A person "who has not been in Italy is always conscious of an inferiority", said Dr Johnson, as a fellow Cumbrian writer reminded me a few weeks ago. Well, now I have remedied that deficiency: I've visited the land of Dante and Petrarch at last.
I stayed at Lippiano, a small village in the upper Tiber valley, for a week. The village has a castle, a church, a palazzo, a post office, a bus stop and a bar. At the weekend there was a fiesta, "The Fiesta of the Wooden Spoon" (I never found out why). The hitherto quiet and almost deserted streets filled up with market stalls, music and dancing, and the bar did a roaring trade.
The village is built of a beautiful yellow stone, like Cotswold stone. Nearby are the heavily wooded Apennine Hills where wolves still live, perhaps descendants of the legendary wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome. I did not see a wolf but I did see the delightful little lizards that basked on the stones of the castle walls.
It was a good week for working on poems. I wrote one about the barrel-tiled roofs so characteristic of this part of Italy. I went to see the Madonna del Parto fresco, painted by Piero della Francesca circa 1460 and wrote a poem about her too, only to find that Jorie Graham had got there first. Fortunately her version is nothing like mine. For some reason she titles the poem "San Sepulchro" although the fresco is in Monterchi.
When I finally got home on Saturday night there was the usual stack of bills and circulars waiting, and also a plump A5 envelope - Jim Carruth's latest poems, Prodigal, beautifully published by Mariscat press. It's good to be home.