As Chiarina and Lola grew up their affection for one another increased.
They were plain, short, thick-set, and both were too fat. They were very much alike, and Chiarina was the elder. They dressed simply, and helped to make their own clothes, and there was nothing charming or graceful about them at all. They always whispered to one another, even if they were alone, thinking, apparently, that their thoughts and conversations were much too dull and uninteresting to be spoken aloud, and must needs be kept hidden. When their aunt would sometimes come upon them unawares, during one of their conversations, they would give shy little laughs, and
with silent glances would pledge each other’s secrecy. Their extreme simplicity and innocence made them like this. They would say to themselves they would not be so shy, but learn to talk openly, as sensible grown-up people ; although sometimes they felt that their friendship could brook of absolutely no intrusion. They liked to think of the same things in exactly the same way, and they often declared to themselves that they would always remain so, not wishing anything better in the world.
Both the girls were fond of country walks, and their aunt would take them out of the city by some quiet, lonely road about twice a week.
They used to pass by their High School, and they would glance inside to see if they could see the headmistress or one of the girls. After that glance they would giggle, and walk away rapidly, arriving at Porta Tufi while their aunt was still half-way down the hill.
They would stop and, linking arms, would turn round to look at the long brick wall of the school garden, over the top of which some ivy hung in bedraggled streamers. Opposite, a lower wall strove to keep back a field which seemed to be flowing over it. Above the archway of the Porta, on the outside, is an old and faded sundial, without its gnomon. Over it there is another higher arch, of grey stone, built up when the entrance was reconstructed and repaired. On either side, and joining on to the Porta, stretch dark red walls marked with an occasional yellowish splash, and behind these vines and olives grow. All was so quiet and silent that even at so slight a sound as a sudden rustle among the leaves, when some peasant, perhaps, would lean a ladder against a tree, the girls would step more to the middle of the road and look around them in surprise. One of the walls, in which there is a small wooden gate protected by a little roof sloping away on either side, runs past a dark red house with narrow windows looking on to the Cimitero della Misericordia. But the two girls, after asking their aunt’s permission, always took the Strada del Mandorlo. There, among the olive-trees, and beyond a brick wall low enough on which to rest comfortably, Siena can be again seen.
On this afternoon, as usual, they had stopped at this point and waited for their aunt. The sky was all grey, but clear, and every now and then the sun’s rays pierced the clouds, outlining them with dazzling light. Below the Monte Amiata the landscape became uninteresting, dull and uniform. The
hilly outlines gradually disappeared, and even the cypresses were veiled in the universal greyness. The walls sank into the yellow earth through the tall, coarse grass of the roadside ditches. Siena lies heavily on its height, quite detached from its walls, which at this point, and from this view, appear almost straight. Towards Porta San Marco, however, its aspect acquires a more eccentric outline. The pointed spire of the Carmine is the only salient feature among the mass of the city’s roofs.
As they continued their walk down the slope, the girls heard the echo of their own footsteps, as the road became narrower and the walls higher. Just beyond Porta Romana the hill broadens out, spreading its fields and meadows all around, into the open country. Farther away a few purple heights are crowned with rows of dark cypresses.
( Federigo Tozzi, Three crosses – 1920 )