The Italian day has two very distinctive parts to it. It at least appears to me that there is a purpose for this.
Mornings start slowly and build up to a crescendo. Chores get done, people scurry here and there, even if the there is the local cafe or bar where a cappuccino awaits. The chatter of school children on their way to their early morning start of classes, can be heard as they proceed to the bus stop or their mother's car. Workmen arrive at their places and start to contemplate what they will accomplish on the given day. Some actually start their labors early. Women who are not rushing off to jobs outside the home will use this morning time to begin lunch preparations or to shop for the ingredients for the lunch they will share with their families when the children return from school shortly after one o'clock.
The lunch time breaks the day into the two parts. The day stops and everyone takes a breath.
Gates come down on the shop fronts, employees exit and go to their homes for a few hours every day, playing out again and again an age-old tradition of pausa. Very few shops remain open and it is rare to find a small alimentary that has not followed tradition. After all, despite the fact that the employees are surrounded by food all morning, they need to take leave to be back where the food is at its very best, a casa. Just like everyone else. No business at lunch time. Time to rest.
I found it very easy to harmonize with the "day's way", this time more than ever. It took a few days to get out of the traditional "tourist" way of thinking that every moment had to find me on some sight-seeing route, that I had to collect things to write home about. When I let that go and simply accepted the fact that my visit here is different in so many ways from all of my previous visits, I found myself naturally embracing the rhythm of the day. Mornings are very different from afternoons which are very different from evenings.
Shops re-open sometime around four in the afternoon. La pescheria, l'alimentari, il negozio di frutta e verdura e negozi di souvenir, all of which appeared to be out of business forever, turn the lights back on, uncover the goods and re-open for the second part of the day. Once again, people return to the streets and employees to their posts. A new kind of liveliness is in fashion as the best part of the day, in my opinion begins.....sunset.
Ancient oil lamps, now outfitted with electric lights, turn on and a quiet hush arrives. Locals return to the shops to purchase their fresh ingredients. They have time. Dinner will not be on the table until at least eight o'clock and it will be much lighter a meal than lunch. Perhaps they are shopping for the ingredients for an aperitivo....some cheese, fresh Umbrian bread for a bruschetta made simply of toasted slices, rubbed with garlic and topped with doses of fresh olive oil. Italians never drink wine without a little bite to eat and rarely just sit down to drink a glass of wine without a friend or an occasion, contrary to belief.
In keeping with the flow of the day, I find myself refreshed around four o'clock, ready to take another walk, sometimes to a favorite destination, sometimes to a place I've not yet discovered. Always with my camera and my eyes and ears wide open. The sounds are different now. Pet owners are calling and shaking containers of food as they attempt to coax their charges homeward.
This is the time the older women seem to appear, always in grey skirts it seems. Not yet time for their passagate, the evening strolls, often taken arm in arm with a husband, a grown child or a good friend. Now its time to return home from an afternoon visit with a friend or to shop. In all the streets and passageways, you hear exchanges - "Ciao Maria!" "Buona sera" as friends who have known each other since birth, pass in the street. Every day, its the same lovely chorus.
I can't stop talking pictures. I already have hundreds. When I return to the states, I'll sort them but now, I just keep taking them with my lovely little camera. I have morning shots of beautiful fall days and afternoon shots of what appear to be jewels everywhere as the sun sets and the Umbrian valley turns into the most beautiful palate of twinkling lights. And oh, the aroma. There is nothing that smells better or more comforting to me than that which fills the air when a fire is lit in an umbrian fireplace.
The wood here, it's different and the flames produce the smoke that fills my heart and reminds me that life here is different and the day here is filled with life.