I was growing weary. After three days with the flu, this walk that had become so familiar to me was now exhausting. We had finally reached the park and, knowing the return would be all uphill, I was in desperate need of a break.
It was strange to think that this place was once the great fortress of the city, the watchtower home to sentries who scanned the ancient horizons for danger. Now it was mere ruins, children kicking around soccer balls and old couples methodically sauntering the perimeter.
I saw the steps to the watchtower, the one place in the city that reached beyond its walls, hovering over the tufa cliff. We began to climb the steps. I was a bit shaky now, remnants of the flu reminding me to take things slowly. We neared the top of the watchtower, and no one was there. I could see the rim of the observation wall and beyond, clear blue sky.
Suddenly I was alone. I turned back to look at Lori.
“I can’t go any further.”
“What? Are you serious? It’s only another eight or nine feet.”
“I know, but it’s so high! It’s too high.” She was paralyzed and would come no further. “I’ll just go down and sit on a bench and wait for you, okay?”
Having a paralyzing fear of heights myself, I was amazed that I had not only made it this far, but felt strongly compelled to continue to the edge. I leaned against the watchtower’s wall and beheld a glorious reward for my trouble. The garden paradise of Umbria seemed to stretch forever in every direction. I could not believe this view was real, that I was gazing upon earth that actually existed. The cliff stretched down into a massive valley, through which a once great river ran through. The valley climbed up into the hills that separate these small cities and villages from one another. Sunlight bathed the vineyards and olive trees and the river in a soft golden hue and there was a beautiful silence and a delicious breeze. I have never felt so small and yet so much a part of my surroundings.
In that moment, a part of me changed. That view from the watchtower is the one thing I did not photograph during my time in Italy. It is the one thing I wanted to keep all to myself.