 25th May, when I invited myself along with them to witness the process of voting for their European and village representatives. Of course, as lifelong proud communists they were quite resigned to their candidate’s ultimate fate, but when the extent of the far right’s advances across the continent gradually came to light they were quite despondent.
As I would be leaving the next day we marked the occasion with a glass or two in the bar after which I lingered in the square while the children chased each other into a frenzy and the old people sat and watched. I tried to imagine just how many times this sort of scenario must have played itself out in this very spot down through the centuries.
Eventually I made my way back to the farm as the golden sun warmed my back, a little sad at my impending departure but as is always the case at times like these I could feel a little spark of intrigue about ‘the next place’ begin to take hold in the back of my mind: “Pontremoli”. Hmmmn, “Pontremoli, I wonder what it will be like… way, way up there at the very tip of northern Tuscany?”
The next morning Jacob very kindly drove me to Cortona railway station whereby I was whisked north at impressive speed to Florence where I caught a direct train to Pontremoli… “Pontremoli”. I liked the sound of it and when the train pulled into the station, and I spied Eugenia on the platform, my new host, who invited me on a quick walking tour of the ancient city I had the feeling I would like it very much indeed.
Until next time, happy travels.