A Small Town: Part II On Seeing

On seeing

It’s a small town. In around 20 minutes, I have an appointment at the health clinic at the other end of town.  Although I would once have walked there, a bus is now more convenient. The bus stop is right by the local bank and I’m early. I’ve had my morning cappuccino so I’ll just wait and people watch. Or just look around. On one side, the piazza is hemmed in by the unfinished town hall that makes me think of Ippolito Scalza, the architect (sixteenth century), and how he complained that the city paid him less than they would have paid more renowned non-local artists. As I continue to study the arches, I note that their bases vary in height.  There was once a well, or fountain as it is called in Italian, located on the terrace above those arches. A curious place for a well and I wonder if it did reach down to the water table. It somehow got moved to the small piazza on my right aptly known as Piazza dell’Erba (or greens, for that was where farm produce was sold), now crowded with cars instead of old ladies from the country hawking their wild salad greens. The windows in the building behind it are cross-windows, divided into four. The only ones in the entire city, telling you they were added in the 15th century. Throughout the centuries people seem to have been closing up and opening up new more fashionable windows in their palazzos.

Then there’s the bank itself. The brackets for the lanterns on the facade are carved with the insignia of the city: a goose, a cross, an eagle, a lion. The wrought iron grills of the main entrance sport bees as door latches. True, it is a savings bank but I’m not sure what that has to do with bees, although they are known for their tireless hoarding of honey. Up above there’s a balcony, presumably from where Garibaldi thanked the town for hosting him and his 200 redshirts on their way north in 1849, as noted in the plaque over to one side. The symbols on the bas relief on the other side of the balcony, a relief that dates to Fascist times says my neighbor as he puts the finishing touches on his terracotta version of a medieval house, might be of the professions. There’s a cogged wheel and a hammer, scales, a lamp on an open book, a spade and an ear of wheat…I’ll bet the employees of the bank have no idea what they mean and probably don’t even know they are there.

People enter, exit the bank. Are they happy? They greet each other, sometimes. A couple of dogs go by. There’s the lady with three puffy yappy ones, they turn out to be Pomeranians which my son does not classify as dogs. I wonder if her tall companion is also on a leash. A gray-haired woman with a flowered scarf, who seems to have just come from the hairdresser, comes around the corner. She’s the recently widowed mother of a friend of my son’s, living now, like me, in town where her children can keep an eye on her. Down the street a few people are lined up outside the fruit and vegetable shop, waiting their turn. In boxes outside, green globes of artichokes, red apples, oranges are signs of the season. Later they’ll have strawberries that taste like … strawberries. Two men come up the street; the one wearing an orange jacket is my electrician friend. He stops, we exchange a few words. Others come by, asking where my dog is. Yes, it’s a small town where my dog is better known than I am.

And there’s the bus. On the dot. The driver lowers the step, waits for me to climb in, sit down in a seat reserved for the elderly, before taking off around the corner to then miraculously swerve between walls with not even inches to spare on the way to the funicular. Few people catch the bus this time of day and I ask him to let me off at the clinic across from the dog park.

3 thoughts on “A Small Town: Part II On Seeing

  1. Dear Erika; Having visited all these places in person, I love visualizing them again as I listen to your description. I hope your appointment at the clinic went well. Warm thoughts, Mike


  2. Such an interesting picture of this historic town, Erika. I love the thought of Garibaldi addressing the people on his way through – a vivid moment of history. Of course we have medieval towns and properties here in England, and Roman remains too, but not so many of either as in Italy. I remember once standing on a corner in Rome and turning around seeing classical, medieval, fascist era and modern buildings all visible from the same point.
    It’s good that you can catch a bus locally, and that the modern vehicles have steps that can be lowered.


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