Most summers for the last twenty-two years, I’ve come to Italy for a week or moreâ€”one of the costs of specializing in European philosophy. If you want to meet European philosophers of whatever nationality during the summer, Italy is the place to be.
I love a lot of things about Italy, driving on a two-lane road that, when passing, locals use as if it had three, the smell of my neighbor’s wine at dinner, the sexy, musky aroma of the truffled cream sauce on our pasta, the texture of a linen bath towel, hearing Italians speak Italian, trying myself to speak a rudimentary form of it, cicadas strumming their own form of the language. But from the very beginning I’ve especially loved Italy’s colors: fields like golden sand bordered by tall, airy, green trees, dark hills surmounted by red and brown churched villages, rust tiled roof tops supported by farm house walls the color of the fields and their gray stones. Mostly, however, I’ve loved the sky.
Jet-lagged and unable to sleep, I open the window of my room at the very beginning of dawn. Across the valley on Mount Subasio is Assisi, a block of luminescence against the dark of the mountain. And above Assisi, the Mediterranean sky cresting and coloring the blue and gray hills, giving light to the mountain and to Assisi, the fields of sunflowers, the red and brown villages and the green copses, a light that after the sun rises will be clear and bright yet seldom harsh.
In Perugia, five hundred years later, I see what Perugino saw, what he placed behind each of his Virgins as well as in their robes and faces, and what he taught Raphael to see.