I live on Via della Propositura, which is basically the street of the parish church. As the name implies, the parish church is just down the way from us. There’s really nothing else on this street – a few houses and a couple of entrances to the centro storico (historic center). There’s another church not a quarter mile away, but for some reason, and I’m sure there is one, this one is the parish church. There are two sets of bells that ring every half hour in Anghiari, one from the city clock tower, which is right across from the parish church, and the other from the church about a quarter mile away. We’ve often wondered why the other church rings its bells and not the parish church. We’ve decided (and this is completely made up) it’s because the parish church is right across from the clock tower, so those two would be too close together. So they spread it out a little and gave the other church the bell ringing rights. The parish church rings its bells when it has mass. It’s a hyperactive ringing – almost as if saying, “you better hurry up and get your $#%&? to church”. It’s also very loud. There’s no mistake when mass is at the parish church, and everyone in town knows it.
The other day there was a funeral at the parish church. After the funeral, there was this mournful two-toned tolling. I wish I had recorded it. It was very haunting. It went on for a while and was followed by celebratory tolling, which was nice, then the mournful tolling again. I hope by the time my year is up here I will have learned the pattern and significance of this, but for now I just listen. There’s something very comforting about the bells telling me the time and telling me when someone has left this earth. It harkens back to a time when people didn’t have timepieces or newspapers and relied on town criers and bells to tell them what was going on. Here it’s easy to know what time it is and it’s funny to me how easily I slipped into listening for the bells for the time. If I wonder what time it is, sometimes I don’t look at my watch. I know I only have to wait a half hour, at most, to know the time. It makes me realize that time is something I can’t control and I shouldn’t try to beat it. I should just do what I do and not get stressed out about being late or not finishing something. I like that and when I hear them start ringing I stop what I’m doing and listen. I also hear them during the night when I drift awake and wonder what time it is. It’s almost like counting sheep, lying there waiting on the bell to toll.
Living on Via della Propositura I feel like we have a connection to the universe. We’ve been here for about 11 days and haven’t been to church once, except for the time we stuck our heads in and took a look around. And they have at least one mass everyday. But I think with Jesus at the end of my street and the parish church at the beginning, I’m in the zone. I can tell you one thing, sitting on this terrace looking at this view and hearing these bells ring, I feel close to something much bigger than me. And that’s a comforting, life-affirming, peaceful place to be.