I arrived in Benano this morning, and I felt my pace slow as I walked through the village gate and into such a profoundly different place. I entered the tranquillity of this walled fortress on foot because the gate and roads are much too small for cars. The village was built as a military garrison some 1,000 years ago by people focused on protecting Orvieto from the from the Sienese. They weren’t thinking about conveniences for vehicles. Fair enough – it’s important to have priorities!
The panoramic views once provided Benano protection from invaders. Now they just provide simple pleaure. The scenery — vineyards and olive groves in the foreground and Orvieto in the distance — is ancient and serene.
Benano is home to 10 Italian families and a few weekenders and vacation homeowners. English is practically never spoken, and there is no commerce in the village. The neighbors are quietly friendly, and quite curious. When the four of us who eventually bought the house were still looking it, the number townfolk hanging around oh-so-nonchalantly seemed to grow each time we came for another look. They have since welcomed us and are happy to have younger people and more life in the village.
This morning, a neighbor greeted us as we came through the gate. Jeff, our friend and partner (and my chauffeur for the morning) reminded her that I was back, as promised, to study Italian. As I got further into town and approached our front steps, I said hi to our closest neighbor. Our front doors share a small piazza with about 5 other neighbors, but she is out and about more than the others. She assured us she remembered me and welcomed me back. I hope to practice Italian with her and get to know her a bit.
Deep breath. I’m “home.” It will soon be home without the quotation marks.