Wednesday, June 20, 2012

We're Havin' a Heat Wave.....A Tropical Heat Wave...

Well, summer has come to Cervinara, and the rest of the Italian peninsula as well.  We have been hearing about the Scipione Africanus for days now, the hot air mass that comes over from north Africa.  Every day gets a bit warmer, but even if we were closed off in an air conditioned house we would know changes were in the air because of so many other subtle differences in the way life unfolds in Cervinara.
I don't want to come across as obsessed with sounds this year, but that is the first thing that I notice as the temperature rises.  When it's mild and lovely out, the air is filled with the sounds of people in the streets and work being done in yards and gardens.  Even after lunch during the siesta time, chain saws buzz, weed whackers whine, and workers holler at one another to bring more stone for a wall under construction.   Now, in the post-prandial break time, it is deathly quiet.  No dogs bark, no neighbors chat together, no workers try to capitalize on a couple of extra hours of work.  No one braves the mid-day sun, not even mad dogs and Englishmen....and certainly no Italians!
There is a torpor in the atmosphere that effects everyone.  Our morning cappuccino is taken out on the little terrace where we can capture a bit of shade.  Once the sun hits that spot everyone is quick to take his leave.  The ladies who usually scurry out at the sound of the fruit and vegetable truck take their time to saunter up the hill.  No one is in a rush to go back into the hot kitchens.
Attendance at mass is lighter than usual.  So many of the septuagenarians and octogenarians who make the trek every day from up in the Castello neighborhood don't come when it's hot like this.  The 17:00 call to rosary is  still too early in the day for a long walk; the sun still too "massacrante" to be able to handle, so many of the usual suspects will listen to mass on the TV or will say their rosary in the privacy and comfort of their homes.
Around 20:00, things start to get comfortable again.  This is when it's nice to go for a stroll down to the Piazza Elena, sit on a bench and watch life unfold.  It's still light enough to enjoy visiting with friends, but the sun has lost its power and is ceding its strength to the night.  When normally things are quieting down, the pent up energy from the long, hot day is finally released.  Now the sounds are of kids kicking soccer balls in the piazza, the card players yelling about their bad luck and the splash of water as plants get a much needed drink.
Summer in Cervinara is like summer in so many places, yet with its own flavor and charm.  Tonight things probably won't quiet down outside until close to midnight and early risers will be up even earlier to take advantage of the morning chill.  But that's OK.  The 14:00 siesta will be quiet and everyone will have a chance to catch up on much needed rest and relaxation.  That's the rhythm of life in my small Italian town.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

God and Mammon

God and Mammon
There was a dilemma this week in Cervinara, a clash between the earthly and the spiritual, between God and Mammon. 
This past Sunday marked the beginning of the “Festa” season with the feast of Corpus Domini or the Body of Christ.  It includes a procession through the streets of the town with stops at little shrines set up along the way.  Lovely linens are displayed in front of many homes, hanging off the balconies or makeshift clothes lines.  Children precede the procession, carrying baskets of rose petals that are strewn in the street, to be walked on by the priest, those carrying his canopy, and all the faithful. 
At the 11:30 mass, Don Giorgio Carbone spoke at length about the importance of this festa, because it celebrates the most important dogma of the church, that of the transubstantiation that turns the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus.  He announced that the Corpus Domini would be brought out of the church at 7:30 0r 7:45 pm, rather than the usual 6:45-7:00.  Sighs of relief were heard from the congregation.  Why?
This Sunday also marked the first game for Italy in the European Cup competition.  Italian flags have been draped across the streets and hung from every balcony in anticipation.  The game time?  Six pm.  This represented a major dilemma for everyone here.  No one can ignore the Corpus Domini…..but neither could the game be ignored!  What to do?  Don Giorgio and the procession committee, not wanting to miss the game either, decided to delay the start of the procession until after the game was over.  Fortunately, there was no overtime!  The final whistle blew, and the church bells started ringing, calling the faithful to the piazza to await the start of the procession.  Then cannon fire announced the exiting of the Corpus Domini from the church, the prayers started and the procession was on its way.
In a way it was nice having things unroll later than usual.  There was a chill in the air as we wended our way through the narrow streets and alleys.  Then, as the sun started to set behind our hills, the sky turned lovely shades of pink and  violet and finally darkness fell.  We accompanied the Corpus Domini back to the church, secure in our knowledge that just respect had been paid to both traditions, celebrating both the start of the festa season and Italy’s tie with Spain. 
Sometimes it is possible to serve both God and Mammon, I guess!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

New Friends

When I started writing this blog three years ago, it was a way for me to keep in touch with a few friends and family who might be interested in this new life experiment I was undergoing.  Posting it on my Facebook page allowed for those people to get quick updates on what was happening in our little corner of Italy.  It was also a way for me to remember events that might get lost in the shuffle otherwise.  My brain, never known for its grasp on details, has gotten more and more like the "scolapasta" that drains our macaroni every day...full of holes!
As time has gone on, I have come to realize that Italian-Americans are very interested in their roots here in the boot, and that there is no small number of folks who can trace their lineage to Cervinara.  It was a hard life here a hundred years ago, and many families decided to pull up roots and head to the greener pastures of the USA, Canada, South America or Australia.  Many left to find work and eventually came back to their home, but more left and never returned.  I am finding that this blog has some interest for the descendants of those immigrants and it has put me in touch with many people who want to read and learn about the home of their ancestors.
Today, I met some of these folks and, for the first time, I realize that maybe my writings have some value besides some simple updates. 
We were upstairs doing some chores this morning when we heard a loud knocking on our metal "portone", the big gate that closes our compound off from the street.  There was Virginia Raviele, a neighbor from around the corner, obviously somehow related to us but certainly not a close relative.  She had received a phone call from a hotel in Sorrento where one of my blog followers was staying.  They were leaving Sorrento today and planned to come up to Cervinara to look around.  They new my name, had the hotel concierge look in the phone book to find us and Virginia was as close as they could get.
Thank goodness for GPS, because we aren't easy to find, but around 11 am, there they were!  JoAnn, Phil, Donny and Cheryl....whom I had been in touch with via email but had never met.  Phil's dad left Cervinara with his parents in 1918 when he was seven years old.  From that time until this, none of the family had ever been back!  Almost 100 years had passed since his dad, who passed away three years ago at the age of 98, had walked these streets!
We were thrilled to meet them.  Mike took them down to the cemetery (closed, unfortunately) to look around for familiar names, then up the mountain to the chestnut groves and the Mafariello Springs.  I stayed behind and whipped up some lunch  that we enjoyed under the arches of our courtyard.  Word spread very quickly throughout the neighborhood that new folks had arrived.  Pasqualino, one of our neighbors, stopped by with two bottles of very tasty wine.  Cousin Antonietta came over to meet our new friends.  We showed her the documents that Phil had brought, including birth certificates and marriage certificates of his grandparents and his father and mother.  She didn't know the names but said she would get her circle of friends to start checking around to try to find any distant cousins.  Bertuccio stopped by to share a glass of beer as he took a break from clearing the field next door. 
At church this evening, everyone was abuzz, wanting to know who had come and what they thought of the town.  I was so pleased to have been able to show these lovely folks even a bit of the charm of this town, and all the ladies were happy to know that their neighborhood had "passed inspection". 
Phil and the rest of the group left after lunch, on their way north for more sightseeing and visiting.  But I think that their day in Cervinara will be a memorable one.  I know it will be for Mike and me.  We have already started talking about next year when I hope that the gang will have a little more time to explore and enjoy this place we love so much. 
So now, I feel that my little blog has done something besides keep our friends updated on our lives here.  I feel that perhaps it has helped to change some lives, and that makes me very happy. 
Phil, JoAnn, Donny and Cheryl....Thanks for a great day!  Happy travels!