The valley that I see each day, as I walk along the edge of the cliff, is as it always is. Fields, olive groves, hedgerows of hawthorne waiting for the spring to burst into billows of white, rows of dark cypresses pointing to the sky, a house here and there along a winding country road. Some of the fields and vineyards have been abandoned, let grow wild. There are the usual landmarks, places I can single out. The flat-roofed supermarket, the only building out of place, with the Capuchin convent keeping watch on high, and over to the right the terrace of the restaurant with its wonderful view of the city and its cathedral. Something though is missing. An intangible void. It’s an emptiness I cannot put my fingers on. A void I cannot even see, but only sense, for I know that the man and the woman who lived in the lovingly restored house just below the Capuchin convent, with its vineyards and olive trees and gardens, are no longer there. Yet it is more than their physical presence. It is the knowledge that I will never again be hugged by that tall figure or sit down to a perfect table with its coordinated place mats and a vase with wildflowers, to be served salmon with an orange sauce, or a roast with prunes, not in the least Italian, and where a splatter on the rim of the soup plate will be carefully removed before bringing it to the table. Where we will chat about what is going on in the city and whether it is time to pick the grapes or olives. All these are now part of the past, are memories. Looking out over the valley to where that house still is, but to where they no longer live, makes me aware that it is not so much the place that matters as the people, the friends, associated with that place. And while I miss the changing of the seasons, the first crocus, the colors of the autumn leaves, the wind rustling in the trees, the chestnuts dropping – footsteps in the woods -, the shadows creeping up over the city, it’s the people who are irreplaceable. After over 20 years they have left, and I feel their absence more perhaps than if they had simply disappeared. I look at the valley and it is no longer the same. The house is still there but they aren’t. Part of my life has gone with them.