A sign that one has well and truly settled in a new country is the feeling that the “holiday” has finished and that “normal” life resumes – that one is now no longer a tourist but a standard resident.
In my first years in Italy I went on several day or week-end outings to different parts of the peninsula – to Aquileia to see the largest ancient mosaics yet uncovered, to Caserta to see Italy’s equivalent of Versailles, to Verona with its elegant historic centre, to Trieste with its evocative Hapsburg past and to many other parts.
These “discovery” visits have somehow diminished over time: the sense that there is less “urgency” to see places one can see easily at any time of the year – just because one now lives here – seems to have gained the upper hand.
I have yet to return to what is popularly known as the “green heart of Italy” – Umbria – and walk again around remarkable cities like Assisi, Gubbio, Spoleto, Orvieto, Spello, Todi and the region’s capital itself, Perugia.
All those places, and more, have been visited on previous holiday trips to Italy. Umbria was first discovered as a teenager as part of a family exchange and I retain very fond memories of that long-ago April.
It was in Umbria that I really first came across the Etruscans and visited their cities of the dead (for there are few visible remains of their cities of the living, built largely of wood).
Orvieto is a marvellous place, not just for its mediaeval treasures, including a superb cathedral, but also for its Etruscan necropolis which hugs the foot of the great cliffs upholding the city: the Etruscans loved to build their settlements on long hill plateaus, as witness Tarquinia and Vulci.
There are also the foundations of a great temple dedicated to Tinia, the Etruscan equivalent of Jupiter.
I digitised these photographs from old slides I’d taken all those years ago. For me they are still evocative of a great discovery in my life.
Perhaps, I should pretend to be a holiday tourist again – then I might revisit Orvieto and so many other places of my misspent youth.