Spring in Italy is a soft, sucking kind of thing, full of moist greeness where ever you go. Its like a great green monster exploded and her guts are everywhere, interspersed with delicate flowers, just so the colur green can be even more appreciated. I come from a country that hardly ever sees the colour green. And when it does, it is a grey green, not a pungent lime green, not a deep sea green, not a green so bright that it hurts my eyes to look at, and certainly not a green that has such an infinite variety of shades and textures. I can stare at it for hours.
Just a few weeks ago it seems, twigs were on display, bare patches of sky seen between sterile brown branches. Within such a short space of time it seems now to have been replaced by new life, new growth. Waving, swaying fronds blot out the sky and provide luxurious, sea colored shade over a carpet of wild flowers designed especially to set off the verdant grass, by being white. Italy does Spring in line with its culture, elegantly, luxuriously, and showing everything off to its best advantage.
Its hard to imagine that, in a country that does cities so well, that has a population of 65 million, most of whom live in close proximity enclosed in a thin peninsula, this country could also do nature so well. But it does. Like French women who always know how to use a scarf to offset everything to its best advantage, Italians know how to use contrast to its best advantage. Proscuitto and mozzarella, Dolce & Gabbana, Ferrari and Fiat just to name a few, they know how to combine things to the best advantage for both of them. It is partly why, I tell myself, they all live in apartments, one on top of each other, even in small country towns where they could, in theory, spread out and live one family per one peice of earth. They always choose however to build, live in, and buy properties that have the opportunity for housing at least one or two other families in them. Maybe the fact they always seem to choose the top of hills to live on partly accounts for it, but mostly I think it is because a town is a town and the country is the country. Neither of the two should meet otherwise the spectacular contrast will be lost. There should not be, for example, any opportunity for foilage to make its way into a town, no naturestrips, gardens, or trees. It should all be made of stone or cement with the odd flower pot allowed on a balcony. And, as there is little evidence of nature in towns, there should be little evidence of people in nature.
Which is why, only a short distance out of Rome, you can be in the middle of the most beautiful untouched parts of nature, complete with cows walking unhindered across your path. Italy still has wild boar, wolves and horses, in short wild animals. Roaming around. Not miles away from civilisation but an hours drive from Rome. I have been trained from youth to deal with deadly creatures that can kill me by stealth. I know to make lots of noise when walking in long grass (to scare away poisonous snakes), to not sit on bare ground (to avoid being bitten by giant stinging ants), to not touch anything when outside (to avoid being bitten by poisonous spiders that hide in foilage, under the ground, in swimming pools, on toilet seats, in shoes, in short in anything that they think they can get their hands on you by), you get the picture. However I am completely unprepared for animals that may not be poisonous but whose danger is that they could be bigger than me. Maybe that is why the Italians all live so close together.
It is not only between town and country but within nature itself that Italy recreates this spectacular technique of using contrast. Amongst the soft, sucking green of new nature, sap rising, and foilage bursting out of every place, there is blossum. Just one tree. Like sugar dusting on the Pandoro (the Italian Christmas cake). It provides a sharp contrast and says “look at me”. “Look how clean and white I am amidst all this fertile decadence, look how special I am. Look from me back to the rest and notice how special we all are.”