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Taste Your Feet–all well and natural in Italy


I’ve got wellness on my mind.

“Canducci Tiziana.”  That’s how they call my wife when it’s her turn. Last name first. We’re at the Repubblica di San Marino Instituto di Sicurezza Sociale (aka the hospital), where she’s here to see an orthopedic doc.  A few weeks ago at the Bargello museum in Florence, while I was in the gallery at the top of the stairs, the one with Donatello’s David and Giambologna‘s Mercury, two fleet-footed guys, looking with new-found interest at theirs and other sculpted feet, while she was climbing the stairs to join me, something happened and she tumbled down six or eight steps, injuring a few of her appendages.  To wit: a knee and a wrist.

Hairline fracture of the latter. Today, with a little luck, she’ll have her above-the-elbow cast cut off and use a temporary device to further immobilize her hand for a few more weeks.

While she disappears into x-ray, I wait.

She and I, we’re in this thing together. In sickness and in health.  Or as we might say today, in sickness and in wellness.

What I did not expect coming to Italy this fall, I’m not sure why, is that wellness seems to have taken this region not by storm but by warm front.  Wellness is in the air; it’s everywhere. If it’s wellness today, can mindfulness be far behind?

If you asked me, they didn’t really need wellness here. I never feel more well than when I am here.  The food, the wine, the coffee, the dessert, the chocolate! and yes the walking and, where we are, at least, the abundance of fresh air. A couple times a week we walk up hill and then, of necessity, we walk back down hill. A couple times a week we walk down by the sea.  My mother-in-law used to say, “L’aria dell mare ti fa bene.” The sea air is good for you. She knew that. And that was before the wellness ethos and industry had arrived. Well, it’s here now.

Just below the roundabout in Borgo Maggiore the other day I saw a shop, Hair Wellness. What? A beauty shop for sick hair?

In Santarcangelo di Romagna, a village nearby, I saw Bella Bio, for “trucco biologico.” Which translates into something like organic hair-do.  

In Venice I can get an ice cream cone at Gelato di Natura. The store’s tagline, attributed to Voltaire, who recommended tending your own garden: Men discuss. Nature acts.  Well, okay. If that way lies wellness, I’ll have a scoop of nocciola and a scoop of crema, thanks. Let nature do its thing.

I shouldn’t knock it.  I’m not knocking it.  I’m enjoying it.  When I scrub my grandson’s bottom with natural baby wipes, perfumed with essence of biologic almonds, I imagine the wholesome glow I impart to his cheeks.    

As it is everywhere, I suppose, wellness in Italy is about three things. Exercise, eliminating stress, and good food. In this part of Romagna there is wellness week, a wellness corridor, a wellness valley. Wellness is ubiquitous.

“Discover the suggestive Valmarecchia…The Oste del Castello Wellness and Bike Hotel.”  

“The SassoErminia is a place of hospitality and wellness surrounded by the extraordinary landscape of the Marecchia.”

“Cammina (walk) in wellness in San Leo…” I get it. And make no mistake about it: If you’re up for an uphill experience, San Leo is the place for you.  

A common sight in these parts is guys riding bikes uphill.  One or two, or twenty or thirty of them grinding it out on the long road up to San Leo or San Marino or Montefiore. Choose your hill town. It’s probably a destination. It’s arduous, this riding. I get tired just driving past them. When the riders get to their destination, they eat.

And maybe they insist on “bio” or “biologico,” which in these parts denotes something like what we call organic in the US. Or maybe they don’t insist.  By the time they get to San Leo they’ve ridden the stress out of their system, ground it down to nothing. If I were them, I’d settle for two out of three, cardio and stress reduction. E basta. 

So when I see wellness now, I think of guys on bikes and generalize from that signature Italian practice to people using their commonplace feet, tramping across vistas of natural beauty (the Marecchia valley, for example), ramping up the cardio, hiking their way to stress reduction, and when they get there, wherever there is, they have a bite to eat, preferably something natural, bio, or biologico.   

Any schmo can make wellness happen.  To paraphrase Sir Toby Belch, in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Taste your feet.” Sir Toby says this to Malvolio, meaning something like “move your arse.” To be well, to achieve wellness, we taste our feet. We stress less. And then we eat.

Sign me up.  

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