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A few weekends back, I made a Saturday trip to the somewhat small town of Spoleto. (I say “somewhat” as the historic medieval/Renaissance/Baroque portion is still fairly small, but outside its walls the urban landscape has grown.) It looked like a great place to go for someone obsessed with picturesque, medieval hill-top towns surrounded by beautiful views. So off I went!

I took an early train from Rome and at the train station in Spoleto I caught a city bus to the historic center (recommended for arriving. Leaving it is ok to walk – all downhill! Although the environs that surround the hill town are more modern and less ‘viewer friendly.’)

Exploring the city, I caught some great footage and put together a short travel video. You can check it out here:

 

Some things that I did not include were the castle (worth taking a hike up to for the views, which I added at the end of the video. However, the castle itself has been altered by its past as a prison. It has some nice frescoes and a few interesting artifacts though.) and my hair-raising journey trying to find one of the monasteries pictured in my video. (Somehow I ended up walking on the side of a high-speed road, and then even tried to climb through a small path that was too overgrown to be of much help! I bet the Italians driving by had a field day with that! Even I was laughing at myself for such temporary insanity. What can I say? I am obsessed with medieval monasteries!)

When I did finally find the monastery though, an older man who was volunteering on the grounds to do maintenance work unlocked the deserted church for me and then motioned for me to follow him to the lower level. Feeling a bit hesitant as a solo female traveller to follow strange men into dark basements, I carefully trailed along at a significant distance. There, beneath the more “modern” Baroque church, he warmly showed me an ancient, hidden medieval one, with beautiful medieval frescoes that he took the time to explain to me in Italian. It was one of those moments you cannot easily forget, and somehow amidst the fascination of a personal tour by a man who made this place his life, I never thought to take a picture. I think I was too engrossed in his art historical perspectives and insights…and the feeling of stepping back into another forgotten time.

Upon leaving the lower church, and then the upper church, he locked the door and offered to drive me to another church which was even older and more ancient! Well, getting in cars with strangers (even nice ones with a good eye for art) is one thing I retained from childhood as a big “no” (I guess no one warned me about going into basements) so I walked the short 5 minute walk where I came across some surprise scenes for my video above. (Do check it out – they are a surprise and very interesting!)

Afterwards, I managed to make it back to town without gallivanting on the side of free-ways or tumbling through thistles and other dense foliage. There I shot a few more scenes for my video and then headed back to the train station.

Along the way, I stopped to ask directions from a young man who was so sweet. He went to speak but his voice could barely emerge from his throat. I could tell he had some sort of problem speaking which he was very shy and conscientious about, but he was so nice. I wanted to do something for him to show him some kindness, but those encounters between two strangers are so brief and I never know what to say. But the reality of suffering humanity touched me.

This brief interaction reminds me somewhat of the frescoes I had seen in the basement of that dimly lit medieval church. Standing there together, the Italian had gently taken my arm and lead me over to a fresco of the Madonna and Child. He explained that in Spoleto there were many of these, because during that time many children had fallen sick with the plague and it was a constant lingering threat to the people. So the “cittadini” of Spoleto were very devout in interceding to Mary for their young ones.

It was a touching window to the past, and into the concerns and fears of a people from long ago. Humanity still continues to suffer, but there must have been something very consoling to the people of that era to know that watching over them was a woman who, with her son, had also known great pain yet overcome it.

I will always be fascinated with the medieval mind. A cultural mentality so long-lost yet able to be reached through traces of the past.

Have you ever been interested in unlocking the mindset of another time and place?

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Bonjourno!

A lot has changed in the years since I first created this blog, and I have to admit that my poor blog has suffered greatly. (“Terribly sorry love – spot of tea?”)

I began the blog in the summer of 2007, before I moved to London, England to work on my second advanced degree at the University of London. At the time I thought that my blog’s focus would be on the inherent dignity of women, a subject which is very important to me and which I am sure will come up throughout this blog.

However, life got busy – and after graduation I worked at a museum for awhile before moving to New York City. I then thought that now I would have time to write – after all, I was in New York! The city that never sleeps! And certainly, after a long day, I would have the time to sit down and blog! After all, I did not need sleep! Who did? (Muffles long yawn.) This was Ne…w….Y…o…..r……k…….. (I am going to wake up with keyboard impressions on my face, aren’t I?)

Ok, so granted that did not exactly work out…

After living and working in Manhattan for a time, I decided to move back to the beach and just relax on the seashore for awhile – which I did. And as wonderful as it was to wake up every morning to ocean views and stunning sunrises, there just really is not that much to say about sitting on the ocean day after day.

“Day 275 – still on ocean – still beautiful. There goes a crab! Haven’t seen one of those in a while! Maybe I will go for a walk – if I ever get up off this lounge chair. Really should get something to eat….” Not exactly the essence of a great blog!

That was when Italy fever began to kick back in.

In the fall I came to Rome to “test drive” a flat that I had found online over the summer. And it worked great! It is a rather small flat in a 500 year old building, down a quiet medieval street (queit and medieval in noisy, Baroque Rome – thank you, thank you, thank you!) on the very top floor, with a huge terrace right outside my door. (And the tiniest washing machine I have ever seen! I mean tiny – remember Sylvanian Families? I think they donated this…)

The landlord was fabulous – a retired school teacher who lives on the other side of the top floor (7th floor – no elevatar – all winding marble steps with romantic candle-imitation lights on each floor). Her son lives in the unit above me (ok, so there is one more floor – but not really. His is a “fire escape” attic flat – out to the porch, then up some rickety iron stairs.)

Through my windows, I could look out over the rooftops (and church tops) and when the wind blew, try to pretend that the clanking shutters in a unit that forgot to secure their windows is really a romantic and authentic sound of the real Italia (a little delusion never hurts!).

Back home on the ocean, I was grateful to have all of my American ammenities back, but by the New Year I was restless as always. After being proposed to, and then entering into a long debate on the possible joys of marriage, I shook the rocks in my head out, went to see the movie “The Tourist” twice, became obsessed, and e-mailed the real estate agent in Rome who had helped me first find the flat back in the summer. “I am ready!” was my battle cry on the pleasantly stagnant seashore of my life. (I think I scared a crab.)

What is it that always calls me back? Despite all the great ammenities that I loose, the thrill of adventure and living in new places always pulls me on. But not any adventure – the story book kind. The kind with great challenges and trials, and thrilling rewards. The kind with windows into other places, times, and most of all, ways of viewing life.

These journeys are what I wanted to find. I have found them before, here and there, but now I want to set out to find them full force. This is what I was born to do.

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