A Woman, a Walk, a Wall and a Saint – Part I

This morning my friend who had been visiting for three days went back home to London.  Before she arrived I had had house guests for five days prior.  My flat has been hopping. I love having guests and showing off my little city as I’m a natural host and thoroughly enjoy entertaining.   But between my guests from Spain, Turkey and London, my local friends, all the sightseeing, cafe eating, Spritz drinking and miles upon miles of walking – I was pooped.  In three days my Mother and sons arrive for the duration of my sabbatical and there’ll be even more travel, eating and exploring to be done – of which I am excited for.

After she left this morning I did a bit of grocery shopping, opened all the windows, cleaned the flat and did laundry.   Although the weather was sunny and warm, I had decided that I would stay inside all day and write, take a nap and maybe paint.  I put my yoga pants on and laid down in bed to try to sleep around noon. The nights have been late ones and it’s catching up to me and the rest and quiet was welcomed.  But I couldn’t sleep.  Not a wink.  I got up and paced the flat.  Looking outside at the beautiful day I thought maybe I’d just go for a short walk to the bridge and back and hit my favorite pastry shop to pick up desert for tonight.  I changed into sandals, nice pants, a shirt and a sweater, put my purse over my shoulder and headed outside.

When I got to the Ponte Pietra I crossed the river.  Looking up, I saw the Castel San Pietro (circa 1398) on the hill above me.  I hadn’t ventured up to the castle yet and although I was tired I thought, “eh, I’ll just go up, check it out and go home to sleep.”  When I reached the top I found a lovely little park next door to the Castel so I sat on a bench in the shade for a while and soaked up the view.  I felt very relaxed.  After staying some time at the park I walked the remaining little bit of stairs to the Castel itself.  It was closed but due to the great views, cars were lining the parking lot and with them, lots of people.  For some odd reason I decided to walk around the castle and explore it anyway.

On the other side, away from the cars and people I found a little road that looked like it curved into a neighborhood – so I followed it.  It was shaded and I was grateful as the walk up the hill and sun were both making me even more tired.  I rested for a few minutes by a tree, took my sweater off and continued my walk.  Above me the walls on the hillside loomed.  They were the Walls of San Pietro; Communal Walls from the 12th century.  After passing a small campground I noticed a grass footpath that led through some trees nestled on a hillside – so I followed that too.  I wondered if it was private property but I didn’t see any signs.  Just a long path.

Finally I came to an opening and found myself standing at the base of the Communal Walls I had just saw when resting in the shade back at the Castel Pietro. The walls are huge, especially when you’re so close to them.  They seemed to go on for miles and so did the path – so I followed it.  I didn’t see anyone else on the path but once in a while I would come to a plaque on the wall explaining what it was…although I couldn’t read all the words.  There were little grottos (a word I can read mind you) and empty towers that once held soldiers and look-out guards.  There were times it felt eerie; to be on a path, following a 12th century wall, hearing only the birds and being completely alone.  But I also appreciated the peace and although eerie, I felt very safe.  I thought once that I should turn back but it was almost a compulsion to continue – to see where the walls and path would lead me.

I reached the top of the hill and began gradually descending down.  Some time later I was gifted with an entire grove of none other than olive trees.  I sat down on the grass, took my camera out and began taking photos of the trees, snails and walls while feeling utterly happy.  I had forgotten I was tired at that point.  When done soaking up the olives I took another small road which led out of the grove and back into what I thought was a housing area.  But it wasn’t.

In the wall, there was a little archway that led to the other side – so I went through it.  I found myself at the end of a driveway.  The entrance gate was open and I could see the villa and gardens beyond the tree-lined road.  There was a sign next to the gate which read, “Comunita ‘S. Giuseppe – don Calabria.”  I didn’t know what that meant but thought that because it was a “comunita” or “community” maybe I could take a look at the gardens.  I hoped it was a community garden.  I enjoy gardening, visiting gardens and pretty much anything green.  And again…I just felt compelled to go see it.

Walking up the stone driveway I was a bit in awe.  I thought that it had to be on the list of gardens of Verona and I had just missed it somehow.  Potted plants and flowers, trees and  statues of Saint Joseph dotted the driveway and at the end – a huge, soft pastel pink villa with just as many flowers surrounding it as well.  There were cars in the driveway and a few scooters too.  I stood by the cars and looked around for someone or at least a sign showing me where an office was… but there was nothing…no signs.  I worried again that maybe I was trespassing, though for some reason I just knew it’d be okay.  Then an older man came out of one of the doors and I called to him, trying to get his attention but he ignored me, like he didn’t hear or notice me at all and I wasn’t that far from him.  I called to him again and still nothing – so I followed him…..

to be continued tomorrow ………..

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