Italy Postcard

Last night, farmer’s field edge and woods, clouds furled and whirlpooled with the roads we’d been on, first real grey of the trip and exhale temperature drop. Pizza slices in town in the square an hour before, so there’s just pitching the tents just in time for fat thwap thit pummeling drops stinging freeze on my shoulders before I duck in. Now torrents, we’re chatting from across the ricocheting expanse between mesh screens, fall asleep for a little to wake to last light rain stop drip and fireflies eye level floating in the field so I decide that I’m in a dream.

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Today a second in Italy’s yellow argent temps, tracks through apricots or peaches, morning roadies “ciao!”, seems at every town we stop to fill up at the spigot or fountain. The first empty bottle brimming, down it right there before topping it off again. Splash face, nod to the old timers fanning themselves in the shade murmuring conversation with an open hand emphasis, arcing back toward Slovenia, tended tree rows, plastered stone fencing, tilled dirt.

We stop at a monument to the known and unknown soldiers lost here in WWI, Oslavia’s Shrine, climb stairs to reach it that Jack points out stops breath and any hint that this isn’t solemn and serious, architecturally a citadel and a church and a sepulcher, eight inch guns pointing down the valley from the anachronistic crenelated battlements, enter the hulking entryway to a hall that rings the cylinder with names and names dozens high tiling floor to ceiling, yielding a central shaft roof room with more names and stretched cross to the sky streaming into the transparent dome above. We walk, silence, we are the only ones here and the effect is of embrace of Italy’s fallen, gathered in the cool stone and the openings let burst in the countryside.

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Cross the border again, transition invisible. Now alongside a train line, we’ll follow it, low to the land, stations duplicates of each other. Soon we’ll take agribiking to an official status through a mountain bike area that links together tractor paths with cyclist silhouette markers at the intersections. We yes! our way through the trail system, an overlook onto a picturesque valley, then a descent into a small town where we sit on benches near the entrance to the church and the mildly disapproving looks of folks coming in for evening mass. I study the map for patches of forrest nearby and the options remain obscure until Jack points down a break in the trees, we follow it to a clearing with neat stacks of chopped wood on each side making a perfect enclosure.

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