UPDATED: Tales (and pictures) from the road less taken...

"The Road Not Taken"
by Robert Frost (1920)

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I've developed a new habit when I travel... I ask the locals, preferably in the best aproximation of the local language I can manage, what is the most beautiful thing to see there that few foreigners know about.

In Rome, at a wonderful little hole-in-the-wall trattoria at the foot of the Esquiline Hill, the answer I got was the Church of the Four Crowned Saints (i Santi Quattro Coronati)... so I promptly marched (as promptly as possible under the blazing Roman sun, which was, like, a good hour or two) up the Celio hill to this church, originally founded in 595 A.D.

There I met an elderly English gentleman, who'd just done the same... I told him my story, and he said that the folks at the restaurant were absolutely right... He'd first seen the church over 50 years earlier, when he was studying on a scholarship in Rome in the years after the war. There'd he'd seen a tiny little palm tree just starting to grow in the cloister garden. A few years later, he went back, and the same little tree was by that point astoundingly tall.

And now, here he was a half century later, and he'd come to Rome at least in part just to see the church and that once-little palm, to see how that tree - which was nearly as old as he - was doing... He'd marched up that hill, alone, in the ferocious heat like I did, only to discover that the Augustinian Sisters who occupy the convent and church were in the middle of closed religious devotions, and the church would not be open to the public as a result until the following week. And thus we traipsed right back down the Celio hill (the view of Colloseum at right was taken from that very street on the long way back...)

So, I guess the moral of the story is that we can't reasonably expect everything to be open 24/7 on the road less travelled! :-)

Still, I was glad to have tried, to have met that kind English gentleman and heard his story. Plus, I now have an even greater reason to return to Rome in the future... Someday, I have to see that church (not to mention the palm tree!)

We did the same thing in Tuscany, and the answer we got was the village of Montefioralle near the town of Greve in Chianti (where I got the shot I flickred earlier of the basketmaker at the annual Butchers' festival).

Don't bother to try to look for it in any guidebooks... chances are that it's not there. Not even in the Italian ones! But it has just been officially named as one of the prettiest villages in Italy, and once you see it you know that it's rightfully so!

The village began as a small fortified settlement by at least 1085, and is even mentioned in poetry by the famous early-Renaissance author Boccaccio. What's more, Montefioralle was the ancestral home of the family of Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer who wound up giving his name to the Americas.

It was at this point that my husband, who'd until now just been patiently waiting for me as I was snapping my own photos, caught the shutter bug himself in this charming, medieval walled village! These photos are from his camera, while mine I'll post - as usual - to Flickr. Enjoy!!

No comments: