This is what late Winter is about in Rome. This morning was so lovely, the snowdrops were just like the ones I used to find in our yard in Melbourne when I was a kid, the only flowers we ever had. I was always so overjoyed to see them back then, we didn’t cultivate them of course, they just grew wild, down the side of the house. And that is also how I came across them today. They were growing wild at the back of our apartment complex, in what must be the only piece of uncultivated or non-manicured strip of land left in Rome. It is a piece of no-man’s land that exists as a boundary between a primary school, and our apartment complex, and is pretty much vertical in its aspect. It is full of pines, blossoms, big, fat, ancient looking shrubs, wild flowers and grass. It is a haven for birds, and at one time rabbits that would venture down into the manicured part of the garden and sit patiently on the edge of my rug while I meditated. It is a secret and lost place, a paradise for those who are used to nature strips and trees, rather than concrete and cars. I go there often to smell, breath, and remind myself of what it is like to be in nature.
It is so beautiful today, so sunny and quiet. Rome is clean from all the rain, and peaceful due to the cold temperatures and most people not venturing out. The views from my balcony are stunning as usual, full of church domes and rooftops stretching out into the distance. Ancient green trees stick their heads up between beautiful, old buildings and the blue sky. There are clouds and the sun also in the distance, as well as the sound of car horns, but close by I can only hear birds. They sing and tweet, and live in the trees all around me, reminding me that there is a life outside of mine. Nature, a life that exists beyond, and in spite of my feelings and thoughts, and progressions and desires, and movement. Life that just is, that follows its own cycle in spite of all human endeavour, that bides time and yet ticks it by, minute by minute, using the sun, the wind, the seasons to mark its progress, not its daily achievements. It brings me peace.
The snowdrops looked so joyous, so pretty, so beautiful, with their pure, white, bell-shaped flowers atop verdant, water filled stalks. It is nearly Spring. That is when they come out, to herald it in, to give you courage to keep on going, to continue to manage the Winter. They tell you that it is nearly over, to hang in there, and to endure. I can feel Spring in the air, and in my body. I always feel it in my body, like sap rising. It brings me energy, and joy, and lightness and happiness. I feel like life has triumphed over death once more, that the miracle of life has triumphed for another year, it feels like victory.
Even though it is not quite warm yet, the sun is glorious. The blossom is also magnificent. Everywhere I walked today on my usual neighbourhood trail, there was blossom. It stopped me in my tracks and made me gaze at it. It is one of the most beautiful things in the world, a blossom tree, early in the spring. It looks so delicate and so vulnerable in this, still cold and blustery season, its petals so flimsy, and usually strewn all around it on the ground. It does not look strong enough to be the kind of flower that comes out first, the kind that could survive the severity of a season which is still not quite over. But the fact that it comes out now, as soon as the first signs are evident that Winter is fading, to herald in the spring, and to tell folks that winter is coming to a close, is just so valiant of it. It is like sending your most vulnerable defence system out to meet a still dangerous enemy. Somehow it is its softness, its beauty, its frailty, its willingness to be first and to lay strewn on the ground at the slightest advance of Winter, its very vulnerability, that is its strength.
By its presence we know that it is only a matter of time. That the cycles are in order. That we can trust and move on through another set of birth, life and death, for another year.
The heading of this blog refers to lots of food which also comes in Winter, to warm you up and because you can, cloaked in swathes of fabric overindulge, more than in the Summer. Le Belle Rane or “The Beautiful Frogs” is the name of an Agroturismo (B&B) that you can eat spectacularly well in. Everything is home-made, including the bread which is baked daily in an outside oven. Every meal has the typical Italian five courses and the ingredients and flavours are all local, that is from Lazio. The hardly known province that houses the great city of Rome and which is beautiful, historical, and worth seeing in its own right.
At Le Belle Rane, which you can also stay at, as well as eat at, and is only an hour out of Rome, you can get away with five courses, twice a day as if you go for a walk afterwards it is only possible to walk up or down a hill. The original stone house is situated half way up a mountain with a creek below, a waterfall above, and surrounded by hazelnut trees that are part of the properties plantation.
Next week I’m gonna write about the food but for now here is the address and some pictures for you to see for yourself. Look at the blog roll on the side of the page.