Church is over. The ladies were evidently in a hurry to get home to give the Sunday roast the final touches. But the men stay on, forming groups on the cobblestones: a few are immersed in their newspaper, studying the latest scandals in the «Repubblica», or the best kick in the rose-red «Gazzetta dello sport». All of them hang around with casual ease, as if they are acquainted with each other, at least a little. Even the cops greet them from their car windows. The place appears to me like a salon in which one meets quite naturally because one resides in the same house.
And everything appears as if it has been like this here for ages. I narrow my eyes a bit and immediately the men at the square appear like a river flowing back into history and, at the same time, out of it. I see them streaming, clad in medieval garb, out of the little Roman church, which the city administration has seen fit to currently install with a glitzy carousel. I hear the traders who loudly extol the qualities of their sausages and their wormy cheeses. None of the tomatoes and potatoes has been sold yet, because Columbus hasn’t been born yet; cabbage, cicorino and the pointed winter artichoke are, however, on offer. I smell the dung of donkeys and the smoke from the ovens of the nearby bakery – and sense the shuddering of horse carriages ferrying wood over the streets. Now I see the men in the doublets and frock-coats of the Renaissance, then the square is filled with the floppy hats of the Baroque age which give way to the more modest designs of the 19th century. I see how the fascists march through in their black uniforms between the grey Sunday costumes; then a frenziedly gesticulating guy with a mobile phone goes past me. New faces flit by; others are suddenly no longer there. «Non è la vita anche come una piazza», asks Domenica di Sanpietro, «a place at which one enjoys oneself with others, or gets worked up about the world – as if one is eternally at home here. As if.»
The square as memento mori: I believe that I would constantly find it so if I, too, had my place here. And perhaps the men who stand about here sense it too. And, either it is what the priest said in his sermon that comforts them – or the prospect of the Sunday roast.
First Publication: 26-2-2015