The village square

There is something about the emptiness of a square which makes me uncomfortable. This idea that squares are the core of a small village’s life, and then find it empty…well, it unsettling. It’s as if it was screaming the slow death of the village. I waived the hand in front of my face to chase this thought away and brought my mind to something more urgent than the death of a village: the void looming on my digestive system. If my stomach could speak, he would agree that death was imminent: bakeries, restaurants, snack shops…everything was closed, and I could not find a crumb to eat. Irritated, from my hostel window I gave a last look at the empty square, cursing the travel guide which sold the village as a slow-paced heaven. All I could see was a hell of cars parked around a lifeless square and a great deal of shuttered shops. I fell into bed with the firm intention to sleep to let a few hours pass, until, hopefully, the only restaurant of the square would open for business.

A few rounds of shouting woke me up, and eyes still closed, I tried to figure out whether it was a fight or an overfriendly hallo. The local language was just a mix of sounds to my ears and the pitches of the voice were my only guide. The voices slowly faded, and with it my consciousness, when a bicycle ring right under my window startled me. By then gusts of winds impregnated with music filled the silent room at irregular intervals. But there was no wind. I forced my heavy legs on the edge of the bed and got up, I walked barefoot on the cheap and cold tiled floor to look out the window. Another world was flourishing in front of my eyes. The music came from the grocery shop, escaping its premises each time a customer opened the door. The cars were still taking most of the space, but now people were walking up and down, left and right, they were zigzagging or circumnavigating the square. It was the spring of the main square, its rebirth. I observed for a few minutes the coffee place, which I eyed before going to sleep to see if it had been kissed by the miracle of life as well. It had, I thought, grinning. I quickly dressed and grabbed my coat and money and in less than fifteen minutes later I was finally in front of a bruschetta and a glass of barbera.

The shop window filled with shadows floating by, and the privileged position of the restaurant allowed me to see how the side streets regurgitated even more people into the now lively square. I looked at the fancy clock which I was sure I already saw on a well-known shopping website, and I finally understood what brought the small Italian village to life: the aperitivo time. I smiled thinking that probably it was not the only or main rush of the day, and mentally prepared my camera for the day after to catch the next living beat of the village: the morning coffee.

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