AL PURDY IN ITALY, 1997
BY LUCIA LIPPI
It was Christmas day 1997 and via Camollia was almost deserted at three in the afternoon; everybody was still sitting at table enjoying a big meal with their families.
I was to meet a famous writer from Canada, Al Purdy and his wife Eurithe, to show them Siena and the surrounding area. I was very excited!
Nobody in the street, I found the house and went up the narrow stairs of an old building.
I rang the bell and two nice old people appeared. They were watching a program on national television and it looked as though they did not mind an Italian lunch. We introduced ourselves; they knew I would come to show them round the area and visit places near Siena. We quickly decided on Monteriggioni and then Colle Val d’Elsa.
Unfortunately it was such a grey day that we could hardly take pictures inside Porta Camollia. Despite this they enjoyed it, and I was surprised that it was easy to get on well with them. Al Purdy and Eurithe had very young spirits and made you feel immediately at ease.
Driving along the Cassia road we went over Pian del Lago and I showed Mr. Purdy the green area of uncontaminated woods where I went horseback riding and where, on the way near Monteriggioni, you can still see the bridge called Ponte Rosso, referenced by Dante Alighieri in his masterpiece Divina Commedia.
It was like a spark, we started to talk about nature and the Etruscans who had lived in this area and D.H Lawrence who loved this country, and then Dylan Thomas too.
Unexpectedly Mr. Purdy started to quote passages from “Under Milkwood” by Dylan Thomas and poems by D.H Lawrence with such a solemn, dark, low tone in his voice that made you forget where you were – you could only hear his words.
It was an unbelievable afternoon. We ended in San Gimignano for something warm to drink and their company was so incredible that on the way back, I got lost and drove in the very centre of San Gimignano risking a really expensive fine! The atmosphere was so great that nobody minded, and we arrived back home in Siena excited after a beautiful, exhilarating, interesting afternoon.
Meeting Al Purdy and his wife Eurithe was an unforgettable experience.
– Lucia Lippi, Diary Excerpt Christmas 1997. Siena, Italy.
Lucia Lippi has been a Secondary School English teacher since 1980. She teaches English Language in “Liceo Classico Piccolomini” in Siena Italy, and is responsible for Foreign Language Courses and Foreign Exchanges. Lucia leads courses in England every year, meeting students from other European countries.
Fond of horses, Lucia is a Dressage Steward and has experience in National and international competitions.