As you probably noticed, my wife is currently on vacation without me—which is different than a vacation from me, although given how frequently insufferable I am, I could understand the appeal of such—in the le Marche region of Italy, which is immediately south of Tuscany and full of communists. As evidence of how thoroughly corrupt the region is, I present a picture (courtesy of her) of the cabin she'll be staying in free of charge until July:
That's the view she'll be writing her dissertation to the next two months. The region is poor (though not so much as I thought) and poorly serviced by internet and wifi: there's a router up the hill from her which sometimes provides wifi, but only then into a loft too unbearably hot to occupy during the day. So the only opportunity I have to talk to her (via Skype) is that last hour in the late evening when the loft cools enough to be habitable—provided, of course, that the wifi strength that evening is strong enough to establish and maintain a connection. Which it frequently isn't. But this post isn't about how melancholy I become when I haven't heard from her by 3 p.m. (which would be midnight over there), because anyone who follows me on Facebook already knows that and because this post concerns Urbino, not my daily descent into emo.
I've written about Urbino before, but because the wife is providing me with such dazzling photographs of the city, I feel compelled to do so again. As I noted in that post, Urbino is not a "built" city so much as an "evolved" one. (The De Landa seems to have become an unwitting theme of late.) Of course it was built, but it was built vertically within the city walls, meaning that new buildings were constructed atop existing ones like so:
The effect is the sort of architecture one only finds in dreams or representations of them, like the one in the finale of the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, wherein Joss Whedon took advantage of contiguous three-walled film sets to depict Xander Harris moving seamlessly from the upstairs bathroom at Buffy's house:
Into the Initiative's underground bunker:
Then, from the bathroom-Initiative across the hall:
Into his parent's basement:
And into an ice cream truck:
Past the the come-hither lesbians:
Through the back of the ice cream truck:
That returns him to you guessed it his parents' basement:
In which he exits the same door he originally entered it from Buffy's house only to end up in the halls of Sunnydale High and (shortly) an Apocalypse Now parody:
The only difference between what Whedon did and Urbino is that you could travel through the side streets of Urbino with a camera and accomplish such feats (minus the Coppola) without needing to cut once. Because without leaving officially sanctioned lanes of transportation, pedestrians can venture into and through outdoor kitchens, university departments, the central hallway of apartment buildings, and so on. This photograph of the dueling signs for the Hotel Raffaello the wife snapped the other day typifies the way the city feels:
You can enter the hotel either through the door with the green awning or the second story window of an adjacent building. (This isn't technically true, but it accurately describes how it feels to those unaccustomed to the city's geography.) The city is even more disturbing, though, because of the tendency of its sidewalks to transform into recessed brick ladders when the street becomes too steep for bipeds:
That picture is not from the current set, as the relative quality attests, and if I remember correctly—by which I mean, "recognize the fingerprints of amateur photographers the world over who think a 'good' photograph is one framed in the most dull and predictable way possible"—snapped by me.* I only mention that because in 2002 I visited the city with the wife and, as you probably guessed, the real point of this post was to indulge in a bit of vicarious vacationing before returning to a stack of ungraded papers that no amount of actual grading seems to have the power to reduce.
*If it wasn't, even Homer nods? No, but seriously, if that's not a picture I actually took, it's exactly the sort I relentlessly take, whereas check out the wife's chops above: the woman has an eye.