Lecce, Italy: September 13th 1986
This first one took place in the mediaeval town of Lecce, known as ‘the Florence of the South’, on 13th September 1986. I still recall what happened very, very clearly. My husband Ian and I were on a bus trip with a voluble female Italian guide in her thirties, determined to cram as much local information as possible into the heads of the ignorant Brits in her charge.
As a result, not helped by the heat, we reeled off the bus somewhat brain damaged for our hour’s ‘free’ lunch break. As usual, everyone on the bus meekly shuffled behind the guide to the appointed watering hole. As usual, we did not. This was our first sight of Lecce and we wanted some quiet time on our own to enjoy it.
The bus was parked in a dusty square, next to a big old church. I looked all the way up the spire, noticing an empty plinth at the top, and thought “Where’s the Archbishop?” I recall being instantly startled by this thought, as though it belonged to someone else’s brain – after all, I’d never been to Lecce.
Nevertheless, very shortly afterwards, we found him. There was a stone restorers’ yard in a narrow street we wandered into, round to the right of the church. In it, lying on his side, was a rather battered looking statue, his verdigrised copper covering cracked and peeling from the wear of many centuries. “There he is – it’s the Archbishop!” At the same time as I recognised the statue, it felt again like someone else’s thought. I wondered if the heat was getting to me…“Mad dogs and Englishmen….” (01)
I loved Lecce on sight; it felt uncannily familiar. Missing out on lunch, I took Ian on a fast trot round the immediate area we were in, finding my way around with no difficulty. I pointed out a sunlit terrace above a street not far from the church, where, feeling that I was a man then, I used to sit at a table and write . Ian almost had to drag me by the ear back to the bus, since I was most reluctant to leave.
I have long felt a strong affinity with Renaissance Italy, despite having never visited the country before. Some day, I’d like to return to Lecce and see what my reaction is then. But I’ll make sure it’s mid-winter, so that my rational self can’t blame a heat-addled brain for bringing me one of my life’s more peculiar experiences!
footnote: 01 ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen/….Go out in the midday sun.’ Mad dogs and Englishmen Noel Coward song (1931)
This account is an extract from my memoir “Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness” – an open-minded take on paranormal experience – now published as an ebook and available HERE.
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To read the second Hallowe’en Tale, click HERE
500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
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