Living as a Local in the Tiber River Valley
From Sydney to Anghiari. Ann Game’s living experience in Tuscany and her love for Italy.
One of the most important thing in our life is to find a place in which you feel at home. Ann, lots of years ago, arrived in Anghiari and every year she comes back to live in this part of Tuscany as a local.
Her life in Anghiari is a story of love for Tuscany, for healthy and good food, hospitality and for the Italians.
We’re happy to share her experience in Anghiari and to have her as Ambassador for this amazing project that is Memory Route — a project to experience the real Tuscany travelling through Valtiberina to switch off and to get in touch with the simple and most important things in life.
But now it’s better to listen to Ann’s words and experience in this amazing part of Tuscany full of stories, memories, good food and wine.
“Yesterday I arrived in Anghiari, a mediaeval town in eastern Tuscany to which I have been returning over the past 12 or so years. It is early morning and the bells are ringing around the town, one set after another.
The final point of the journey from Australia is the turn into Corso Matteotti, the main Renaissance street of Anghiari, which becomes the straight Roman road down the hill, across the Tiber valley, to San Sepolcro. Suddenly, there is a breathtaking view. It’s siesta time when we arrive, but, later in the afternoon, when we head out to do some shopping, the town is coming to life. There is a constant stream of vehicles down Corso Matteotti, and the central piazza is a buzz. There is no special event on — this is just an everyday Saturday afternoon. It’s a little too early for my favourite vegetable and fruit shop to reopen, but I notice artichokes outside another one. There are a couple of different varieties of these beautiful purple vegetables, and the proprietor tells me about their different qualities and ways of cooking them. I leave with some of the small firm ones, as well as cavolo nero and other vegetables, all local and extraordinarily fresh. The lemons, he says, are wild. And here is what strikes me time and time again: these small, unassuming shops have the most wonderful food; and, it’s not gourmet; it’s everyday. Anghiari has a population of something like 6,000 people, with five shops selling fruit and vegetables as well as a weekly market (which, according to a sign on a wall, has been here every Wednesday since 1388).
Perhaps even more ordinary than the vegetable shop is the next one we visit. It’s what’s referred to as a supermarket and is common in small towns all over Italy. These can be even smaller than this particular one and, yet, carry everything, from laundry detergent to the local prosciutto. From the outside, there is nothing about this shop that would indicate what lies within — there are no boxes of enticing artichokes, even though you might well find them inside, and, as it is on a spring, the door remains closed.
The elderly couple who own the shop do a little double take as I enter and, then, with big smiles, welcome me back. For how many years has it been? Am I staying in the same place? For how long? There is a choice of pecorinos — the whole range from ‘fresh’ to ‘hard’, and we are offered tastes. They press their own oil, and, in response to our enthusiastic response to this information, we are offered a taste on some of the traditional saltless Tuscan bread. It is prepared with care. Then, oil is decanted into a bottle for us, and a search for an appropriate cork ensues. We hear that last year was an unusually bad one for their olives; some bug had got into them and very little oil could be produced. This year has been better, and their ancient trees have recovered. As we are filling our little trolley with basic supplies, we are presented with the classic Tuscan crostini chicken liver dish made by the wife herself. What generosity.
I walk happily home, humbled by the hospitality we have received. Jetlag seems to have been suspended, at least for now.”
There’s another important point for Ann: the importance of the word “buongiorno” but please read here her words…
“More and more I am appreciating the importance of ‘buongiorno’ (which becomes ‘buonasera’ after lunch). From the moment I set foot in the street, I share this greeting with others. And it feels like stepping into life.
As people pass each other, walking up and down the street, in the piazza, at the counter in the bar, they say ‘buongiorno’. Everyone says it. The other day, a man walking down the street in the same direction as me, turned as he passed, looked me in the eyes, and said ‘buongiorno’. A gracious gesture. Each one of these meetings matters; they never have the quality of ‘have a nice day’ on automatic pilot. In this moment there is a connection.
‘Buongiorno’ has the same quality as the ‘good morning’ shared by people engaged in daily rituals on Bondi beach. And, in both places, these greetings happen both between people who ‘know’ each other, and between people who don’t. But, for me anyway, the experience of connection on Bondi stands out as a contrast to much of everyday life in Sydney. Here, in Anghiari, on the other hand, everyday greetings are integral to ordinary public life. It might not be going too far to say that, in their ordinariness, they are life-giving.
I had wondered if this experience was so much part of life here that it was taken for granted by the people. And, just as I was about to write this blog (http://www.livinginrelation.com/), I learned something about this question. I was interviewing Simona and Matteo (mother and son) from the tutto shop two doors down, about their sense of belonging to Anghiari. When I asked Simona what she liked about living here, her immediate response was ‘i saluti’ (the greetings), the way everyone says ‘buongiorno’ as they pass the shop. That makes it a special place, she said. As it happens, they are often the first people with whom I share the day as I step into the street!”
Thank you Ann for your experience, for your love for Italy and for sharing with us your experience as a local.
More articles on her blog here http://www.livinginrelation.com/
You can visit Anghiari and experience it like a local: http://en.memoryroute.org/plan-your-route/