I have never had anyone tell me I “looked like the “raggazza (girl) down the street” in Tuscany.
I distinctly have a non-Italian look, perhaps it is my sense of style (or lack thereof), mannerisms (relatively reserved), blond hair (ah hum, natural of course) and painted lacquered lips (Mum always said, “never leave the house without your lips on”).
Nothing about me technically appears to “belong” in the Tuscan landscape, however, I have always believed, it is best to be yourself, no matter where you are in life and what land lies beneath your feet.
Aristotle once said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
As I sat outside Bar Centrale in Castelnuovo Berardenga, I sipped my early morning cappuccino, adhering to the strict Italian commandment of no hot milk after 10am. Having only consumed a small pastry I also ensured the second instruction of never consuming hot milk on a full stomach was also achieved. My stomach growled with discontent as it longed for another bite.
I was advised early on in my Tuscan travels, Italians believed that milk interfered with the body’s natural ability to digest food properly and they frowned upon non adherence. I must admit, I have never seen an Italian break this cardinal rule, however, I have witnessed the worried looks of servers as they passed an “uneducated” visitor their hot milky drink after 10am, in full anticipation of their gastric upset.
As I sat humming to myself , I savoured my guilt free cappuccino while flipping casually through the local Siena giornale (newspaper). I was enjoying the pictures while thinking, ” I still don’t understand a darn thing” but this cappuccino tastes wonderful. My husband had already gulped back his black morning espresso with zeal and was working his way through his biscotti.
I was attired in my standard go to look (outlined above) and sitting two tables away from us was a little Italian child (girl), approximately four. She noticed me, stopped mid-bite and began staring. Her dark beautiful brown eyes widening as her dark brown hair curled around her face. I smiled and waved, but her expression did not change one bit. Her mouth remained agape until her father turned to look at “what” had caught his daughter’s attention, he quietly leaned in close to her, whispered something in her ear and she reluctantly looked away. My husband laughed and said, “Maybe you look like her favourite cartoon character she was watching this morning” and I laughed, replying, “Maybe Aurora from Disney”.
Such is the magnificent innocence of children and a father’s impromptu education on social etiquette. I couldn’t possibly be the first “straniero” (foreigner) she has seen?, perhaps, given we are in a small rural area and cherry red labbra (lips) are not the norm.
What does it mean to be familiar?
I am certain many of us have been called by another persons name on the street or had someone ask, “are you related to so and so?”…or say, “you look just like” in a land where we are more “familiar”.
When I walk the cobblestone “vicoli” alleyways of Siena I often play an internal game and try to imagine which part of Italy or what country the people coming towards me are from, the beautiful faces, the joy of being in a vibrant country. I can always pick out a fellow North American ten yards away. Familiarity.
It is said we all have a “gemello” (twin) or perhaps some people have a set of unrelated triplets living in the world, someone who looks so eerily similar to them they could be blood related. The term is “doppelgänger”, a mid 19th century German saying, literally meaning a ‘double-goer’, which refers to “an apparition or double of a living person”.
From my husbands and my viewpoint, our friend Shawn looks exactly like the fellow above, except without the fire burning at his feet. I trust Shawn may have had a few “close calls” and although he rarely carries a flower, I suspect he has given Rhona (his beloved) a flower or two, and cradled his two beautiful daughters tenderly in his arms when they were small. I imagine as they have matured he wishes, as most fathers do, he could have that precious time back again, just once.
The photo was taken in Volterra and we sent Shawn his doppelgänger after I exclaimed, “there is Shawn again”.
“True friendship isn’t about being inseparable, it’s being separated and nothing changes”. – Unknown
In daily life, as well as on our travels, people accompany us, those living amongst us and those that have left us momentarily. We were so happy to have had the familiar company of our “Saint” Shawn with us during our travels to Volterra.
- Anche in paradiso non è bello essere soli. (Even in paradise it is not good to be alone). – Tuscan Proverb