In times past, there was no door to door garbage service in Italy, and this is still the case in the countryside. Rubbish skips and dome shaped bins for recyclables are dumped on the side of the road for the use of the householders. A truck with an on board crane collects the containers and relocates the empty ones. Our first call this morning is to drop off rubbish, and I notice that today’s group of bins has been placed right in front of the bus stop. Those crazy Italians!
Another local practice that has been catching us out is that most shops are closed between 12.30 and 4.00pm. We are getting better at remembering this, and we struck out this morning to do a little shopping at an immense hypermarket home wares store that appeared to us to be stuck in the countryside in the middle of nowhere. No doubt there is a rational reason. Perhaps. Or it might be as rational as putting the rubbish collection bins in front of the bus stop.
The concept of the afternoon break is so well established in Italy, that even a store of this size and with so much stock to sell, is closed for the afternoon. All the workers clear out for a long lunch.
We had not yet visited the pilgrimage site of the hermitage: Eremi Di Carceri. It is an area in the woods a few kilometres outside of Assisi, where Saint Francis and his brother monks would withdraw to reflect, meditate and pray. The visitor can view the cells in which they dwelt in poverty, and wander around the trails. If you are seeking rest for the soul, then this is the place to be, a leafy place of peace and contemplation, filled with birdsong. Mossy, gnarled trees cling to the sides of the hills, growing sideways, and all around is green and peaceful.
And then we heard the thunder in the distance. As we hurried towards the exit, a smell of incense was carried on the air. We found a small chapel just before the exit. The floor stone was inscribed AD1477. Pilgrims have taken it on as a place to leave a message of love. On the simple altar, passport photos of young people were arranged in neat rows. We wondered if these were children who had died. Also on the altar was a large book in which visitors had written requests for miracles – one in English asked that sight be restored to their son.
The book was almost full, even though it had only been started a month before. It should have been sad, but in this tranquil place, the feeling was more of hope.
It was not long before the heavens opened again. This is our ninth day in Italy and it has rained every day. The weather is starting to take on a tropical quality. It is getting warm (as it always should have been), and the skies are blue for hours at a time, and then suddenly a squall will dump buckets of water. Perhaps though, the bad weather is getting tired, today’s rainfall was gentler and finished in a couple of hours.
Which was just as well, as tonight was Ruby’s end of year school performance, and it was being held in an amphitheatre in an outdoor park. All of the elementary (primary) school performed, I counted around three hundred in all. Some of the teachers were the hardest performers, crouched down in front of the stage coaching their pupils through the story told in song and dance. I could not understand much of it, it seemed to be based on an ecological theme, but it was a great spectacle to see. Ruby was a mushroom – don’t ask me what that was about. I told Francesca that in the Australian workplace a mushroom is a person who is kept in the dark and fed ‘you know what’ – but somehow I don’t think that is what the teacher had in mind for Ruby. She was dressed in white leggings and a t-shirt as the stalk, and when she bobbed her head the wide fabric headpiece was to look like the top of a mushroom. Although I have never seen a spotted one – perhaps that is a local specialty :-). Anyway, the kids had a great time, and the adults were kept entertained for ninety minutes, and Freddy gave us a good laugh with his impromptu dance moves. His ability to imitate what was happening on stage was extraordinary.
In fact, Ruby does not finish school until Saturday, and Freddy still goes on for some weeks yet, but the excitement and anticipation of the three month school break is all around us. And Australian parents worry about how to cope with a six week break!
Events of Thursday 6th June 2013, Garrulous Gwendoline, Assisi