Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Magical Place, II

The things I want to express are so beautiful and pure.
~ M. C. Escher

"Buona sera," I said to the little man who was standing in the doorway of an ancient building in Castrovalva.  "How are you?"

"Thanks be to God, I'm doing well, signora."  He smiled and leaned on the doorframe.  Novelia took over the conversation, and I listened and interjected a couple of thoughts here and there.   Vincenzo, or Enzo as he preferred, began to tell us about the Castrovalva of his lifetime.  He was born there, worked there, and saw the town burgeon in his youth and wither as he aged.

"Before cars arrived here," he told us, "we got up and down the hill by walking. If we had to bring something up, we used mules."  He added that the "new" road that we took to arrive in Castrovalva was not the one they used back then.  The other one, he said, was more steep and rocky.

"May I take your photo?" I asked him, and he obliged, taking off his hat so we could see his face more clearly.  

"How old are you?" Novelia asked him.

"Guess," he laughed.  We all looked at him for a few minutes, and he turned one way and then the other.

"75," Novelia started.  He laughed again and pointed his thumb up indicating that she should guess a little higher.  "80."  The thumb went up . . . "82" . . . and up . . . ."84" . . . and up. . . "86. . . . "90" . . . and up until she finally said, "96." Yikes.

You can't really tell it from the photos I took of Enzo, but he's in great shape.  When Mike and I went back to Castrovalva a few days later, we saw him in his workshop again.

"Buongiorno, Enzo," I greeted him.  "How are you doing today?"

"I'm very well, signora," he told me.  "It's always a good day when I can work."


If you've studied contemporary art (20th Century), you've undoubtedly studied or read about M.C. Escher, a Dutch graphic artist known mostly for woodcuts, mezzotints and lithographs.  Escher traveled through Spain and Italy in the early 1920s, and in 1924 married Jetta Umiker and settled in Rome. Taken with Italy, the countryside and mountains, Escher went to different regions of the country throughout the year drawing and sketching scenes from which he'd make woodcuts once he was home.

In 1929, Escher stayed in Castrovalva and sketched.  Critics consider the resulting print, Castrovalva, one of his best prints.  For copyright reasons, I won't show it on the blog, but you can see it by clicking here.  I took the photo above from an area close to where Escher made his sketches. I was looking in the opposite direction.  The town in the photo below is Anversa, the same one that's in Escher's lithograph.  I took that photo from the end of the same path (He was closer to the beginning of the path.) but angled the camera down to avoid the setting sun.

From what I've read, Escher's print influenced one of the writers of the BBC television series, Dr. Who.  In one of the seasons, Dr. Who regenerated but needed a place to relax and rest, and he ended up in Castrovalva.  Since I never watched the show and have no interest in doing so now, I don't know much  more about it than that.

At any rate, the people of Castrovalva have memorialized Escher by naming a street after him.

If you're interested in seeing a little more of the scenery, here's a short video Mike took the second time we headed up the mountain.

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