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Quintessential Sulmona (the city that gave us Ovid and candied almonds)

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During my recent stay in Sulmona, Italy in the region of Abruzzo, I enjoyed the daily promenade that takes place in its historic center on the north side of Piazza Garibaldi. La Passeggiata, that most-Italian, everyday ritual that undulates along pedestrianized Corso Ovidio, Sulmona’s main shopping street, is the social tradition of connecting with one’s friends and neighbors after work before heading home for the evening meal. There is no hustle-bustle; the speed is amble. It is a time to see and be seen, especially if one is young and single.

It’s the third week of October and the autumn dusk draws the last warmth from the sun, clinging to the end of summer before plunging into the colder weather forecast for the next few days. Sulmona’s citizens make the most of the balmy respite, and strollers fill the street while others sit on the sidelines in cafes sipping wine or savoring a coffee. Children run and play without fear, darting in and out of the small groups that gather, then disperse and move on. Small dogs go nuts barking at big dogs. People window shop, catch up on the latest news, share gossip, and eat gelato. Lots of gelato! And Ovid thoughtfully ponders his descendants from a bronze statue atop a pedestal in a piazza just off the main thoroughfare.

Two immaculately dressed policemen in their dark blue uniforms, all trimmed in white with white-topped hats, belts, bags, and gloves, are standing in the midst of the procession listening respectfully and fondly to two old men espousing on the subject of who knows what for at least fifteen minutes. The policemen smile and nod pleasantly to passers-by. A white-haired grandpa walks his bike down the street with his small grandson sitting astride it, singing to him in Italian. A young mother proudly pushes a perambulator while her infant slumbers. Two elderly women walk with their arms around each other, as much for affection as for support. They nod and smile and 'Buona Sera' me. There is no generation gap evident here, no ‘us versus them’; it is simply US.

Life doesn’t get much better. And you may run across Hardy Durkin & Co power shopping on Corso Ovidio.

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