Tell it on a mountain: Springtime on the steps

By Rachel Slajda

This is the sixth in a biweekly series following the journey of a Northeastern student studying abroad in Perugia, Italy.

It’s finally warm in Perugia. It was freezing cold, filled with cold rain and cold winds and cold thoughts. So I went to a Spanish beach for five days (a meager spring break), where the weather was bright and burning. When I came back, Italy’s stone winter had changed to spring.

The skies are blue, the clouds white, the land between buildings a sweeter green. The air smells like spring, sometimes like summer – the same smells I know from New England. The overgrown garden on my terrace is sprouting flowers, yellow and pink and white and purple. I can sit outside there in a decaying metal chair for hours and read and eat pasta at night and drink hot tea in the morning.

This weekend the town woke up. People filled the two main piazzas and the wide main street in between. Friday was beautiful, without classes or dark clouds, and I found myself on the steps. The wide, high stone steps lead up to Perugia’s cathedral, a great stone barn of Catholicism.

The steps are Perugia’s meeting spot. I sat there in the sun and watched and wrote. Corso Vanucci was laid out in front of me, a canyon cut by the people streaming between the steps and the top of the city wall. The Umbrian Valley was invisible, too low to see, and when I looked, the steps were covered in youth and sun. Most of the Italians and stranieri (foreigners) were just sitting, looking around and chatting.

Some, like me, brought distractions – books and notebooks open on laps. Others brought sandwiches and beer; others, dogs. The dress code was strange for the first warm day of the year. Everyone around me wore long sleeves and long pants and even winter coats. There was not a flip-flop in sight. But I regretted putting my Converses on to fit in: It was too hot for shoes, no matter what the Italians say.

American tourists had suddenly appeared, great clumps of them taking pictures and taking seats at the caf

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