I own a little book of Calm, packed with mindfulness and relaxation techniques.
Yesterday, I opened it up at the “Smell the Coffee” exercise. We can’t be calm if we are always rushing from one thing to the next. (Guilty!) So, I decided that when I went up to our little town of Badia Tedalda that morning to buy a few provisions, I would appreciate the small things. To get perspective.
It made me realise how many facilities we have here, although we tend to go down to the city of Sansepolcro, half an hour’s drive away, for a bigger shop. Badia Tedalda has a population of 400 and serves an outlying area of 1,400 inhabitants. I love the way the clock on our town hall has stopped at ten to two. It slowed me down.
Let me share with you a mosaic of the characters and sights of this morning. I started at the greengrocer, where lovely Cinzia displays her still life of fresh vegetables to tempt me.
We also have an interesting butcher who writes poetry in his spare time. He invited us to lunch in his restaurant next Sunday and promised to share a few lines. Then, there is Cristina, a young grocer with a trained singing voice who performs at local festivals. Meet our hairdresser, who not only keeps the locals’ hair trim and sorted, but also arranges pizza evenings out, if she feels somebody in particular needs cheering up. There’s a primary and middle school with a view over the Apennines to die for, as well as a great scholastic reputation. Apart from a doctor’s surgery, there is a Chemist whose surname is Salvati (save yourself, or the saved ones). That always makes me smile. A bank, post office, restaurants, a bar (where we smelt and drank the coffee) and an ironmonger who also sells amazing home-cured hams and cheeses.
It is a pleasant experience to buy from these little shops. I enjoy the different personalities of the owners. Some of the shopkeepers were too shy to be photographed – Olga, the hairdresser, was wearing her curlers… so I let her off, but not before she proudly showed me the vegetable garden she had planted on this, her day of. My namesake, Angela, who runs the newspaper/knick-knack/haberdashery/gift shop refused, so I teased her, telling her I would display the fresco of the angel whom she resembles, painted on the ceiling of our local church further up the mountain.
I walked back down the hill, opting for a short cut along the vecchia strada, the old road, where I always feel the history, wondering how many mules and peasants must have travelled the same route in the past and I tried to imagine their conversations and concerns.
At the hamlet of San Patregnano, I turned down the alley named vicolo corto e stretto, meaning short and narrow. But my world felt wider because I had taken time out to appreciate it.