Sunday was our last day in Anghiari. The day after my birthday and the day before we leave. What to do? Our favorite things, of course. Take a walk, have lunch, do something fun in the afternoon, have happy hour, have dinner, have a quiet evening before we turn in. Sunday was a little rainy in the morning, so we didn’t get to walk much. Sunday mornings are a happening time in Anghiari. Lunch is big on Sunday. It’s the traditional family gathering time. Anghiari is a very popular destination for Italians. I know that sounds strange, but it’s designated as one of the most beautiful hilltowns and Italians love to visit here and stroll around and have lunch. Especially on Sunday. We went to the Alighiero, the place we had our first meal when we got here.
After lunch we drove over to the Casentino area. It’s between Anghiari and Florence and is known for its pristine beauty, national parks, and food. We’ve been there a few times before so we decided to visit a place we’d never been. We walked through the little town of Stia, which is known for its wool production. If we’d had more time, I would have enjoyed going to the museum. However, since we were there after lunch, everything was shut down for siesta. So a stroll was all we could do in Stia. On the way back, we stopped at the ruins of the Castello di Romena. This was a great detour. The castle was built in the 10th century, but there is evidence of earlier settlements there by the Etruscans and Romans. It is believed that the original settlement was destroyed by Hannibal and his army in the 3rd century BC as they made their way toward Lake Trasimeno, destroying everything in their path. Sound familiar? War, hate, and destruction have been with us since the dawn of mankind. It’s just the means that have changed. Anyway, the Guidi family built what we see now sometime around 1008 and it remained in their possession until the mid-14th century. Dante spent some time there during his exile from Florence and even weaves a tale of counterfeit and deceit that happened in the castle into the Divine Comedy. He recounts the true story of how the Guidi’s hatched a plan to produce counterfeit Florins to ruin the Florence econony. A man named Mastro Adamo was the forgerer who made the bogus money in one of the cellars of the castle. Alas, the plot was discovered and Mastro Adamo was caught and burned alive for his crimes. The Guidi’s, however, remained free and Dante describes Adamo’s quest for vengence for the Guidi’s greater than his desire to repent for his own crime. If you’re interested, it’s Canto XXX of the Inferno.
What’s left are mere ruins of what was there. This place is on a pretty commanding hill so that they could see the other castles and see any marauders coming their way. And as if that weren’t enough to protect them, there was a moat with a drawbridge around the castle. You can never be too secure. From the watch towers they would see an enemy approaching and hurl stones and pour boiling oil on them. Steve and I had a very lively conversation about when you started the oil boiling. Did they keep a fire going all the time just in case they needed to boil up a batch? It would take a while for the oil to boil, but then again it would take a while for the troops to make their way up the mountain. Such is the strategy of war games.
After our afternoon of medieval treachery, we meandered back to Anghiari. When we pulled into our parking lot, there was a band setting up in the street outside the sports bar down from our apartment. It was so nice of them to throw such a wonderful going away for us! This is the kind of thing that makes us love Anghiari. There’s always something like this going on. A spontaneous (to us) concert, feast, street party – something. We got there just in time to hear the opening and stood in the street sipping our cocktails, listening to jazz, and chatting with friends. The owner of La Nena (the restaurant we ate at the night before for my birthday dinner), Sergio, bought our drinks. We stayed and listened and watched the drama that unfolded around the screen that the band had erected. We couldn’t quite figure out why there was a white screen on the building behind the band. Then we saw a projector attached to a laptop and figured they must be showing something to go along with the music. The problem was the screen had been placed directly underneath one of Anghiari’s huge street lights, so the light blocked out the images being projected on the screen. What followed was a very entertaining Italian exercise of trying to figure out how to remedy the situation. Almost everyone got involved and offered an opinion. In the end they turned off the outside lights of the sports bar, which reduced the light and glare on the screen. It was still hard to see with the street light blaring down, but it was much better. Thus proceeded the show. They played special arrangements of key songs from movies and had relevant clips of the movies showing on the screen while they played. Sounds a little cheesy, I know, but it was really good. The band was great – a four person combo (keyboards, drums, guitar, and upright bass). They played Moon River from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, My Favorite Things from the Sound of Music, and things like that. Very nice evening, our last one for a while, in Anghiari. Monday we head to Florence and our last night in Italy. Heavy sigh.