Words by A. D'Atanasio and photos by E. Proietti Costa
I remember playing “Home” by Michael Bublé on my way to London, feeding my nostalgia with a deep and paralysing fear of the unknown future that was waiting for me across the English Channel.
The idea of a fresh start in a new country sometimes felt unbearably hard to imagine, because counterpoised by a life that I was about to abandon but that I knew too well, routines and habits that I had learnt to develop throughout my 23 years of existence, faces and people I kept close to my heart. Blame it on my zodiac sign – I’m a Capricorn – on my constant need for clarity and stability, on whatever: I used to be terrified of changes, and moving to another city was a huge, immense change.
I was leaving my beloved expanses of hills, my mom’s cooking, the little church that looms up above my house with its bell tower and neighbouring olive tree grove. I was leaving my Spoleto and all its timeless beauty. I rarely reply to the usual “Where are you from?” with just a sharp and concise “Spoleto”, because most people have never heard of it before, not even some of the Italians I had this conversation with. That explains why I’m quick to follow up on my answer with “it’s a small town in Umbria” as soon as I get a glimpse of their questioning look.
What is Spoleto like? Well, it’s hard to explain. It’s home, it’s history, it’s warmth, it’s stillness, it’s a faded out grandeur. Spoleto is one of those places that you learn to love little by little, a town that demands to be discovered and understood. Every building here is drenched with stories to tell, excited for you to listen to them, like the most lovely grandmother. I remember walking to school with my nose thrown up to the sky, eager to absorb every ounce of beauty I was surrounded by. When winter announces its arrival with foggy mornings and crisp air, Spoleto wears its most enchanting clothes, acquiring piercing quietness and stillness. We are lucky enough to live in a place that abounds with nature, that displays its green hues along every street, behind every building, across every square, interrupting the symphony of historical buildings with the sweetest emerald notes.
Spoleto says hi to its visitors with the breathtaking glimpse of its Rocca (a XIV century fortress), and the Ponte Delle Torri, a Roman aqueduct whose beauty is narrated in Goethe’s essay “Italian Journey” (1816-1817). Such a view has always been, for me, a reassuring reminder that I am, finally, back home. I have always suffered from motion sickness, thus, car rides have never been something I look forward to. Let me tell you that anytime I catch sight of the Rocca and the Ponte Delle Torri from the window of my car, my nausea always fades away, and my lungs release a sigh of relief.
Every year, in summer, my town hosts the “Festival Dei Due Mondi” (Festival of the Two Worlds), a cultural event that promotes art in all its forms, from opera to ballet, to pop music and drama. People from all over the world flock annually to Spoleto to live this kaleidoscopic experience, livening up every corner and spreading tangible and palpable zeal. My grandmother often shows me the pictures of when she used to attend the Festival’s galas with my granddad, and it’s always a triumph of sumptuous gowns and elegant gentlemen.
The event brings tourism, diversity and excitement, and it proves to be able to adapt to generations’ tastes and ever-chancing approaches to art and culture. Last summer, during the Festival, I went to see Jean-Paul Gaultier’s “Fashion Freak Show”, an extraordinary event that, before then, had taken place only in Paris, at the Folies Bergère Theatre. Spoleto is old, Spoleto is new, Spoleto is eternal.
I don’t know where my life will take me, especially now, seen the current global circumstances, but there’s one thing I know deep in my heart: no matter where I will live one day, how far away I will move to to follow my dreams, how many times I will have to play “Home” on a flight, I will always come back to Spoleto aware that the roots of the tree I’m slowly growing into, are well planted there, where music echoes in summer and beauty never ceases to exist.