In Italy – part 3

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7. The villa is like so many villa’s along the coast: square, proud, spatious, the style it’s built in is its only ornament, the sun-bleached color its mysterie. A woman who lived to see the entire twentieth century stood on the terrace, motionless, eyes almost invisible, withdrawn in her observation. Inside she is so much younger, on horseback, in futurist pose, her hair moved by a breeze that smelled of the sea.

I arrive in another century. I had a focaccia and a working man’s beer in the bar at the train station. There were some old men in jeans; sweets and cakes on glass shelves waited languidly for the next christmas. Every now and then a lady’s megaphoned voice resounded from the tracks. I am in thoughts as I walk up the Via del Stazione. Palm trees and a mountain at the end of the road, I try to remember the distance. Then somebody waves with both arms at perspective’s breaking point and marks thereby my territory. Michela tries to co— ‘n. tRO-oooOL aBigblonddog.

When I left Italy and the tiny village we then lived in, she with husband, kid and no dog, me with cat, she had just started working as an apprentice at a lawyer’s office. At the other side of the bridge that took us seven years to cross, by feet, she is a defender of the poor. This zone, she said, is like a metropolis. As soon as she’d said it, I visualized the chaotic urban outline of the stretch of land between the sea and the marble mountains.
 
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8. The day after, my old friend Dani has some appointments which will take us to the Hinterland. I gaze at the big insect-like constructions of the marble cutters around here; the marble plates that lean against each other as unwritten pages of gigantic books. As the car accelerates the provincial road opens and bars and shops step aside. Finally we reach periferia, an esthetic no-man’s land. 

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The view is so rich in detail that I lose myself everytime I watch it. Billboards of Potemkinesque dimensions or plain rubbish, vegetation growing wild or -look up, look up!- palm trees posing amidst today’s color blue, one hundred traffic signs on a pole, the brutality of the outlet stores, garbage containers like loose lego parts, hedges around villa’s, an asphalt road that turns the car into a drum machine. Now just another half a minute to the toll station and the motorway will grasp and launch us like your average particle at CERN.

9. There is the river, and here is the old road, and right next to us a wall of rocks, covered by a steel net. A man on a horse could easily cross the river, and sixty years ago men did so. The river defines the landscape as untouched, flows over and through a large bed of pebbles. ‘This here,’ and Dani’s hand waves right to left, ‘was all covered by water. Impressionante.’ We cross the river and I look at Aulla, provincial town of surreal nature, with a neighborhood called Bronx, a crumbling belltower over pale blue houses.

What I love about Aulla, apart from the fact that a visit never lasts longer then twenty minutes, is the mishmash of all achitectural styles possible. Every building seems to relate to an era that has come to an end somewhere else, so that the remaining present time exists just a bit outside every current. Maybe as a result women look not exactly beautiful, but intriguing. And, in fact, food is good, and, as word goes, sex as well. Thanks to an extravagant lord mayor Aulla is the only town with a statue of Bettino Craxi. In white marble he is humbled down to the stature of an elderly Indian statesman.  Nonetheless town’s center, shops and offices got flooded; some people escaped from a sure death by drowning, because they had to go home due to an electric fall out just two hours before the river came storming in and smashed cars through windows. Craxi survived, smiling, but with wet feet.

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At its edge the little town looses shape, just like a flag after long years of duty. The old road at this side of the river not only connects the Tuscan coast with Parma and further up north with Milan, it also connects the new century with a distant era of ambulant vendors and horse carts. An overcast sky, rain that can arrive any moment, the road is extra darkened by huge trees. As I start to recognize more and more, the car shoots right through the spiderwebs of memory. At that moment the feeling of a long forgotten daily routine comes over me with great force. I am back again.

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