The City on the Hill


If there ever was a city on top of a hill, it is Todi, which sits snug within a ring of triple walls.

The walls, completed back in the year 1244, are formidable enough, but should an invading army ever have had the means to break through them, I would think that they would have taken one look at the steep slope leading to the center of Todi, given up, and gone home. Do you laugh? Do you think I jest? I, whose leg muscles still quiver from the hike up the narrow and horrendously steep way?

We have come to Todi by default. To get here via a short cut, we had to cross the Apennines again, and after almost an hour of palpitating hearts (and some moments of sheer terror on a very narrow road when a very large truck came roaring around a corner at us), we decide to scrap our plans for the day and stop at Todi. At first the visit seems promising, for in the Church of San Niccolo we find a beautiful, life-sized pieta.

But when we come out into the sunshine, we see the hill. It stretches upward at a fierce 75 degree angle and seems to have no end. We start walking. And walk. And walk. Soon we are panting between steps, but we will not admit defeat because halfway up the monstrous slope we see a sign that promises an ‘impossible’ exhibition of Rafael’s work. The problem is that we have no idea where the exhibition is held, and the directions (“Certo, Rafaele. Va dritto, sempre, e poi destro…”) seem too familiar. Straight and right. Got it. Up we go.

Eventually, we reach the town center at the top of the hill and stagger into Palazzo del Vignola where the ‘Impossible Exhibition’ is being held. Cool and beautiful, with soft music cradling the darkness of the great rooms, the exhibit welcomes us. We have only one hour before they will close for lunch, but… what an hour. The master’s works have been digitalized and projected in high definition, and an exquisite and complicated technology has made the paintings glow with warmth and light. It really is amazing.

What was she thinking,

This mother holding child so close,

Her eyes filled with light?

We have seen many of these paintings before but never quite like this… then we walk into a darkened room and find ‘The School of Athens,’ and the effect is overwhelming. The picture—the only one in the room—covers an entire wall and is–incandescent. Our only reaction during the entire time we stand gazing at it is, ‘Wow.’

We emerge in a sort of daze but… what is this? Is it possible that we hear… tango music? Yes, for Todi is not only hosting the great Rafael but is also having a tango festival! Even better, people are dancing down the street. This is too good to miss, and lunch will have to wait! Forgetting aching legs and weariness, we toss all our possessions (camera, rucksack, water) into a corner and away we go, dancing the tango. In sneakers we are not exactly candidates for Dancing with the Stars, but we aren’t too bad, either.

Lunch refreshes us, and we decide that the trek up to the top of Todi has been worth every aching step. We decide, though, that enough is enough. We will let discretion get the better part of valor and take the long way home. The ‘little mountains’ will have to wait for another day!


About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: My blog is here: Or friend me on Facebook!

2 responses »

  1. Maureen,

    Whether by default or not, you found a jewel. Aren’t you glad you stopped?

    Your blog post painted a vivid humanistic portrayal, one that I hope you decide to capture later in quilt art. Sometimes we have to stop and laugh at our behaviors. Too weary to go on–let’s tango.

    Not only am I enjoying this virtual vacation, I’m learning about the human spirit.

    Linda A.

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