Monday, June 23, 2003

Bramante Naps

We drove to Todi in Umbria through sun and bluer skies than we had seen in days. Our Italian friends took turns driving, and Corrie and I sat in the back singing Indigo Girls roadtrip songs from a tape I had made six years ago. We all laughed and talked about the prettiest roads in Le Marche. We were happy.

Todi is one of Umbria's more enchanting towns, with the feel of old stones and vast piazzas, dream-like churches, and small town Sunday afternoons. We walked by a girl, complete with easel and oil paints, creating her version of Todi. She was painting buildings jutting from the city walls with a background of green hills behind, but she could have been standing anywhere, been painting anything in Todi, and it would have been picturesque. That is Italy: "a Circe dressed in silken landscapes", Kate Simon once said.

The most fairy-tale part of the day (our Rough Guide described Todi as having some sort of fairy tale magic to it) was Santa Maria della Consolazione, a church most likely designed by Bramante as a model for St. Peter's in Rome. The plans were discarded (changing St. Peter's from a square shape to a much longer, much larger church), but Santa Maria della Consolazione remains a testament to the magical, perfect church that Bramante had been considering. It IS a fairy-tale, perhaps: the church that never was.

We took naps in the shade of the cupola, waking up to our friend's cell phone and a nonna walking by, saying "Buona Sera, ragazzi, buona sera!" like some sort of retired town crier. We picked violets and walked to the car, stopping every few steps to look at other churches and take pictures of windows and door frames.

And then we were off again, into the Umbrian hills, with dreams of Todi still dancing in our heads. And it felt as if maybe this--Bramante naps and oil-painted green hills--had been a dream-day, after all: sun-kissed and magical. A true Italian fairy tale.



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