Perhaps the best picture I ever took, I NEVER took.
The Tuscan hill town of Montepulciano is known as a centre for the purchase of local wine, olive oil, cheese and salamis. Our FIAT had advanced down an ever-narrowing Montepulciano side street when we absolutely could go no further and still open the doors. We had stopped in front of the Meuble Il Riccio Hotel. My husband and I didn’t have a plan for accommodation and it seemed that fate had decided for us – a wonderful plan. Our host was the widow of A. Caroti, who had conducted a School of Mosaic Art at this same space. He was more than a teacher; he had been Mosaic Artist to the Vatican. He had also made large pointillism landscapes that were both daunting and telling - this was a man who fed on precision and artistry. We discovered that Montepulciano had many artists.
For two days, we explored Montepulciano and towards the end of our last day, we went to make a purchase of wine from a vendor in the main square adjacent to the church. George went in to see about the wine and I took a seat on a well-worn ledge where I had photographed the communing of women earlier in the day… I was shooting film with a NIKON camera and by this time I had either used up all the film or I had one or two frames left. I sat happily tired in the late afternoon sun and waited for George. I pointed my lens, framing the people sipping espresso, meeting and greeting, walking briskly by…when a older man, dressed very well in shirt and waistcoat came and motioned for me to bring my camera and follow him… I pointed to the wine store and he pointed to his watch… gesture translated as: won't take long. In a moment of abandon, I followed him toward and then through a doorway right beside the wine store, up a series of staircases, and into an apartment. I started to feel some apprehension at this invitation to DO WHAT EXACTLY?
I followed as the hopefully well-intentioned man led the way through the kitchen and dining area into the dimly lit bedroom. At first I failed to see what had been presented to me: then he opened the shutters and gestured for me to see. I gazed down and out from these windows high on the outside wall of Montepulciano looking down, past a snaking roadway into the Val di Chianaa with distant towns and tangled trees - breathtaking. He motioned for me to take a picture and I realized that the film was not advancing, my last role of film was spent, finished. I did what any tourist who has been given such a gift would do -- I pretended to take pictures. Then the man tapped me on the shoulder and pointed up to the ceiling, where a fantastic, albeit much-faded fresco adorned an otherwise stark room. Once more I raised my camera and pretended to click away. I motioned for the man to stand by the window for me to take his picture which he happily obliged…more pictures and more smiles. I said grazie, grazie, and then I passed once more through the dining room, the kitchen, front hall and down the many stairs into the afternoon light.
I wore an expression of one who had an opportunity and took it - but did not, in fact, take it… if you see what I mean.