Note: Macy Allen is a 2016 Honors Study Abroad Scholarship recipient. She recently returned from study in Sansepolcro.
At first it looks like a kingdom frozen in time. Well, it is a kingdom—a kingdom left behind from long ago with a wall keeping the history and aged stone buildings in and the hustle and bustle of the twenty-first century out. Anghiari sits on a hill overlooking the Tuscan countryside as an old king would sit on his throne overseeing his subjects. Inside the walls of the town, it is a stone labyrinth that anyone who isn’t a local would get lost in. The roads, which are more like crooked, narrow pathways, climb and dip, wind and turn up the hillside. Around every corner there is something to explore, whether it’s the first church of Anghiari or the local art museum. As you walk along the stone faces of the buildings it’s hard to remember that these semi-ancient doors and windows are the entryways of someone’s home. It is quiet all around except in the town’s main piazza. There, people gather to watch football and drink coffee while children play in the square. Shops and florists and grocers and cafes line the piazza walls, welcoming anyone who passes by their door. The whole atmosphere of this tiny medieval city is the closest thing to a fairy tale in the twenty-first century.
I walk past the busy piazza, stopping to smell the budding flowers bursting with bright reds, pinks, and purples. I run my hand over the stone walls, feeling the wear of centuries over its smooth, cool face. The pathways get steeper and narrower as you climb to the top of the hillside. I pass the Chiesa Santa Maria della Grazie, its broad face looking over Anghiari with a welcoming presence. Its tower holds the four bells that ring in the hours of each passing day, standing tall against the pale blue sky.
Toward the back of the hill past the church is a little café that sits on the wall. It is hidden from the main piazza and the only noise that reaches the patio is the occasional bellow of the bells. I take a seat in an iron chair that has been warming in the sun all day. The warmth of the chair radiates from the black cross-hatching of the seat and back, my skin absorbing it like the sun’s rays. I’ve lost the group and I’ve found stillness. The countryside is made up of patches of olive green and gold quilting over the ground, stitches of cypress trees holding the squares of orchards and fields together. I pull out my journal and begin to sketch, wanting to capture every square inch of this beautiful valley on a five-by-eight-inch piece of paper. It is impossible to represent the beauty of this place on a piece of notebook paper, even if I had all day to try. Instead, I close my little black notebook and sit, letting the peacefulness of this timeless place surround me.