III The Black Madonna

Good morning from a poet in the City of Poets. I am currently sat in the glorious central square of Recanati, a great old town perched on a hill between the sea & the Apennines. It gets its nick-name from a famous poet called Giocarmo Leopodi, a romantic-era soul who died at a Burnsian 39, yet left behind a very impressive body of work. I’ve never heard of him before & am looking forward to visiting his museum & the local bibliotequa to study his works.


Getting here from the Ancona has been a joy., tho’ Ancona itself – a port – was jam-pack’d full of undesirables… nasty-looking Arabs with red eyes & wobbling about on beer. Luckily, Sirola a few miles away, was perfection itself. Most of the Adriatic coast-line has been identical, a not very attractive mix of hotels & bars along a seemingly endless stretch of sand. However, Sirola’s beaches are gorgeous, nestling underneath the backdrop of a great Beachy Head style promontory, & difficult to get too. We spent two nights there, the second of which was encomfortablised by the acquirement of mattresses from a couple of caravans from a nearby, closed camp site.

Drinking wine to the roar of a driftwood fire, we witnessed each night the rise of a blood-red moon. Between these two moments I sat on a chair by the turquoise waves, working on my book about the Homeric Question (I’d charged my laptop at a guy’s work-hut by the beach) – a sublime office indeed! There was an interesting human touch – a guy in his middle 40s was the local beach boy, & grew angry when speaking of his wife, an Englishwoman who’d left him with their kids over in Penzance where he used to work. He made a sad figure, slumped over as he told me his tale.

But every broken parent begins with the excitement of having a child, I guess, & so onto Loreto, whose cathedral contains, after the Vatican, the most serene & startling interior of a church I have ever seen. Great frescos & paintings cover every wall & alcove, tapering up into the Sisteenly painted Dome. Underneath is a wee chapel, whose walls are said to have come from the very chamber where Mother Mary was born, & transported here during the Byzantine era. Inside is the famous Black Madonna, a new version (1921) of an ancient idol, which is said to make pregnant a woman who prays to it. The cathedral itself forms one side of Loreto’s main piazza, with a Papal palace forming two others, all observing a glorious fountain & creating an amazing picture for the mind to recall. The rest of the city is typically Italian, narrow streets & sleek boutiques, far from the likes of Rotherham, Barnsley & Luton. Yes! This is indeed a glorious nation!


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