Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

A step into the world of Escher

On a trip to see an exhibit about the artist, she discovered something more.

By Megan Wong / September 26, 2008

On the edge: Cliffside homes in Italy inspired M.C. Escher's lithograph, 'Castrovalva,' named for the village in which they're situated.

Megan Wong


Watching from the back seat as our car slithered up a road so narrow it lacked a dividing line, I ducked down to get a glimpse of the row of medieval buildings teetering in the corner of my window.

Skip to next paragraph

We swung around two more curves and entered the village of Castrovalva, a community of about 300 in summer, 20 year-round. I had come to see a special exhibit about Dutch artist M.C. Escher organized by a young, local couple. It turned out that the isolated hamlet was the subject of one of Escher's most notable landscape lithographs called "Castrovalva," which now hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Katia Di Simone and Piero Moscone had managed to suss out the details of the famous artist's travels nearly eight decades ago through this rugged swath of central Italy called Abruzzo. Culture Tracks, their tiny nonprofit, was putting on a miniversion of a previous exhibit held elsewhere in the region for the elderly residents of Castrovalva who hadn't been able to make the trek down the mountain to attend.

The show wouldn't start for another half hour, so I decided to wander a bit. Tracing back along the main road that dead-ended among the narrow alleys of the village, I met an elegant, elderly woman out strolling. Curious to meet locals, though embarrassed of my foreigner's Italian, I played it safe and simply smiled at her in greeting.

"Buona sera," she said warmly.

"Buona sera," I parroted back, gaining some courage in the process. Then I took a chance and ventured, "Are you from here?"

"No, no. I'm from Rome," she said, pushing designer sunglasses back over her head of white hair. "But my husband was born and raised here."

Seeing my eyes widen with interest, she introduced herself as Laura and proceeded to take my right arm in both of hers. "Have you seen the view?" she asked, in slow, deliberate Italian.

I shook my head, no.

"Venga," she said, using the polite command, "Please, come."

She led me by the elbow toward a spot at the edge of town that overlooked the forested valley. Positioning me in front of her, she pointed at the narrow line of buildings comprising the village that stretched away from us – the same row of homes I had seen earlier from below.