Saturday, May 15, 2021

40 Doors of Bergamo - The Wonder and The Passage


40 Doors of Bergamo - Composite Image - Wonder and Passage

What is the 40 Doors Project of Bergamo?

This project showcases interesting doors of Bergamo, Italy. In a series of posts, we'll show 40 different doors per post. And, each post has a theme that connects to doors. This post is the fourth in the series and its themes are sabbatical and wonder. 

The Wonder and The Passage

Many of the doors we show in the 40 Doors series are called portone in Italian, an augmentative of porta, or "door". The word portone refers to a door that is usually of an impressive size and serves as the principal entrance into a building. Sometimes, a portone is the honorary entrance to a building, used by dignitaries. The diminuitive of portone is portoncino, a normal-sized front door, literally a "little big door" with the use of the diminutive ino.

We started visiting Italy in the late 1990s. We remember the feeling of awe during our first experiences in Italian cities, especially looking at the architecture in the historic borghi. We wondered what it would be like to live on a narrow cobblestone street, in a masonry and stone house with a portone. Our point of reference for comparison was the typical US suburban street, with a typical wooden house with a typical front door, a door that might be called understated and almost flimsy. Little did we know that decades later we would live on one such historic Italian street, in one such building, and with one such big door. (Our portone is featured somewhere in the series. It's number 5 and green.)

The arc of our lives from the US to Italy – taking our first sabbatical, getting Italian citizenship, taking our second sabbatical, and finally living in Italy – seems like, on one hand, no big deal. Yet, on the other hand we are amazed that we are here. Moving from the US to Italy has been a passage through a figurative and literal door. We wondered what was on the other side of the door and we went through. Growing up, the idea of living outside our country of birth was never a thought. As adults, we broached the subject slowly over the years, conversations that started with "I wonder if…". Like good engineers, we moved slowly, testing the water. In fact, we tested the idea of living in Italy with two sabbaticals. At some point it became clear that an Italian life was possible. The door opened, and we could see through it.

So maybe we pushed a little on the door to make it open all the way. That's needed sometimes.

Yet as we moved through the door from a life in the US to a life in Italy, we don't feel the door we passed through to be closed or in any sense a one-way passage. Many people ask us: "Where do you feel more at home?" We answer both countries. We haven't passed through the door never to return. Our concept of home is big enough to stretch across the two countries.

In our journey from the US to Italy, we've come to appreciate that need for wonder in our lives. When we are without wonder, we become small, mean, and diminished. As we get older, one of the jobs we take very seriously, besides staying healthy, is to keep our wonder alive. Wonder at the big and small things in life. To never stop asking the question: "I wonder what's behind that door?"

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