More Washing on the Line – My Love Affair with Italy


    A photograph taken of the Piazza del Campo in ...

I love washing hanging on a line. When I visited Italy I was entranced by sheets hanging out across streets or from window to window, nonchalantly billowing in the dappled breeze.  I loved that about Italy.  Although Armani came in at a close second, I’ll admit.

I remember the first day I saw that washing, in Siena, late summer, the day I fell in love with Italy.  I went to visit the Duomo, to feel the grandeur, and watch the old women in black who kneel for hours muttering imprecations to the Virgin Mary.  “ Madre, per favore, il mio sposo, mi ha fatto male per troppo tempo.  Prendelo, prendelo, Le prego.  Mi da qualche anni di liberta!” “Virgin mother, please, my husband, he’s done me wrong for too long now.  Take him away. Take him away.  I beg you.  Give me some years of liberty!”

Imagine: your husband dies and you wear black for the rest of your life.  Actually, imagine your husband drives you mad but he doesn’t die.  Then eventually the Virgin Mary answers your prayers, takes him off your hands, and you can’t even wear colourful clothes to celebrate. No wonder they mutter darkly those women.  The men don’t wear black or mutter in church, though.  I wonder why.

Well I steeped myself in grandeur and satiated my curiosity about old women praying, then it became somewhat oppressive.  So I went outside, giving fervent thanks to the powers that be that I’d shuffled those Catholic rules off .  To celebrate, I climbed the stairs which take you to the top of the part that was never finished, but which gives you the view anyway.

Italy does fill your heart in some unearthly way, I admit it. I stood for a while, drinking it in, Toscana in late summer.  Bells rang for someone far across a valley.

With my heart full I descended the stairs to a small cafe, with a couple of tables on the street.  I sat down in the late summer sun, drinking my coffee, nobody else in sight.  The air was still and it was very quiet, early afternoon; that time in Tuscany when everybody is doing whatever they do behind closed shutters.  Sleeping off a hearty lunch of pasta, gnocchi di patate, pollo arrosto. Chianti.  Pane.  They eat more food in one meal than I do in a week, those Italians, no wonder they need to sleep it off.

A solitary person or two strolled by.  A small slinky black cat with a paw that was half white, half ginger, came up to me and stroked itself against my leg.

I knew better than to lean down to it – that makes them run away – so I just let it do its thing.  Replete, I.  And there across the street was somebody’s washing, hanging out of the window, waving in the slight breeze.

My my.

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