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Amber Paulen

Ciao Bracciano, Ciao!

I’ve been living in Bracciano for about 2.5 years, and that’s a record for me since I began this life of semi-vagabondage. We are post modern nomads, many of us, moving from city to city, country to country, continent to continent. What is it that drives us? I have explained it as an itch on my soles and a flame under my ass, which is as near to the truth as I can get.

The thing about frequent moving is this, the desire to move sometimes has little to do with the place currently lived in. After a time one can develop attachment to just about anywhere (though there are places and times that urge us to leave). That’s probably why many people say, “Do it while you’re young.” When you’re young you can break those connections much easier, and you don’t have as much stuff.

It’s a strange move, this one coming up next weekend. Unlike past ones I don’t need an airplane so I get to stay with all my books and keep all my clothes, which is sheer luxury really. For two months we will be watching Simon’s parents’ house in Formello, a town that is a sad exchange with Bracciano. But they’ve got three floors and three toilets to make up for the failings of Formello. It’s after those two months when things get interesting: where will we go next? What will we do? Life is open and that is good.

Meanwhile, though I wrote here that I was ready to go, Bracciano, do I want to leave? It’s been more than a pleasant time in this lovely town. I haven’t realized how much I’ve absorbed its steady tranquility until now, when it’s time to part. I’ve got the view of the lake like a stamp inside me, the smell of dusty fig trees in summertime, the dusty path down to the lake, eating bugs until a sweet swim. There’s the castle lumbering over it all, this rich centro storico, smoke rising out of chimneys, burning wood is the perfume of wintertime.

Out in town it’s all bustle but for the slump of mid-afternoon. Shop keepers stand in doorways smoking cigarettes as old men watch young girls, their wives picking up the groceries. And the crux of any good Italian town: its food, delicious food, made, picked or killed fresh daily. Fresh egg pasta, lasagne, ravioli, fettuccine, fresh vegetables, tomatoes, melanzane, fennel, fresh fish, fresh bread, fresh cheese and cured sliced meats, fresh lamb, fresh sausages, pork and cow. Why would you stuff your fridge full when all of this food so fresh abounds?

Sometimes I have wondered how I’ve survived it, all this quietude and tranquility (but for those damned Cat Haters). Really, life in a quaint Italian town is not for everybody or is perfect when you get old. Italians are extremely difficult to make friends with, not to mention here most are too old or too young. For any opportunity to be social you must go to Rome, over an hour away.

Yes, maybe it’s time for a city next, or a good travelling bout. Yet whatever I need, I’ve needed this town too. It’s served me so well: I’ve written to the point I’ve needed to write to, the book, still pretty rough, is at least digital.

Actually, what I’m going to miss most about Bracciano is a grey and white cat named Max, who I took in as an orphan. But now he’s part of the piazza out there, it’s me who’s always passing through.


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