From My Tuscan Window

Chapter 15
In the Beginning
In the beginning there was light, and as the light nurtured the formative Planet Eden. Special rays fell upon a marvelous valley through which coursed a pristine river. The ancient Etruscans would call this river “Auser,” or “God” in our language.

The first humans to enter this land of enchantment found it extremely rich in flora and fauna, for here was the home of the mastodon, the cave bear, and even the rhinoceros. The plentiful forests offered to these early people an abundance of chestnuts, walnuts, cherries and other fruit and nut-bearing plants. The “River of God”, as well as its many tributaries, was teaming with fish, so who could want for more?

The march of time brought various peoples to the valley, some in peaceful pursuit of a bountiful life and others in pursuit of the bounty of those already living there. Etruscans, Ligurians, Apuanians, Romans, Byzantines, Longobardi, Carolingians, French, Tedeschi (Germans), and today, even Americans have invaded the Valley of the Auser. Over the course of time, through glottochronilogical evolution, the Auser came to be called the Serchio River.

At first, the human occupants of this lush and verdant valley occupied caves and rock overhangs. Later, mud and wattle houses were built around temples to their gods. Eventually, simple stone houses dotted the landscape, which were later followed by fine stone palazzi (palaces) and villas protected by forts, castles and fortified churches.

Perhaps the most important aspect of all of these structures was their placement in regard to the landscape. The views from the window, from the crossbow slit, from the cannon’s emplacement, or from the top of the tower were essential to survival, because it was of vital importance to determine from afar whether friend or foe approached. Those with the most commanding views had the best chance of determining the kind of greeting that would be appropriate. They would know whether to send forth a hail of arrows and cannonballs or to open doors and celebrate the arrival of special guests or friendly visitors.

Thus, through the centuries, the hills and mountains overlooking the valley of the River of God, the Serchio, became blessed with thousands of buildings with tens of thousands of windows. These windows frame some of the most splendid views and spectacular landscapes to be found on the Italian Peninsula.

Revised March 3, 2008
Copyright 2005-2006 George H. Russell
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