This story is about a small, sleepy Italian town where everything still closes for a long lunch break (or siesta). It’s also about how I spent the best 5 months of my life there. A town with a cobbled medieval town centre protected by a wall. Not on the map for the main touristic routes, it’s a perfect place to visit for a taste of Italy. In February we had just arrived, friendships were tentatively taking root and sending shy, bright green shoots towards the sky. We were walking around the town, exploring. The weather was grey in that last month of winter and my friend kept complaining about the wind. “The wind, oh the wind! My cheeks are so red!” And indeed, it wasn’t much of a welcome. At times it seemed the town was abandoned. Had we walked onto the set of a post apocalyptic movie?
Yet Viterbo was giving us vivid signs of life even then because at some point you will walk into the town centre and find a celebration bursting with colour, kids and confetti. Even clowns! Here’s what celebrations in Viterbo look like – in cold February and later, when it comes to life and its vibrant little community explodes into life and colours in spring.
Thanks to one celebration – Città a colori (or the Town in colour) – I got to try my hand at proper photography. There was a photo competition going and my friend and I stumbled across it a couple of hours before the photos had to be handed in and I had to run back to the Casa dello studente (the student halls of residence) to recharge my camera batteries! In all, I managed to take photos of clowns and red-nosed lions and balloons and was very proud to see a few days after in the exhibition three, yes THREE!, of my photos!
… life extended into the warm and convivial evenings. In February the streets were so empty and grey, you felt you were in a ghost town but after Easter we came back to a different Viterbo where people and music flooded the Busy piazzas, cozy cafes buzzing with conversation, quiet nooks with beautiful fountains where courting couples hide away. Viterbo took on a more romantic, mysterious personality as the sun went down…
There was a small piazza with a fountain. Light was warm, yeallow but mystical at the same time. The strange effect was reinforced by the weird images of oranges and palm frond floating in the water…
Day or night, there was always Schenardi.
A cafe nestled in a small street, by my favourite piazza – Piazza delle Erbe, housed in a wonderful building. A couple of years ago it closed, sadly. After being converted back into a cafe around 2010, having been a McDonalds of all things before that, it only survived a couple years. I am glad we were there to see it as a cafe bustling with life and alive with the smell of good coffee and all the colours of the ice cream rainbow.
Magdalena and I at Schenardi
There was nothing better than just sitting in a cafe for hours over one latte macchiato with friends. One of the most wonderful things about friends is that they push you out of your comfort zone. One of our wonderful Italian friends was in a band and they played the right music. We went along to see one of his performances.With the right people and the right music I danced.
Magdalena and I with the Rifflessi boys
This is where all the magic happened
[Here I cannot help but advertise the lovely band Riflessi – there is a hint of Frank Sinatra, The Beatles and The Beach Boys to them. Check them out: http://rifflessi.blogspot.it/%5D
There are also chance encounters and friendships you don’t expect. When I say “friend”, I don’t necessarily mean human. I met the same cat in the same spot several times.
Perhaps the time was right. Perhaps it had something to do with me coming out of my shell. Perhaps I am romatasizing… But Italy put a spell on me and going to live there one day is always a possibility or, perhaps, merely a dream…
By Casa dello studente
Spring in Viterbo
Magdalena, thank you.