Have you ever wondered what would happen if a road you took every day, for example the route to work or to your girlfriend’s house – could store all those thoughts you’d had during each journey? If it was possible, we would have at our disposition, a limitless reservoir of emotion, undoubtedly moving, a true Memory Lane. How many times do you go over thoughts in your head whilst you’re driving, worries or maybe even new, exciting projects? How many times have old memories been brought to mind, triggered by a small detail in the passing landscape? It happens to us all.
So here goes, my Memory Lane, it would most certainly have to be the road that takes me from my home in Falconara Marittima to Matelica, passing Fabriano and through Cerreto d’Esi. In fact just outside Matelica , stands an old country house belonging to my grandmother Iris and is where I spent some of my most enjoyable and formative summers as a teenager.
My grandmother is a force of nature, going on holiday with her meant unlimited fun: from her dubious impressions of Maria Callas to an escape from the amorous advances of a century-old farmer, to a dispute with the jealous neighbour, every day offered a new tale to report back to friends.
Iris is an extraordinary person, culturally omnivorous, in those sweltering July days, with her white Fiat, of which I can still recall the keys, hung on a big, red, magical looking heart-shaped hook, she opened my eyes to all kinds of experiences.
There was, for example, the 'medieval fortresses' period, during which, with a systematic approach worthy of a scientist at CERN, she took my cousin and I to almost every fort in the vicinity of Matelica, the majority of which were built by the lords of the time, the Da Varano family. She took us to see the ruins of the fortress of Spindoli a Fuminata; il Cassero di Castelraimondo,, il Castello-rocca Varano and one I particularly remember, Il castello di Lanciano, with its extraordinary park which in 1500 was also the summer residence of Giovanni Malatesta, the grandson of Francesco Sforza. It is now one of the so-called celestial Rocche which are priviledged places, nominated by the mountain community of Camerino as being ideally situated for celestial observation. We also reached the wonderful ruins of Castello di Beldiletto, great example of late-gothic architecture.
My grandmother then went through her naturalistic phase, during which we enjoyed long games of bowls on the beautiful plains of Canfaito with her childhood friends, Checco and Elvira, with the added option of watching Checco play bare-chested and Elivra in her underskirt. We had day trips to Mount San Vicino, looking for a place to stop for a picnic (and, in winter, in search of wild cyclamen), or we enjoyed giving a pleasant, if terrorizing surprise (for him and for us) to the wild boar held in captivity by her friend and sweetheart Toto. I also recall the walks through the gardens of Matelica, which were generally followed by a visit to a friend of hers who still makes cloth on a loom.
Not to mention, the wild boar and my dear grandmother’s gastronomy phase, I can recall the times she took us to eat in one of the restaurants around Genga, perhaps before a visit to the caves (Grotte di Frasassi), the roman abbey of San Vittore, or the sanctuary of the Madonna di Frasassi, built into the mountain, surrounded by the deep green nature, silent and flourishing, in perfect harmony with the history of man.
However, I have to admit, that at the time I would much rather have wandered round the souvenir market in the car park in Genga which I always saw from afar as my grandmother whizzed past, off to the next point of interest. In fact I can still recall the time I managed to interrupt her non stop cultural tour to take me there and subsequently talked her into buying me a horrendous little remote-controlled car that I still keep today as a trophy.
Well, after these small confessions there’s nothing else to add, except to say that if you’re ever passing this way, give me a shout and if Iris is free to give you a tour, I have no doubt that your return journey will be filled with wonderful memories just like mine.
The Paradise Trotter