Autumn GiftsThese past two weeks have brought big and small gifts to Antonello and me here in Italy. In the span of about a week, we have received three loving packages filled with everything from popsicle makers to books about weddings to a miniature cactus. What great friends and family we have! Thank you guys!
At the same time, our friend Eric was here for a whirlwind day and a half. Still, we managed to fill that time pretty well--a walking tour of everything I could think of in Macerata (the Carriage Museum?), a sunny day visit to Assisi, even killing two hours wandering the outskirts of the city center of Fabriano (we could see the main piazza from far away--we just didn't have time to get there!). And in the end, we closed out the evening eating pizza at Il Pozzo, with friends and good music, as the fast-paced day began to catch up with us.
And the weekend: we spent a Sunday of hunting for caves in the Pesaro province of Le Marche. We drove straight north along the coast at five in the morning, me sleeping soundly in the back seat while Antonello discussed caving figures and facts with our friend Alfredo. At 8:30, we arrived in the tiny town of Sapigno--meeting up with four of our friends, all of us ready for cave-hunting excitement.
We spent the morning deep in the forests outside the town, holding a treasure map with the exact locations of caves printed on it. The seven of us crawled through the woods, hoping to find caves underneath turned-over rocks, river beds--making mental notes on the movement of the grass beneath those stones, or the deep crater-like ditches that sunk like inverse hills into the countryside. I felt like an adventurer--stinging myself agatinst blackberry bushes as Alfredo spoke into the walkie-talkie to another caver--Roberto-- giving him our exact coordinates.
Eventually we discovered that the treasure cave we were looking for the whole time was right under our noses. It was a large visible cliffside opening that Roberto had discovered on his last trip to the forest, then believing that it wasn't the cave on the map. We went in as if the treasure were still to be found, but instead I ended up discovering that my lantern battery didn't work and Antonello worried that his light would soon go out as well.
It didn't matter. We had found something--we were explorers, spelunking heroes. The rain began upon exiting our newly found cave, and the seven of us took to the hills in the bed of a bright green tractor, letting rain drops make their way into the folds of our smiles as we bumped along the forest path toward town.
And driving home that night, there was a rainbow that filled the sky--realy filled it. You could see where it began and where it ended, arching above us like a gateway to another country. The sunset dotted oranges and yellows along the farthest corners of the sky, and we drove along the autostrada, me not wanting to fall asleep in the colorful evening. It was like the finale of a fireworks show, the greatest gifts exploding into the early darkness, creeping out over the hills.
I sighed, my eyes tired. A week of gifts was coming delightfully to a close.