Our travel today through the hills of Ciociaria brought us to the famous spa town of Fiuggi in the lower slopes of the Ernici Mountains to celebrate honorary citizenship of Fiuggi for Antonio Tajani, President of the Parliament of Europe.
For Italians, the honour is well understood, but for those of us with English upbringing, it may be similar to the granting of the keys of the city.
Without delving into the powers of the President of the European Parliament and how that role relates to other positions of authority in Brussels, the role is considered an honour and a reward for contribution to the European cause and, in particular, its parliament, and Italians are at least pleased that another of their number is counted among the select group.
One may wonder the connection with Fiuggi, a town spread over the hills with the spas in the lower sector and the medieval town on top of the hill. It was to the old town that we went, to the city hall and in to the ‘Council Chambers’ that we ventured for the celebration, and it was here that a curious analogy became apparent.
On the long-left hand wall of the significant rectangular salon was a large fresco depicting the visit by the citizens of Fiuggi (or Anticoli di Campagna as it was then known) to the chambers of Pope Boniface VIII to present their cleansing water that had the properties to relieve kidney stones.
The citizens are shown in their elegant dress but with facial features displayed in sketch form, apparently to better recall each.
When the President of the European Parliament entered, he was followed by a largish group of mainly local dignitaries who filled the room in a similar manner to that of the citizens at the presentation to the Pope many centuries earlier. It occurred that possibly the award of this day may have an analogous purpose to that of the Fiuggi water.
Of course, there is a connection as Antonio Tajani’s parents came from near Fiuggi, in Ferentino, and more importantly, he counts Fiuggi as his home, residing there when he can escape Brussels and his other interest in Rome.
So, he was evidently at home with many friends and acquaintances, a point that was obvious when we moved to the Hotel School in the old casino for ‘pranzo’. I noted that the Hotel School is named after the great Michelangelo Buonarotti who is reported to have said that Fiuggi water relieved him of ‘the only stones he could not love’.
At one point during the buffet, the President rose and moved to the table where cakes were being served:
The President with a smile
Took his place among the queue
Idling and chatting a while
Waiting for tiramisu
It was a freeing experience to enjoy such celebrations feeling the warmth of people of Ciociaria, best of the Italian people.