Our village in Italy is called Lubriano. It is a "pass by" village. Tourists traveling to the famous hill-top town of Civita di Bagnoregio (called the "Dying Town" as it is collapsing into the Calanchi Valley below) stop at the edge of our village to gaze across towards their stunning destination no more than one mile away. Truth is, this medieval wonder of a town is also our view.
The village of Lubriano (population 900 souls) is right on the border of Southern Umbria, about half way between Rome and Florence.
The one and only street slides along the crest of the hill with the land plunging into the valley on either side of it, affording the whole street with stunning views. This street is called Via Roma. Why Via Roma? No one seems to know. Despite its grand name, Via Roma is a modest thoroughfare. The cobbled lane is exactly nine feet wide, front door to front door. Very little traffic passes, but the little that does rushes by at true Italian speed, almost brushing the walls. When leaving our front door it is advisable to carefully poke your head out first, and check that the coast is clear before cautiously extending your foot out as if you are going to swim in a very cold swimming pool.
All along Via Roma, the 600 year old houses lean against each other, following the gradual almost imperceptible curves of the street in one meandering old row. The sunlight slants into the lane, bringing to life the colors of the old buildings, each one aged to a soft tone of its former glory. The dusty colors: pinks, browns and golds, textured into each other, tug at you like a sunset. The old iron street lamps, flower boxes, window shutters, and balconies turn every house into an idealized vision of a village in Italy. Everything is perfect, so picturesque that I worry that it may one day, if it is ever "discovered" come to look like a cliché of what it should be.
As you enter Lubriano from the main road, (where all the tour buses stop to gaze across at Civita) a small square opens before you protected by chestnut trees. There is a small fountain, a drop dead view over the Calanchi valley, and a small war memorial in the middle. The square is called the Col di Lana, the Square of the Wool. In days before, the sheep from the valley below were assembled for shearing here at the entrance to the town. Beneath the chestnut trees, next to the town pump, there are one or two benches, always used by the proverbial four old men, who are a fixture in every small Italian town. Day after day they sit there, conducting muttered conversations and eyeing any would-be entrants to the town.
The narrow street with its buildings squeezed one on top of the other threads its way from the Col di Lana to the town square. There, the Church of John the Baptist sits comfortably beside the Palazzo of the Monaldeschi, the ruling family of this area in feudal times. Beyond the palazzo the street goes on through the oldest part of the town, past sleeping houses and sleeping cats, until it peters out at the cimitero, the cemetery.
Shops in Lubriano bear no signs, Anna the hairdresser snips away all day in an undisclosed shop not 10 feet by 10 feet. No appointments are taken here and villagers crowd in to await their turn.
Luigina needs no advertising for her Frutte e Verdure where the imperfect fruit and vegetables of the village are sold in the front of her shop and the pretty and perfect ones shipped in are relegated to the back of the store. "Just picked" here means just that. Huge braids of garlic are the only standard fixture here. All the produce changes with the season to reflect what the local contadini have brought in to be sold.