Thursday, January 19, 2012

orvieto

There are often days, especially cold, rainy Thursdays, when I miss Orvieto, a small Umbrian town that sits high on an Italian hillside. I lived there for four months while studying abroad during college, and a little piece of my heart refused to come home when I did.

On many of these Italy-missing days I long to walk along the cobbled streets, to lean against the ancient stone walls that overlook a very plush, green countryside, or to sit with friends in Locanda del Lupo, the restaurant where we discovered delicious dishes that put Olive Garden cuisine to absolute shame. I am always delighted when some strange, unrelated scent, taste, or happening here in the present summons a tucked away memory from my Italian past.

For example, one Wednesday morning as I walked into the weekly Eucharist service offered at the seminary where I work, I breathed deeply the rich, textured, spicy aroma of incense and immediately found myself sitting on the hard stone of a cold pew in the dark, dank basement of a church in Norcia. It was in that little catacomb that we listened to Benedictine monks in their brown robes and burly beards chanting ancient, chilling prayers.

And the salty taste of a good, dry cheese always reminds me of the simple lunches of Pecorino Romano with a hard lump of bread and an orange with flesh that dripped juice the color of blood. These flavors conjure up the ringing laughter from afternoons with friends, when we peered out onto the green pastures of Umbria or stood in awe before the incredible Duomo in Florence.


Overlooking Orvieto

Even the little apartment building in which my husband and I live reminds me of my time in Italy. The building is only a short walk from train tracks, so we often hear the rumble of an approaching train in the evenings. And many times, if I close my eyes, I can imagine sitting again in the worn blue seats of the main train that travels everyday from Florence to Rome, making a quick stop in Orvieto where we (my friends and I) would climb aboard toward an adventure in one of Italy’s great cities or little towns. 

Florence Duomo

And although I rarely buy fresh flowers anymore, the smell and bundle of lovely blooms remind me of the Thursday morning markets in the cobble-stoned piazza of Orvieto. Almost every week before class and after breakfast I browsed the seller’s selections and made my careful pick, eventually handing her a euro or two and carrying the beautiful buds back to my room on the second floor of an old convent where we lived.

I miss Orvieto, but I savor the times when my senses carry me through memories and back to the details of delicious meals, fun with friends, and all of the incredible experiences of Italian adventures. 

Is there a place in the world that you love and miss and enjoy remembering?

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