Hoisting our backpacks, my students and I start up a narrow staircase that points us left and right. In November 1820, John Keats and his friend Joseph Severn climbed these stairs to two small rooms above the Spanish Steps, ready to stay until the end, which they knew wouldn’t be far away. Nevertheless, they rented a piano. Getting that piano back downstairs must have been a nightmare. Not to mention the armloads of drapes and rugs, and the sheets and the pillows, and the mattress, stained with sad rings of blood. But it was the law: all movable furnishings of a consumptive’s sickroom, even the wallpaper, must be burned. And then, on a late February day in 1821, would have come the carrying-down of Keats’ small body itself: a twenty-five-year-old man, five feet tall and wasted to the weight of an adolescent, the luminous eyes closed for good.
I liked to climb to the highest point of the village, to the wind-beaten church, where the eye can sweep over an endless expanse in every direction, identical in character all the way around the circle.– Carlo Levi, Christ Stopped at Eboli
When I was a boy, my grandfather, Domenico Preziosi, lived on Route 110, a double-barreled commercial strip in Huntington, New York, on Long Island, its cacophony a rousing anthem of people engaged in the business of living. Seemingly oblivious to the commotion, my grandfather tended his modest lot with a rustic’s stoic care that revealed his origins in one of southern Italy’s most remote regions. There was a small garden where he planted tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. There were pear trees, cherry trees, and apple trees, and where two had grown close together he had wedged planks between the trunks to serve as benches. Grapevines twisted through the piping of an iron trellis. He also made his own wine, which he bottled and stored in his cellar, its color closer to black than red.
I take the number 25 bus from Piazza San Marco north into the hills and get off at La Pietra—a stone marking one Roman mile from Florence. Behind the imposing gate, Villa La Pietra waits at the top of the long drive lined with Tuscan cypress trees.This fifteenth-century villa is the centerpiece of a fifty-seven-acre estate of Renaissance-revival gardens,a vast art collection, a library of over twelve thousand volumes, and olive groves with views of the Duomo.
By PAOLA PERONI
Last year, Antonio Greco committed suicide after attempting to kill his wife with a hammer. The doctors refused to speculate on the prognosis of his wife, hospitalized in critical condition. When we heard the news, I said I was only surprised Antonio had waited so long to try to kill Maria.
i want to travel with you like light, all over
wine and gondoliers, round pink-faced foreigners, street lamps
my hand in your black hair
and because we’re often laughing, we laugh
at how precious the buildings are in this drunken city
like piles of leaves we jump inside them
When your cousin offers to meet you at the airport and drive you to Abruzzo, don’t even pretend to defer. As you will learn from the passenger seat, to say “driving” in Italy is to say “a lot of close calls.” A tunnel on a two-lane road may admit just one car. Passing’s no fun senza risk. In small towns, main roads are closed on Sundays so neighbors can chat in the street. Memorize multiple routes.
It was early September, the air still balmy, the perfect weather for a Venetian escapade. Caterina and Pascal were sitting in a café across a canal divining their future, in a quiet campo off the beaten track, away from the tourists and the film crowd who had invaded the city for the festival. They sipped their frothy iced cappuccinos, basking in the sun, their eyes fixed on its refractions dotting the greenish canal with specks of glitter. They felt that for once things were beginning to look promising for both of them.
There was a pile of old vines and twigs in the vineyard. We lit a bonfire and the flames licked daylight into the night sky. Next morning there was a gray and black patch of coldashes, perfectly round. It looked hard, like crushed marbles, so I stepped on it. My boot sank deep into tiny feathers. A gray boot and a brow none told me I should have known better.
Shick-a-shawing down Linea A, three stops from Cipro, Rome, I overheard a violin poorly played. Now and again, I curse my perfect pitch. A quarter tone drawled between D and D#, pulled headlong from a heavy-held bow like a dead rabbit from a hat. It was a nuisance. But I looked over to behold a blue-eyed boy crowned with thick brown hair and matching freckles.