Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Day 3 - My New Love

Humans are capable of experiencing two types of love, which are neither mutually exclusive nor mutually compatible. The first is the stuff of literature and movies, the wild, sensual love that is impulsive, all-consuming and, often, fleeting or self-destructive. The second is a steady love that is neither flashy nor outwardly focused nor selfish. It is "the love of a good woman" type of love, that is balanced, proper and lasting. Love can come at first sight, but such love is revered and romanticized because it is the exception, rather than the rule. More often the love that lasts is a love that is built on a solid foundation, a love that grows and changes over time, a love in which both partners give to and take from the relationship without keeping score or tally.

Today I woke up realizing that in a few short days I have grown to love Abruzzo. Not the impulsive love at first sight kind of love, but the hold hands and slowly stroll down the street type of love. Other parts of Italy, like Tuscany, offer the flash and sexiness that have also won my heart, but here the process has been slower, so slow that I didn't realize that I was falling in love. Perhaps I was set up - the Italian Trade Commission who organized this trip may have known that if we were kept in Abruzzo for more than a few days we would all fall in love with it. God knows, I doubt I would have planned to stay here for five days or even visit at all without their encouragement. But it has come to pass. I am in love and I don't want to change.

And on what foundation is this love built? For one, the people. For several days we have been in the company of Abruzzese artisans - men and women proud of their work, their families, their traditions and their histories. These people admittedly occupy a special place and may not accurately reflect the majority of Abruzzo, but when you are in love, you don't care about such things. It is enough to be with them, to be in their presence and to share their stories, their feelings and their aspirations for themselves, their families and their region.

The place they live in is truly remarkable. The tourist literature hypes that Abruzzo uniquely features mountains, valleys and the sea. It is a remarkable place just for that reason, the mountains, valleys and the sea. Pescara, a typical beach town, has served as our base of operations. It is not particularly attractive (especially at this time of year when the beach is deserted and many of the beachfront enterprises are shut down for the season), but it is hard not to like a place that has miles of sand, gentle breezes and palm trees. It is renowned, too, for its seafood, which he have not yet been able to sample as the rough seas have kept the fleet in port, but that will only add to its pleasantness.

In a matter of minutes, one can be exploring the coast, such as we did yesterday along the trabucchi coast, finding hidden treasures and then head inland and find oneself in towering mountains that look out on other mountains or back over the coast.

This is an area with an unrivaled past. It is full of ancient towns that predate Rome and civilizations that vied with it. The mountain towns are jewels - hodgepodges of historical eras and architectural styles piled one atop another, melding and blending together to create a mystical feeling. Streets are laid out along ancient footpaths, meandering and ambling from here to there, and you feel your mind and spirit transformed and transported to a different place by the simple act of walking. (Beware, this is a tangent: Social scientists have theorized that western peoples, who typically inhabit carpentered spaces, with walls and ceilings joining at least roughly at right angles, process certain visual information differently from peoples who inhabit non-uniform structures, such as mud huts. Those with a "carpentered world view" interpret a two dimensional representation of three lines joining in the shape of a "Y" as a three dimensional corner of three intersecting planes. Those with a non-carpentered world view see the shape as a Y. I believe that the meandering street plans (if you can call them plans) of ancient cities can detach modern man, with his Manhattan-esque gridwork street plan world view, from his orderly, structured way of thinking and feeling, even if only marginally and only temporarily. This is, I believe, why I feel such a wonderful sense of repose and freedom whilst wandering medieval alleys. End of tangent.)

These are but a few of the reasons I awoke this morning to find myself in love with Abruzzo. I am sure there are more, but the reasons are not important when you feel this way.

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