History Does Not Repeat Itself…But It Often Rhymes…*

Sempre Allora…




The tourists have eaten their gelato, published their selfies and climbed back aboard their buses outside the gates…except for the few of us who are staying the night within these archaic city walls.

As the Autumn sun slowly declines and brushes the labor of a millennium, the stacked and mortared stones, with burnished gold, the crisply defined shadows of the city towers creep across the quiescent Piazza della Cisterna and close their cooling fingers over the ancient well, the former and current gathering place for wanderers, travelers, pilgrims, gossips and lovers.  Tonight, for now, the only voices in the square below are the residents and shopkeepers, ending their day and catching up on personal and public news.

The lilting speech with its universal inflections of joy, laughter, sorrow or angst conduct the smattering of sound into and through the dream state and touch upon and  eavesdrop on the ‘ghosts’ of this timeworn city.

Imagery is pulled by the voices across the times and concerns of the lives of those who have passed here over the centuries…the reverberation of whispers slumbering in the well.

As the chimera drift in and out through the window onto the piazza and down the narrow cobblestone streets where the echoes of a thousand years of footsteps trod, these murmurs from the past are passed through as an aural mist swirling around the central theme…

Sempre allora…


Ghost 6 plus


“…the poet who was here as ambassador from Firenze…?”

“Si, I remember him well. He is the first poet who made sense to me”

“That is because he speaks in our language, NOT the language of Roma.  Anyway, He has been banished from Firenze for life!!!”

“What?  Why?  Oh, Si, he was aligned with the Bianchi, no?  The wrong side of this constant political battle”

“All sides are wrong in their own ways, if you ask me…”


 Sempre Allora…


Ghost 12

“… is bragging about the tremendous tower he wants to build next to St. Agostino…did you hear?”

“Yes, I heard.  His fleet is growing and everyone in Pisa talks about his wealth…

…and laughs at his poor taste”

“They won’t allow it!!  He wants the tallest tower…We CAN’T allow it!  No matter how much gold he offers…”

“…and that wife of his…Aye…money cannot buy everything…!”

Sempre allora…



Ghost 9


“… it says, has been commissioned to carve the altar for the cathedral.”

“Another sculpture!?  Is that where my alms go? I could use new wheels for my cart!”

“Hush!  Don’t say such things!”

“The priest can’t hear me.”

“No, but God can….!”

“Maybe the Saint of cart wheels will find it in his heart to….”

“I said Silenzio! Chiudi la bocca!  Hush, shut your mouth!  You will be struck by lightning and I am right here next to you…don’t take me with you over that nonsense…!  We should feel honored.”


Sempre allora…



Ghost 10



“…is coming here to paint?

I must send some cinghiale for him to eat…you know…just as a welcome gift.  Maybe my daughter can borrow your carriage to deliver it to him.”

“Your daughter!?  My carriage?!  Why would….ahhh….”

“Si, the Madonna has to look like someone, no?, and she needs to look fresh and at her best!  Now, what should she wear…?  Oh…I know just the right thing…”


Sempre allora…



Ghost 7


“Ciao, bella donna, what is your name?”

“Shhh…Not here at the well…I can’t talk to you now…”

“Because of that fellow staring daggers at me from across the piazza?”

“That is Pietro.   And he is also carrying daggers…He thinks he is my boyfriend.”

“But he is not?”


“He looks mean”

“He is… so you must go. But do you know where the pools are at the end of Via Garibaldi…..? Meet me there after the bells of Matins and we can…talk… Don’t smile… Now pretend that I am giving you directions to the blacksmith and then you must go that way…and talk to the blacksmith because Pietro will check up on you…ask him about gate hinges or something…anything…!  STOP SMILING!!!  So, sir, if you turn down by the…..”

Sempre Allora…



Ghost 8


“Hurry up with that stone!  These towers won’t build themselves…”

“Scusa! I was thinking about what the Medici’s new wonder-boy said about our wine”

“Who is this?”

“The great sculptor and artist.  He said our Vernaccia wine, “Bacia, lecca, morde, pica e punge!” “

“What!?   It kisses, licks, bites, pricks and stings….? What does this mean?”

“I don’t know, but when a famous artist talks about us it must be good for business, no?”

“Bah…what does an artist know about wine except how to drink too much?!  Now, bring me the stone next to your foot…the OTHER foot…quickly so we can get home and see what this ‘great artist’ is talking about…maybe we can be bitten, kissed and stung…Ha, ha, ha, ha…!”

“Oh… wash your shirt tonight. The owner is coming to inspect our progress tomorrow.  I don’t want him to think we are building a tall stable and the horses are already here….!!!!!”

 Sempre allora…



Ghost 3


C’mon, C’mon! Fretta! Hurry!  We have to be back at the castle before curfew.  Coach says we start intensive training for The Games tomorrow at sunrise…”

“Sunrise?  No, no, no!  One more hour!”

“Absolutely not!  That pretty little girl I saw you talking to will have to wait until after Berlin…Now, Come on!”

 Sempre allora…




Ghost il treno


“Lucchio, did you see the new train that runs from Pisa to Florence?”

“Il treno? What? When?”

“It passed through the valley last night carrying marble from Carrara.  …A great lumbering beast that spits smoke and shakes the earth.  Surely you heard its whistle.”

“So, that’s the racket that awakened me…and the bambino also!  I’m with the Pope on this one…devilish work!  What is wrong with horses and burros?!”

Sempre allora…






“…The Nazisti?  What have we to do with the Nazis?  Why will they come here?  I thought we were on their side, anyway.”

“Ah, Il Duce is on their side but we are NOT!  It is said that if they visit, we are to open our doors to them and offer them wine, but in my opinion it is best not to let them smell our cooking or they may never leave.”

“Il Duce had better be careful. You have heard the saying, “If you lie down with dogs…”

“Si, si…”

“Do you think Il Duce knows about Sant’Anna di Stazzema?”

“No, dimmi!  Tell me!”

“A trader from Lucca came to buy saffron and he told me not to tell anyone because if it reaches the wrong ears…”

“But it’s me..!”

“Si…well, he says…but you can’t say a word to anyone…”

Sempre allora…


Ghost 11



“Grandma, Nonna, Nonna….!  I Favolosi are coming to Rome in Guigno!  Maria already has the tickets for her and me and Gina and she says we can stay the night with her cousin’s family.  Can I go?  Per favore, per favore?”

“How will you get there?  Your Papa’s car will not make it to Roma.”

“Oh no, Nonna, if Papa will drive us to Poggibonsi we will take the train…or, I could ride my bicycle…I’ve saved my money for the ticket and Maria’s aunt will pick us up at the station.  If I don’t go I will die…!!”

“Well, we can’t have that.   I’ll talk to your Papa.  He won’t understand but I will try to help…I know how to soften him up.  It wouldn’t hurt if you will make those torte dolci that he is so fond of…and clean your room…And you know what your Papa will say,  “Why  must I Favalosi try to sound so American with their “Yeah, yeah, yeah!?”

“Oh, Nonna….Grazie, grazie, grazie!!!”


Sempre Allora…


“Sempre allora” which literally translates as “always then” but, as explained to me is used to mean “always so”…possibly with a shoulder shrug thrown in…

Some things never change.

If you have managed to read this far, Thank You!  All images are from San Gimignano, or thereabouts, and this is an experiment, for me, in a photo processing style.  (I hope it worked!)  I didn’t capture any of these images with this theme in mind, but after being awakened in the middle of the night and experiencing the quiet from the piazza, these stories actually did carry me through the streets.  All ‘dream’ sequences are based on historical happenings.  There is a ‘ghost’ in each image…some more obvious than others…

The one color photo was from our bed looking out over the city, and No, I don’t take my camera to bed, but I do keep it close at hand.


*The post title is attributed, possibly, to Mark Twain but I got it from my buddy Jon.



~ by rkpowers on October 31, 2017.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: