A romantic wedding anniversary break in Tuscany; rolling countryside, medieval hill towns, cypress and olive trees, splashes of poppies by the roadside, wonderful food, fresh air, sunshine, wild cyclamen in the woods and the first fragrant strawberries.
So it was upsetting to find the stowaway grief goblin in my luggage a month before he was expected to turn up. Of course you don’t tell the grief goblin what to do, I should know that by now. All I could think of was the last time I had visited Italy with my brother Tim and how much he loved it, spending holidays with his family on the Italian coast and hoping to return in his retirement. It all felt so sad. I wasn’t feeling very creative but I was going to have to do something.
A couple of days into the holiday we drove to Rocca Sillana, an 11th century hill fortress designed by Giuliano da Sangallo. I like the fact the Italians credit the architect instead of saying which king commissioned it as the British would. It’s intimidating, 530m high and looking like a block of solid rock, it dominates Pisa, Siena and Grosseto provinces. It was restored for public access in 2009 and it feels more like a monument than a building. The steep climb to the top is rewarded by a cool breeze and stunning views of the Cecina valley.
I used a stone to write Tim’s name in the gravel next to the fort wall. This seemed right; we spent our childhood around military architecture of one sort or another, living in Army quarters and barracks and later making family visits to castles and Roman army sites at Vindolanda in Northumberland and Caerleon in Wales.
This was a way to make my thoughts physical and real, to have Tim with us and maybe even a small return for him to a country that he loved. I threw a couple of stones over the fort wall for the men of our family and a few more for the women from the path walking back down the hill.
I felt immediate relief, the grief goblin spontaneously combusted. Then I had a holiday.