Some of my favorite images are small enough to use as bookmarks, and this is one of those. It’s a copy of a linoleum block print designed by Gastone Vignati, a retired printer in his late 80s who lives and works in Assisi.
Like other images I use as bookmarks, this one reminds me of having visited a wonderful place. Three visits, in fact.
I first traveled over 30 years ago with Harvey, my partner at that time. To celebrate his finishing his doctoral courses at Emory, Harvey and I took a six-month backpacking trip through Europe. (In getting ready for that trip, I had made a list of towns I particularly wanted to visit, based on the 1979 edition of architect/photographer Norman Carver’s book of mostly black-and-white photographs of Italian hill towns. Assisi was one of the towns featured in Carver’s book.)
I visited Assisi a second time in the 1990s (this time, in much warmer weather!) with my friend Joyce, on our way back from our road trip through Provence, via Italy and Switzerland, to Joyce’s daughter’s house in Germany where Joyce was living at the time.
My third visit was in 2007, with Larry, my partner at that time, who joined a group of six friends to rent a villa in Umbria for a week. St. Francis being one of Larry’s favorite mystics, there was no question about our visiting Francis’ home town so Larry could see for himself the places where Francis spent his short and remarkable life.
Besides having been lucky enough to explore Assisi on three separate occasions, there’s another reason I’m particularly fond of this town. It was during a solitary walk through the non-touristy part of Assisi that I discovered the music of Ludovico Einaudi. A woodworker on the street I was ambling down was playing one of Einaudi’s CDs in his shop, and because his door was open, I got to hear for the first time this incredibly gifted contemporary composer’s music long before I rushed into the woodkeeper’s shop; I thought what I was hearing was a piano being played by some angel. (I had just walked out of an out-of-the-way museum’s exhibit of hundreds of contemporary sculptures of the Virgin Mary.) All these years later, I listen to Einaudi’s CDs often, and I’ve never forgotten how magically I first heard his amazing music.
Needless to say, Assisi is full of wonders and worth as many visits as you care to make there. And, apart from all the art and the many impressive traces of the only Catholic saint I’ve ever cared a hoot about, one of the town’s wonders is Vignati’s tiny store, Artestampa (“The Art of Printing”). If you visit Assisi yourself sometime in the next few years, you might consider seeking it out. It’s on Via San Francisco. You will not be sorry.
Meanwhile, my periodically plucking out from my little stash of bookmarks this little image – it’s the size of a business card, although Vignati probably sells larger, more expensive prints of it – helps to remind me – and for as long as I’m using that bookmark again – of not only my three magical visits to Assisi, but my love of All Things Italian, and of my fascination with hill towns (no matter where they are: Jerusalem, for example, is another favorite).
Do you have something that you’ve picked up on one of your own trips somewhere that you use as a favorite bookmark? If you do, I’d be interested to hear about what it is.
This is the second installment of an ongoing project to post some of the beautiful or startling or humorous images I’ve collected over the years that, for one reason or another, I especially treasure. I plan to briefly explain why I treasure each of these images and/or remind myself how or when they came into my life. For the creators of these images – whenever I’m able to track down their names – the project is my way of thanking them for enriching my life.