Saturday, June 19, 2010

Daily life in Cervinara, our little corner of Italy.

Cervinara is in the province of Avellino, in the region of Campania. We are about a 45 minute train ride from Naples. It is still a pretty small town, and we are in the oldest section of it, way up the mountain. The houses here  can be several hundred years old, but most have been restructured and modernized. Our house is a couple of hundred years old. The keystone over our portone ( big front gate) is dated 1802, so I know we go back at least that far.
We look out our back window, and the mountain rises immediately beyond our property. There is a river that is usually dried up, but it has some water in it now. It was this river that destroyed a good portion of our part of town and killed four people 11 years ago when it flooded and brought tons of mud and debris from the mountain. It took out our yard, the fruit and nut trees, and deposited some huge boulders in their place.
My life is pretty calm and quiet now. It is nice to follow the routine that has been in place for generations. Three days a week, the fruttivendilo comes by in his truck. He has a loud, siren like horn that announces his arrival. Depending on what he has on his truck, all the housewives decide their lunch menu. They always yell at Carlo,saying that his fruit is no good and his vegetables are over ripe, then they buy it anyway, but not at the full price. Today I picked up 6 apples, a small cantaloupe, two peppers, a head of lettuce, a kilo or so of sweet tomatoes...all for 5 euros. I'm not going to complain! There are other truck vendors who come through; there is the clothes guy who comes around about once a week, with some basic clothing items for the local ladies, there is the detergent guy who will open his trunk to display household cleaners, TP, hygiene products etc, and there is the plastic guy who comes around with buckets, mops, brooms etc. It's interesting and handy, since most of the ladies up here don't seem to drive. When the fruttivendolo comes around, there is an armada of women in black who come out of their houses to pick up their items....all wearing aprons and sensible shoes...and of course black skirts and tops.
There are other random vendors as well. The other day a big truck came up. It was laden down with furniture (sofas, chairs, mattresses), tools, ladders and step stools, and who knows what else. We bought a step ladder from him. Our neighbor Pasquale told us we spent too much, but it was convenient and we did need that ladder. Sometimes a fellow comes up with a pushcart. He has things like T shirts, summer clothes for the kids etc. I feel very bad for him, pushing his huge cart up the hills; it is a lot of work for not too much reward I fear.
Our house is old, and can get cold and damp. We have no heat and when it rains or after sundown, it is really chilly! We have a comforter on our bed, but I am still sleeping in my flannel nightgown. Mike sleeps in his flannel PJs and a hoody! But when the sun is shining like today, it is indescribably delicious. Quiet, except for the sound of the church bells at 6, 12 and 6....the bark of a dog, the chatter of the men playing cards at the bar....just lovely.
We have a pizzeria up the hill and we go there about once a week for a pizza cooked in the wood burning oven. We get our bread from the baker down the hill, kilo loaves baked in the wood burning oven too. What a crust that bread has! We go down to the center of town almost every day, we visit the hardware store for supplies or the butcher for some meat cut to order. In the evening we walk about 10 minutes to the Piazza Elena, which is our local piazza. It's a pleasant walk and we can sit on the benches or just pick up an ice cream and walk home.
We are currently working on some renovations to the house, and have a couple of workers here now replacing some tiles from the courtyard and fixing our bathroom roof.
Speaking of bathrooms, they are outside! We have to go out on our balcony at night and walk the length of the house down to our BR, and if we don't remember to plug in the water heater the night before, we don't have hot water for a shower in the morning. Same with doing the dishes....I have to turn on our little water heater under the kitchen sink to have hot water to do the dishes.
I love my little washing machine, but it takes forever to go through a cycle. Then I schlep the laundry upstairs and hang it out on the wires that are strung from the balcony. The sun really cooks those clothes and dries them very quickly.
I have done lots of work cleaning out closets and cabinets and trying to organize much of the clutter here. This house has been a depository for everybody's extra stuff for so many years, the accumulation of stuff is incredible. I have been filling garbage bags full! Speaking of garbage, there is a very complicated system for pick up. Three days a week I can put out "umido" which is food stuff. Three days a week I can put out "nero" which is non-recyclable stuff. One day a week for paper. Two days for plastic and aluminum. Glass goes in the recycling bin up the hill across from the pizzeria. Thankfully, our neighbor wrote out the schedule for me, otherwise I would be clueless!
I have been cooking like a real Italian housewife, with our noon meal the main meal of the day. Around 12:30 - 1:00, everything stops and everyone goes home for dinner. Today I made papardelle with fresh tomato sauce, a little grilled steak with mushrooms and onions and some salad. For dessert we had watermelon and cherries from our neighbor's tree. Topped off with a nice little red wine and we are both happy campers.


  1. Sounds like heaven!

  2. Your descriptions of Cervinara bring tears to my eyes. My husband was born in the Valle. We where married there July of 2008, Santa Maria Del Valle by Don Nicole. We have several family members there but we live in NYC. I hope to meet you one day when we come visit. Enjoy the beautiful life there!

    1. I am so glad you found my blog! How nice that you were able to be married in that lovely church. Our daughter was baptized in the San Nicola Church, in 1982. I hope that you will find your way to Ioffredo someday and will stop in for a visit!

  3. I am sorry I had to publish anonymous my name is Desiree Cioffi and my husband Orazio.

  4. Desiree... my great-grandmother was a Cioffi from Cervinara. She emigrated to America with her husband, a Carofano, who was also from Cervinara. Any chance we are some how related? That would be wild. My family is taking a trip to Cervinara next Spring :)