We had heard that our little village of Benano is featured in a fresco in Orvieto, but all we knew was that it was supposed to be in a building across the piazza from the Duomo. So I went on a fresco hunt this morning.
The Etruscan Museum is directly across from the church, so that was my first stop. I was deflated when I saw its stark white walls. Museum staff confirmed that I wouldn’t find any frescos there. They didn’t know where to suggest I look, so I poked my head into a few shops opposite the church. Then I came to this locked door.
This looked as promising as it was imposing, and I suspected I had found it. I had also found a fellow student in the piazza, so she was with me when I rang the bell. The lock buzzed and the door popped open and we found ourselves in an empty marble stairwell. Seeing neither people nor a fresco, we took the only route possible, which was up the stairs. We came into another empty anteroom. But this one had frescos near its very high ceiling. We had found it! We took some pictures, congratulated ourselves on our ingenuity, and when no one ever came to see whom they had buzzed in, we left the building.
So I don’t know anything else about the fresco. I’m clearly no Nancy Drew when it comes to sleuthing.
And that’s OK. I’m getting used to not understanding a lot of what’s happening around me. It’s a humbling and kind of liberating feeling.
On a sadder note, this is a photo of the Benano village gate with the death notice that was posted recently:
Death notices like this are standard in Italy. My Italian teacher told me that Orvieto has a prescribed place for posting such notices, and people will go and browse them, sort of like some of us browse the obituaries in the newspaper. This death announcement includes what you would expect: the deceased person’s name, date of the death and funeral arrangements. It also included her age. This woman was 97.
If the little boy just born in Orvieto lives as long as the woman from Benano who just passed away, he will live until 2107.
May it be so.
I saw a little slice of life the other day. It was touching, heartwarming, and as universal as happy children and doting fathers – with an Italian twist.
In the very early afternoon, a school bus roared up to one of the houses just outside our village gate. A happy little schoolgirl wearing a dress and a pink backpack jumped off the bus and practically into the arms of her father, who had emerged as the bus climbed the hill.
They could have been advertising familial contentment.
The twist? It was Saturday. Italian schoolchildren attend class on Saturday mornings!
I love my routine, so I’m incorporating the greatest hits from my home routine into its Italian counterpart. Today I went for a morning run. My fellow gym-rats at home may be surprised to know that I got off the treadmill and into the glorious fresh air.
My “running” route starts with a hill that is is too steep to even jog. I’ll revisit that after my 6 weeks here, but I think it will always be too steep. At least it’s short and provides a nice view. My favorite photo of Benano is taken from a switchback about mid-way up the hill. I walk up that hill and call it my warm-up.
The reward at the summit is a long stretch of open and gently rolling road. It’s a near-ideal walking, jogging, or running route. In different seasons, I have seen people working the fields, but the sheep are my most consistent companions up there.
I ran to the end of the road and back to Benano, where some of my neighbors were gathered outside. Had I stopped there, I probably would have gone about 2.5 miles. My neighbors, who I assume were waiting for one of the merchants to drive up in a truck with produce, bread, cheese, and/or meat, waved to me. I waved back and signaled “UP!” as I ran by and away from Benano in the other direction. They laughed. Were they laughing with me, knowing I was in for a workout, or at me, because I didn’t look capable of running up that hill? Discuss amongst yourselves.
Mercifully, the worst part of that hill is short, too. Here it is in a photo I just took of it from our dining room window:
My neighbors were still out as I came back in, and I remembered an important Italian word in time to make conversation with them. I started with, “basta.” (enough.)
This morning’s routine certainly didn’t feel very routine.