It was early and the roads were still quiet as we headed toward the valley, winding our way through miles of harvested rice fields. The occasional white ibis stood solitary and still waiting for its unsuspecting prey.
The sound of the passing wind roared in my helmet but failed to wrap its frigid fingers around my body, clad in protective armor. It didn't hurt that my black clothes absorbed the gentle warmth from the morning sun. This small pleasure was soon gone as we sped deeper into the valley and the rolling hills slowly disappeared into cottonwool fog.
There is something about fog that makes the world silent and unearthly. Tall, ancient trees lose their majesty, reduced to a dim dark blur and definitive edges become smudged. The yellow fields framed with evergreen in the distance paled as if under an artist's wash in white. Everything seems closer.
The stone outer buildings of Monferrato slowly loomed into view. The streets were peppered with people wrapped up snugly against the cold. This was their weekend to celebrate their truffle festival.
After a brief stop at a cafe for directions and a dose of burning liquid to warm our insides, we headed for one of the hilltowns in the area. We hooked a left and followed a narrow road, climbing past gorgeous homes that claim beautiful vistas of the valley below on a clear day. The one laner snaked through the hills, finally opening its mouth to pop us out.....on the road back to the cafe!
Finally, our noses emerged from the thick valley fog and we arrived at a little village covered only with a thin layer of mist. Cars lined the streets, a promising sign of another festival underway; we were in the middle of Passerano M's celebration, Sagra della Trippa.
Local artisans displayed their artwork and wares; intricate leatherwork engravings, handles for knives made from marble, copper containers burned and hammered into shape. The square was dressed with booths laden with food and folk lined up eagerly waiting their turn to take away a steaming plate of food. Hungry stomachs can not wait in line and we headed for the nearby cafe turned trattoria.
As I went inside, I noted that the haze was gone and that the sky was once again beautifully blue.
On reflection I realize that the events of this day mirror what my life is basically like. In general it can be one big drift as day passes day, busy, but perhaps without substance. No clarity of purpose...foggy. Even when I decide to go in a particular direction, I don't always succeed and find myself back at square one. But persistance pays off and I finally find myself in a position where I want to be.
I know it's hard sometimes to figure out what to do, where to go, how to do things. But I think that once a choice is made and we go in a particular route, we are on a road of discovery, learning not only new things along that way, but if the direction was right for us. We take another turn at each crossroad or point of assessment and eventually we will arrive at our destination. It starts with a choice and continues with persistence.
When I think of these roads that I love in Italy, I like to think that they are very much like the road of my life; up, down and around, through tunnels and ambiguous crossroads. The trip is sometimes dark, or confusing, sometimes a tight squeeze, but in my mind it is always interesting, surprising, worth the effort and definitely beautiful.