Home > 2011 Posts, About Dave > Attention to Detail

Attention to Detail

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

The only way into Monterosso al Mare used to be a low tunnel through the twenty-foot thick stone sea wall. When trouble approached, as it often did for about five hundred years beginning with the fall of Rome in the West, local fishermen would step their masts and carefully slide their low boats through the passage to safety. Then, they’d roll a great stone into place, and the bad guys would have a problem.

Monterosso is the northernmost of five small towns in Italy’s ruggedly beautiful Cinque Terre region, just south of Genoa. It sits astride a small stream and backs up against low, but very steep and rocky, mountains that rise straight from the sea.

When defenders were determined, sea raiders stood little chance. Their attempt to rape, plunder and take slaves (if they were Muslim), would cost more than it was worth. Sooner or later, they went elsewhere for their fun. Mostly, it was sooner: a surprise westerly wind could smash their ships on jagged rocks just north and south, or the defender’s grim, resolute attentions would kill them on the narrow strip of sandy beach in front of the wall.

So, when all of Italy’s west coast except the Amalfi Republic—blessed with similar natural defenses—was truly in a Dark Age of death and chaos after about 400 AD and the rise of Islam. Monterosso was secure enough to prosper a little. Not a lot, but much more than most exposed to the same troubles.

(Click here for a larger image)

Strolling through the oldest part of town, with its narrow, medieval, pedestrian-only streets and seeing the architectural evidence of its 1,500 year perseverance was a pleasure for my bride and I. Like Venice, no one would have built a town here if they didn’t have to—perhaps a few scattered homes, but surely no more.

But, it’s here now, and has been for a much longer time than most small towns. Despite an easy modern commute to Genoa by train, it’s likely to remain, at least as a destination for folks like us, eager to explore this beautiful, historic corner of Italy.

Wandering through town, I was enthralled by a particular piece of marble work. It was a circular stone grill above the entrance to the Old Church. Though the carved spokes and lovely curves that connect them form a regular radial pattern when viewed from a distance, each lovingly crafted detail is unique and a work of art in itself. As a whole, it’s very nearly a wonder.

To me, this window facing may be the most lovely of its kind anywhere. It surely is so among the hundreds of churches, temples, synagogues and mosques—great and small—that I’ve personally visited. I hope you agree.

  1. December 12, 2011 at 8:05 am

    Reblogged this on neverlandd and commented:

  2. December 12, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    I love all the tiny details in gorgeous Italy.

    • December 13, 2011 at 6:57 am

      Yes! More than anywhere else we’ve been.

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