I think after you live somewhere for awhile you become wholly unaware of your surroundings. You can forget the beauty of a place, the value it has. Bra has become this and at times, languishes in my mind as any other place. To live here is to be wholly involved in Italy and Italian life. For as long as I’ve lived here, a bit over a year now, I have forgot the essential parts of living that make this a place of amusement.
Today is Friday, and it is on Friday that you realize that a town perceived as sleepy or boring in fact comes alive with activity. It is the beginning of September and my most favorite period of the year. Cool mornings now. Warm and sunny afternoons and evenings. It’s during this time that the earth is it’s most generous giving forth all it has to offer for every person. Reminded of this today at the local Friday market which was so busy you could barely pass. To see each farmer with the result of their labor is the actual fulfillment of what a farmer’s market is. Except here it isn’t a farmer’s market, it’s just normal. The prices, fair and reasonable for the quality and beauty of these fruits and vegetables. A complete picture of seasonality and locality in one place. A trout from the fisherman, peaches, plums and the best are the late summer tomatoes which are still turning red in the heat of the afternoon.
Bra, yes, is a unique place. One that surprises some Italians by it’s complete lack of chain restaurants, it’s hidden wealth, it’s Provencal-ness without the stuffiness.
Friday’s give me energy and encouragement here. The bustling in the street makes me feel as if it were just a small neighborhood part of a larger city. Filled with a host of faces from abroad. As I sit here at the café with my pen and notebook, happy at the complete absence of computers and wi-fi, the atmospheric music coming from satellites, I’m reminded of the reason for café’s and that is conversation and a respite from the day. Of all things that are present here to remind you of this, the most apparent is the name of the café; Converso. It rings in an English speaker’s ears like conversation. So, I am surrounded by conversation at Café Converso. How appropriate.
These are the ideas of civility that we have lost in the U.S. Simply concepts really, replaced by over stimulation and the need to always rush around town — the concept of a fair price (here, a cappuccino with table service is €1.30, no tip necessary), or for people to frequent the small stores that sustain a town such as this.
Of all the talk of a loss of our roots or heritage, these places till exist. Places like Bra, all across Europe. Unattractive perhaps for the general tourist, but ideal for the ones who live there. No wonder people idealize these places – people who, like I, have abandoned their own country for a life a bit less hectic, a bit less crazy. I find it realistic, and yet at the same time, completely un-real. For now, it works. It isn’t a permanent solution to our wanderlust, no place is, but giving this small town some of my time has been, for all intensive purposes, worth it. It’s not perfect, but it at least tries.