It is said that, like the Art Nouveau style, the town of Salsomaggiore Terme drew its inspiration from Nature. It certainly favours trees; many parks and broad avenues like this offer more dappled green shade than I am used to in a town or city.
Once-grand hotels like this, now a conference and event centre, are suitably graced and softened with trees and gardens.
Old trees are revered, their arching and bending limbs propped up. As I walk under such trees, or over cracked and lurching pavements that accommodate their roots, I have observed that our fear of litigation, our O H & S paranoia, does not rule here.
Even the cars in car parks must fit around the trees, rather than the whole area cleared for maximum cars. This is not a street, but a dedicated parking block, absolutely full on a Sunday, when it seems most shops and cafés are open and most people are out and enjoying the summer day. Our friend drives round and round seeking a spot. No wonder most cars here are small; the turning spaces would not suit the large SUVs more usual in Australia.
One Sunday event is a very long street market, where used goods like clothes and bric-a-brac are offered for sale for charities. This is a rare chance, as op shops… my usual retail choice… don’t exist in Italy. I buy a good coffee maker for using here, hover over a few unsuitable shoes and clothes, wish to be younger to wear them, wish for more space in my bag to take larger and heavier items home… but refrain.
Because of all the trees, the stallholders and patrons are not in the baking sun as is more usual here, with such markets held in open parks or sports fields.
The cafés lining one side of the street are full of people eating al fresco, sipping coffee or wine. Sundays seem devoted to very civilised leisure.
And of course there are much narrower paved streets, with no room for trees. Their shops are tiny and varied, with apartments above, the outdoor café spaces are small.
In an incongruously pretty building I spot a cow and horse meat vendor. Now that is a shock for any Australian, let alone a vegetarian one…