Italian souvenirs by Mirino
Such 'random meetings', that in reality can never be qualified as such, are more often than not the instigators of a chain of positive effects that endlessly continue to determine others. Interwoven circumstances in an endless, positive evolution. The 'one good turn determines another' effect.
In history these are far less recorded than the negative evolutions. As a rule the 'one bad turn determines another' monopolises the world's history books of humanity.
But maybe it's thought that I'm digressing. What has all this got to do with Italian souvenirs?
Perhaps this allusion is especially pertinent regarding Italy, because of Italian generosity. This is not simply a reference to generous servings of pasta Veronese, or, to an introductory Milanese welcome, generously serving oneself to someone else's property. I'm referring to Italian history, magnificent, Italian art and architecture, Italian traditions such as the Palio, the Carnival of Venice, and Italian food and wines of course. Italian hospitality.
Italian generosity is not necessarily in terms of quantity, it's of quality. It's the giving of one's best which is essential to all art, and why Italy will always be an international reference for art and architecture.
Where else in the world can one appreciate a carnival that is more elegant, magical and imaginative than that of Venice? Where else can one be moved by the colourful tradition and the courage and zeal of the Palio horse riders of Siena and of similar events that take place in other cities in Tuscany?
Yet despite such events, mid summer may not be the ideal period to go there. Perhaps Florence is not at it's best when the Arno is low and sluggish. And when one has already heard so much about this fabulous city, seeing it then for the first time might even cause some disappointed. But this was certainly not the case regarding Siena. Walking up the little, shaded lanes one is suddenly taken aback by the surprise view of huge, sun-lit piazzas of fabulous edifices, and there is that same, wonderful contrast of finely, interposed, architectural styles that one also admires so much in la piazza San Marco of Venice.
Another memorable city of Tuscany is Arezzo, one of the important Etruscan capitals (Dodecapolis) famous for many sites including its medieval square- la Piazza Grande, and the recently restored Piero della Francesca frescoes that one can see in the church of San Francesco di Arezzo.
Then the less grandiose Vinci, more to visit the museum there to admire the numerous inventions and innovations of Leonardo. So incredibly in advance of his time, that he was far less appreciated during his lifetime than he should have been. Perhaps the timelessness of his work is due to his devoted study and appreciation of the fine workings of nature, natural science, human and animal anatomy. These in turn seem to have been an inexhaustible source of information and inspiration for his engineering feats, which might also explain why the results of his work are endlessly applicable.
Another souvenir is the most picturesque drive from Arezzo to Bagno di Romagna, from Bibbiena through the majestic forests up to the passo di Mandrioli. We were less taken by what little we saw of the Adriatic side of Italy, preferring the Mediterranean coast where the sea is far more inviting, and in this case the Promontorio dell'Argentario springs once more to mind.
Then to return to other pleasures, a visit to the medieval Castello di Montozzi in the same Commune of Arezzo (Pergine Valdarno) is recommended, not only for the views down across the Valle d'Arno, but to taste their fine wines and their superb extra virgin olive oil, and maybe buy a few bottles, including their excellent Grappa del Chianti. (In the village of Pergine Valdarno there is also a first rate butcher, who specialises in curing and treating delicious hams).
To end this little series, briefly returning to the first paragraph and Lavane, Montevarchi, raising my glass of grappa (anche invitando un segnale d'amicizia a Carla, a Arnaldo, a Nicoletta ed a suo fratello- buon fine d'anno e buon Natale!) I should add that Nicoletta has been accepted to expose her work for a month in the New Year in a large and well lit gallery in les Alpes Maritimes, France... There's a reason for everything.