Join Date: Oct 2003
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It is Domenica (Sunday) morning in the Piazza Novembre IV, Perugia, Umbria, Italy. Umbria is geographically located in the very heart of Italy. Its tactical location remained resilient against the many North-South wars waged upon its grounds. Its symbolic location is why it has become a refuge to many alternative and left-wing artists, writers, poets, philosophers and politicians of the modern times. I'm sitting on the stone steps of the Duomo (cathedral), the most popular gathering place in Perugia, basking in the gentle sun and reading a book written by my friend Giammi Venditti, about the spiritual and mystical experiences of his fictional character, Barnaras, in Varanasi, India.
Just last night, we were standing at the foot of these same steps, circling the Fontana Maggiore (main fountain), and discussing the symbolism inlaid around its twelve facets: from the mythology of Hercules, to the tale of Adam and Eve, to the major schools of philosophy and academy. Giammi is a tantric yoga instructor whom I met the morning before in front of the Chiesa San Nicolas, Assisi, holy ground to thousands of pilgrims who seek to retrace the steps of Francis Assisi, the saint who could communicate with the animals of the ground and the birds of the sky. I was admiring a flock of white doves when he approached me about his book. That night we accidentally met again underneath the great lights of the Carousel in Perugia. I visited his Yoga Studio, a holistic wellness center offering yoga, massage therapy and counseling/training. It was the first time that I received a cranial-sacral massage, one that I would regret for the next three days, even though I had been alerted of some discomfort that would follow after the first session. Nothing could have prepared me to the fact that it actually felt like I had a really bad sun-burn around my neck and shoulders! Gianluigi was confident about the effectiveness of his practice, and otherwise gentle, intuitive and passionate…
It's almost 10 AM, time for mass, and families come flocking out into the piazza, strolling their children and aged parents under the gentle Umbrian sun. Pigeons, instead of water, adorn the fountain in this warm winter day. Perugians are so close to earth, to their 'place,' living side by side to the ancient Etruscan well and wall. When one praises the architecture or frescoes of a particular building, they do not hesitate to offer, full of pride and dignity, "yes, and it is more than 1300 years old." The aged steps of the duomo are worn with time and show the vestiges of people, birds and crawling insects. Yet, the Perugians, in their finest Sunday winter attire of gabardine and wool pants, silk ascots, cashmere wool scarves, classic and finely cut trench coats, silk wool and leather jackets, elegant skirts, beautifully collared sweaters, leather boots and purses, have no qualms about sitting out in those rugged steps. Children look so beautiful cuddled up in their wooly, fluffy and vibrant jackets and coats (European fashion sense is even evident in children!) chasing pigeons and running around the piazza under their families' watchful eyes. It is evident that it takes a tribe to raise a child in Italy. The colors and voices of this warm Sunday scene dance to the nostalgic sound of the accordion played with full Italian vigor and flair by a street artist. I gather around him with the crowd and leave him some change as a sign of appreciation.
Just a short step away from the main piazza, I find myself whirling through the ancient stone steps and homes. The stone surface gives the narrow and at times arched streets a cool ambience, reminding me of freshly hung laundry in the open air. A short walk up the windy steps and the view opens into a vast panorama of Perugia painted by light brown, orange and yellow stone buildings, parading their aged terracotta tile roofs. Further away, is the beautiful Umbrian countryside of valleys and hills dotted with grape and olive groves in various shades of green, yellow and brown. I inhale deeply and give a big sigh…
It's quite amusing to be brought back to times, as the quietude of this beautiful Sunday morning is momentarily shattered by the blasting radio sound of a very familiar American pop tune, as the sing-along voices of some Italian teenage girls also come through. I listen intently and try to follow the sound to its wooden shutter and window of origin, but no sooner is the sound gone, and I am reminded that it does not matter, life on earth, here and there, yesterday, now and forever, it is all just the same...
Off to Siena now and the beautiful Tuscan countryside…