The Gate

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Wall and gate at Volterra, Italy

Wall and gate at Orvieto, Italy

Italian hill towns offer an experience of the Gate, the Wall, the Border, but outside the gates now there are gas stations and supermarkets. Maybe this is not so different from the former gypsies and temporary markets there. The towns themselves are walled, but their isolation on the hilltops was in connection with and in opposition to outside forces. Their closure was a safer way of opening to a dangerous world.

So it is wrong to think that tourism has forced them to lose a previous self-enclosure. They always existed in relation to other towns, to agriculture and trade.

What has changed is the scale and reach of those relations, and the velocity of the flows in and out those gates, and the way they affect everyday life. The towns are now wired, industrialized. Still, to say that they have become theme parks makes the nostalgic mistake of imagining more unity and regularized self-possession than they had before, and makes the theoretical mistake of presupposing that meanings are controllable, that identity is all or nothing, that there is either one dominant grammar or no real life.