Nothing unusual about that. What was unusual was a large proportion of the valleys residents and a sizeable brass band had sat on top of the hill at the top of town to welcome its arrival. Strange as no one can remember a time when it didn’t.
The professional blazer wearing segment of the local dignitaries stood around and looked pensive. Perhaps the mayor had heard the Irish-led rumour that it was going to be history’s first no show.
Perhaps it was just a little more significant, just today. The ancient walled town sits perched in that peculiar Italian way, bunched in the smallest area possible looking across the Tuscan valley of farms. A road, a very ‘Roman’ road and, contrary to popular belief, a very atypical Italian road bisects the town in a laser straight line for 9miles. At the other end of the road a ridge of mountains climb 1400m into the sky. Once a year, along the laser straight road, in a line up the mountains, the sun will rise.
The Irish kid behind me asked impatiently where was the sun. Only in Italy, on a Sunday, can the dawn be stylishly late. My filter was also still in bed. “92 million miles that way”. His mum laughed while he pondered if I was making fun of him.
Some joker in the crowd behind loudly applauded and whooped again at nothing, a stale joke that wasn’t freshening.
The dark blues and blacks of the sky warmed in reds, golds and the stars went out one by one.
The band played stirring music; the kind of brass that lent itself perfectly to the occasion. The damp morning carried the weight of each note into your chest and somehow warmed your heart. This was good. Shafts of light from the mountains turned to the firey corona of the sun and all too quickly, it was risen and striding across the sky. The music reacted with awe and majesty. Two mins later and the direct line with the road and the centre of town. Just incredible. Every phone, every camera strained to make the unforgettable, shareable.
The crowd soaked it in. I mean, it was so good, the kid behind stopped whinging. The warmth was amplified by the incredible band. The smell of coffee rose from all the bars!
As sunrise grew into plain old daytime, the hydrogen continued to burn. The crowd realised the spectacle was heading towards France and Spain and decided to follow.
The conductor warmly hugged each member of the band and told a little anecdote about each one and proudly told of family and musical achievements. Our sun-warmed hearts swelled. They were a little too far to understand but the sentiment was obvious. The crowd gave a grateful applause for every member of the community who came to make this event an occasion.
The blazer wearers shook hands. Took photos with the local coffee sponsor of the pillows that protected our soft, bed-loving arses from the road. My landlord, a man of such incredible heart and warmth, popped the cork on some Prosecco and handed it to the orchestra (elevated beyond a simple ‘band’ by the occasion; a name that shares the splendour of this celestial occasion). We dispersed to the three cafes that had opened in the piazza, to make a little post-Covid money serving coffee and cake to us grateful greeters of the sun.
Beautiful girls leant tiredly on the shoulders of men who look good in un-ironed shirts and retro Casio watches, while they waited for their coffee. They drank their coffee which didn’t seem to work, as they slouched off into the still early morning.
We made the climb up the hill to our little house. It was early. It was already hot. As we closed the door, the church bells rang loudly calling people to the first Sunday service. Small, old town. Five churches. Lots of bells. No sleep.