Mourning for “le mura” in Volterra: a tract of 13th c. walls collapsed last night

Last night, following days of intense rain, a 20 to 30 yard stretch of Volterra’s Medieval walls collapsed. When I woke up this morning and turned on RaiNews 24 one of the headlines was “Bad Weather in Tuscany: the Arno River is threatening to flood, schools closed in Pisa and 30-meters of Medieval wall have fallen down in Volterra”.

After dropping the kids off at school (safely located far from the walls…) we walked up to Piazzetta dei Fornelli to discover that together with the walls went part of the road “Via Lungo le Mura” that lay just inside the walls. The void that once gave people vertigo as they looked over the walls towards the Cecina Valley now reaches the foundations of the homes. There is no road, no sidewalk, no way to get into your home or store, all the way to the panoramic terrace that is just beneath the covered staircase called “Vicolo degli Abbandonati”. The terrace is still there… but just barely.

after

aftermath…

About 100 yards downhill from this road and stretch of walls “that-were” you reach Volterra’s great Etruscan monument – the 4th c. B.C. Porta all’Arco. I feel ill thinking, wondering, fearing that this landslide could in any way compromise its structural integrity. If you have been to Volterra and seen this stone gate, if you know its history, you will understand the emotional involvement that Volterrans have with it. The Porta all’Arco is a part of them.

The loss of these 13th-century walls is enough, and I pray that the damage stops there (the forecasts say we should expect another 6 days of non-stop rain). How could they have stood so mightily for 800 years, enduring endless sieges under the Florentines, a mistaken attack by the Allied troops in WWII, and then give up now? I perhaps shouldn’t give fault to the walls, be angry with them… but if not them, who? Surely there is something we have done wrong to let this happen…

As I walked away from the scene this morning, I realized the void was more than physical as a tear slid down my cheek.

Advertisements

wildflowers of a Tuscan winter

Each time I go out into my garden (which, apart from a few rose bushes, irises and cacti, is pretty much a wild field), take a walk down a country lane, or a little hike in the woods, I can’t stop myself from picking wildflowers. It may very well be an illness. And I wonder if it might even be illegal…But that’s not the point. I simply get overwhelmed by the stunning beauty and complexity of the flora here.
Now if I had ever really taken the time to stop and look (and yes, smell) the flowers back home in Washington D.C., I am sure I would have been in awe even there. But there is something about living year-round in Tuscany that makes it very hard to not start to synch with the natural world around you, to live by its rhythm, and marvel at the details of its creations.
Yesterday on a brief stroll down the hill from my house I picked this little bunch:

Image

viburnum tinus what locals call leccio peloso which translates as “hairy oak” and has these incredible little dark-blue berries that can be iridescent, and also produces tiny little white and dusty-pink flowers in clusters
rosemary with its delicate little purple flowers, symbolizing remembrance and steadfast love
sage symbolizing wisdom
arugula  with its delicate little clusters of white flowers (it grows wild in the fields here and used to be called erba puzza or “stinky grass” because if you fed it to animals even their meat would smell)
olive branches of course a symbol of peace, but also of bounty and purity – in fact ancient Greek brides carried olive branches as we today have a bouquet