Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hills Like These

Fiesole is a small, clandestine town that rests on a hill just outside of Florence, Italy. The pocketbook tourist guide that I bought from a Barnes and Noble suggested I visit Fiesole for its fine cuisine and intimacy. My friend Josh and I decided to go.

My pocketbook guide also suggested we take the number 7 bus from Piazza Dalmazia, in Florence, to Piazza Mino, in Fiesole. The trip was an estimated 20 minutes, at most.

“I say we take the train,” Josh said.

“What?” I looked up from the little guide book. “Why?”

“Aly, I’ve done it before. The scenery is amazing.” I was done with all of my class assignments for the week; I had time to explore. Besides, I trusted Josh. He was two years older than I and spoke fluent Italian and Spanish. I was in good hands.

“Okay!” I exclaimed, and we walked the ¾ mile to the Piazza della Stazione from our little apartments on Via dei Magazzini.

The train took us through grape vineyards and terracotta-roofed homes, all resting on the slanted hillsides. It was dusk, and the orange sun streamed through long clouds. The hills, I thought, were too large to be called hills, yet too small to be called mountains; some were dotted with basil-colored trees and others were blanketed with tan brush. Italian cypress seemed to poke the underbellies of purple-pink clouds, and I told Josh we will be neighbors someday in these hills.

After about 40 minutes in the cabin, Josh and I exited in Caldine. There were no other people at the stop besides a small child and, I assume, his grandmother. They boarded the train and left Josh and me to ourselves.

“Okay, my friend, now we just need to find a bus to take us up.” Josh said. By this time, the air was blue and cold. I shivered in my red, nylon sundress and sequined sandals.

Minutes later, we found the bus stop, and discovered the routes had stopped running for the night. We looked at the map plastered to a bench and began walking up the long Via Fontelucente. The road would lead us directly into Fiesole’s main piazza; it ran uphill the entire way, wrapping the mountainside. There were no sidewalks, and Josh and I walked in brown Cypress needles that collected at the edges of the road. Every few moments a Euro sports coupe would zip towards us—we’d both fake a scream, and Josh would protect me by trading me places to walk closer to traffic. The arches of my feet rubbed raw against my shoes. My mouth felt full of cotton. It was around 9:30 p.m. and it had been about six hours since I had eaten.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Josh turned his body toward the view, walking backwards, and spread his arms to hug the scenery. I turned my neck to glance, then found myself stopped to face the view.

I’d seen large hills before, probably in southern California or northern Utah, but I’d never seen them like these with vineyards draped over the sides. I’d never seen them with a deep purple backdrop, or with tall stucco houses lit with orange light. I’d never seen hills like these, and now I was standing in the middle of them, breathing their vapor, dirtying my feet with their residue. I breathed deep with my eyes closed, turned back around, and continued my walk to Fiesole.

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