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A day or two in Rome passed quickly when all I could think about was returning to dig at my favorite place in Italy: Orvieto. Technically our excavations take place just outside, in a frazione del comune di Orvieto, called Tamburino. I suppose the easiest way to compare would be to call it a “suburb” in the sense that it is outside the urb, being the rupa of Orvieto. Tamburino has probably 60 homes or so, most of which I’ve seen from the outside during my passage to and from the dig site. I have the good fortune, once again, to be staying with a wonderful hostess who generously housed me when I did research in Umbria in 2008. At the top of a hill in Tamburino her house is perched, and from there I can see the entire clifftop town of Orvieto. The duomo and its gilded facade faces us, towering over the rest of the palazzi and churches. The house is nestled among trees, and it is one of the first places in my memory I saw fireflies. Three stories and many rooms compose the sturdy building, and there are books, books, books here. When I was doing my research I had most of the resources I needed right here. Now it is a convenient place to use as a post for the dig; I wake early and eat, and the road, only accessible by car to those who live there, is a straight shot down Tamburino to Campo della Fiera.

Italian light, I’ve decided, is a little less fiery, which is ironic considering the general stereotype of the country’s inhabitants. It is more yellow, more solar, and is magical both in the mornings when it filters through the grape leaves climbing sticks as well as in the evenings in the pre-sunset hours. Yesterday, in this light, I strolled to the bar, a nightly tradition: get an aperitivo before dinner, begin the evening’s catch-up with friends. Knowing I had no one to meet yet at the bar, I took my time. Almost immediately after I found myself over the old Roman road and onto the paved one, I saw a beautiful golden retriever smiling and wagging her tail. She wore no collar, but looked well fed and I assumed she had a home. Italian dogs wander more often than American ones do, or perhaps it’s just the nature of small places allowing such safe exploration. I thought nothing of it and offered the back of my hand for her to sniff.

“Mi accompagni?” I asked her. Are you coming with me? Her reply was the best she could give: she came with me. She trotted in front of me and sniffed what was available to sniff. Much like my own darling doggy at home, she would go a bit ahead and then make sure to come back and keep pace with me after checking out what lay ahead. A few times I even stopped to take photos and she waited, standing still but head turned back to me expectantly, as if to say, “Well? Are you coming or not?” I finally got to the bar and she disappeared. I hope my canine spirit guide made it home safely.

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