la marche (Italy, part 1)
Friday, October 06, 2006
On the way to Ceriana, Italy...
la marche (marsh) noun, feminine
1. step, stair 2. walk, walking
Who can ever be alone for a moment in Italy? Every stone has a voice, every grain of dust seems instinct with spirit from the Past, every step recalls some line, some legend of long-neglected lore. --Margaret Fuller
Desiring Italy: Women Writers Celebrate the Passions of a Country and Culture.
A Day in a French Life...
The lush hills leading back to the Italian Riviera's hinterland are covered with fruit-bearing vines just begging to be handled.
"Somebody better pick those grapes," Jean-Marc says, pulling the car to the side of the cliff-like road to snap a photo.
"Before they turn into raisins!" I add. When my husband doesn't respond, I realize that he probably didn't even hear me, so enamored is he by the steeply terraced landscape which represents the vineyard of his dreams. Rustic homes and stone cabanos are sprinkled across the hillside with terraces of their own, in terre cuite* and iron, covered with bright red bougainvillea, periwinkle-blue liseron* and other colorful and climbing flowers.
When we are halfway between the sea and the mountains, we reach the medieval town of Ceriana where darkly painted shutters, some open, some closed, some undecided (with one or two quarters of the shutter propped open, as only Italian shutters can) add drama to the pastel facades. Jean-Marc and I follow the marches* up the moss-covered brick walkways which are flanked by cobbled stone and book-ended by ancient walls rising to the Ligurian heavens. Dark walkways loop through the concentric village and at times we are guided by music or by the bell tower, its insistent ringing calling us out of the cave-like recesses until we surface at the Piazza Rubini.
There, in the sunlit square, a faded trompe-l'oeil* overlooks the church before which a bustling outdoor market is underway (all of three stands selling anything from cleaning products to sausage). Next to the massive church, where the village homes continue to cling together like so many sardines in a tin, a young girl calls up to a balcony until a white haired woman in a floral housecoat appears from behind a beaded door curtain. I look up to find more villagers talking to one another from their tiny balcons*. The smell of caramelizing onions wakes my hunger and I imagine the Italians are about to sit down to lunch.
The scene begins to infuse my pores until, beneath my skin, in the deepest fibers of a wandering soul, I feel the urge to transcend one of those homey beaded curtains to find myself basking in the warmth of an Italian cucina,* about to break bread with someone whose native tongue knows more singsong than diphthong. As you can imagine, this is just what happens next...
* * *
For past chapters in this story, visit:
References: la terre cuite (f) = terracotta; le liseron (m) = bindweed; la marche (f) = stair; le trompe-l'oeil (m) = a style of painting that "fools the eye"; le balcon (m) = balcony; la cucina (f) = kitchen (in Italian)
Listen to Jean-Marc recite today's quote: Download marche.wav
Qui peut jamais être seul un instant en Italie ? Chaque pierre a une voix, chaque grain de poussière semble être l'instinct d'un esprit du Passé, chaque marche rappelle quelque ligne, quelque légende d'une tradition depuis longtemps à l'abandon.
faire une marche = to take a walk
mettre en marche = to start
la marche arrière = reverse (automobile)
faire marche arrière = to back up
la marche nuptiale = wedding march
En avant, marche! Forward, march!
In "The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen" Donna Klein provides more than 300 recipes suited to anyone who wants to eat a healthful diet free of animal products.
One Hundred & One Beautiful Small Towns of Italy
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety