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Day9- rest day

Leanne Talbot Nowell - Poggio Pratelli Rose

Sunday arrives and it is time for Simon to leave for the train station. Malò, Guido and I watch him from under the rose bush as he heads down the valley on his bike. From up here we can see him until he is just a speck in the distance.

I feel totally bereft.

No cycling for me today. Maló and Guido invite me to join them at their friend’s home for dinner this evening. It’s a pleasant distraction from the panic-stricken roar of my inner voices. Victoria & Gigi and Bianca & Paolo fill me with delicious food, wine and bravado. The table is set on the big terrace with a dramatic evening view over Florence and Brunelleschi’s dome. A sky full of apricot clouds blur with the brush of an ominous breeze.

Weather predictions for tomorrow are rain and wind. But I don’t want to believe it, and plan to leave at 9 am.

This was the first decision of this trip that I made alone. Leaving time. From that moment on there will be a plethora of decision making to be done by myself. Something I always avoid doing.

Maló took me for a drive along the small roads in her car earlier and carefully showed me the way to get down the hills to the river Arno which runs through Florence. I scribbled madly in my notebook, drawing little maps of the maze. Here is an except:

“…left, straight onto yellow rd, left through Bombone, right, curve, straight to Torri, keep L, keep going, Volognano, curves left, right….”

So thoughtful of Malò and it certainly helps calm the nerves. Reaching Florence is one thing, everybody knows where that is, don’t they? The roads on the other side of Florence are the great mystery that gives me the jitters. I have no idea where I’ll end up tomorrow night.

The idea of freedom and going somewhere strange, having adventures and spiritual awakenings, are simply that – ideas. Imagination is what swirls around in my fuzzy head. Putting ideas into action requires a certain amount of practical help. If you don’t have a Simon to blame, consult, criticize and laugh with, then your inner voice begins to grow multiple heads and separates into individual characters. The loudest one is that critical voice which screams in your ear when you make a mistake. It is screaming now.

Florence with pink sky - Photo by Leanne Talbot Nowell
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Secrets

Entrance to the secret garden

I realise this painting turned out overly colourful. I walked down to the secret garden to paint the greenness of the greens and pinky-purpleness of this magical tree. I think it’s called a redbud tree? A black dog ran and jumped up at me, so I patted his head. Then tried not to pat my own head until I got home and washed that hand. The sad effects of covid.

There is a secret tunnel in Marino. It is mind blowingly awesome. Ugo Onerati took us to see it a couple of years ago. We were lucky as it has been locked ever since. My friend Marina, the artist who owns an art shop on the main street, played in there with her cousins when she was a kid. Her uncle used it as a ‘cantina’ for storing his wine and olive oil. It was built in the early Roman times as a big water cistern.

A man went to buy wine from Marina’s uncle in the 60’s and found it interesting. It was half-full of mud and debris so they excavated and to their astonishment uncovered an extraordinary treasure. Ugo took us down into the ancient, dimly lit tunnel. We walked slowly for about 50m with torches. Shadowy paintings of figures loomed on the side walls. At the very end, subtly lit from below, was the most incredible scene. An exquisite painting covering the entire end wall, a fresco of the MITHRAS cult.

Profound awe made my knees go weak. I almost went down on them. We gazed at the colourful scene in stunned silence. There is more to it than meets the eye. Nobody knows what it means, the cult was so secret there is no record of their philosophy. Although sacred sites with sculptures and paintings of the same symbolic scene are found all over the Roman Empire. However, this one in Marino is the most beautiful.

To describe it in a sentence…”A man wearing a pink layered tunic is stabbing a bull in the neck. His celestial blue cape is a full of stars, a snake and a dog are lapping up the blood and a scorpion is biting the bulls testicles”. The religion, thought to have originated in Iran, was practiced by Roman soldiers until about the 5th century. Men only.

Mitreo Marino Laziale

Simon and I cin-cinned our glasses of red and white wine, to Rome on the auspicious occasion of her 2773rd birthday this evening. It all began when twin boys inherited the title of leader. Rome would have been called Remo, if Romulus hadn’t killed his brother Remus for merely jumping over the wall. The story repeats itself, kaleidoscoping into the future. Here we are now in the European Union with our imaginary walls. Covid-19 shining a subtle light on the scenario.

Today’s painting depicts a stone wall with an excavated doorway. I like to think my studio walls were built from the stones of that doorway. Doorway walls.