Copyright © Isabella Dalzell 2018. All RIghts Reserved.

Fivizzano stands on a tree-lined Tuscan mountaintop, crowning it with whitewashed walls and thick curving orange tiles. Patches of ochre and sienna colour the ancient stones and shadows cleave the alleyways where lurk crouching boys intent on their game of marbles and sleek, opportunistic cats scavenging for food.


We tumble out of the white van and into the shuttered square, laughing and smiling as we burst into the tightly packed marketplace. Stalls with striped awnings make temporary streets, balancing on little square paving tiles. The smell of fish hits me in the nose and nestling amidst the piscean  catch are small cinnamon-coloured petals  of porcini. We browse the kitchenware marvelling at strainers, rollers, cutters, trays, pans; utensils for every aspect of pasta making. A central fountain dribbles water from its four-cornered fishy spouts; white-marbled their baleful eyes and bulging cheeks conduits for gaping mouths. Our Polish pearl in her lemon dress wafts like a flower, straw-hatted, smiling and waving.  Behind which, like great sails, hang floating curtain panels which stir the air to create a gentle breeze. Harbouring there, my eyes scan the glittering, golden trinkets for treasure but finding none we wander downhill, taking the left prong of the two forking lanes which leads us toward the museum and the basilica. The ghosts of scarlet cardinals and white clad nuns drift past the painted interior frescoes of the church, crossing themselves before a portrait of the mother, who intercedes with God on behalf of us all. Or so they believe.


Outside, the green square is ringed by a cliffy promenade which bridges the hillside. Leaning over its precipitous fall, I listen to the rushing wind as it sweeps down the valley lifting the crisp and crumbling cappuccino  leaves over the low grey bridged wall into the square. They flutter against the masonry, chasing each other in a swirling dance. The deep, melodic sound of the cello forms a backdrop to our musings as we look across to the heaped mountains covered in thin Italian oaks and dotted with spiring cypress trees twisting heavenward. Stealthily, Jo walks sideways, blonde hair swinging like a flag, to observe Peter, sitting under a tree, sketchbook in hand, eye squinting against the sun, intent on the landscape.


Looking down the hillside, I see that the squat mansion beneath the battlements is surrounded by a terrace studded with date palms. The intensity of the light blinds my eyes and l blink, adjusting my sunglasses, to continue observing the mossed chalk sprouting in patches along the sides of the valley, which sweeps into a widespread alluvial plain sprinkled with brilliant white villas. I feel peaceful, euphoric, glad to be here. As I observe the wooded valley and the vineyards below, a silver headed, slender, smiling grandad in blue check shirt  runs behind his young grandson, who is exuberantly trotting along the path, panting in the hot dry air.


Smiling, I trail backup the grey paved hill. At intervals, notebooks in hand, sit my comrades, each on their own terrace of steps leading up to a doorway, scribbling furiously. I reach the parasoled-cafe patio and sit, thankful, with my coffee. I’m soon joined by our flock of writers, one of whom gives me a useful mini lesson in Italian and another, leg propped, face smiling, makes us all laugh with her jesting observations.