After a 24 hour travel time from Charlotte to the hotel in Reggio Emilia, I’m finally here and am settling in. I had to have a bit of “drop down” (nap time in Lex Alexander’s term) and a shower, and then hit the streets. I first looked up spots that were recommended, either by Lex and Ann or someone else). Map in hand, I started exploring. Soon I just gave up the map and let my instincts guide me, and what a revelation that was!
The streets of Reggio Emilia are not laid out in a linear fashion like NYC, so if you just allow yourself the gift of the moment your reward is…unexpected. When I gave up on the map, I just let myself meander, turning when the views down that path looked promising. One of the spots I was looking for (vaguely) was a place called Piazza San Prospero, but as I wandered from street to street, treasures were revealed. I would turn the corner, and there would be a beautiful piazza, dotted with trees and filled with people. Tables and chairs, benches, and other inviting spots welcomed a weary traveller, or a resident who just wanted a bit of community time. The streets and piazzas were lively with folks out for a lovely Saturday evening, and there was a sense of place that is hard to recreate. Bicycles, children, families, and folks my age were all mixed together, enjoying the glories of spring.
When I was a little girl, my grandmother’s favorite “out of the house” activity was to park on Main Street in little Lincolnton and to sit in the car, watching the people who passed by. This was such entertainment for my Jenny–a cheap thrill. Tonight I thought of her as I bought a glass of wine and sat at a table outside and spent a grand hour observing the folks who passed by, thinking of their lives and what they had planned for today. I looked at the children who went by with their parents and wondered, “Will that little girl with the pink glasses be in a class I observe this week”?
The sticking point for me today is that the cities are built for community, from big cities like Rome and Milan, to smaller places like Reggio Emilia and Stiggliano. Our family came to Italy when our boys were younger, and this was our big “take away”. The cities and towns have places to gather that aren’t necessarily parks, but are almost pocket parks, all equipped with benches and tables, for that is what invites people to sit down together. All of these pocket parks are ringed with businesses that sell food, gelato, wine, pizza…encouraging folks to sit down together and enjoy the day. Providing folks with a place and time to meet and connect with each other is so important. I am reminded of “All Trinity Reads”, Art Before Dark, and kindergarten’s portfolio picnic last year and wonder what else we can do to bring folks together.
More tomorrow with pictures! Ciao!