Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Musings

Piazza Garibaldi

"She had always been fond of history,
and here was history in the stones of the
street and the atoms of the sunshine."
~ Henry James

A week from about the time I hit the "Publish" button on today's post (5 PM Eastern, 2 PM Pacific), we'll be landing in Miami.  I'm sad thinking about it and can't figure out where the time went.  Isn't it always that way, though?  My mother alway said that time would fly once I got older, but since I refuse to get older, this flying thing should not be happening.

Speaking of time, Mike and I talk about time a lot here, not in the sense that I mentioned above, but in the historical sense. (How was that for a good segue?)  Mike has always liked history, and while I was never one to get too excited about names and dates, I did appreciate the stories that brought history alive.

As you know if you've read this blog, we've walked a lot during this trip... A LOT.  We have had to climb steps to get in most of our flats (The first one was 110 steps, and this one is 55. The others had fewer, thank heaven.), and we traveled by foot (in rain and cold and sun and, well, no-so-cold)  most places.  Sometimes we just stop and stare at the buildings, walls, arches, doorways, doors.

Porta Pacentrana

I think I mentioned before that more than once we've asked each other if we ever think about the people who lived in these buildings so long ago, and if we realize most of this stuff existed before Europeans really started settling the United States.

Consider this:  Columbus found America in 1492, and Europeans (mostly British at first) didn't start settling in the States until after 1600.  I remember taking a group of European exchange students to Old Town San Diego, California a number of years ago.  They weren't too impressed, and I was visibly hurt by their reaction, I guess.  One of the Norwegian girls pulled me aside.

"Chris, don't be upset," she said. "What you have to remember is that this is 150 years old or so, and to us that is nothing.  The new church in my town is 400 years old."  

Until she said that, I'd never thought about it, and I wager most of you never did, either. I think about it a lot now.

The old wall

So, back to history and Sulmona.  The photos I've included in this post are mostly of the wall and porte or gates of the city.  (I've posted one of the 12th century aqueduct before.) All of the sites I've included existed before Columbus set foot on our continent.  I find that amazing, and often I run my fingers on the old stones and wonder about who put them there when building the wall.  Who stuck their guns through the windows in the wall to protect the city?  Who shut the gates at night?

A pedestrian porta/gate

Do you know about the porte (Porta is the singular.) The huge arches lead into the city at different points in the wall (See photos above and below.) are the porte.  During the day, the doors were open, and the citizens would leave town to work in the fields, mills, forest, etc.  At night, the guards closed the doors to keep marauders out and the city safe.  In addition, the porte were closed if the city was attacked.

Some of the porte today still have the heavy doors (You can see the one on the right side of the photo above.). Those are pedestrian porte. The porte that are for vehicular traffic (The two daylight shots) don't have doors on them.  They are also, by the way, one-way traffic. There are nine porte/gates in Sulmona.

Porta San Antonio

The ports are not unique to Sulmona.  All of the hill towns had them, and many still exist.  Pettorano, small town that it is, had six porte.  I have a story about one of the gates that I'll tell you at another time.

Tomorrow is our last day to go to the mercato, which makes me sad.  In the evening, though, we're heading to the Artichoke and Olive Oil Festival  in Prezza.  I think I mentioned that Novelia and Peppe treated us to olive oil gelato our first night here.  (It really tasted more like vanilla to me.)

"They will cook artichokes in every way you can think," Novelia told us today. "Fried, in pasta, on bruschetta, in pesto."

"Do they have artichoke gelato?" Mike asked.

I'm sure I'll let you know.

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