Enigma Variations

It’s strange how when you are wandering round a new place you notice things that perhaps wouldn’t grab your attention at home. In Florence, I kept noticing marks on the road and little heaps of rubble that I could not immediately explain.

Like these.



The enigmatic nature of the marks fascinated me. I even began to wonder if they were a form of patteran – a type of coded sign left along a road or in front of a non Roma house by one Rom to another.


“Do you know what patteran means?

“Of course, Ursula; the gypsy trail, the handful of grass which the gypsies strew in the road as they travel, to give information  to any of their companions who may be behind, as to the road they have taken….”

From Romany Rye: the Gypsy Gentleman, a sequel to Lavengro by George Morrow. Of course there is something obnoxious about the language, we probably do not throw the word ‘gypsy’ about so carelessly these days, but I am still fascinated by the idea of secret signs left for others on the highways and byways.


However I note Cormac McArthy does not share my squeamishness.

“They began to come upon from time to time small cairns of rock by the roadside. They were signs in gypsy language, lost patterns.”  The Road.


I came upon just such a small cairn in the Boboli Gardens. I have no inkling about its significance, if, indeed, it has any.


However, I did find out what caused the marks on the road.


On the 1st of August there was a huge storm in Florence which brought down or damaged thousands of trees. They are still clearing it up.



The marks are caused by the platform grazing the road surface as it lands.

Like wise the constantly occurring small (or large) piles of rubble are all brought about by the storm and just haven’t been tidied up yet. Not patterans at all.







Though the one pictured above has a certain deliberate quality and I adore the Pacman below consuming pine needles.


“I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.”

Umberto Eco


Of course the dear little insert above needs no explanation – I wonder if they’re still together?



But I still can’t understand why anyone would concrete over an inspection point cover. That remains an enigma to me.

About pennimania

Artist, entomologist, grumbler.
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