28 May 2007
Sabionetta is a town not about its people but rather about its structure. Like a chandelier without the candles, lacking life but still somehow beautiful... You feel alone in this place. You look for tumbleweeds. You wonder where everyone could have gone.
Sabionetta is the fantastical city plan of a member of the Gonzaga clan and it smacks of noble glory. He chose this location in the middle of the countryside and built up a walled city replete with villas and theaters. But once the urban architect's time had faded the locals headed back out to the fields, leaving the glory to the empty buildings and getting back to work.
What's left now are those very buildings and a few places to eat and drink. During our lunch along the edge of the deserted piazza we were treated to a drunken serenade by one of the remaining townsmen. After belting out more than a few dog-eared verse he tottered off to find his bike. We were happily surprised to see that his balance had not been affected by the copious amounts of liquor that had emboldened his stage performance - and he rode a straight line into the distance.
There were dogs in the palazzo and elephants in the sitting room. The dogs were real, the elephants were painted on the wall. I don't know which we found more amusing. One never really tires of the Italian love affair with dogs and their need to take them everywhere.
We had taken the bus to and from Sabionetta and while it was damn hot on the bus we were very lucky with our timing. We were also very lucky that before leaving Mantova that morning Stefano had checked in at the station to be sure we had the right bus info. We didn't.
Seems that the tourist info office in Mantova is a a bit confused while the woman at the bus/train station is not. If you go to Mantova, trust her. If the bus comes early she'll also run out of the station yelling at the bus driver to wait for the people she'd talked to earlier. And while we're convinced the bus driver couldn't have cared less, the effort of the woman was well beyond our Italian customer service expectations. And when I say "well beyond" I mean that she should get some sort of national service award. Because Italians just don't care that much.
Unless you're talking about dogs. Then they care a lot.