Does it Really Matter?

Of course, I am very biased towards slow traveling. For me, one of the great benefits is that I actually get to hang around a place long enough to learn something not found in any guide book. In my January blog entry I wrote about the Via del Fosso in Tuscany’s Lucca – how long it took me to figure out that the name of this romantic little street with the brick-lined canal down the center translates as “ditch street.” Well, I’ve recently discovered some more interesting facts about Lucca’s “ditch street.”The Via del Fosso: a watrcolor by Matthew Daub

Historically, Lucca has been a prosperous town, with a portion of its old wealth coming from the silk trade. As early as the sixteenth century, water was diverted from the River Serchio, which at the time flowed nearer to the city center than it does presently. The water was used by the textile dyers and for washing the fibers. “Il fosso,“ or the ditch, once had an important role to play in Luchesse commerce.

I have spent many pleasant hours painting along “il fosso,” and one of my favorite spots is where the ditch enters the city from beneath the massive walls near the Porto San Jacopo. I have spent many relaxing moments in the sun leaning over the adjacent wall listening to the water gush into a deeper pool and watching the fish swim against the current. I have come to find out that the locals call this spot “il buco nuovo.” This time I was prepared for the shock of translation – it means “the new hole.” It was so named because at the time it was the most recent opening in the city wall.

So does any of this really matter? We’re not exactly talking about the Ponte Vecchio crossing the Arno in Florence here! “Il fosso” is not Rome’s famous Tiber. My answer is “Yes!” It does matter, at least to me. This is precisely why I love to travel slowly. If I had to scurry to catch up with the tour guide so that we could keep to our schedule I would have had no time to linger along my ditch. I would not know at what time of day the “new hole” would be shaded for some relief from the Tuscan afternoon sun. I would not have had my conversation with the little Italian kid outside of the bike shop as he watched my watercolor progress and offered his comments – usually, “Che’ Bello!” Does this really matter?

As a slow traveler I feel no need to see every sight in Italy. In fact, I can’t wait to return to Lucca with my travel group in June of 2011, even though I have personally been there many times. Next year, maybe some of my traveling companions will accompany me on a leisurely walk to the mouth of the ditch at “the new hole.” I may be able to share with them a little more of what I’ve learned about its history. Will this really matter to any of them? If they are slow travelers it most certainly will.

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Matthew Daub is a professional artist and university professor with works in major public and private collections throughout the United States and Europe. He has been leading plein air painting workshops in Italy since 1994. In 1999, Matthew and his wife Barbara formed Arts Sojourn as “a vacation for artists and their friends.” The program is designed to appeal to artists of all levels as well as non-artists who enjoy the company of creative people in a slow travel format.

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