Italian Secret in Piazza San Giacomo Udine
March 21, 2015
“Italian Secret” is the name of the bar-café where we have stopped for a noon hour aperitivo. It is a bit of a dull day, not the kind of bright sun you would hope to see on the first day of spring. But the grey day does not take away from the enjoyment of an Aperol spritz in Piazza San Giacomo. I am sitting back and slowly taking in all the sights. Slowly because the piazza is full of activity this Saturday morning. Slowly because as always I get this feeling that I cannot believe I am really sitting here in this piazza built in 1248 – almost 800 years have passed and it is still here for all to enjoy.
A vendor with a bunch of imaginary colorful animal balloons makes his was round the piazza. He is followed like the pied piper by a gaggle of toddlers. Some are lucky enough to have a grandparent buy them their favorite animal. Others are content to just chase the pigeons around. Is there an instinct that calls to toddlers making them believe that they can catch a pigeon? Other toddlers are exuberantly climbing in and out of the “Fontana di Giovanni da Udine” (built in1543). It is still a bit too soon to have the water turned on.
Two young boys with their bicycles circle round and round the column where the “La statua della Madonna con Bambino” stands . The statue has been standing there since 1487. A couple passes by with three huge northern type dogs – I don’t think they are huskies but their postures are reminiscent of muscular and athletic huskies. They stop and the dogs drink at the water-spout. The young boys drop their bikes on the ground and run over to see the dogs.
The children are ecstatic to be let loose and they run freely through the piazza while their parents chat, catch up on news, as has been happening for centuries. A covered portico runs all around the piazza and is lined with bar-cafes all with tables outside. And all the tables are filled. It is a bit late for caffe with brioche but not too early for an aperitvo!
The line of porticos is broken at one end of the piazza by the entrance to “La chiesa di San Giacomo (built in 1398). The façade of the church was redone in the sixteenth century using stone from Istria. Above the main entrance to the church is a balcony with a small altar. The piazza was the main market area in Udine. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, on market days, the vendors and the people who were doing their shopping could also follow the mass that was held on the small balcony. An interesting mix of religious and lay activities! The clock tower was the first public clock in Udine and dates from 1525.
As I look upon this scene the back of the café-bar director type chairs are constantly in view. They are emblazoned with the words “Italian Secret “. Yes this truly is part of the Italian Secret. Taking the time to enjoy a laid back Saturday with family and friends, surrounded by, and appreciating this history filled space and with free WIFI!