The Calm before the Storm

May 2016

At the beginning of May, I met my girlfriend in Turin and the following morning we drove about 7 hours south to Tuscania in the Lazio region. An Etruscan town founded variously by a son of Aeneas or Hercules, my girlfriend’s uncle celebrated his 50th in a tower just outside the city walls. 

I had hoped to find that my Italian had improved since the last time I had been to Italy. While I understood much more, I still spoke almost exclusively in English. A tour of two beautiful churches was mostly lost on me but the power of the buildings was not. 

One was more fortified than the other but both were solid and earthly; symbols of the strength and might of their God that delicate paintings of ephemeral angels in Heaven fail to capture. (One of these churches had a surviving image of sinners being consumed and then defecated by a demon in Hell. The Catholics knew the power of fear to control their worshippers). 

It was 6 weeks before the EU Referendum but I was only asked about it 3 or 4 times that weekend. Otherwise, I was able to forget about all the noise in the papers back home. I was in the Italian countryside and it was peaceful.

The weather was good. We went for a hike to see the Etruscan tombs in the hills outside the town. We stayed in a small house covered in ivy on the outside. My appetite (which is usually a disappointment to my Italian amore) served me well at a four-course lunch under a canopy of climbing plants.

My girlfriend’s uncle and his boyfriend had organised games for the evening and wine from a friend’s vineyard. I felt very welcome and at ease that weekend. The next time I would leave the UK, at the end of June, skies were no longer so clear. Tuscania was the last place I visited before the Brexit vote.


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