My first question to our art group was why, amongst all the towns of the Roero, Piobesi d’Alba was the last on the list. The one that no-one had chosen, that I picked by default. What was so unremarkable about it that nobody else wanted it?
And so I started my mission to paint Piobesi. We have to produce a 100 x 80 cm or 100 x 100 cm painting of each of the towns of the Roero (there are 22 in all), for a Unesco art initiative that may or may not get off the ground. I am new to this art gig and haven’t painted since my first year of high school, about 25 years ago. Just the size of the canvas is enough to make me go dry at the mouth, let alone having to find appropriate subject matter in a town that everyone else who’s in the project passed up.
My first step was to visit Piobesi d’Alba and at the very least see where it was and get a feel for the place. We visited on a hot day in June, on our motorcycles, when they hadn’t finished some building work in the town and the sun was beating off the dust and gravel. We stopped for an average lunch in an average bar where there were some signs in the local dialect and no wi-fi.
At first glance Piobesi is quite unremarkable. Certainly no match for more famous towns of the Roero like Guarane with its lovely castle, or Castagnito, or Canale or any of the others for that matter.
Piobesi seems about as close as you can get to suburbia in Italy – average houses, an average layout, average surrounds and everything else you’d expect in suburbia, from plastic play equipment to hedges in neat little gardens. There doesn’t even seem to be that quintessential of Italian things – the piazza. Or even a bar where eldery locals go to play cards. This was going to be quite a challenge and any romantic ideas I had about loving this town at the end of my art project started to dissipate.
But then we got exploring. The truth is I love a challenge. Any kind of a challenge and I was going to find something to paint whether first appearances turned out to be true or not. There is a stubborness in art that means that things get expressed whether they were originally considered as worthy of expressing or not.
Piobesi is an average town, akin to suburbia with its modern town houses and the fact that it’s a satellite town for Alba. Extremely quiet at lunchtimes during the week when people are off at their elsewhere jobs as the town waits to receive them back to their homes again in the evening. But despite its nondescript appearance, we found little gems around the place and I was determined that something would turn up as paint worthy…. see you for the next chapter, in the meantime I have some painting to do.