We’ve had snow. It came at us out of the blue (literally), off the forecast and the radar – great big gentle flakes of the kind we haven’t really seen since the Big Snow of 2012.
C was due to go to Rome to see old school friends and I felt confident about taking her down to the station. It couldn’t last, I thought. But we only got as far as the new houses where the odd car was gliding erratically along the road, and I realised there was no way I was going to make it down the big bends towards Chiusi with the covering getting thicker every minute. So we abandoned the car up there on the metalled surface and walked back down our white road in what I’d call a magic world did it not seem so clichéd. Snow is not my favourite thing. But there’s something about the grisaille hush of a fresh fall which is mesmerising. It was quite quite lovely.
Returning on the train from a work meeting in Florence, L clearly thought I was being ridiculous. I was meant to hang about at the station, then bring him back up after depositing C. All along his route – almost to Chiusi – there was no sign of snow. I was obviously exaggerating.
I paid no heed to his doubts, however, and reasoned that it would stop; that salt would be spread; that snowploughs would be activated; that in the almost-hour between C’s non-departure and his arrival, the road would be cleared sufficiently for a taxi to get up. I miscalculated. The taxi driver ordered L and other miscellaneous car-sharing travellers out at the curve by the pig farm where the snowplough’s route was blocked by an array of marooned, splayed cars. Beyond the vehicle barrier, he found acquaintances struggling to mount a cheap set of ill-fitting snow tyres and stopped to help them, in exchange for a lift the rest of the way up the hill. It took him an hour and a half to do a trip that takes less than 20 minutes. In the end, he saw my point.
C came back from her current home on Lesvos early, to become Italian. We have all applied for Italian citizenship. L and I applied early last year: we had decided to do so because we were sick of being disenfranchised but Brexit made the choice more rational and more urgent. Clara applied just after, but having been born here, she was ‘fast’-tracked (it’s all relative).
In Perugia we picked up her papers. Applications go right up to the office of the president of the republic for signatures. But the final act happens at municipal level. We rushed back to CdP to take the concessione to the anagrafe (records office), and book a slot for swearing allegiance.
The woman who runs the anagrafe is charming. But no way could the thing be done this year. There were no more ceremonies planned. Nothing for a couple of weeks. That was it. But, C explained, she was flying out again on December 28. No problem: you have six months to finalise after the concessione is granted. Now? Impossibile.
C looked skeptical but headed across the lobby to the office where her papers would be stamped and officialised en route to the final stage, resigned to having to return. But hang on a second, the anagrafe woman said to C’s retreating back. Do you have a minute now? Yes, of course she did. Well, it wasn’t really proper. No. But.
I was waiting outside in the car through all this. C called me, and told me to get there, immediately. When I arrived, the woman in the anagrafe had taken her tricolore sash from an iron filing cabinet. She was extracting thick A2-sized pages covered with official-looking type from a file. And the (impossibile) ceremony took place. There and then. It was slightly surreal and oddly moving.
Welcome to Italy. It’s how things are done.
Actually, that’s not 100% true. It is how small-town Italy works, though. And it’s why we love it. It’s all about people and interaction.
L, who lost his ID card on his Florence jaunt, rushed into the anagrafe as it closed a couple of days later and procured a new one in no time.
On a slightly different note, I’m still feeling the warmth of an article in the local rag about the fund set up by our terziere Borgo Dentro to pay the overdue bills and fill the empty larders of the local poor. It makes me feel I’ve been transported into an historic Venetian scuola – an autonomous self-help welfare organisation. Will they start funding apprenticeships for struggling stonemasons? Or paying dowries for orphan girls?
It’s one of those year-ends where work never seems to end, which is fun. Apart from the snow (which was still lying in patches today, a week after it fell) and a brief burst of cloudy gloom, we have had days of resplendent, icy blue.
I paid another visit to my project in northern Tuscany, where the clients were expected to arrive from England the next day to stay over Christmas but the water pipes inside the house had frozen solid, and where my nursery boys were hacking through frozen ground to get the final stage-one plants into the ground.
And I’ve been putting big trees and shrubs into a property just the other side of town. It never fails to amaze me the stark differences from one side of CdP to the other. Over here, we’re a little bit sand and lots of clay and stones everywhere: each spadeful is a battle with river-washed blocks. Rain turns our soil into a claggy mess. Over there, water runs straight through sand (the sea reached up here many millions of years ago, and the earth is full of fossilized shells); there’s not a stone anywhere. It’s like working in a child’s sandpit.