Pausa in the Piazza

by Joan Stack

The clock on PiBy Joan Stackazza Matteoti’s bell tower says it’s just past one o’clock.    Surprisingly , the medieval era piazza’s fountain is surrounded by parking spaces, their boundaries marked by bright blue lines painted on cobblestones of  indeterminate age.   As usual, each space is filled with  a compact car, the multitude forming a modern-age mosaic .  The bells of a Church in one corner of the piazza begin to chime, loud, deep gongs  that signal the service has ended and ancient wooden doors open, spilling out  a crowd of people as though the medieval building had suddenly burst a seam.   Young mothers hurry by, one carrying a crying baby, others holding the hands of younger children and trying to keep up with the older ones intent on moving on to afternoon pleasures now that their weekly obligation has been met.  A few husbands accompany them.   One calls to another– “Ciao,ci vediamo!” he says– before disappearing into an old street in pursuit of his family.

Stern-looking older women in dark dresses and sensible shoe come next, most accompanied by a silent elderly men wearing suits and ties.  Some stroll down the same ancient pathways the young families took, and others—the early arrivers and the lucky– get in cars parked in the piazza.   The automotive mosaic melts away and quiet descends upon the piazza.

With the cars gone, the fountain resumes its rightful place as the centerpiece, as it must have been for centuries.  Sun glints off the water springing from the sculpture.   A pigeon lands and takes a drink.  A moment later, a friend joins him.   They remain a few minutes, then on some silent agreement they each take flight, flecks of sunlit water spraying around them as they ascend, slowly circling the piazza before disappearing over the rooftops in opposite directions.

A few people sit alone or in couples at tables in the cafes, drinking espresso or a cold drink but there is little talk, and no activity of note as though the few souls who remain have agreed to savor this peaceful moment as countless generations who came before must have done.  It is Sunday in Cagli, and pausa has begun.

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