La Dolce Vita - parading in the Piazza Ducale.

Sitting in the Piazza Ducale, in Vigevano, Italy can be extremely self indulgent. The whole experience is an assault on the senses. It is a veritable feast of Italian life and culture.

For the antipasti, (starters), there is the richness of the architecture. The Piazza is said to be the most beautiful and aesthetically pleasing in all of Italy after San Marco, Venice. It's proportions are 1:3 apparently, which is difficult to see unless you are an architect. However it is undoubtedly pleasing to the eye and balanced in its aspect with the Duomo at one end and its colonnaded walkways, providing shade and protection from the weather, on the other three sides.

Next in the feast comes il primo piatto (the first course) which undoubtedly must be the cafes and gelateria, that jostle for attention and offer invitations to share the delights of fabulous ice cream, aromatic coffee and if, like me, you love the distinctive combination of the two that the Italians have created, an affogato, then it must be close to heaven on earth.

Cafes provide the perfect vantage point for il secondo piatto, (the main course), of the experience which is people watching. Italy is a country where parading to watch and be watched has become an art form. Groups of fresh faced young Montagues and Capulets loudly strut like cockerels in 21st Century uniforms of designer jeans and shirts, displaying carefully sculptured combs.  Modern day Juliets saunter casually under the arches on four inch high heels that miraculously avoid the cracks in the paving stones as they pretend not to notice the glances from passing Romeos.

Immaculately dressed and coiffured ladies are seated at cafe tables placed strategically for the best views. They gossip animatedly together amid a flurry of gestures that add depth and feeling to their exchanged stories, all the while keeping their eyes open for passing fashion disasters that add spice to their enjoyment of the main course. An obviously pregnant new bride with her husband, posing for photos in the centre of the Piazza, give them the perfect opportunity to savour the moment. One group of elderly men propped up on their bicycles at the end of the piazza appear to be discussing the latest crisis in the Italian economy by the look of their serious chiseled faces.

Then i dolci (the dessert course).....what to finish and conclude a delightful but brief visit to Italy? Perhaps something a little bitter sweet?  The memory of leaving Italy 29 years ago feeling that we had unfinished business still in the land we felt called to.  Returning as we have this time after so long a gap to speak at a church conference in Vigevano has been healing and refreshing and brought a sense of closure to that time.  I sensed the presence of God in the meetings, loved the whole experience and wondered what our life would have been like had we stayed and not returned to England.  I feel happy and satisfied, grateful and content.  I also wonder if there are still new things on the menu to discover in this land in the future. We shall have to wait and see what God our Father opens up. What is needed now is a siesta.


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