Le poesie di Carlo
Museo opere di Carlo Soricelli a Casa Trogoni di Granaglione
CADUTI SUL LAVORO CARLO SORICELLI
domenica 17 febbraio 2008
MARUCHEIN (TERRONE) ABITAVO IN VIA DEL CARROCCIO
MARUCHEIN (TERRONE) ABITAVO IN VIA DEL CARROCCIO
Prefazione di Pupi Avati
Per molti anni della mia adolescenza ebbi come compagno del cuore un ragazzino meridionale, un maruchèin come Carlo Soricelli. Ho ritrovato quindi, fin dalle prime pagine di questo libro, l'intensa emozione di chi si sente risucchiato in un mondo che riconosce nei suoi più minuti e spesso non edificanti aspetti.Ho esperienza diretta di quanto fosse intrisa di razzismo, di prevenzione, la cultura di una città pur evoluta come la nostra. Un tipo di diffidenza sottile, mai del tutto esplicitata, ma che permeava di sé tutti i rapporti. Negli utlimi decenni fortunatamente tutta la nostra società civile ha compiuto un grande passo in avanti lasciandosi alle spalle quell'orrendo pregiudizio. Fino alle follie leghiste di questi ultimi tempi... . Giunge quindi in qualche modo puntuale, questa testimonianza di Soricelli che racconta di sé, dall'interno quindi di un'esperienza totalmente soggettiva, che descrive con puntigliosa fedeltà il suo approccio di adolescente meridionale alla nostra cultura.Insisto sull'aspetto soggettivo perché mi è parso il più convincente, quello più efficace a restituire una stagione.Soricelli parlando di sé, della sua famiglia, dei suoi compagni, delle tante difficoltà da superare, fa storia, tramanda in modo inconfutabile un pezzo non trascurabile della vicenda della nostra gente, spiega certi mutamenti giungendo a dare radici al nostro presente. Di questo gli sono grato. Per aver parlato di sé da un pulpito apparentemente così poco elevato. Per averci mostrato certi momenti della nostra storia comune attraverso un'angolazione assolutamente inedita e di averlo fatto con quel pudore, con quella delicatezza estremizzata di chi forse, malgrado tutto, non si sente ancora del tutto legittimato a dirsi in una città che da tempo ha posto ben altri valori in testa a tutte le classifiche.In questa stessa città nella quale il successo economico conta sopra ogni altro valore, in questa stessa città che noi pur tanto amiamo, Soricelli ci riconduce ad una notte durante la quale tutti uscimmo nelle strade a scrutare il cielo, in attesa del passaggio dello Sputnik.Ci fu anche per la nostra generazione il Rex di Fellini? Soricelli ne è certo e questa certezza stanotte mi fa bene. E' quindi a questo sogno comune, bellissimo e d'ora innanzi definitivo, che intendo legarmi. E, per riconoscenza, a questo libro e al suo autore.Pupi AvatiHo deciso di iniziare a scrivere della mia famiglia il quindici settembre del 1996 quando Bossi ha proclamato l'indipendenza della Padania; non ho mai scritto niente in vita mia, ma vedendo il telegiornale mi sono venute le lacrime agli occhi; ho ripensato alla mia famiglia ed ai sacrifici dei miei genitori, alle loro tradizioni abbandonate per dare un avvenire migliore ai figli.Mi sono anche indignato e offeso, tutti i mali di questo Paese sono stati addebitati ai meridionali. La secessione virtuale di una piccola minoranza nelle regioni del nord non ha nessun valore giuridico e morale, ma sta generando un clima di incomprensione. A me preoccupa soprattutto che i meridionali residenti al sud credano che nelle regioni settentrionali la pensino tutti così; temo che in questa situazione i problemi per l'unità arrivino proprio dal sud e forse è a questo che mirano, provocare la rabbia dei meridionali, cercando di umiliarli e spingerli così ad una rottura traumatica del Paese. Credo che non si rendano nemmeno conto di quello che possono innescare qui al nord dove i meridionali sono quasi numerosi quanto i locali e le famiglie composte da almeno un coniuge meridionale sono altrettanto numerose.Il legame storico, geografico e di parentela che unisce il sud con il nord è tanto forte che sarà comunque impossibile sradicarlo.Non posso nemmeno immaginare che diventino stranieri la Valle dei Templi, il mare calabrese ed i bronzi di Riace, Pompei, le canzoni napoletane, i Trulli di Alberobello e Roma, città incantevole che ha civilizzato il mondo.Con questi ricordi dell'infanzia vorrei fare un omaggio alla Bologna degli anni cinquanta che aveva raggiunto un livello di civiltà ammirevole per quegli anni. Questa splendida e tollerante città che ancora adesso possiede servizi sociali di prim'ordine ed una grande vitalità culturale che ha plasmato il mio carattere fin nel profondo. Ricordo con amore i partigiani che ho conosciuto e che mi raccontavano di quanti di loro sono morti gridando viva l'Italia; quegli uomini di così grande levatura morale mi hanno insegnato ad avere degli ideali dei quali ho sempre cercato di tenere conto nel mio piccolo. Ho provato una grande ammirazione per i vecchi compagni di fabbrica che avevano studiato poco ma possedevano una cultura invidiabile ed amavano la politica, ma anche l'arte, la musica e la storia. E cosa dire dei tanti artisti che ho conosciuto e che mi hanno fatto comprendere ed apprezzare la tradizione pittorica bolognese?Mi piacerebbe che in questa storia si riconoscessero i meridionali, i figli ed i discendenti di meridionali residenti al nord, che fossero orgogliosi di quei loro parenti che sono partiti nel corso di questo ultimo secolo in cerca di fortuna. Sarei felice inoltre che questa fosse considerata anche una piccola storia bolognese. Con la mia grande fantasia vedo già il grande regista bolognese Pupi Avati che ne ricava un film.Al 'Villaggio I.N.A. Casa' in pochi anni si era formata una vera comunità di uomini, donne e bambini provenienti da ogni regione italiana, anche dal Veneto, che a quel tempo era economicamente povero; parlavano solo il proprio dialetto e un italiano stentato ma si rispettavano gli uni con gli altri e si capivano: mai ho saputo di episodi di intolleranza e di razzismo. Nei miei ricordi il Villaggio I.N.A. Casa è la versione metropolitana di un quadro naive di quelli idilliaci dove in mezzo ad una natura incontaminata, l'uomo trova un suo equilibrio.Immagino cosa sarebbe Bologna senza l'arrivo di tante persone dal sud, una città molto più vecchia di adesso e con meno di duecentomila abitanti: quasi ogni bolognese ha ormai parenti di origini meridionali. Gli italiani provenienti dal sud dell'Italia in tutto il mondo superano i quaranta milioni e ovunque siano andati sono riusciti, con il loro lavoro e la loro intelligenza, a raggiungere posizioni rilevanti.I movimenti delle popolazioni avvenuti nel corso della storia sono incredibili. I Longobardi arrivarono dall'estremo nord e trovarono nel Beneventano un posto migliore per poter vivere. I loro discendenti stanno abbandonando quei posti e rifacendo a ritroso il percorso dei loro antenati.Spero che un domani un bimbo albanese, arabo, africano, filippino o pakistano possa scrivere una storia come la mia e conservare del luogo che lo ha accolto i miei stessi bei ricordi.La mia vita di maruchein, la versione bolognese di terrone, iniziò nella primavera del '54, quando, non avendo ancora compiuto cinque anni, mi trasferii con la mia famiglia a Bologna dalla natia Cesine, contrada vicina a San Giorgio del Sannio in provincia di Benevento.Del viaggio lunghissimo in treno per arrivare a Bologna ho pochi ricordi: le mucche che inspiegabilmente nuotavano nell'Adriatico e mia sorella più piccola, Teresa, che non voleva fare la pipì dentro quel buco, nel gabinetto del treno e diceva: "Non voglio piscià into a chillo buco, voglio farla dietro a reglia (paglia del fienile) a massaria mia".Andammo ad abitare al Villaggio I.N.A Casa in un appartamento che era stato assegnato a mio padre, che risiedeva a Bologna già da alcuni anni. Fino ad allora aveva alloggiato in una stanza ammobiliata presso una signora in via S. Felice, una strada nel centro della città.Mio padre era un carabiniere in pensione che, dopo essere stato in servizio in diverse località italiane, era stato assunto in qualità di guardia giurata in un arsenale militare bolognese, in una località che si chiama Prati; si sposo' all'età di ventotto anni, quella minima concessa ai carabinieri per il matrimonio.Il più grande dei miei fratelli, Antonio, rimase per poco tempo a Bologna perché non trovava lavoro e scelse anche lui di fare il sottufficiale dei carabinieri. Noi fratelli più piccoli eravamo molto orgogliosi di lui; l'aspettavamo alla fermata dell'autobus e lo guardavamo scendere nella sua divisa nera ed eravamo felicissimi quando ci prendeva in braccio; ci portava sempre tanti dolci e cioccolatini e contavamo i giorni che mancavano al suo arrivo. Anche lui, come papà, ha prestato servizio in tantissime regioni italiane.San Giorgio, il luogo dove sono nato, è incantevole. I leggeri e dolci declivi della campagna beneventana ricordano straordinariamente la Toscana; gli ulivi sono disseminati per tutto il paesaggio e la terra è fertilissima; in ogni fosso che divide le collinette scorre l'acqua anche d'estate.Dal terreno emergono spesso testimonianze del grande passato di questa terra. Papà raccontava sempre che, quando nel quarantasette iniziò la costruzione della casa, che poi venne quasi completamente rasa al suolo col terremoto dell'ottanta, mentre stava prendendo della sabbia dal piccolo torrente vicino, a circa sei o sette metri di profondità emerse una piccola scultura di terracotta con sembianze umane. La prese in mano domandandosi per un attimo di che cosa si trattasse e come facesse ad essere così in profondità. Poi, preso dalla costruzione, la buttò via a pochi metri di distanza dal ritrovamento. Questa scoperta fatta proprio nel terreno di casa mi ha sempre affascinato.Da ragazzo stavo delle ore ad interrogare mio padre su forma, dimensioni e posizione del ritrovamento e lui, dopo un po', spazientito, rispondeva con un "nun o saccio" e concludeva così il mio terzo grado.Torniamo alle cose serie, visto che la mia intenzione è quella di scrivere una storia del tipo di 'Cuore' di De Amicis ( mi ha sempre commosso quel bimbo che dagli Appennini va fino alle Ande a cercare sua madre) oppure come quella della 'Piccola fiammiferaia' che poverina si scaldava dal freddo con il solo calore dei fiammiferi.Per tradizione noi meridionali mettiamo sempre ai figli il nome dei genitori. Nella nostra famiglia i nomi Antonio ed Emilia derivarono dai nonni materni, Pina (Giuseppa) e Saverio dai nonni paterni; a questo punto si poteva lasciare libero sfogo alla fantasia quello dei nuovi arrivati furono spesso dati da mio fratello maggiore. Quando stava studiando la Divina Commedia venne al mondo un maschio e fu chiamato Dante, mentre quando nacqui io mi fu messo il nome Carlo da Carlo Magno. Degli altri nomi non ne ricordo l'origine.I miei fratelli più grandi Antonio, Pina, Saverio e Carmine erano tutti biondi e con gli occhi azzurri. Benevento ha una storia antichissima. E' stata un'importante città sannita poi, dopo una guerra durata tre secoli, fu sottomessa a Roma. Quando l'impero romano si dissolse fu occupata dai Longobardi e per diversi secoli rimase la capitale di un loro principato che dominò gran parte dell'Italia meridionale. Questo stesso popolo in quel periodo si installò in Friuli, Lombardia e in ampie zone del territorio italiano.Probabilmente, ad un certo punto gli spermatozoi mediterranei di mio padre si arrabbiarono e dissero: "E' mai possibile che arrivino primi sempre i nordici!", così si opposero ed ecco che arriva Dante, moro e con gli occhi neri, "Toh beccatevi questo". Quando dovevamo nascere mia sorella Emilia ed io la lotta tra gli spermatozoi si fece più dura: "A te terrone non ti facciamo passare" e gli altri: "Un altro occupante Longobardo? Non ci pensiamo nemmeno". Gli uni impedivano agli altri di fecondare, annullandosi a vicenda e questo durò per diverso tempo (infatti vi fu intervallo maggiore del solito tra una nascita e l'altra) fino a quando si accorsero che così facendo morivano tutti senza ottenere nessun risultato. Decisero quindi di collaborare e raggiunsero un compromesso: probabilmente gli spermatozoi si fusero, come i colori quando con il rosso e il giallo viene fuori l'arancione, così mia sorella Emilia ed io nascemmo castani con gli occhi marroni. Dopo, sempre sulla base dell'accordo raggiunto, arrivò Teresa, che da piccola era tanto scura che mio padre per la prima volta dubitò di mia madre. L'ultima, Pia, (toccava al nord) era ed è così bionda e con gli occhi tanto azzurri, che ancora oggi potrebbe benissimo farsi fotografare con una renna e spacciarsi per svedese, terra d'origine dei Longobardi.La nonna Giuseppa cercava di scurire con l'olio i capelli biondi dei miei fratelli più grandi, chissà, forse manteneva nei geni l'astio tramandato di generazione in generazione di una parte della popolazione beneventana verso l'occupante Longobardo.Quando ci trasferimmo eravamo otto fratelli, la nona, Pia, nacque l'anno dopo a Bologna.Dei primi tempi conservo solo alcuniricordi vaghi. La signora Domeniconi del piano di sotto disse che quando ci vide arrivare si terrorizzò perchè pensava alla confusione che ci sarebbe stata con tutti quei bambini. tempo dopo confessò che non riusciva a capire come, con tanti bimbi, non sentisse mai rumori. Gli inquilini al primo piano però i rumori li sentivano eccome. Mamma non aveva voluto lasciare a San Giorgio le due più belle galline che possedeva e così le aveva fatte portare a Bologna insieme ai mobili: non sapendo dove sistemarle le aveva messe in cantina ma queste facevano un baccano infernale, e dopo alcuni giorni, per le proteste fummo costretti a tirar loro il collo.Ricordo di una volta quando mamma andò a lavare i panni nella lavanderia collettiva che c'era sotto il solaio e mia sorella di quattro anni e io di sette rimanemmo chiusi soli dentro casa. Quando mamma tornnò, vane furono le sue insistenze per farsi aprire aprire la porta perchè si raccomandava sempre di non aprire a nessuno. Davanti all'uscio chiuso implorava:"Nun mi cunuscit? sono mamma!" E noi niente. Apriteme che stanno bollendo i fagioli." E noi ancora niente. Quando la puzza di fagioli strinati si fece sentire piuttosto forte, cominciammo a spaventarci e decidemmo di far passare la chiave sotto la porta, così che mia madre riuscì ad entrare, chiudere la bombola del gas e buttare tutto dentro l'acqua fredda.Papà era una persona molto orgogliosa e piena di sé; a Bologna non era mai riuscito ad inserirsi perchè quando arrivò a Bologna era già abbastanza avanti con gli anni. Quando nacqui io ne aveva quarantatrè e appena poteva scappava a Benevento nella sua casa e andava a zappare il fazzoletto di terra che nonno Saverio gli aveva lasciato. Era uno, come si ddice a Bologna che: "Al salteva i fos par la longa"(una frase che che gli anziani del posto dicevano ai ragazzi per ricordare l'energia e la forza che avevano da giovani); solo che lui, i fossi per il lungo, li saltava pure quando era anziano. Con un metro si misurava l'ampiezza del torace e diceva che quando era giovane: " E femmene o baciavano mocca (in bocca) pa bellezza. " Doveva essere una cosa veramente sconvolgente per quei tempi.In effetti era veramente un bell'uomo:aveva splendidi occhi verdi dello stesso colore dei mari delle Maldive in quei depliant turustici, e i suoi lineamenti erano perfetti. Gli mancava solo qualche capello ma io, come dicevo, l'ho conosciuto quado era già abbastanza anziano.
Carlo Soricelli has been born in San Giorgio del Sannio in the province of Benevento on July 5, 1949.
At present he is residing in the province of Bologna.. He got married to Floriana, and has two children Elisa and Lorenzo.
Through his activity as a painter and a sculptor he has been awarded with the title “ Master of Naïve Art “ conferred on him by the Museum of the Arts Naïves ,in Luzzara (Reggio Emilia) , where his works are being exhibited right up until now.
To the version of this book has helped his daughter Elisa, who has a degree in Communication Sciences from the Bologna University .
MARUCHEIN (TERRONE) ABITAVO IN VIA DEL CARROCCIO VERSIONE INTEGRALE IN INGLESE
Preface by Pupi Avati
English translation by M.C. Barbanti Brodano
For many years in my boyhood my favorite mate has been a guy from southern Italy, a “maruchèin”( Southerner) , like Carlo Soricelli.
For this reason I have felt again , just starting from the first pages of this book, the intense emotion of anyone, who is feeling himself as if being sucked back into a world, that he is recognizing in its most minute and often not so edifying aspects.
I have experienced, how much the culture in a city like ours , even if so much advanced, could be soaked in racism and prejudice. A subtle kind of mistrust, never fully explicit, which every kind of relationship had anyway been permeated through.
In the last decades, our whole society has fortunately made a long step forward and taken no further notice of that horrible prejudice. All this up to the madness of the League supporters in recent times.
It comes therefore somewhat timely this witness of Soricelli, telling about himself, from the inside of a totally subjective experience, describing with a fussy faithfulness his approach as a southerner teenager to our culture.
I do insist on the subjective aspect, as it seems to me, that it is the most convincing and effective , to give back a life season to us.
Soricelli, when telling of himself, of his family, of the many difficulties to overcome, makes history, hands down in an indisputable manner a piece of people life event, which is not to be disregarded, explains some changes and gives roots to our present.
For all this, I am grateful to him.
For having shown certain moments of our common story, from an angle-shot hitherto unknown and having done it with the modesty, the extreme tenderness of the one, who perhaps, in spite of all, feels himself not yet fully legitimated to say he is in the city, that since a pretty long time has placed different values on the top of ALL classifications. In this same city, where the importance of the economic success is higher than any other value, in this same city, that anyway we do love, Soricelli is guiding us back again to a night, when all people went out along the streets to peer at the sky , awaiting the SPUTNIK passage.
There has been also for our generation the Rex by Fellini ? Soricelli is sure of this, and this certainty, this night is doing us well.
It is therefore for this common dream, very beautiful and, from now on, definitive, that I want to tie up with. And , for gratitude to this book and his Author.
( one of the greatest Italian movie directors)
I decided to write about my family on Sep 15,1996, when Bossi proclaimed the independence of Padania (the imaginary name given by the League to Northern Italy).
I have never written a word in my lifetime, but after looking at television news I had tears on my eyes. I thought again of my family, the sacrifices of my parents, their traditions given up, in order to give a future to their sons.
I have also got offence and I am filled with indignation: all the troubles in this country have been attributed to us, the Southerners.
The virtual secession of a little minority in the northern regions has no moral meaning nor legal validity, but is only generating a mutual incomprehension climate. Above all, I am worried about the thought, that the southerners living in the South might believe that all the people in the northern regions are thinking like that. I think, that in such a situation, the problems with the unity do come just from the South, and perhaps it is exactly what they are aiming at, to provoke the rage of the Southerners, by trying to humiliate them, so as to push them towards a traumatic rupture of the Country.
I think, they do not even imagine, what they are priming there, in the north, where the Southerners and the locals are about the same number of people, and the families, where at least one of the consorts is a Southerner, all the same.
The historical, geographical and relationship tie between north and south is anyway too strong : it will be impossible to eradicate it, in any case.
I cannot even imagine that there will become foreign the Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples) , the Calabrian sea, the bronzes of Riace, Pompei, the Neapolitan songs, the “Trulli” (houses with conical roof in Apulia) of Alberobello, and ROME, the enchanting City, which civilized the world.
With these memories of my childhood I am willing to speak in homage to Bologna in the Fifties, which had reached a level of admirable civility on those times.
This splendid , tolerant city, which still at present is endowed with first-class social services and a great cultural vitality, has molded my character deep in me. I remember with love the Partisans I had met and by whom I had been told, that so many of them dying were shouting “ Viva l’Italia” .By those men, with such an high moral level, I have been taught to have ideals. I have always been trying - within my modest limits – to keep the same ideals into consideration. I have always been deeply admiring my old work companions in the factory, who in spite of having studied so little, had an enviable culture and loved politics as much as Arts, Music and History.
And what can I say of the many artists I have met, who made me understand and appreciate the painting tradition in Bologna ? I would like that in this story the Southerners, their sons and descendants could be proud of all those relatives , who in the last century had left to try for the fortune.
Moreover, I would be happy if this could be considered a short “Bolognese” tale.
And a particular thanking I owe to two Bolognesi : Pupi Avati and Walter Vitali, who had been encouraging and supporting me in this tale.
At the INA-Case Village, in few years , there was formed a real community, men, women and children coming from any Italian region, even from the Venetia, at the time economically poor. They were speaking only their dialect and a difficult Italian language , but they were respecting and understanding one another-..
I had never heard of any intolerance episode. In my memories, the INA-Case Village is the metropolitan vision of a naïf painting, one of the idyllic ones, where Man finds his own equilibrium in an uncontaminated nature.
I do imagine, what Bologna would be without the arrival of so many people from the South, a much older City than now, and with less than two hundred thousands inhabitants. Almost each Bolognese has a relative of south origin, now. Italian people from southern Italy immigrating all over the world exceed forty millions. Wherever they might have gone, they did reach outstanding positions by means of their work and intelligence.
The movements of populations during the history ages are unbelievable . The Longobards arrived from the extreme North and found in the region of Benevento a better site to live in.
Their descendants are abandoning those sites and repeating their ancestors’ travel backwards.
I do hope that tomorrow a child, may be Albanian, Arab, African, Philippine or Pakistani can write a story like mine, and cherish the same nice memories of the place, where he has been received.
To my parents
To all the emigrants from the South of the World
And their descendants
My life as a “maruchein” (the Bolognese version for “terrone”) started up in the spring of ’54 , when I was not yet 5 years old, and from the native Cesine, a country near San Giorgio del Sannio, in the Benevento province, my family and I moved to Bologna. I have not many reminiscences of the very long journey, by train: the cows, which swimmed in the Adriatic sea, inexplicably, and my youngest sister , Teresa, who refused to urinate in the train lavatory saying “ Non voglio piscià into a chillo buco, voglio farla dietro a reglia (paglia del fienile) a massaria mia” (“I don’t want to piss into that hole, I want to piss behind the straw in the hay-loft, in my own farm”).
We went to live in the INA-Village, in an apartment allotted to my father, who had been residing in Bologna since many years already, and until that day in a furnished room in via San Felice, in the heart of the city.
My father was a retired carabineer, who after having been in service in several Italian localities, was engaged in a Bolognese military arsenal in a place called Prati; he got married at the age of 28, the minimum age-limit allowed to carabineers to marry.
My oldest brother, Antonio, stayed in Bologna a short time, and ,as he couldn’t find a job, decided, he too, to become a non-commissioned officer in the carabineer arm. We, the younger brothers, were very proud of him, we had been waiting for him at the bus stop and looking at him while descending in his black uniform, and were very happy as he was taking us in his arms. He was always bringing so many candies and bonbons to us : every time we set to count the days, which would have been passing until his arrival. He too, as Dad, was on duty in so many Italian regions.
San Giorgio, the place where I was born, is an enchanting place. The soft and sweet slopes of the Benevento country, remind one of the Tuscany in an extraordinary way. Olive trees are scattered all around the landscape and the earth is utmost fertile, in every ditch dividing the little hills, water flows in summer too.
From the ground there often come out witnesses of the great past of this land. Papa was always telling us that, when in 1947 he started up building our house, - which later on was razed down almost completely by the 1980 earthquake – while taking up sand from the stream nearby, he had found 6-7 meters deep in the water a terracotta statue with human countenances. He took it in his hand wandering for an instant about what it might be all about, and how that small thing could be so deep in water. Then, absorbed by his work, he threw it a few meters far away from the finding site.
This discovery, made just on our house ground has always been enchanting my mind.
When I was a boy, I was uninterruptedly questioning my father about shape, size and location of that finding. He, after a while, out of patience, answered : “ Nun o saccio” (I don’t know) , thus concluding my third degree interrogation.
But, let us come again to serious matters, as my willingness is to write just a tale of the same kind as “Cuore” by Edmondo De Amicis – I have always been touched by that boy going from the Apennines to the Andes, to look for his mother – or as the tale of “ The little seller of matches” , the poor little girl, who could warm herself up at the heat of her matches only.
As a tradition, we, the Southerners, always called our children like our parents.
In our family, the names Antonio and Emilia derived from my grand-parents on my mother’s side, whereas Pina (Giuseppa) and Saverio from my father’s side (the grand-parents) . Since that ALL ancestors had been exhausted, people could let fancy break loose for the new arrived names, and it was my eldest brother, who could choose them.
He had just been studying the “ Divine Comedy” , when a male child was born, who therefore was called Dante. Later on, when I was born, I was just called Carlo, from Carlo Magno, and then it was the turn of Teresa, called like a little girl in Benevento, whom he had been falling in love with.
My elder brothers, Antonio, Pina, Saverio and Carmine, all were fair-headed and with blue eyes. Benevento history is utmost ancient. It was an important “samnite” town , then after a three-centuries long war , it had been subjected to Rome. As the Roman Empire dissolved, it was occupied by the Longobards and for many centuries had been remaining the capital town of a princedom, which ruled over a large part of Southern Italy. Simultaneously , the Longobards settled down in the Italian regions Friuli, Lombardy, and other large portions of the Italian territory.
Probably, at a certain point, the southern spermatozoa of my father got angry and told: “is it possible that the northern spermatozoa always arrive first ?” Hence, they fought against the others and here he is ! Dante, dark , with black coal eyes !
As I was just on the point of being born, and my sister Emilia too, the fight between the spermatozoa became harder: “ You, the Southerners, we don’t allow you to pass !” And others from the opposite faction: “ another Longobard occupier ? it is inconceivable !”
The ones prevented the others from fecundating by reciprocal annihilating, and this has been lasting for a long time ( in fact, there had been a longer interval between one birth and the next), until they realized that all of them died without reaching a result. Hence, they decided to reach a compromise: probably the spermatozoa blended like colors, where red and yellow mix getting orange therefrom. So, my sister Emilia and I were born: brown, with brown eyes.
Some years later, always on the basis of the agreement reached, there came Teresa, who, when she was a little girl , was so dark, that my father, for the first time, distrusted my mother.
The last one, Pia, (it was the North’s turn) was, and still is, so blonde, with so light-blue eyes , that she could be photographed with a reindeer and pretend to be Swedish. Sweden was, in fact, the Longobard native land.
Grandma Giuseppa tried to darken with oil the blond hair of my elder brothers, perhaps , she kept in her genes the atavic rancor ( handed down from one generation to another), of a part of Benevento population towards the Longobard occupiers.
When we moved, we were eight brothers; the ninth, Pia, has been born one year later , in Bologna.
Of the first times I have only uncertain reminiscences left. Mrs Dominiconi, living on the floor underneath, told that she was frightened at our arrival on thinking of all the confusion, which would be brought about by all those children.
Later on, she confessed, that she couldn’t understand, whyever on earth no noise was to be heard by her.
The first-floor tenants, on the contrary, were hearing noises, and how much! You bet ! Mommy had not accepted to leave her most beautiful hens in San Giorgio, so they had been carried to Bologna together with the furniture. We couldn’t find a place, to put them up, so we brought them into the cellar, but they were making an evil noise. After a few days, owing to the complaints, we were compelled to wring their neck.
I remember a day, when Mama sent and washed our clothes in the collective laundry under the loft, and my sister, at the age of four, and I, of seven, stayed at home alone.
As Mommy came back, her insistence begging us to open the door and let her in, was in vain. Before, she had always been recommending us, not to open to anybody! Before the shut door she implored: “ Nun mi cunuscite ? Sono mamma! “ (don’t you know me? It’s me, Mom !) . Nothing gained . “Let me enter, as the beans are boiling !”
Yet, nothing at all from us. When the stink of the singed beans became quite heavy, we were afraid and decided to pass the key under the door, so that our mother could come in, close the gas cylinder and pour everything into cold water.
Papa was a very proud person, full of himself. He never could become “ integrated “in Bologna, as , when he arrived there, he was too elderly. When I was born he was 43 years old, and, as soon as he had a chance, he fled to Benevento and hoed that handkerchief of earth left to him by his grandfather Saverio.
He was one who, as they say in Bologna, had “ jumped the ditch all along its length “, a phrase used by old people to tell the youngsters which kind of force and strength they had possessed in the past. But he, HE could go on jumping over the ditches all along their length, even in his old age. He measured the width of his chest by means of a meter telling that, when he was young , “ E femmane o baciavano mocca pa bellezza” ( he was so handsome that women kissed him in the mouth…)
It must have been a really upsetting matter on those times. He was in fact a really handsome man: splendid green eyes, same color as those Maldives seas on the tourists’ brochures…and his features were perfect. Only some hair missing, but, as above explained, I knew him, when he was already elderly enough. I remember a sentence, which accompanied me all my life long: “ think bad, if you want to feel good” and in fact, I am pessimistic, and always thinking badly. The real truth is that, it unavoidably happens what I am thinking of. “Strange!” – I’m telling myself – “I’ve got no headache since some time…”. And, the day after, I’m walking by touching the ground with my face. Or : “ It’s quite a while since colitis was bothering me..” And then, for many days, I’m always sitting in the bathroom. Or also : “ Good gracious!” It’s some time since I bumped into another car (my specialty) ! And soon after…a terrifying crash.
Now, whenever I am having such a kind of thoughts, I touch my body everywhere (I touch wood!).
When Dad was coming back to Cesine, sometimes, he was taking me with him.
One of those days, it happened a funny thing, that I cannot explain to myself. We were in the middle of a field in the nearby of our house, and a strange object passed above our heads. Its shape was irregular, its length 3 meter approx., transparent, with a faint light inside. It looked like having people inside. It was flying slowly, grazing, and we could be looking at it for a long time.
After a while, it crashed against a tree, a few hundreds of meters far away. My father wondered, what that thing could be and told me: “ Currimmo, iammo a vedè che c…è chillo coso!” (“.. run and see what a damn is that thing!” ) and we set out for the area where the thing was likely to have fallen down. I followed him, but keeping me at a right distance, as I was afraid,
As we arrived at the presumed place, there was nothing, no trace at all, only a couple of meters of burnt grass.
I never understood what it had happened. Anyway, since then, I was a ruined boy…my father began to make fun of me: “ you say you are quick, you win so many races in the school, and yet you are running slower than me, who am old.
When I was a little boy, whenever I woke up, I spied through the door of my parents’ room. He, my father, was always in bed, as he worked in night shifts. I was looking at him, snoring aloud like a train, sleeping with his belly upwards, his head deep in the pillow, and a woolen vest around his head, in summer too: probably he was afraid his bare head could feel cold.
As all the Southerners living in the north, my father had a mania for heraldry. He was willing to know his ancestors, who they had been. I remember he had spent a lot of money to let the coat of arms be reproduced, as well as for the book telling the story of the family Soricelli. It resulted, that we were descendants of a noble family of Neapolitan origin.
The same mania has been transferred to me too. Some years ago, in Cervia, I met one of those persons, who show you the origin of your family name on the computer on the street against twenty-thousand lire. On typing my family name, he got two region names on the computer: “ Venetia or Piedmont, which do you prefer ?” he asked.
Boh!? I chose Piedmont and I discovered, that my origin was from a village in Monferrato. But….was I not to have a Neapolitan origin ?
The next year in Rimini, on the street again, I couldn’t resist the temptation and let me see my Venetian side. This time I discovered that my family derived downright from Aquileia, the roman town destroyed by the Longobards, they ….. , they themselves…With all the riches, they had heaped up, they fled away to the Venetian lagoon, and contributed to the birth of Venice. One Soricelli became a doge of Venice, but I could never understand the reason why his name was Soranzo (1312-1328).
Once, I saw on the façade of an ancient palace my surname with an apostrophe and a separated “s”. What did it mean ?
A girl-friend of my niece Simona is American , and on visiting a museum in the United States ,where you can get information about surnames all over the world, she had been asking about Soricelli, as she knew that also my sister Emily ,Simona’s mother (the leopard cannot change its spots) had the same mania! She had a parchment made there ( against eleven dollars it was possible there too, to get reproductions drafted on a parchment), in English, of course, that was translated to me. .According to that parchment the surname means: “ very quick, speedy and fast like a mouse” (why couldn’t my ancestors be compared with a cheetah, at least ?”
And probably, these characteristics were attributed to the one, who had originated our family name.
The writing mentioned : “ noble family originally coming from the Bologna province.” So, was it question of coming back to one’s origins? From my surname there derived an infinite variety of nicknames for me, my children, and the other components of the family. Sorcipelli, Topolino, Lino, Sorry ( heaven knows what people do think, on hearing someone calling “Sorry!” …if they do not know me, I could look as if I had my toes threaded on, or had been bumped against), Sorcio, Sorco, and so many others.
In conclusion, where do I come from ? Thereabout I don’t know anything more than before. It always remains essential for us, the immigrants from the south, to know about our roots: we feel as if we were in a limbo, in a “hanging” condition, neither fish, flesh nor fowl.
Here, in Bologna, we are “maruchèin” even if we have been living here for a life, as the underwriter. In Benevento we are bolognesi with a funny accent, which makes people laugh.
The INA-Casa village was, and is still now, the last group of houses in Bologna, to be found on the right side of Via Emilia, towards Modena. On the left side there are now the Ipercoop-stores.
I lived at number seventeen, via del Carroccio, the last big building, white color: there were four of them, all identical, five-storey buildings, the highest in the village, soon after the nursery-school and the primary school. To us, the children, they seemed really majestic, like the sky-scrapers in New York. On the left side of the street, opposite, there was the little wooden church and, going on a little, some other three-storey houses. In my building there were twenty families, all large. At that time, there lived more children and youngsters than in the whole Borgo Panigale district at present.
Daddy was a hard worker, and I cannot remember him being ill at home or absent from work. His stubbornness, his great strength of character has remained impressed on my mind. Once, for example, a glass broke in the house, and he went to a glazier in Borgo Panigale in front of the Ducati factory ( where the famous motorbikes are made) to buy a new one. He took one and set on going home by feet, but, on the way home, he bumped against something, and the glass broke. Then, he came back to the glazier and had a new glass cut-to-measure, but, again on the way back a lady didn’t see the glass and…a bang…that one again in small pieces. “ Mannaggia a chi le muorto a chella!” – he said at home on telling the fact- He came back again to the glazier, who was moved on realizing that he was spending so much money and proposed to carry the glass on his van…But, in vain: my father started his way back again with the glass, as usually, prouder than ever (the glazier had already learnt the sizes by heart and didn’t even need to ask for them).
Suddenly, a wind gust and “trac”, with a sharp blow, the glass broke in two pieces. Now, it had become a matter of principle, a challenge, and so he came back to the glazier, who, on seeing my father again, besides being glad because of the takings, in my opinion, tried to keep himself from laughing, by biting his lips. Again, he took the glass and, at last, succeeded in bringing it to destination. When we saw him arriving, he was so fully upset, bleeding, with the hair ruffled, but with the glass perfectly integer.
One morning, in summer, I saw him really angry. We, the boys, were grouped on the back of number 15, via del Carroccio, and suddenly saw him coming towards us.
A boy was peeling a tree with a small knife. My father went near to him and told him in a low and bad voice: “ let the trees in peace. They are to be respected just like the persons! “ He was a man of utmost great inwardness with foreign people, so he must have been upset to death , so as to intervene and tell something to others’ children.
Notwithstanding his age he had kept some childlike aspects. At the end of the Fifties I started a collection of small cards bought at the news-agent’s. On each card there was a country shown, on the front side there were a man and a woman wearing their traditional costumes and the national flag, whereas on the back there were the essential data of that country: capital town, territory in square kilometers and number of inhabitants. For ex.: Rhodesia was represented by a colored man wearing a leopard skin. Italy by a man with moustaches, as a Sicilian, and the Pisa tower; France by a person wearing the traditional French costume and the Eiffel tower. As I had already filled-in half an album, my father saw it and this arose his interest .
He too, underwent this passion , and every morning, on coming back from the job, he went to the news-agent and bought three small card pouches. To justify himself, he told they were meant for me. He opened them in front of me, after having rested, eaten and waited for me coming from the school.
I remember his usual sentence :” Mannaggia a chi le muorto, un’altra Francia!” (“Damn that dead man, another France! “ , or he had found Hungary or Spain, which were the most common to be found. The small cards representing USA ,Bolivia and Pakistan were really impossible to be found. I remember once, when my father was opening a small pouch and I saw the mythical image of the Red Indian representing the United States . and he was smiling, delighted. It seemed to me to have found the same treasure as the German man, who discovered the ruins of Troy and Priamo’s treasure.
I compared the States dimensions in sq. kilometers to the surface of the Soviet Union and was wandering about how the first ones with such a proportionately small territory could face the Russian people.
Still now I have the collection of small cards, that my father preserved until his death ( when I married, he decided to keep them by himself) and when, by chance, I leaf through them , I get angry like at that time, whenever I realized, that Pakistan was missing.
I remember a very sad episode, which made me feel proud of him. One morning, people came to call him, when he was lying on bed because of a railway accident just behind our house. The railway connecting north to south was passing through an area some ten meters far away from us.
Inexplicably, the railway crossing had been left open and a car had been run over by the oncoming train.
Inside the car there were three persons, who had been killed and whose bodies were torn to pieces, their remains scattered all around many hundreds of meters. There came carabineers, police and firemen , but nobody took pluck to collect those bodies so atrociously disfigured. A neighbor, who remembered that my father had been a carabineer in the past, rang our house bell. Daddy got up and went to the accident site: he took up the killed people. Later on, he came back home and I saw him afflicted and with wet eyes.
When he was a young carabineer, he had taken part in several march competitions and got good results.
Once the Captain promised a prize leave to the one, who could win a thirty kilometers race: they all left, about hundred people, and my father won, but he got a very high fever because of tiredness, so he passed in bed his leave time.
When we had lunch at noon my mother was likely to suffer a lot, daddy slept until 2 p.m., owing to his night shift. Dante and Emily, my elder brothers ,were coming back from the middle school and eating later on, the other brother, Severino, who had already a job, was to come back to his work place at a quarter to one. At last, what with laying the table and then cleaning the table, she had really a plenty to do in the kitchen for many hours!
In the evening all of us had dinner together on the big wooden table, that Daddy had brought from Benevento, and occupied the whole kitchen, as it was meant for ten people. Before beginning to eat, we were waiting for Daddy waking up from bed. He stood awoken until six p.m., then in bed again for a couple of hours, before starting the night shift once more.
When we were already sitting down to table, we were hearing him pulling the water chain, turning on the washbasin cock. Then, after about ten minutes, he arrived. But, we were so hungry that this time interval seemed an eternity to us.
The dinner was usually an enormous dish of “pasta” and a very little beef-steak, so little that one would have needed the magnifying lens to see it. Often, there were also cooked vegetables, and an entire big saucepan, which was boiling for about two hours and made me inevitably go to the lavatory…,almost perennially occupied.
Once at table, we scarcely spoke , and whenever one of us exaggerated, Dad hissed him by saying “ Shut up, people, when eating, is fighting against Death.”
He meant, that a food bit may-be swallowed in a wrong way when speaking and could suffocate us.
During our first years in Bologna, Mommy cooked what she was used to cook in Benevento. Often, she prepared a unique food dish with peppers in vinegar, which were preserved in a demijohn in the cellar, to which she added boiled potatoes and small bits of meat, may-be chops or sausages. Otherwise, there were cooked vegetables with the usual boiled potatoes, garlic and tomatoes, all seasoned with olive oil from the trees, that my father had in his native village. Often, the unique dish consisted of spaghetti with tomato sauce and sweet basil. Tomato sauce had been prepared by Mommy and preserved in glass bottles. It was boiled and seasoned with bits of meat, sausages, chops or chicken. When Mommy was cooking, there it looked like being in a kitchen of the Army, such a plenty of persons to be fed!
I remember that bread in Bologna tasted exquisite in those years. I especially liked “rosette” a type of small bread rolls shaped as a rose, extraordinary when stuffed with “mortadella” (a kind of Bolognese salami). “ Really special !” so Daddy expressed himself when he liked something..
Years were passing and Mommy was becoming a very good cook of Bologna specialties too. The “ Lasagne” she was cooking tasted really good.
Once, when I was about 6 years old, we were sitting at table and I saw my father trying to nibble a bone. I looked at him, and asked him what he was doing. He seriously answered that, in the life, one is to succeed in everything he is doing. He went on nibbling and offered a bone to me too. I looked at the bone, a few instants, then I tried to nibble it under the curious eyes of my brothers and sisters. But I didn’t succeed in this operation, so I turned my eyes towards my father. I suppose I looked rather disheartened , because he began to laugh so loudly, followed in turn by my brothers, and I realized that he had played a joke on me.
Mommy, Adelina, was a high, big woman, dark, sturdy, born in Pastene, an outlying village next to Benevento. She got married at the age of 24, after a dutiful request for engagement made by my father to my grand-father Anthony .
I remember my father often reproaching my mother, owing to her simple-mindedness; he said her, that she was “ gnocca gnocca” (obviously, the meaning is different from the present one used here in Bologna !).
Grand-father ? I never knew him. My father told he was a gigantic man emigrated to Argentina, when he was young: there he made a bull go down by taking him by the two horns. He was a very tall man and…, funny thing, he continued to grow even after death: whenever they were reminding us of him, they were increasing his height by five centimeters at least! The last time we spoke of him, he had already reached 2 meters and 10 centimeters.
In the war time, during the German occupation, the Nazis had mounted an encampment , a few hundreds of meters from our house in Benevento. Once, my mother accompanied my elder brothers Antonio, Pina, Saverio and Carmine to the encampment. There had been heard, they were searching for children, who had stolen provisions . She was willing to prove, by her deed, that her children had nothing to do therewith. She introduced herself to the Germans and tried to explain her reasons, but one among them inveighing in German language, threw himself towards her and my brothers, trying to hit them. Luckily, in that instant, another soldier took out his pistol and in a resolute manner pointed it at his comrade, who, afraid, calmed down.. Then, with a quick signal of his arm and saying “raus, raus” he let my terrorized dear ones go away.
I always considered that unknown soldier as a true hero. Perhaps, through those fair-headed and blue-eyes children he had remembered his own children may-be waiting for him in Germany.
Daddy was a royalist, and becoming an adult , I asked him for the reason why. He answered, that as a volunteer in the carabineers he had sworn loyalty to the King, and never he would have failed to keep this pact.
He had surely got a shock, when Monarchists joined with MSI (Movimento Sociale Italiano): he never forgave the Fascists for their having declared war. He anyway told, that lots of good deeds were to be attributed to Mussolini, but Liberty is the most important thing anyway.
He was at any rate a democrat, teaching us that we are to be able to listen to anybody.
I remember that, when I still was a very little boy, I asked him for permission, to go to the “Festa dell’Unità” , organized at the INA-Village, he replied: “ Why not ?!”.
In order to save money, he made everything by himself for us: he was cutting our hair, repairing our shoes by resoling them. He was able to mend our clothes and also very good in the cooking. He had been living alone for so many years and had become a skilled man in the household.
As to the shoes: my sister Teresa one day gave away the only decent pair of shoes I had against a little dolly, received by one of those persons, who are wandering around on the street , in order to find someone to deceive.
Daddy had seldom shown his feelings and emotions. Hence, I was thinking he didn’t care a hang about us. Then, as an adult, I realized, he was only an utmost reserved man. Once, I made my parents become irritated. A ‘68 years climate was already being perceived in the air and all of us, the boys, like a wide part of the youngsters, were supporters of the Extreme Left.
One day, sitting on the wooden arm-chair, in the dining-room, I was reading a book about the Chinese Revolution. As my mother saw those illustrations full of red flags, and the closed fists, she asked me what I was reading. I , fanatical, replied with a Mao’s phrase: “Revolution is no gala-dinner! “ She looked at me, in the eyes, then turned puzzled to my father, who was sitting at the blackglass-table in the middle of the room, and said: “ Giovà , ma chisto che sta dicenno?” (Giovanni, but what is this one saying ?) Daddy, deep in the araldics, as usually (he couldn’t understand how that ancestor of the XVIII Jh,could have got a son, when he was 8 years old), lifted his eyes for a while, had a glance at my book big like an atlas, and shaked his head. Then, he came back deep in his reading again.
Daddy was often telling stories about his infantry and youth. He spoke above all of his brothers, who were eight, males and females. He told that at the age of 8 years, he was very big and everybody called him “ Giovannone” (Big John), later on , the envious men had put a curse on him, so that he had been stopped in his growth. He remained 1 meter and sixty-eight and a half (1,685) . That half had been always pronounced in a higher voice tone, as if it were determining his height.
He was telling us about continuous challenges between the boys, in order to determine the one , who was the strongest.
As he was a very modest man , he continuously made challenges and of course, he won all of them. Once he challenged the boy considered as the sturdiest one, a little boy, but with unbelievable strength. Daddy was telling us that he could even raise one hundredweight of corn and load it onto his shoulders without any effort. The boy accepted the duel : the one , who could put his opponent with his back on the ground, would have been the winner. Of course, the epic encounter had been won by my father, and the small boy, feeling humiliated before all the boys in the village , went away menacing and telling, that he would have made him pay for this, sooner or later.
At this point in time, there intervened my father’s brother, Arminio (the third male in our family), who didn’t fear anything at all, and at the age of 14 was already being known as an harsh character. One evening, he waited for that fellow in the dark , suddenly jumped in front of him, pointed him a knife to the throat and told :” what are you telling? What do you want to do to Giovanni ? Don’t even try to twist him an hair !…. I’ll pass you through from one side to the other with this thing !”
The terrified boy went away, and, since then, he gave up with his threats.
This story had been told to us at least one hundred times.
Another brother, the second one, called Sabato (meaning saturday. By the way, the true name of Arminio was Domenico = Sunday), nickname Sabatiello, was thin, with hooked nose , but a very likeable person, always joking. Moreover, he had a skill, really unique, in communicating with animals.
I remember he had an Alsatian dog, that he called Lupo (Wolf). When he went to Benevento on holidays, we saw really unbelievable scenes: my uncle approached it and whispered: Lupo, bring me my shoes, those near the fireplace in the old house ( my grand-parents’ one, which had been razed by the earthquake) and the dog was leaving and coming back in a few minutes carrying the shoes in his mouth.
Or even: “Lupo, I don’t see Ngiulina (his wife) .Go and see where she is, and bring her to me.” And Wolf went and came back dragging my aunt along by a sleeve. One day the scene had been really overwhelming: my uncle’s cat had born kitten and given them some milk. Once finished, the kitten started to creep out of the basket, and escaped everywhere. Uncle went near to the dog and told “ Lupo, all the kitten are escaping, go and catch them!”. The dog went and caught the kitten by their top and arranged them again inside the basket, but as he was putting one therein, others escaped. It was going on like this for a long time, with all the people watching and laughing.
Daddy told that, when they were young, on coming back from the Sunday Mass, a group of tall and sturdy boys began to make fun of uncle Sabatiello and he was to keep quiet , as they all were a lot and bigger than him.
This story had been going on for a long time until uncle reached his patience limit. One evening he set out for the usual way and on the road edges remarked some stokes put by the farmer into the ground. He extracted one of them and repositioned it back in its hole, but without inserting it. The day after, the boys started to deride him as usually, and he went on his way, by keeping silent. Then, on arriving near the stake, he suddenly sprung, pulled it out and started hitting on them right and left and shouting: “ Strunzi, pigliateve a cheste!” ( You shits, do get these!), so that they all fled away in a sorry state, and, since then, they left him in peace.
Mommy was always in a very good mood and continuously singing , even when she began feeling heart-disease and problems with age ailments. As soon as she felt a little better, she started to sing with her melodious voice. Above all, she started to sing Neapolitan songs; I remember “ O’ sole mio…” and many others. She turned serious only when Daddy made jealously scenes, such as: “ where have you been ?” or “ Why do you look at that one ?” and so on.
In the free-time instants, stolen from such a demanding and numerous family, mommy set to reading Grand Hotel and above all the love serial stories published by weekly installments by the magazine.
I was reading the strip of “ Pippinella la sbruffoncella” , as this was the nickname of one of my sisters.
She bought also the weekly installments with the history of Giuliano, the bandit , but, whatever the romantic situation could be, she was upset. She was sitting on a chair next to the window, with the magazine in the hand, and I often saw her with tears in the eyes.
She had never attended a school, but, in spite of this, thanks to a relative, who had given her some lessons at home, she had learnt reading and writing. She was very intelligent and also cultured enough, she was much more modern minded than my father, notwithstanding she had never left the country place where she had been born.
Old Aunt Arcangela, my mother’s elder sister ( a few years ago we paid a visit to her, who is already over 90 years), is very fond of plants and flowers. When I asked the reason for this – she was keeping about a hundred flowers and plants in the courtyard - she told me, that when they were young, her mother, her sisters and she herself had at disposal a tiny piece of land. It was a gift from grandfather Antonio and they all competed with each other in getting the most beautiful flowers or plants.
Mommy too, on the little balcony in the Bologna flat, was taking care of a large number of plants with great love, a passion inherited by me too.
Once I went to the mountains in spring and took plants with little blue flowers, that I had sown in a long cement container on my house balcony. My elder sister thought they were garlic plants ( she had sown those too), made a nice egg omelet, pleasant to the taste, and ate it. Two days later, as I remarked, that the plants were no longer there and asked ,who could have pulled these out, my sister went running to the bathroom, even if she had already digested them since a pretty long time.
I still remember the weariness of my mother, as she came home after having done the shopping with the big bags so full of food! every day there were two kilos of bread, and vegetables, eggs, cheese or meat, detergents and many other things. She arrived gasping for breath after climbing the flight of stairs up to the fifth floor.
She had been weeping for a long time on seeing the shopkeeper, who had sold cheese or salami to her, killed by an heart-attack, dead on the street, after he had been trying to remove snow from the deck of the small hut, where he was working: she was thinking about his deaf-mute son, who had become an orphan.
I remember, that a few months since we were living in Bologna, my mother’s tummy started growing more and more: she was already 44 years old, with many white hairs. She often prayed, probably for the child she had in her lap. Then, one night in January 1955 , I saw a woman arriving , they told me, she was the midwife; that woman went to the room, where my relatives were waiting, and after a few instants, my father was to go out, and wait together with us, the children.
We all were worried. I knew that a boy was to be born, but I didn’t know how. In my house , at that time, there were a lot of taboos: someone spoke of births under the cabbages, others of storks, whereas in Southern Italy they were telling it was due to broad beans. After a very short time, we heard a little baby crying: the midwife called my father, who very soon after came back to us and smiling told: “It’s a female”. Then, all of us came into the room, slowly. When it was my turn, I remained gasping at that very little child : I couldn’t explain to myself, where she had been arrived from.
I didn’t see any cabbage, neither broad beans, nor storks nearby. Pia, so they called my sister, became fair-headed, very light ( she always kept long hair) and her eyes were and are heavy blue, like the sky in the spring, the same eyes as my daughter, Elisa. She became soon the “ very Darling of Daddy”, who was always telling her, that she would marry a prince. Pia often fell asleep on the home arm-chair , and I still remember, when she, fast asleep, was moving towards the bedroom, and my sister Teresa, a great joker, told her : “Pia, Pia, escape ! run away!, there is an ant bone !”, and she terrified fled into mommy’s arms, in the kitchen.
In the South women give birth to children on standing up, and so I was born, me too.
After the labor pains , the midwife let mommy be standing, leaning against the chest of drawers. I was born “by the feet”, and ,as my Mother and my sisters were saying, when I had, rarely, a strike of luck, “ with a silver spoon in the mouth”.
When I was about 8 years old, there happened something that I remember as one of the most beautiful and touching in my entire life. That evening, I was being particularly anxious, also because at home there were never missing my father’s tales about ghosts or spirits, 2-headed children, big men bearing big pans on the shoulders, who might be devils going to encounter my father and asking him what he desired in exchange for his soul. According to him, he had always had these types of encounters, when he was coming back to Cesine in the night, being on leave as a carabineer.
I approached to my parents’ room, silent: I looked for encouragement by my mother, as I desired to lay in her bed for some time.
I opened the door slowly, and saw my mother keeping in her arms my little sister, who had got a very high fever, shivered in the whole body, and was saying disjointed phrases .As mommy heard the door being opened, she turned towards the door and clasped my sister with strength to her breast, as to protect her in a gaze full of fear and challenge too. As soon as she saw, it was just question of me, she relaxed and fondled her. I never asked the reason for this, but I understood it, anyway: she had thought, that the door had been opened by the Death, coming and taking away her youngest child. That bold glance, full of challenge, is one of the most beautiful and truthful memories in my life, and this let me understand the greatness of women and the insuperable love they feel for their children.
There was a really inexplicable fact concerning my mother.
When I was a child and I was being ill, mommy was able to let pains disappear, above all headache. I remember that , as necessary, she slipped off her wedding ring and keeping it in her fingers, made a cross sign on my forehead, started to move her hands on the points, where I was feeling pain, and in the meantime she was saying a prayer. From time to time she moved her hands, as to catch something with the fingers, then made a gesture, as to let my headache be eliminated, inexplicably. After a few minutes only, pains ceased. Now they are speaking of pranotherapeutics, and my mother was probably already carrying it out with methods,which have been handed down since so many generations. I have this quality too, myself, and can sometimes with the warmth of my hands, make pain vanish. Once, I made a very big trouble and mommy got very angry. I was about 8 years old and one day, as I was going to school, skirting the edge at the right of via Pontida (this street too was fully with southerners) I saw an egg hidden between two branches. Curious, I took it and realized,that it was solid, so I put it in my pocket: it looked like an usual chicken egg. But, thanks to my imagination, always exaggerated, I thought it could be of hawk, eagle, or any other mysterious bird.
I put it into my shorts pocket, and went to school again. On the way, I was thinking, how I could let that young chicken be born. Then, arrived in the classroom I sat down and waited for the favorable moment (never arriving) , to show my discovery to my schoolmates.
At last lunch time arrived, whilst we were going to refectory I told to all my friends, that after lunch I should have shown that mysterious egg found along the street. We sat down, and at once, after a sudden movement, the egg broke in my pocket, and a nauseating smell scattered all over the eating-room. The teacher made all children stand-up (they were about a hundred), and asked them, who had brought about that terrible stink. Nobody mentioned me, but all the glances were focused on me. They accompanied me to the Direction, and the Headmaster before all the teachers, started a third-degree interrogation: where had I got it? Who had given it to me ?..and so on.
I didn’t even know, what I could answer, and, being irritated by all those eyes gazing at me, I replied the first thing passing through my mind, that is to say, I had taken the egg under the wood stove…The school-keeper, big and fat ( I don’t know why, but they all are gigantic) took me by an ear and carried me home: I had been suspended from school for 3 days., After opening the door and learning, what I had told and done, heavily embarrassed mommy said: “ But what are you telling?” She took a broom in her hands and went sweeping under the oven, to show the school-keeper, that nothing at all was to be found there.
As my father got up from bed and knew what had happened, he slipped off his belt and began to beat me, so much, and so much, with a real pleasure. People were already saying, that we, the Southerners, are dirty, without any will to work (the same is being told about non-european nationals), and that we are putting fishes and plants in the bath-tub.
It was just missing the voice, that we were keeping the eggs under the oven, to let us be hatched: so we should have been definitely settled!.
When we were children, my sister Teresa and I had marvelous curly hair, that mommy carefully arranged.
One day, being fed up with this daily torture, we closed ourselves in our room. Daddy and the others were still sitting at table, as mommy gave us, the youngest children, the priority with a pair of big scissors taken from the chest-drawer of my parents. We slowly began to cut the hair (as usually, the idea had come from Teresa): the operation went on until we didn’t find a hair on our head anymore, not even a lock of hair. Then, in order to show what we had done, we concealed under the bed the cut hair after wrapping it in a newspaper and went with great self-assurance to the kitchen, being persuaded that nobody could discover anything.
As we joined the others, there was the deepest silence, then, a burst of laugh from everybody, and mommy was desperate, as she couldn’t curl Teresa’s hair, nor arrange the “sausage curl” with my hair.
Mommy was often telling me an episode happened in Cesine to my regard. One day, whilst the laborers were passing on , coming back from work, I ran out of the house in martial step and marched fully naked, bearing on my head what people in Benevento call “pisciatutto” (chamber-pot) and in Bologna “al ves da not” .
In May, we were starting to recite the evening rosaries. Mommy, kneeled down near to a chair, and we all around her in a circle, on our kneels too.
She started with those words, that we were to repeat together with her: “ Aggio murì, aggio passà a valle di Giosufat” ( I am to die, I am to pass the Jourdan valley) or through something similar, but for sure, anyway, I remember I was to die. These rosaries were being repeated for many evenings and they seemed to me endless and extremely boring. We never succeeded in persuading her, to let us free from participating. In any case, if anyone of us was missing, she was pouting for a long time.
My mother’s family, after my grandfather’s Antonio’s death had become Protestant.
My cousins, from mother’s side, who are still living in southern Italy, had all been baptized in the river flowing beside their houses, as they reached the adult age, and in their houses they had gigantic photos, covered by clothes, showing my mother’s sisters dead still young.
From time to time, mommy was losing her patience, and, looking serious, she was saying “ You have really irritated me, I’ll let angels come and take me away “ . Then, she opened the door of our flat and went upstairs, up to the collective laundry, went up a further flight of steps, reaching the building roof; we, the youngest babies, desperate, ran after her, begging her to remain with us. After some supplications, we persuaded her and she leant on the banisters on the building top looking at the panorama: from up there Bologna was utmost beautiful.
When I was about seven, eight years old, I was always going around in the house, naked, and my mother was always telling me, that I was not allowed to, as it was not decent. One day, she repeated what she had already told hundreds of times to me, that is to say that I was to dress, but I turned a deaf ear.
Then, in a serious attitude, she told me that, had I not got dressed, she would have cut “it” off. I smiled and thought : “ let us imagine, whether she is able to dare it !” , but she took the scissors and my little penis, and came nearer, letting me slightly feel the pressure of the blades ( and it was somewhat painful), then looked at me, in the eyes, still with my “thing” in her hand, and asked: “ have I to go on ?”. I looked at her and, shaking my head, I decided to get dressed: from that day on, I didn’t go naked around in the house any more.
We realized, how much essential mommy was, only when, in a winter morning, coming back home from shopping, she slided on ice and broke a leg bone. She was taken to Istituto Ortopedico Rizzoli and plastered, so that she was obliged to lie immobilized in bed for 15 days. We all had to take care of the household. I had to go and fetch the coal from the cellar, empty the sweepings can and lay the table. At home, we were constantly quarreling “ I do more !” “You are doing nothing. I have already cleared table away”. “ I have made beds”.
Just pretty the same as what my children, Elisa and Lorenzo, are doing now. Luckily, mommy recovered soon. Once, she obliged my father , very reluctant, to undergo an injection; it was extremely simple and normal, in her opinion, with all those children in the house; to me too, she had made so many injections, even if they had to seize me from underneath the bed. My father made her explain, how he should have had to behave and pierced her backside, whilst she was screaming high, as he had understood, that also the gold-plated socket securing the needle was to be inserted.
Hence, the injection caused an infection, and my mother had to be operated, to remove the abscess.
Whenever my parents were going to Benevento, they always went buying a pork as in the old times. Mommy had a special relationship with plants, and animals. I tenderly remember one day, when I was on the window looking at the back of the house, where there was the pen enclosing the pork. She called it “Ciccò, Ciccò!” . And it came toddling to mommy, who caressed it on the head, until it fully satisfied went away, always toddling. She told that once she had been utmost frightened . she had left my eldest brother Saverio (only a few months of age) leaning against a tree, in the shadow, on the fields, as she saw the pork coming near to the baby with the mouth already wide open, to guzzle him! She just had time to scream, ran towards my brother and caught him, thus escaping the danger.
Mommy had always been persuaded, that she would have passed a well-off old age, peaceful and healthy, exactly as a gipsy had predicted , when she was a young girl. Unfortunately, she died one morning in April, when , far away from her children, and surely without great money possibilities , she was staying with my father, in their Benevento house.
Already at that time, Bologna enjoyed a first-class social welfare. I remember that, in the early Fifties there were in the Village the elementary schools, the nursery school and the crèche. The elementary school was a modern one, and had a refectory, where they served very good meals. Once a week, there came a doctor, to visit the children, and I remember, how much my friend Picciuna was envious, when the doctor was giving me some sweet lumps, probably C-vitamin.
There was also a very modern gym (palestra), treated by the teachers more or less like a newly bought sitting-room: when you have bought a new sitting-room, the armchairs are wrapped in a cloth, to avoid scratching them. The same was for the gym ; the rare times they accompanied us there, the gym tools were all wrapped in cloth, fearing that they could be damaged. And we were continuously hearing “Caution here! “ “Don’t touch there!” “Admire, but do not touch!”. Unique deficiency: no grease applied on the wooden poles .But, apart from this, everything was in a perfect preservation condition.
When I was attending the primary school, the only subjects I was liking were geography, history and drawing. I had learnt the names of all the capitals in the world and the respective countries, those of the most important rivers, as well as their length. We, the children, were in competition for the best one among us, able to know everything.
I was really unbeatable in geography, because I was really fond of it.
I remember the teacher Mr.Marchionni, who accompanied me along the Reno riverside to look for evidences of the Stone Age. Now, whenever I see a dig, I cannot avoid going there and seeing whether there is anything coming to the surface : the passion for Archeology lies still deep in my heart.
The school rooms were wide and contained so many children, even 25 each classroom.
There were wooden tables, black painted, on each of them there was a little cavity containing an ink-pot..
From the history I was fond of ancient Greeks, and the Iliad heroes, above all Hector, who, notwithstanding he knew, that he had to fight against an invincible warrior, as Achilles, didn’t hesitate a while in challenging him. I was imagining him fighting against Achilles, with a red-plumed helmet on his head and the pale face suffering from the many blows he had received. In spite of the pain, he continued to struggle. When he fell under the killing thrust, his eyes, in spite of the pain, were still full of challenge. Had I had Achilles in my hands, when he was dragging along Hector’s body under the walls , I should have killed him.
We all attended the “full-time” school and had lunch there. I still remember my fabulous pasta-and-beans and special beef-steak, which perhaps tasted so good, because at home we could eat them so rarely. In the morning, towards nine, they gave us a milk-cup with a bread-roll and jam. I never drank milk owing to my colitis, to avoid having to run to lavatories.
The name of the school-caretaker was Coletti, and I remember her strength was extraordinary . Marcello Milò was always playing with cars in the school hall and drawing with chalk the race path. Once, Ms.Coletti lost her patience and told him to hand over the small car models to her, but he put them in his pockets, so the woman took him by the feet and lifted him half-meter high above the ground: the small cars slid out of his pockets and the school-caretaker could seize them.
Marcello Milò was a child of Calabrese origin, who, was already big and fat at the elementary school: approx. 40 kg of weight. He was telling that his family was of a noble origin and wealthy ( the Milo, precisely), and that some tricksters had added an accent to his family name, in order to rob and deprive him of his noble title and wealth.
To make us be quiet , the Coletti told us, that ,when she was going to the city, she was never confessing to anybody, that she was a school-caretaker at the Village, because she was ashamed of us, who had a bad reputation. As a matter of fact, she loved us very much, and often prepared very tasteful mint-ice lollies for us.
As we become youngsters, she told us about her many good laughs when she was present at the thousands of episodes with us, and how many times she had been obliged to restrain herself in front of us, otherwise we should have got up to a greater mischief.
One day the teacher Santi left on the desk a 500-lire coin, one of those made in silver, just new from the Mint. He came back to the classroom and didn’t find it anymore. He asked us , who had taken it, but nobody took a step forward and he threatened, to call for carabineers. As he realized, that the guilty boy would have never taken it out, he made all of us stand in a row and enter one by one in a room, on saying that the one, who had stolen the coin, was to lie it down on the table, and that no disciplinary action would ever be taken against the guilty, and nobody would know this fact. We all marched past as in a procession, and I entered the room too, as it was not I , who had stolen it. Then, the teacher called the head-boy of the class and told him, that the coin had been given back, and he, who had been standing hidden behind a communicating door, had seen everything done, through the lock hole. We, anyway, could never learn, who the guilty had been.
There was also another teacher called Napoleon, who was fond of arts and let me see for the first time the works of art of Morandi and Picasso, thus transmitting to me the passion for painting and sculpture. These would have been the greatest passions in my life.
The teacher Mrs.Tamari made me always angry, when at Carnival time she always dressed me as a clown: she put a false nose on me, and a cone hat, then, after having disguised me in that manner, she smiled at the result and told me, to reach the others.
Another teacher, Mrs. Tarunchio, whenever we irritated her, was coming nearer to us with the face fully red, and telling “ one I and one the wall, one I and one the wall “ showing her hand in a threatening voice.
The Griffi, a very strict but very skilled woman, always brought tourist place leaflets to us, so we could dream of phantastic travels. As Picciuna told, the Griffi should have had a mirror incorporated somewhere , as she was always catching anyone making a noise, even if she was turned to the blackboard.
The first time I felt in love I was in the third class of the elementary school: the little girl, dark hair cut in the guise of a “page-boy” cut hair , and dark eyes, let my heart really throb. She made me day-dream, as when I was thinking about becoming an explorer and found unknown lands or animals, whose existence nobody knew, or when I imagined me as an archeologist, finding out mysterious civilizations. My heart throbbed as when the teacher let me see for the first time the reproduction of a Morandi’s painting. I couldn’t speak to the little girl with the ”page-boy cut hair , whenever I was seeing her arriving. I could only bow my head down and become red as a beetroot. Of course, she didn’t know anything about my feelings, but I , in my fancy, imagined to kiss her lips, precisely as in the illustrations on the magazine “Grand Hotel”. She had a splendid name, who should have become very important to me, the same as the one of the girl who became my wife later on: Floriana.
Recently I have met her, by chance. I had not been meeting her for some decades, and she didn’t even recognize me. So I introduced myself and told her who I was. She said: “Mo’ ve’! come sei cambiato!” (just look! You have changed a lot!).
Roberto, Bolognese, was my school desk-fellow, always very clean and tidy, wearing the black child’s overall with a white collar and light-blue bow in a very impeccable manner. As he finished the third form in the elementary school, he left Bologna to live out. I met him the year after during a football match of the national team at the Stadium, as all the school-children could enter there free of charge. He supported Gaul, the cyclist , and the Juventus team. I had always had a strong yearning for Roberto: he possessed all the characteristics and virtues, which a child like me is aiming at.
Many boys among us had found it enormously difficult to get accustomed to, and to express themselves in Italian language.
Also in my classroom there were children, who were 2 or 3 years my elder.
Every summer, free of charge, we were given lodging in a children’s holiday camp at the seaside or in the mountains, according to the doctor’s advice. On these places they called me “the merchant”, as I was able to multiply the comics.
I had left with only a few copies and come back home with an enormous pile of Mickey Mouse’s comics., Mandrake , Tex, Capitan Miki, and many others. My preferred character was Donald Duck, always unlucky and everlastingly a victim of the rich uncle, Paperon de’ Paperoni.
In the summer months we often went to the “sun fields” , where we were playing all the day long. It was an habit there, to organize sport matches and I resulted among the first ones.
One day a teacher organized an endurance trial, and we were about thirty boys competing. We ought to run alongside the whole perimeter of the school court-yard.
Run after run, all the boys began to withdraw and after about half-an-hour there remained Alceste , a boy from the Village, who had a very prodigious constitution and was excellent in all the sport activities….and I, who absolutely didn’t accept to give up.
I should have preferred to die. After the teenth lap , I was about to stump to the ground owing to the fatigue, when I saw Alceste leaving the field! Hence, I concluded the match as a winner. When I stopped, my schoolmate told me, that my face had changed color, from red I grew very pale, but I was so satisfied that, after a few minutes, I recovered and could enjoy my triumph.
As above told, my family was humble, my parents had no money to buy the things, that every boy would like to get. Once, Di Saggio, a Bolognese boy , about ten years my elder, was going home by feet and eating an ice with great relish. On remarking the expression I had when looking at the ice cone, he gazed at me intensely and then, without saying a word, offered it to me. I refused, as I was very proud, but that action remained in my heart as an example of goodness and generosity. We attended an ice-cream shop, which now has changed name and owner, but is still located at the beginning of the village in front of the Emilia street . There was the pin-table, where some boys, a few years my elder, were playing endless matches. Since then, they were already selling the packaged ice lollies, and in case you had had luck on finding the writing “ premium” on the little sticks, this would have given you the right to get a further icicle free of charge. I rarely had the money to buy it and for this reason I was searching for a little stick in the grass of the meadow in front of the ice-cream shop, hoping that somebody had thrown it away inadvertently.
Sometimes I had luck and ran to Mr.Mazzoni to get another icicle. He looked at me with a smile, with an accomplice expression on his face, as to say: “attention, I know you have found it but I will give it all the same to you. “
When I had a little money, I went there and bought an ice-cream called “Cri-Cri”, that is to say a cone filled with cream and covered with chocolate, really delicious.
That very day in 1957 was particularly exciting: euphoria contaminated all the people, and anyone I met was speaking about that fact: for the first time in the mankind history a rocket, the Sputnik, from the Soviet Union, had been launched into the space ! Some people enthusiast and some worried: for the Communists that happening meant Socialism superiority and emphasized the welfare in Soviet Union, no rich people, but not even poor, the workers’ sons could learn without paying anything and everybody get his own house free of charge. The American should have worried about that rocket, as they had no means able to stop it, and could be bombed at any moment. That very day all the people were walking with the nose upwards, some faces were worried, as if that “thing” could precipitate on them suddenly.
I couldn’t understand whether it was good or bad, that it passed above us.
When I went home, I asked my father for his opinion, I asked whether Russians were really a well-living people, and why we could not behave and live as they did. Daddy answered: - “ There is no freedom there, there is a dictatorship, like the one we had here with the fascists” – and added – “ Here we are, that’s all it needed: that thing passing above our heads ! “ Daddy was a good and honest man, and I believed him , but also my friends’ parents were honest people, and hence, my ideas became more confused than before.
That evening had been unbelievable! Many and many people gathered before the tavern behind Normandia street, because they were telling, that there could be seen in a while the Sputnik passing in the sky. We all kept the eyes staring at the starry sky.
While waiting, a group of boys had brought a big bottle of wine. They were all sitting in a circle on the floor, playing the “conta” (count), a kind of game with a stone. They were singing a nursery rhyme, I have never heard anymore: “ e lu le là, che aspeta su mugliera e la barbera…” ( and he is there, waiting for his wife and barbera wine..) they sang altogether, and quickly passed over the stone, from one to another. Who remained with the stone in the hand, was to drink a glass of wine. I remember, that one in five rounds had been obliged to drink four times, and was continuously laughing.
From time to time we heard someone crying out: “ here it is!”. We all stopped and stared at the starlit sky, but it was always question of false alarms, and no trace of the rocket. About at 10.30 people set on going home and we took our way,slowly, we too.
I arrived so late that my father was waiting for me on the door threshold: “ where have you been ?” And I: “ to see Sputnik passing”. He kicked my ash, and told me: “ Toh’ o’ Sputnik “ ( take this Sputnik!), whilst he pointed with the forefinger at the bedroom.
For us , the Southerners ,winter in Bologna was very cold .In our flat we had no methane heating in the first years and we warmed up by means of an old wood stove in the kitchen, in one of those white enameled stoves with a cast-iron plane. Every day we went from the fifth plane down to the cellar to take up coal and wood; the garments were dried up on a bearing made from several horizontal rods connected to the exhaust pipe.
We were so many that those poor iron rods every day bore several kilos of things: in the rooms the situation was tragic, blankets were never enough, and often, in times particularly cold , we put on the beds even overcoats to warm us up.
In winter ’57 snow had been a lot and abundant. In the fields next to the little market the snow reached my knees.
From the wooden tavern up to the Village boundaries ,there were ice-stalactites falling down from the roof and the ditch nearby was completely covered with ice, so that we could skate thereon with our shoes.
The Village had been filled up with little circular forts with walls one meter high, and we, the children, were always engaged in battles with snow balls. One day in the afternoon, the battle became particularly bitter. The little fort of Picciuna and of Raphael , located in via Pontida, on the left of No 17 ,via del Carroccio, had already been taken by assault from those of via Normandia. Their gang counted so many people ,also elder boys, like many Gullivers; we had prepared an enormous reserve of snow balls awaiting the assault expected in the early afternoon. As allied we had the boys of the seventeen, and also those of the fifteen and of via Pontida two, four, and six: we were about twenty altogether and anxiously awaiting the incumbent attack , we felt ourselves like the Fort Alamo besieged, as time was more and more elapsing and the enemy was not to be seen, we became more and more nervous. Darkness was already falling and we thought that our informers had told lies to us , but, suddenly, from via Pontida there appeared our enemies running with carnival masks on the face and wooden shields to protect themselves. They approached us running and screaming and dozens of snowballs were striking us: I was hit many times and those arriving against my nope broke for the knock sliding along my neck, this happened when I bent to take up munitions for those able to have the strongest throw , I was shivering in the whole body but I felt like David Crocket. In a very short time we finished all the munitions and were completely in the enemy’s hands, who told us to surrender ,but we refused,,. stout! Whilst a number of them was continuing to shoot , the other came nearer, running towards the small fort and started on hitting it with kicks, until it was fully destroyed. Once the work completed the enemy retired victorious to his territories. I remember that the evening was terrible , my feet being wet had caused some troublesome foot chilblains .
Furmaien (Formaggino) was the nickname we had given (owing to his family name) to a child living a few buildings far away from us. He was small with black complexion, and his family had just returned from Belgium. For some time he was being our assiduous mate , then, later on, as it often happens for the children, he began to attend boys in another area. I remember him, above all, as he was grandson of an old man , who was selling “brustolini”, those pumpkin pips that are so loved by children and adults too.
He often arrived with a gray paper bag, which in the old times contained bread, full of these delicious things, and in the endless evenings we passed before our house chattering of nothing, we spread peels (sheels) all over the little wall and the route nearby. Often, we were seeing the grandfather of “ Furmaien “ leaving with a small wooden container full of these seeds, and, once, when we were attending a cycle run, we saw him passing through the crowd and selling his specialties.
Alberto was a child original from the Venetia Region , whose head was always bent in a gauze and could hardly speak and walk with great fatigue. Suddenly we didn’t see him anymore: he died owing to an incurable illness.
Gianni Gadoni was always laughing and was really nice. Whenever we met my greeting was : “ Mannaggia a chi te’ muorto”. And he,a native from Emilia , answered: “E a chi te’ stramuorto!”.
When I was a child and then a boy, every time I came back to Southern Italy I became anxious to find “a grottecella”, a mythical cave that in the XIX century some bandits had used as their haunt; it was a fixation to me! It should have been in my father’s land , of sure, as this was the name of the place where it was located. According to my father, who had a fantasy even more unbridled than I had, in that cave suddenly sunk there should have been the things from all the raids the bandits had made , hence also enormous treasures. Of course, we never could find that cave, but I admit I tried to find it even when I was an adult already, with a special metal detector, but in vain! In my opinion, the cave is still there, waiting that I discover it, I feel sure, and , in any case, I like thinking so.
From my first life years in the south I have only a few, indefinite remembrances. I remember my brother Dante, who together with our cousin, stole the peanuts from the trees of uncle Caporale (grandfather Saverio’s brother . We started to call him this way because ,when he was a little child, he always had mucus out of the nose, and to wipe it off, he passed his sleeve on the nose, thus leaving traces (we said “the degrees”) thereon.
I remember Daddy after coming back home on leave, he was keeping my youngest sister on his arms , thus my envy broke out , or when he took me and my brothers to a fair in Saint John’s festivity in a village nearby. And moreover, I remember my brother Saverio, who, in winter, put the bread crumbs under a wooden plate, tied with a rope and as the poor sparrows came, he loosed the rope to catch them.
I also remember when they killed the pork and we, the children, were weeping as the animal was shrieking for the pain, but later on we had a great feast when eating the pork’s meat.
And more: I remember when we celebrated a festivity ( I don’t remember which) at aunt Arcangela’s and I ate so many cakes that I felt ill and vomited a long time.
Even here, in Bologna, we maintained for a long time the traditions of southern Italy : we had to eat seven things , among which : boiled chestnuts with laurel, and traditional cakes from the South, as the “zeppola” ,which is a kind of pasta, worked I don’t know how, plunged into boiling oil, and could be sweet or salted : the sweet one was covered with sugar whereas the salted one had an anchovy bit inside. Many times, after my Mother’s death, I wished to taste again these specialties, but unsuccessfully. Another delicious food was the “pastiera”, which was to be cooked in a special pan for doughnuts and then filled with any kind of meat.
The eve’s evening we all sat around the table and, after reciting a prier, started the supper , which continued many hours : on the Christmas day, we played “Tombola”.
In the Village school we were making the Crib. We , the children, went in the afternoon to take the musk growing in the pitches around the school: the teacher asked each of us to bring in the classroom a specialty from the respective birth-place, we were to specify its name and the ingredients used.
The New Year’s first day was really a special one: we , the boys , went door-to-door to wish a Good
Year and could get a good money hoard this way. Usually we subdivided us into several groups,
each consisting of two boys , with a respective area assigned , and were going up and down the
staircase landing for all the morning until we had lost our strength . Milò had a sister, who probably
was already tasting in advance the incoming feminist wave, which was on the point of invading the
squares and wondered the reason why the girls were not allowed to go door to door for wishing,
but, on the contrary, a girl’s visit on New Year’s day would bring about a bad luck.
Once she disguised as a little boy and went for New year’s wishes in a zone, where she was fully unknown. For a certain time in the morning it had been good for her , but then, she happened to ring the bell of a flat where a lady lived, who recognized her and followed her furiously down the whole staircase , covering her with a lot of heavily shameful insults.
Here in Bologna in fact , they are persuaded, that in case the first person you have met on the New Year’s day is a male you shall pass a lucky Year, otherwise, if it is a female , you shall meet mishaps the whole year long.
The Old Fairy was a deeply felt and beloved feast also because it was one of the rare occasions in which we could get gifts; the first of this kind I could celebrate was in my native village. My brother Dante asked Mommy, whether the Old fairy would have brought something to us, that evening .Upon her positive answer, we all went to bed.
Dante,Carmine and I waited anxiously for the arrival of that woman carrying her gifts on a donkey (“no ciuccio”) .She was told to be old and ugly , “co ‘no naso a runcillo” with the nose like a pruning knife (a tool used to cut the wooden logs), and hump-backed too!
For sure the thought about that ugly old woman ,who could reach us in our rooms, while we were asleep, was not calming us down.
The big bed, very high , was filled with maize leaves and even by the faintest movement the noise brought about was very high , a continuous and very troublesome crac-crac-crac. Hopefully the Old Fairy was not to think that I was awake ,otherwise how would she have reacted? We were so frightened, that not even the mattresses made the lowest noise. A dark and indistinct shadow came nearer to us , who could not even breathe , for the fear; after a few steps the shadow changed its direction, towards the chest of drawers beside the bed., in that zone the light filtering from outside made everything clearer, so that the figure was becoming more and more familiar: it was Daddy, who on toe tips was lifting up the hat on the chest of drawers and put something thereunder. I was astonished : what had my father to do with the Old Fairy ?
The morning after we woke up and found under the hat three fabulous colored “lecca-lecca” (lollipops) and some typical sweeties from Benevento . My brother Dante, who was younger than me, told me not to speak a word with anyone, otherwise we would have not received any gift the next year
In Bologna, the gifts from the Old Fairy were very beautiful as on that occasion the children of subordinates employed in the State received nice gifts from the latter: I remember a wonderful wooden scooter “ monopattino” with two wheels and a one-meter high handle-bar; between the two red-colored wheels, diameter about 15 cm, there was a plate . One foot could rest on this plate and the other was used to push, to get higher and higher speed.: I remember that I competed with my friends and I amused myself a lot on bending at full speed. Another gift I remember with pleasure was a very nice wooden Pinocchio, about 1 meter high, with a red hood, the green jacket and that very famous nose.
As soon as in Bologna I met with a child native from Puglia, who would have become the most present friend in my childhood.: the premises had not been the best ones, in fact, soon after becoming acquainted we quarreled.
At that time the whole INA-CASA-Village was a building yard and there were building materials everywhere, so that, while pushing one another we fell into the plaster and came back home fully white. Picciuna, this was the nickname of my new friend, is the most genuine person I ever met in my life. He was native from Brindisi and the third son in a very numerous family. His true name was Giovanni and the nickname had been given to him a day when we, the boys, were wondering how “that thing of the women “ had been called in our respective birth-places ( after a short time we knew all the foul talk from the different native places) , and he told that in his village it was called “picciuna”. We all had burst in a laugh, and from that day on Giovanni has always kept that nickname.
We both had been born in the same year and we passed infantry and youth together,sharing a lot of adventures. His ability in foreseeing the weather was extraordinary : with the arms on his flanks he started to gaze at the sky: at first he looked at the left, then at the right, turned his head backwards, then forwards. Then he kept silent for one minute and staring with fixed eyes at an indefinite point in the sky.
We all waited anxiously for his verdict : “Tomorrow it will be raining” he told, even if the evening was very nice, the day after it rained, inevitably.
“Tomorrow it will be cloudy” and he stroke it. Or even, there was a tempest and he told : “it will cease in a short time and the sun will be shining” and still he did not fail.
They are telling me that at present too , his wife asks for his advice ,whenever she has to lay out the washed laundry in the balcony . Another among his particular skills was his making all his bones creak: at first one finger, then the other, then a wrist and an elbow, and then a shoulder and a knee, and so with all the body bones.
He was a really candid boy, once we decided altogether to let him believe that the lines on the globe were really existing , the meridians and the equator were deep furrows, of ten meter depth and five meter width.
We suggested him to go and look for them as some are just passing near Bologna. When, later on, we pulled him by the leg for this reason, he reacted by saying : “ And Gavino, then ?”- (he was a child of Sardinian origin , living near to me, whose grandfather always called me “Caroleddu”)- “ who had believed that it should be sufficient to change the pick-up point in the disk-player to hear the songs in English or in French language ?”.
Once, in the third class of the primary school, he bet a kilo of “wild plums” (that we liked very much) with the farmer’s son Marozzi, living in front of via Emilia.
Picciuna ought to hide himself the whole morning inside the cupboard in the school classroom. Nobody knew anything ,not even I , and the teacher, not having seen him again, thought that he had run away.
They sought him a long time all the Village around and, as he finally came out of the cupboard , he looked as if he had done the most natural thing in the world.
As Picciuna started to work as upholsterer in Casalecchio di Reno, they made an heavy joke on him. The upholsterer was at the ground floor and to go to the bathroom they had to go upstairs to the third floor; in the middle floor there was a craftsman making coffins and the staircase connecting the floors was dark and silent.
They all , owner included, agreed on the joke, and as he went to the bathroom , they disconnected the light main switch. He remained in the deepest darkness and was obliged to go downstairs gropingly and touching all those coffins. They told that the craftsman making the coffins , to have a rest in the noon pause, used to lay inside one of them and ,really, had made one to his size and kept it ready under his bed at home, affirming that “in any case, we all are to die”.
When we were already adolescent , Picciuna, for a certain time , was seeing a girl employed at a laundry on the opposite side of Bologna.
With the girls he was insolent, so that, when we proposed her to play a joke on him, she accepted enthusiastically : she should have told him that she didn’t feel well hence, she had undergone medical analyses and therefrom ascertained she had got syphilis ,a very serious venereal illness.
Peppino, a boy native from the Benevento province, exactly from Montesarchio, (when Mommy was getting angry she exclaimed “Mannaggia a Montesarchio con tutte e pignatte!” because that village was just so famous owing to the pans), Peppino and I, were present, laughing, at the talk between Picciuna and this girl and saw that Picciuna was becoming more and more serious, as the conversation was going on.
Then we all went home and , pretending not to know the reason for his bad mood, asked for an explanation , and after a long insistence he told, at first “ that bloody fool girl “ then he narrated everything. The joke became even heavier, when we involved also Umberto, the boyfriend of my sister Teresa, who later on became my brother-in-law. Picciuna knew him vaguely , so that Peppino and I could tell him that he was a medicine student and could help him , but of course avoiding to tell something to his family. In the meantime Picciuna had gone through the usual medical encyclopedia that he consulted for any little illness and started already to feel all the symptoms of that horrible illness (in fact, the “victim” was a little pathofobic). My brother-in-law called him apart, and with a serious and professional behaviour, as a real doctor, let him describe all the symptoms he felt, and said that it was, undoubtedly, a syphilis; he said also that in any case to withstand it, one is to drink a lot , and if he had observed this, he should have recovered his health in a fortnight. After fifteen days passed on drinking and pissing , we decided to tell him the truth , but he got not too angry. After having distributed equally to me, Peppino and Umberto (who he had reputed a serious person) the name “bloody fool”, he laughed at the deed.
But, at any rate, the old saying “ you must take the consequences of your actions “ states the real truth!
Some years later, in a period when I was suffering from a heavy acne , I went to Cesine on holidays with my mother, my sister and my brother-in-law Umberto. In the Benevento province there was a well-named wizard making prodigious recoveries from illnesses, and love filters: I don’t remember the reason ,but we went to that man’s place, a place just like those shown in the films and described on the books: the wizard lived in an old village in an house located on the top of a never-ending staircase. Inside the house there were some embalmed ravens and owls, funny bottles with liquids inside, astrology books everywhere, in short the classic scenery to make people anxious.
At the end, when the women had finished the counseling – I don’t know what they had done and I didn’t care a dime about that, because I don’t believe that kind of things at all – suddenly my mother lifted up my vest to show my back to the wizard , who ,in a skilled expert attitude sentenced it undoubtedly was a syphilis.
I refused to believe him, but coming back to Cesine, the fear began to take possession of me.
My brother-in law was very much amused, and being questioned thereabout, on the way to Cesine, answered he trusted on that wizard, because he had used very exact words and , moreover, he looked likely to be an expert in medicine. My mother told me that we should have come back to Bologna in a few days, where I could have been visited by a specialist doctor. But I passed a grievous time, also owing to what Picciuna had let me read on the encyclopedia on the day when we were pulling him by the leg. Then I decided to go to a doctor’s in San Giorgio del Sannio. After listening to my tale he laughed and tranquillized me, stating it was only a normal youth eruption, in my case.
The first time I have heard the word “maruchein” I was about nine years old: it was pronounced by a child , Ermenegildo, (Cioppi for us) who later on became my great friend . He was a “foreigner” as he had just arrived at the City from the country near Crevalcore ; I don’t remember for which reason he had been saying that word, but as my friend Picciuna heard it, he began to tap him slightly but uninterruptedly with his hands, on the nape, and told: “ we have two arms, and you two arms, two eyes and you two eyes,” and in the meantime he was continuing with the usual hitting action: “ we have one mouth and you one mouth” and so on, until : “ we have an ass and you an ass.”
On hearing this, Cioppi burst in an agreeable laugh, and from that time on , he became our good and great friend. I see him again from time to time, as he lives a few hundreds meters far away from my house, but we do not meet and find together any more.
Once Picciuna fell ill by a pneumothorax and was to be operated . We consulted together the medical encyclopedia about the operation he was to undergo: it was named pleural decortication . On reading aloud (and Picciuna was listening to me) my voice got a tone more and more serious, more and more worried. It was question of removing a lung, to be put into a kind of machinery, undergo a chirurgic operation, and then to be relocated in the original place. My friend’s face was becoming more and more white, alike a sheet just out of the washing machine. I tried to encourage him by telling that surely it was not the operation he had to undergo, even if I worried a lot, deep in my heart. Luckily, the operation resulted much easier and less dangerous and everything turned out well. Picciuna had a very nice voice and was singing really well, even if he seemed a Sicilian fisher , when he sang in English language. All the people in his family had a good predisposition for music and the eldest brother, Antonio, whose artistic nickname was Toni Clan, played bass in a band of the Village, the Black Kings. With his brother Raphael , together with Franchino and Peppino, Picciuna had founded a band , the Thugs, derived from the name of an Indian strangler sect, and sometimes , they had even been engaged for playing in musical evenings. As Picciuna sang, people stopped to listen, but is was sufficient that someone of us among the public laughed, that he smiled at first, than elongated an hand in a gesture as to say : “ What a bloody fool, for which reason are you laughing ?‘” Then, he too, began to laugh scornfully whilst the present public ,in perplexity, could not understand the reason for this burst. Once the Thugs were given the chance of playing in a ballroom in Bologna , in the heart of the city, called Ubersetto. They had prepared everything with utmost care and the public was numerous. They stepped on the stage, full of emotion, and started to play: Peppino , the percussion player , began to give the time with the batons, he lifted them up, then…one, two, three…he made a rough movement and disappeared, together with the seat whereon he had been sitting, behind the red curtains of the stage. People started to laugh noisy , but he stood up again to reposition, and so forth….one, two, three…and the baton got entangled in a wire hanging in front of him, and in the meantime , the public was laughing louder, noisier and noisier .Still one, two, three and, at last, they set out to play until , after an instant, a rope of Raphael’s bass broke, and they needed an interval of five minutes just to repair it. In the meantime the manager of the ballroom was about to get angry. As they were starting again, they had not yet finished the first song and a piercing sound went out of the electric guitar of Franchino, so shrill that everybody was closing one’s ears. Franchino switched his guitar off and tried to remedy, then switched it on again, but the sound had become even shriller than before. At once, without giving any notice , the ballroom manager switched the disk player and invited my friends to go out of the stage. Very angry, they waited for the end of the evening to dismount everything . Ghiro, stepped on the ladder to remove Peppino’s amplifier from the wall, but it slid from his hand and fell to ground. Peppino, furious, took the ladder and grumbling stepped up in a decided attitude, took the other amplifier with two hands and was about to step down, when he stopped terrified: he had no spare hands free to grip the ladder, and having to decide whether it was better to let himself fall or the amplifier , he chose the latter.
That evening, on thinking thereabout after having digested the tremendous succession of “sfighe” (misfortunes) had been one of the most amusing in our entire youth.
When Picciuna was speaking, in order to emphasize his words, he started on giving small tips on the nope and continued until he had finished what he wanted to say: how many “slaps” got by me , on my neck!
For a certain period, when we were still young, Picciuna frequented a girl, who did not grant any kind of concession to him before hearing from him that he loved her. Picciuna did not want to , was embarrassed , but as, after so many insistences, he whispered the fateful “I love you” whilst within himself thought “ Shit “, he felt himself as a film actor playing a wringing-tears film.
He was somewhat envious and did all what he could to let me quit the girls or take them for himself: one was too fat, the other too thin, another was a bad temper or with yellow teeth. When he did not succeed in persuading me , he began to discredit me telling her that I was all skin and bone, a bloody fool, with ugly garments etc. He was a modern boy and at about eighteen years of age he was a “ flowers’ son” , but later on, when he had fallen in love with a girl from Brindisi he had met when he was staying at some relatives’ in northern Italy , he had recourse without hesitation to the classic “Sin de scinduta” (to flow away together during one night in order to be allowed to marry) to get her immediately beside him, and as it was the habit in his sites, they married after a short time .
I still have a very beautiful remembrance of him, and I often wish to see him , but on thinking to all what he would have to tell and thus hammering my head for hours , I give it up.
When I was about seven years old, one day Picciuna, Raffaele and I saw a sparrow falling from a tree. The first one , who could catch it , was Raffaele , who took it running home. I did not resign and wanted it in any case, so I went at my friend’s and began to cry and shout that it was my sparrow , this was at least what the two brothers’ mother was telling whenever she remembered it, whereas she was smiling.
Owing to all my shouts, wishing to get rid of me , she persuaded my friends to give me the sparrow, but, like all the children, I got annoyed with this play and sold it to my friend Vincenzo against twenty lire.
Every evening, in the cellar of Picciuna and Raffaele, three or four cats were meeting after passing through the wide grating to the slide outside. They were specially troubling Raffaele whenever he went to deposit his cycle in the evening and always found them in front of him. To frighten them, he shouted, but they all flew away, to the exclusion of one ,which did not look at him at all. Raffaele did not venture to approach it, as it was a big black cat with white spots, and with a bad reputation aspect. All these felines did not trouble the renters of the building , on the contrary, some of them brought food to the cats. One evening Raffaele called me and told that they were to be definitely cleared out. There was the insolent cat, which made him utmost nervous, as it did not care at all for him ,and so deserved a good lesson.
We went to the hall and as soon as we arrived the cats flew away, as usually, but the black and white one remained lying on the ground as if we had not been there.
In order to prevent it from finding any possible escaping way, we closed the entrance door and I waited before the grating with a stick to prevent it from running away.
“ Now, it’s our turn !” said Raffaele, he too with a stick in his hands. He came nearer to the cat in a menacing attitude, but it suddenly became hunchbacked , swelled its whole body so that it became similar to a panther and began to spit. Raffaele, even if terror struck , tried to strike it and the cat started to run everywhere, jumping a meter high, on the walls ,and bouncing so quickly that we did not know which side to look at.
Then Raffaele run near to me and the cat stopped just before the door : unwillingly (or not ?) he had closed any possible way for our flight !.
In the meantime he didn’t move and stared at us , hunchbacked and all swollen: we, being terrorized, did not move a millimeter.
Five minutes long we stood motionless and silent, but, at a certain point, we tried to let it move , both screaming at the same time and frantically moving the sticks. The cat – still imitating a panther- moved by one meter so that we could run to the door and escape. In the first evenings after that experience, whenever Raffaele carried his bicycle to the cellar , we accompanied him , three or four of us, but there was not even the shadow of a cat thereabout, not anymore. After a week, when everything seemed to be quiet, one evening, when Raffaele had left his bicycle on the rest, the big black-and-white cat laid an ambush to him and tried to jump onto his head out of the grating surface,one meter high from the ground. My friend could hardly ward off the blow and flee away. As he told the fact at home, his parents decided to put a guard to prevent the cats from entering. Even now, when I see a cat , I try to keep away from it, in order to avoid that it lies in wait for me, like the terrible black cat with white spots.
Another time we were present at a scene, that made us gape .
We were at the edges of a pitch full of water owing to the rain, which had been falling on the town for many days; we were looking at all that water flowing down and the things it was carrying along , and, suddenly, we saw a kitten ,only a few months old, being dragged along by the stream. He passed along beside us and we clearly heard it call its Mommy desperately . Raffaele and I looked at each other in the eyes astonished: it didn’t always happen to hear an animal speaking. The stream carried it away and we tried to follow it for a while, but ,suddenly, we could not see it any more: it was already disappeared under the water.
We had met Raul when the small circus had arrived at the Village, as he was the tamer’s son: he was a thin boy, very exuberant, and he didn’t fear anything ,even if he was only ten years old. He was taking care of feeding the animals: they had a lion and a lioness, two horses, a pair of bears, an elephant and a monkey. The latter was very funny and when Raul took its hand and they walked along together, it continuously dangled, it looked like a child, who had just learnt how to stand on his legs. The small tent of the circus could contain only a hundred people, and that evening we all,the Village children, went to the circus for the show. Oddly, my father had given the money to me without my mother’s intercession: the entrance ticket cost about three hundred liras. I remember that all laughed at seeing one of the clowns slapping the other. Moreover, Cioppi, never finished to sneer, these things made him crazy, he laughed scornfully even when they did not do anything at all. Raul’s sister was very pretty and enchanting, as she did acrobatics on two horses; there were also the trapeze-artists, and I got heart beating as I saw one of them leaving his rod and with an incredible jump leaping to catch the other .
I was struck above all by a character, who, with his teeth, succeeded in lifting up a chair whereon a very robust person was sitting, and still with his teeth had torn up in two pieces an entire card pack. The night after we went to Raul’s and it was already dark when we arrived to the camp: as soon as therein we felt many eyes gazing at us; they were those of the animals, and even if the lions were closed in the cages, we were feeling not so sure. We waited some minutes ,then, nobody was arriving, we came back home.
The morning after we went for a walk with Raul in the countryside therearound. We told him that he was a lucky person, that he looked like the happiest boy in the world: he was not to attend a school and could always visit new sites. But his face became serious and he answered that their life was harsh and full of sacrifices; above all in winter, they suffered from a terrible cold and, when the weather was ugly, they could not cash enough money and it was hard, to buy food for the animals.
After a few days he left with the promise that we should see us again the next year, but regretfully, he did never come again.
The games we played in the Village were a lot. For example, the tracks draft on the floor with the chalk : we made use of the metal caps of the beer bottles, inside the track we put small glass balls with a colored drop inside: the propulsive action was given by the “cricco” ( thumb and index fingers joint and opening with the maximum strength and exactitude against the object to be struck). One had to strike the cap or the small glass ball; if one went out of the track, he had to stop,otherwise he went on , and ,of course, the winner was the one who came in first .
Another game was the woodpecker. It was a wooden piece with diameter of about 2 cm and 15 cm long, with two rounded-off corners, to be laid on the ground; one touched slightly with a stick about one meter long to lift it up from the ground , then one struck it with the longest stick ,violently.: the winner was the one who launched the woodpecker the farthest away as possible. The game was often concluded with a general escape, because we had beaten the window glasses.
There was also the “zaccagno” . a game to be played by teams: it was a piece of brick about 10 cm high, in the shape of a truncated pyramid, on the top of which we put small loose change and small figure cards. With a stone, usually to be found on the river banks, we tried to let the coins or the figure cards be dropped by approaching as near as possible. The stake was won by the one who arrived the nearest.
Once , my brother Dante and another boy called Gianni, were playing “zaccagno”, and I, to escape one who tried to wet me with a tube,was violently struck on the forehead , just above the hair parting, by the stone thrown by my brother : the blood started to flow out abundant and my head to turn so giddily that I was accompanied home.
As my brother Antonio, who had come on leave, saw me, he took me to the hospital first-aid in Borgo Panigale , where I got several stitches on my head. Mommy was frightened a lot ,because, she said, the bone was visible. I have a pretty large scar left from that episode, luckily, I have still enough hair to conceal it.
Anyway, still at present, I don’t know whether all these games were of Bolognese origin, or imported.
Carmine, the fourth brother, is a somewhat special person,; as a little child he had been affected by meningitis. There had been an epidemic and he was the only one who survived , but his brain stopped at that age. He speaks his own language, which is a mix between the southerner and the Bolognese.
His eyes are of an incredible light blue and his complexion is imposing. I remember the Village boys who pulled him by the leg from a certain distance: they were afraid of his force and were saying: “Carmine gnaru gnaru, Carmine gnaru gnaru”., a kind of meaningless sing-song ; he was taking up a stone and throwing it with such a force and precision that it would have been a serious trouble if someone would have been struck. Once, always because of the usual jokes, he threw a stone against a boys group who saved themselves in time, but the stone struck the elbow of the poor Mr.Mosito, who was passing thereby by chance, and after that blow he walked by limping for a long time, but took no action against Carmine. He was loved by everybody, as they saw him as a good, sweet, defenceless person: his reaction was bad only when they pulled him by the leg.
He was always giving a hand to the local greengrocer, Mr.Mezzini, who loved him like his son. Carmine passed his time at the shop with him and moved the fruit chests, discharged and charged them onto the van.
Once Carmine got lost and we could not find him for many days: we had the help of many people in the Village in the search. My parents were desperate, but happily, the carabineers found him some days later in Castelfranco, a town in the Modena district, about fifteen kilometers from the Village.Carmine has always been together with Mommy and Daddy, and even after our mother’s death, Daddy always took him with himself during his continuous traveling from-and-to Bologna and the South. Carmine was very, very happy, because he loved the South fondly. After a few days of stay in Bologna, Carmine wanted to go there again : there he felt free, often he was on the fields, he liked to pick up fruit and give an hand in the pruning, he felt that property as his own.
From Daddy’s death on Carmine could come back to South only rarely, as we, the relatives, have so little time at disposal. When we shall have to sell the house and the land, in order to divide the heiress, it will be a great pain for him, I know. There are also many of us, who would like to keep everything, but it is impossible, we are about over thirty, sons and nephews, and it is really difficult to let so many people come to an agreement .
We, the boys, often went to via di Mezzo and stopped at two enormous cypress trees standing at the entrance of a small white lane, conducting to a house. To arrive there now , among street exits, ring-roads, highways and motorways, one has to reach Modena and then to come back .
One evening,- we were about ten and speaking about the usual things- Bruno had the bad idea to say: “ let’s see who has the longest one. “ We, the males, of any age whatsoever, are so sensitive thereabout. We all fear to be less endowed than the others and hence somewhat averse to show our attributes.
We have looked each other in the eyes, waiting for someone ,the bravest, saying that there was no need to; all were thinking that the one who spoke was likely to be afraid not to stand the comparison with the others.
Bruno, who had made the proposal, surely thought to be the best endowed among all.
He showed it first, and , with a sigh of relief , as all the others, who probably had thought the same, I realized that his dimensions were more or less like mine.
It was up to the second boy, and still another sigh of relief, and so on for all the others; as it came my turn, I was quiet enough, as I had realized that I was within the average size range . The last one was Rossano, and as we saw his , we were dumbfounded : it was at least twice as much as ours, a monstrous thing. I was gazing at it, astonished, we often pissed together and I had cast some furtive glances at it, to confront ourselves, but it seemed to me a normal dimension thing. Even taking into consideration that I was twelve years old and he some years older, such an increase in so little time was unbelievable! Later on I had the sudden enlightenment : I had realized clearly: while we were waiting for our turn, I remember he was standing with his hands in his pockets; fearing to make a bad impression, he had probably acted on himself until he reached the dimensions that left us astonished, even if, as the old inhabitants of Bologna say : “ Al guerda ancora par tera” ( He is so little, he is still looking downwards , at the ground).
That evening I didn’t say anything ,to avoid looking envious, whereas he, delighted at his successful impression, buttoned himself the trousers up again.
Strange things often happened to Raffaele and me. One day, during one of our usual outings in the countryside around the Village, near Sacerno, a site between via Emilia and via Porrettana, at the edges of the street we saw a marvelous plum tree with ripe and inviting fruits, We looked around and nobody was to be seen, so we decided to pick up some fruits, leaned the bicycle (ready to flee away if the farmer arrived) and Raffaele, bigger than me, climbed up the tree.
He was just on the point of picking up a plum as he jumped hastily down, began to spit out to the ground and told me with disgusted face that on the tree top, a big toad in front of him had started to spit out in his face and exactly into his mouth. We immediately run home thinking of the consequences of that spittle. We had heard it was poisonous and could paralyze anybody.
On the way home I was keeping an eye on any movement of his, checking whether he began to feel bad or had strange shivering: I was reassured when I realized that he was feeling well.
Another time we went for a walk in Borgo Panigale, as, half-way in Via Biancolelli , a black cat passed through the street. Raffaele, superstitious enough, felt this as a negative sign. His will was to come back home, but I persuaded him to go on. We walked other 500 meters and met a funeral procession, hence Raffaele suggested to take another way – for the day the black cat had been enough – but I smiled up and told that they were only nonsense, we went on and met some friends of his brother, who had opened a workshop.
They started to speak badly of his brother – I don’t remember what he had done – and Raffaele, on hearing all these offences , reacted trying to speak in favor of his brother.
Taking advantage of his older age one of them , punched him with the fist, but before a possible reaction of Raffaele, I dragged him away in the home direction. On the way back I spoke to him, but he kept his lip with the hand and was silent, he didn’t even answer me: I think I had made him angry, as I had not believed all those premonitory signs.
Villa Rotta is in the countryside, on the left side of via Emilia, when coming from Bologna. It is a razed villa of the 18th century, and I never knew its true name. In front of its entrance there are still standing pillars , from the main door entrance there was a big salon with heaps of rubbles. Only a half ceiling remained , and the sky was to be seen through the opening. In the still existing portion there could be seen a painting of a Madonna with small angels, the white-winged chubby ones, who smile at you.
There were also stuccoes decorating the center of the room and some rubbles, which obstructed the entrance into the other rooms..
The most fascinating thing for us was the dungeons underground on the center of the building perimeter. The villa was surrounded by high walls and in front of it there was a little house, likely to be the one destined to the domestic staff.
After the first visits we decided, still afraid enough, to go and explore the underground sites. We were four leaving: Picciuna, Raffaele, Peppino and I. As soon as arrived, we removed the rubbles obstructing the passage; there were ten steps and on stepping down we were invaded more and more by fear as various legendary tales had been heard on that villa, like in all the abandoned places: they spoke of the spirit of the mistress of the house, who from time to time let people see her, in order to make intruders flee away, of white phantoms appearing on the moon light , of children crying ,people don’t know the reason why. As a matter of fact, fear was increasing proportionally to the steps, and after the last one, we found ourselves in a big room deep in the dark and full of rubbish. There were also broken dishes and pots, probably thrown away by the ancient inhabitants of the site.
Going on we saw five more steps , which we descended more and more hesitant; now we were in a big circular room completely empty, with brick walls smooth like mirrors owing to the mould and the damp. Looking upwards one could see a feeble light from outside entering through a circle hole closed by grating, not to be seen from outside as they were covered by shrubs, weed, and loam. Practically, there was nothing in the room, but we felt interested in the floor of beaten earth, which ,may be, concealed something (a treasure ?)…
We decided to go home and come back the day after, with a better tooling. The next afternoon we came to the villa with shovel and pickaxe taken from the room under my building’s stairs (the tools were commonly used in the co-ownerships for works in the meadows next to the house or to clear snow away in winter) and also a torch that Peppino had from his brother. We repeated the same path with less fear than the day before and as we arrived in the circular room we began to dig with great enthusiasm, weakening more and more on seeing that nothing , not even a bottle cap, appeared there. The deeper we went on digging, the more our great enthusiasm was weakening, as nothing was appearing there, not even a bottle cap.
After half-an-hour we decided to come back home.
From time to time we spoke about Villa Rotta, the legends on the subject were still fascinating us. The night when we decided to come back to the Villa , it came also a Calabrian boy, our elder by four years, Giuseppe. There were also Banana, Faina, and another boy we called Tacchi-tacchi. It was summertime and the sky starry. We felt all loaded as springs and if we had seen a phantom we should have stolen its shroud.
We absolutely felt no fear at all. We left starting with a sure step and entered the fields way conducting to the villa. Sky was splendid and we had already caught a glimpse of the villa outline , but, the more we were approaching, the more we were feeling unquiet.
A few meters before the fear was already unrestrained! But nobody had courage enough to admit it.
We jumped over the wall , which was sorrounding the villa. Picciuna and I were the last ones.
Once inside, we started to walk to the underground in single file : Giuseppe, the biggest, was the first one, then it came Peppino, and next the others followed , in decreasing sequence, according to their respective courage. Tension was very high, nobody among our acquaintances ever had attempted to get into that place during the night! Then, at half-distance on the way ,suddenly, a general flight…we all jumped over the wall without need of the “piedino” by the mates ( one lifts the other up by an hand under his foot) and fled away running at breakneck speed up to the Village. On running I was feeling my heels under my ass. Giuseppe, the one, who was telling he didn’t fear anything , arrived first and, as we felt safe, inside the Village, we went to the little fountain to wash and soothe the pain from the sloughs grazed on jumping over the wall. Then, we questioned one another: “you, what did you hear ?” “I? Nothing at all” “ Not even I, nothing” “ And why did you flee away , in that case?” Because I saw you fleeing away! “ In conclusion, no one among us ever knew the reason for our flight from Villa Rotta. The villa is still there, on the left side of via Emilia, perhaps a little more in ruins than at that time, so that the children of that area can go on dreaming still.
In the hottest days of the late Fifties we used to go and bathe under the Ponte Lungo , the one joining Borgo Panigale and Bologna , showing at its edges four most beautiful , white siren with naked breasts, which we looked at with utmost interest, at that time…
We were bathing on the right, just passed over the bridge, within the rocks emerging fully only in summertime,when the river was in the shoal time. Those rocks were arranged one beside the other and forming a circle . People told that they had been placed there by Etruscans , who, once upon a year, celebrated their purifying rites. We, simply, went there to swim, the river waters at that time were clear and we passed entire afternoons to amuse ourselves in such a way. When we got bored we went to take fishes, which , on hearing us, hid under the stones. Once there happened a tremendous mortality and thousands of them were gasping on the river banks: this was the first pollution warning, pollution we should have suffered in the future years
We were in the water amidst the fishes and I saw one enormous arriving, it was at least one meter long: as I approached to catch it, it rose all the crests it had, frightened. It looked like a drake, a furious drake, so I went away, immediately, while it ,still gasping, let itself be dragged by the stream; farther, two brave girls caught it and brought it home.
From time to time, in summer, I go through Ponte Lungo , and I cannot avoid looking at the bottom, rightside, where Etruscans met together for their ceremonies and where I spent unforgettable summer afternoons.
. In the early Sixties they were telling the tale that we, the Southerners, used to place the fishes in the bath-tub. I must admit that , as far as I am concerned, sometimes it was true. My father worked in a place where there was a small lake filled with fishes many years before. From time to time he stopped there for fishing with a rudimentary fishing-rod he had made by himself.He often brought home some fish , which we ate greedy, even if I remember, that for many years I had been refusing it, as , during one of my frequent journeys to the south village , I stuffed myself with fish and I really felt utmost bad. For a long time, I have been overcome by nausea merely on smelling its odour. My father was speaking us of enormous and fabulous fishes , of a kind that he had never seen before. One year, I remember, there has been a long drought period, for many months, and the small lake had fast dried up. One day he took a perch, and, as the fishes gasping for the missing water ,came near to us, he hit them with a quick knock to stun and catch them. Then he brought them home in the bus, wrapped in wet grass and a cloth. Once at house, he put them still alive in the bath-tub for some hours to expectorate. We ate them the day after: those fishes were, as he said, really special.
In those years every kind of people passed by the Village, as for example, the knife-grinder, who, riding on a particular bicycle, let a grindstone disk rotate to sharpen knifes and scissors with thousands of sparks , shouting : “ Arruten, arruten!” (knife-grinder) . When my mother heard him, she stepped down to the street bringing him always something to be ground. Once, she brought him a lot of things to be ground and he said he could get the work finished only the day after. We saw that knife-grinder never again, and could never know, for which reason he had not been able to come again, or what had happened.
In summer, every morning at ten o’clock, there arrived the “giazarol” (the man selling ice).He drove a van with pedals and on arriving he started to shout “giaz, giaz!” (ice, ice). He was about fifty years old, the hair already fully white,, he was a little , sturdy man. Always sweating and often wearing a white vest. As he arrived, we, the children, all run to him, as we were bewitched by that transparent material shaped as a column , which occupied the whole van.
As customers arrived, the man discovered the ice from the wrapping cloth, and broke it into pieces, then took the scale and weighted it.
We assisted to the scene, also because he was often giving us a generous gift : a bit of ice, to each of us , and we, greedy, put it immediately into our mouth. Then he again covered everything, started again pedalling, and after a few meters, he was again shouting “ Giaz, giaz!”
“Al sulfaner” passed by at east twice a week, with his pedal-cart: he collected iron, rags, but also any kind of object to be resold. He was really bulky, and his voice was mighty, when he arrived he let himself be heard in all the district buildings. We had known him well and succeeded in getting some more lire from him, when we had to sell him something.
He was likely to be a man, who had suffered greatly: he looked like much older than he was , about forty , his complexion was always bright red.
He often was somewhat tipsy : we made him out far away, arriving zigzag with his van, and in that case we asked him “ Ermete, how are you ?” And he: “ Al va ben incu’ a I ho ciapè un mocc ed baioch e son andè a bovar un bichir d’vein!” ( today it is a lucky day, I have got a lot of money and went and drank a glass of wine”, but the glasses were really always a lot. Otherwise, we saw him arriving with the empty van and, on our asking as usually “How are you ?”, he replied “Mel, la zent an caza piò via gninta “ (Badly, people don’t throw anything away anymore). As time was passing on, his visits were becoming more and more rare: his job, as those of the knife-grinder and the ice-seller were disappearing. In the early Sixties, then, we saw him never again
One evening, I presume we were in June 1961, we decided to go for cherries. It was the first time for us, and as we were the Village boys, it was not acceptable, that we had not yet gone for cherries.
As usually we were Picciuna, his brother Raffaele, Peppino,Faina, Giuseppe Biancomonti, two others (I don’t remember their names) and I. Biancomonti was about to be 13 years old and was enormous: he may-be weighed about ninety kilos, and was a giant when compared with me, who had a slight figure (for this reason they called me Carletto). He wore eye-glasses with a black spectacle-frame, smooth hair and a tuft. He was very good-tempered, but when he got angry , he became crazy. In the third class of primary school, I still remember it, he threw an ink-pot full of ink to the teacher, who had given him a good telling-off, for something he had not done. Only Cioppi had the courage, to tell him something about his weigh, a phrase such as : “ Te ciccio sta zet!” (You, fat boy, be quiet) – Cioppi spoke always dialect – and Biancomonti run after him all the classroom around, and as he caught him he gave him a box in the ear,so that he fell to ground. But, coming again to the cherries, that day we entered via Cavalieri Ducati and, after the factory, we turned to the right, in a lane in the fields. We were directed to the trees, that all the boys in Borgo Panigale well knew. We arrived, silent, about ten meters far from the so desired tree branches, as, suddenly, we saw an enormous blaze, and soon a terrifying blow, starting from the top of the cherry tree. We set on flight as, after a few meters, there was another terrible throw and a rustle all around us. We saw Giuseppe Biancomonti overtaking anybody with such a speed, that , if we had got a chronometer, we should have taken a time as of Italian speed record ! Always running, we went to the Village at the small fountain in the middle of the little market. : many of us, were bleeding, and, we thought, that the farmer had shot salt only; on the contrary, on washing ourselves, we saw a lead-shot out of a Picciuna’s arm. On hearing the first blow, Biancomonti had put his hands on his backside, to protect himself (the farmer, on seeing his backside so large, had aimed at it ), and the hands were all bleeding with shots, like the backside, driven in, everywhere: he was obliged to go to the hospital and the farmer rigthly reported to the police,.We came to the news honours through an article ,very witty, on the Resto del Carlino. Biancomonti told the newspaper editor that we were going to Villa Pallavicini to practise I don’t know which kind of night sport, whereas the farmer declared he had shot because the evening before some older boys had stolen his cherries and threatened him with a stick. Picciuna is still bearing in mind that adventure: a lead-shot that the doctors did not extract, because it could not bring about any consequences.
That one has been the first and last time we have run after cherries.
The Bolognese countryside is full of retting pits they are little sheets of rain water used by the farmers in times of droughts, to water the fields . During one of our usual rounds Raffale and I went to one of these retting pits: it was about ten meters wide and twenty meters long. We were on the edge of the bank and, at pretty one meter distance I saw what I thought might be a rock ; I was already imagining to be a pirate of the South Seas in his Tortuga, and without thinking a while , I jumped onto it. Dash! Had I never done it! It was not a rock but one of those hips of tangled brushwood, thorn bushes and loam, that time and wind had accumulated ; as soon as thereon, it started moving off the bank ,out to open water, and I was utmost frightened, because I was not yet able to swim; so I called Raffaele for help, who immediately ran towards the owner of the farm. The man arrived straight away: he was one of those Emilian farmers, little and robust, one of those who always remain 50 years old, who have never been young and shall never get old. You shall be passing along there after thirty years, with fat stomach and white hair , and they always remain the same men.
The garments were the typical ones: a short-sleeved, white woolen vest, a pair of blue trousers, the ones used by the mechanical industry workers in the factory , and one of those straw hats, with wide brim, allowing to get sun from the nose down only.
As soon as he saw me he said: “ Ben, cinno sa fet le in vatta? Brisa salter zo.” (Hey ,child, what are you doing there ? Don’t move down) and he ran home again. The bank was five meter far away and I couldn’t jump over even if I had been the long-jump world champion. In the meantime I was realizing that the small island was sinking under my load. So many times had I tried to learn swimming at the embankment of Lavino river or under the Ponte Lungo (Long Bridge), but I was moving up so much water, that I looked like a speedy-boat.: in the water I was in the same condition as a fish out of water, which with staring and terrorized eye writhes and jumps desperately . The farmer arrived after a few minutes with a very long perch, one of those used to make trees grow upright or to keep grapevine erect. In the meantime, it seemed to me that endless time had been passing. On those instants one can really realize , why Einstein was telling that time is relative.
As when your wife and daughter arrive after you have been waiting for a long time, you get angry and say “it is already three hours that I’m waiting for you !”
And the other reacts: “ But what are you saying ? I am just five minutes late”
At any rate the man passed me the perch , I clung thereto, and little by little he dragged me to the bank together with the small island.
The never-ending farmer, eternal like the fields he cultivates, got not even angry. Heaven knows which kind of tricks he had already seen in his life ! He took us to his house and gave us some peaches as a present .
If you pass by the Bolognese countryside look at one of these farmers with utmost attention and try to pass again after a long time: you’ll find him identical, with the same garments and the same age.
In fall or spring months, as it was raining for many days, my friends and I went to the fields nearby, to catch fishes springing out of retting pits or rivers. As waters subsided, fish remained trapped in the gullies and we, going barefoot, with water arriving at our knees, began to catch them. I remember that one day we caught so many fishes and of such a big size that we could give them as a gift to a large number of neighbors. We used always the same technique: some stood up at a point and hit the water surface with a stick , so that the fishes, frightened, moved in the opposite direction, towards the others, who caught them with some fishing-nets.
Luisito was a child from Argentina , but of Italian origin. He was eleven years old and had relatives in the Village ( we, the southerners , have relatives everywhere in the world. I have some in France, in England, in Argentina, where my grandfather too had gone , when he was young.) He stayed at the Village during a whole summer and became our adventures-mate. I remember, that I heard his way of speaking, many years later from Maradona. I remember he laughed, he always laughed, in whatever condition he might find himself.
Once, ten of us left together and went for fishing in a big retting pit, we had discovered in Via Persicetana, on the right, beside Sala Bolognese. We had asked the farm owner, for permission to fishing and he had authorized us.
Luisito was the only one who had a fishing-rod endowed with a spinning reel. His parents in Argentina were very well off; I remember he was rotating the rod in the air with utmost skill and often caught a fish. As we were not so lucky, we went behind him, about ten meter distant. He suddenly launched the rod in the air and I felt a little blow at my eye’s height, and a pulling. I stood up to feel less pain, and on realizing that he had driven a fish-hook into my eyelid, I began to shout . As he realized that I was the prey, he left the rod and went to assist me. Happily, he had struck me some centimeters above my eye, and after ten minutes of suffering, he succeeded in extracting the fish-hook. Then, as if nothing had happened, he burst in a laugh, and always laughing, went on fishing again.
He rotated the fishing-rod again and we heard a duck, which short before was swimming apart, quiet, suddenly fluttering and flapping the wings, desperately. Luisito started laughing again (he had never ended to) and the farmer who lived some hundreds meters far, hearing the screaming of the poor animal, thought we were trying to steal it, and ran to us.
All of us fled away and he, still laughing ,after having torn the angling yarn , with the fishing-rod still open, rode his bicycle and reached us.
When summer was over, he went back to Argentina and we saw him never again . But the perennial smile printed on his face will always be impressed on my mind.
One night we decided , three or four together, to make a round by the icecream-vendor.
We were next to the crèche (still under construction at the time)and saw many children out of the surrounding fence, looking at the building. We too stopped there, curious, asking them about what they were looking at. They told that inside the crèche since a couple of evenings there was a feeble light enlightening for a short time and then going out: they were willing to understand what it was all about: phantoms, spirits or whatever else. We set to look at , we too, hoping to see that light. Little by little there gathered about fifty boys , all willing to be present at the phenomenon. The happiest was the ice-cream vendor ,Mazzoni, a few ten meters far away from the building, as many people went to buy an ice-cream, in the waiting time .
Time was passing and some were beginning to go, but, suddenly, the famous feeble light appeared through the window glasses and moved ,little by little, slowly towards the exit: at this point in time there exploded the panic fear. In the absolute silence we saw the door slowly opening…some boys fled away , but the most of them remained to see what it was all about: I remember I was hidden behind Francesco, who was already thirteen years old. Little by little, we saw a boy coming out and keeping a girl by one hand and a candle in the other. As they saw all that people, they got astonished. The girl ,shy, bowed her head , and they moved away without speaking a word.
Probably he had been occupied in the construction and had got the building keys, and they had chosen that secluded and dark spot, to be aloof, where nobody was likely to disturb them.
Rossana was a little Bolognese girl, thirteen years old, living at No 13, via del Carroccio. She had already a woman figure, even if she was still wearing white socks. She was nice, with long , black hair, tied up in a “ pony-tail”, and dark eyes. I remember that summer, when I was seeing her always sitting on the low wall overlooking the street , with two girls more or less of her age, in wait for that guy of Neapolitan origin, seventeen years old, called Giorgio, who was to pass by . He lived at the opposite site of the street. He was really handsome, tall, dark-complexioned, smooth hair, with a tuft falling on his forehead, always wearing a white jacket, one of those used in the shops, as he worked as a grocer’s boy, at a sale in Borgo Panigale. Rossana always looked at the left side, in the direction of the point wherefrom Giorgio was to appear, then, as he passed by her, she lowered her eyes and lifted them up again only after he had passed away.
The girl’s love consisted of shifty eyes, long and silent waiting, and accomplice glances with her girl friends ; it was pure and simple, as of an adolescent in those years. As soon as he had passed over , she disappeared together with her girlfriends , to appear there again, when the boy had to pass by again, on the way to the work site.
All this went on for a long time and once my friends and I began to smile on seeing that in a car parked along the street , on the powder-covered glass there had been drawn a heart with the initials of the girl and Giorgio.
Then, suddenly, Giorgio disappeared and Rossana continued to wait for him, in vain, at the same place. Later on we learnt, that he had been admitted to hospital , and soon after, that he had died owing to a serious form of leukemia.
Until eighteen years of age , we never saw Rossana associating with any boy, then one evening, we saw her stepping out of a car of someone by a few years her elder.
Giorgio’s mother was telling that from time to time there appeared a flower on her son’s tomb: I have never been uncertain about the person, who had placed it there.
When Mario was a child, he never went out of his house. We lived in the same building and, he too, had many brothers and sisters: the eldest was really beautiful, fair-haired, with blue eyes, about twenty-two of age, after a long engagement time she had left a boy living in her native village and was then starting on going out and associating with other boys. I realized that she was pregnant, as her tummy had already become large enough, so that it was impossible to conceal it.
Mario told me, that he was expecting a violent reaction by her father, undoubtedly, he would have turned her out of the house; on the contrary, when the father knew about the fact, he didn’t speak a word. He behaved as before, he only became a little more silent.
Between Mario and me it arose a great friendship. And when, that afternoon, he, so serious and sad, asked me, to accompany him to the Maternity Home in Bologna , and see his sister, who had born a dead daughter, on that very day, I accompanied him without hesitation. The child was big, pale and with some hair; she had been placed in a room, lying on a table, on one of those cushions for the new-born babies.
We were staring at her when Mario’s father entered there. It was a really heart-rending thing, the sight of that old Southerner , silent, who was staring at his first grand-daughter, who had been born dead by his daughter, who had not yet got married.
Still now I am thinking about that person, to the violence he had been obliged to use on himself, to accept that situation, and the grief for his grand-daughter.
When she was about eleven years old, my sister was working at a certain Mrs.Mosca’s, in via della Barca, who had a female Alsatian dog, and one day she came home with a fully black puppy , whose father was a setter.
We called it Bobi. With Bobi I had a special relation all at once, owing to my young age. As I was the youngest male child, I always played with it, and took it for a walk on the countryfields around the Village.
Once its development completed, Bobi became a big-size dog. Completely black, with lowered ears, inherited by its father.
My sister Teresa and I often played with the dog, at home too. She caught it by the front paws, according to the music and danced Tango with it. The dog positioned itself with the muzzle upwards and danced as a perfect timekeeper.
Sometimes we took “mortadella” (a kind of Bologna salami) and hang it on the door-post and Bobi caught it, twisting in the air, to get a heavier thrust.
Raffaele and I often went for adventures along the country roads: we started with an old bicycle of my brother Severino and, of course, took with us Bobi too.
Once out of the inhabited area, we joined a rope to its leash and instigated it by saying :” Bobi, the hens !” and it, who adored them, once had killed three of the farmer beside our house – began to run, and we let us be dragged forwards.
Once, while we were in a country road, we had never run through , and Bobi, as usual, was dragging us gladly, thanks to our inciting , as at once, there really appeared the hens, behind a thin hedge, and the dog turned to the right as a lightning , so that we fell into the ditch, among bramble thickets and stinging nettles, whereas the dog, very restless, dragging the bicycle along, barked to go and catch them. We both stood up blooding, and since then we decided, not to use the dog that way anymore.
To verify its fidelity, I often pretended to be beaten by Picciuna and Raffaele, but Bobi, instead of defending his master from the aggressor, threw itself against me, trying to bite me.
Daddy was very affectionate to it: Bobi heard him arriving, and when back froom work, it was hearing him even ten minutes before his appearing, and was beginning to agitate: it made us open the balcony door waging its tail until we could see it. Then it went to the door and as Daddy entered the house he welcomed him with unbelievable merriment !
The period of time during which Bobi was living at us was one of the most beautiful for me. The Village protected and let us feel safe from the “outside” : we were a true community and we all, the boys, notwithstanding the different origin places , had found a common language and respected one another. For the youngest of us the origin dialects were already disappearing and we all began to speak with that typical accent of Bologna , and with the accentuated and whistling sibilant “s” as the natives.
In the meantime Bobi had become very encumbering, but my father had refused the barber’s offer , who was willing to buy and train it as a setter.
Then, in the long run, my sister Emilia succeeded in persuading Daddy to bring Bobi to the dog kennel and all without informing me. On hearing the fact , I wept for many hours closed in the bathroom , and began to dream of it, every night, with its imploring eyes : it seemed that it was begging me to go and take it back. Their having brought it far away from me had been traumatic for me, and ,still now, as I see a similar black dog, I immediately think of Bobi.
By the removal of Bobi away from me, my infantry was over and it began a period really difficult for me, the adolescence.
The forecast of a total eclipse of the sun for that morning had made us , the boys, be exempted from going to school, in order to let us be present at the phenomenon . My friends and I went to Marozzi’s , in the courtyard of his farm-house , that later on was demolished, to build there the Ipercoop supermarket.
We arrived there half-an-hour before the expected time ,all with a blackened sun-glass , as suggested by the teachers. The deeper the darkness was falling , the more anxious we became.: chickens were all running to the hen-house for shelter, silently, and the Alsatian dog started to bark continuously.
Also the big oak standing on the farm-yard seemed to be frightened.
Little by little, even if there had been a bright sun shining all the morning long, the total darkness fell and also the air became colder , in spite of the beautiful season. The darkness was over in an instant, that, anyway, seemed eternal to us. We all feared that the sun would no longer appear, even if they assured us that it could not happen.
But, little by little, the eclipse disappeared, in the same way as it had been appearing and we all had a sigh of relief. After a few minutes the sun came again beautiful and warm as before. It was at the same time a fascinating and disturbing experience, but only when already grown up, you can realize the meaning of these happenings and understand they can take place once only, during your lifetime.
Near the Village, about one kilometer far away, there was ,and still there is, Villa Pallavicini. It is a splendid villa, with a long tree-lined avenue, and a very beautiful fountain; all the rooms inside are frescoed and they say that there have slept Napoleon and Mozart. We, the Village boys, were often going there, owing to the sports-center thereby, where people could practice various kinds of sports. I attempted the football, but had soon to give off , as the others were twice as tall as me.
One summer day Raffaele and I left to have a walk in that Villa, when, almost at the end of the avenue, we saw a chicken egg among some straw (corn had just been reaped). Curious more than ever , we bent to pick it up, so we could see another one, then one more, until we got about thirty eggs. We immediately went back home with the swag, on thinking what we could make of them; at once, we refused the idea of cooking an enormous omelet, as we could not realize, whether the eggs were fresh or not, then we decided to play a joke on a boy somewhat older than us, but not so quick -witted. We showed him ten eggs and told they had been found in a hedge near via di Mezzo – we had taken care of preparing there a kind of nest in advance- and narrated that every night there arrived a big, funny bird, which deposited all those eggs, then left back.
This boy was known as a dupe, one night, for example, we joined a wallet filled with old bits of paper, to a fishing-line and left it on the road; as he saw, he made a gesture, as if he was to get it, but we moved it ; instead of guessing why the wallet was moving, he told “ An do vai, fermati ! (where are you going, halt !).
Hence, we succeeded that time in persuading him without difficulty, to go by the hedge; as darkness fell, we went and laid on the ground ten eggs, which ,as expected, disappeared. We did the same the evening after and ,also that time, the eggs disappeared. In the meantime, we were amusing ourselves as madmen. Moreover, it had been rumored about the joke and we were already about ten present at the scene. But the third day we saw him arriving there with his father, who probably had suspicions about all those eggs brought home by his son. We heard him saying loudly and angry: “Si’, proprio cretino !” ( “You’re really a fool !”) - he was originating from Campania, like me- “Non t’accorgi che ti stanno facendo fesso ?” (Don’t you realize that they are making a fool of you ?), then he brought him home. For a long time we had been taking a roundabout way from that boy, whose expression became ferocious, when we met.
Another time, in winter, ice had been covering everything : the fishes in Villa Pallavicini’s fountain were not even visible and , like all children, (my daughter had the same experience) I couldn’t resist the temptation of going onto the iced surface in the basin, walked two steps and ice broke up. Raffaele, my most loyal mate in that period of time, took me out, and accompanied me running home to change my garments.
Franceschi was an elderly homosexual in the Village, already retired; he was a beautiful man, snow-white hair and blue eyes, always wearing the metallurgist overalls.
He was riding a bicycle, going around accompanied by a black Alsatian dog,. The dog was always beside him, rarely barking and never going away from his master. He was seldom present, when we were children, but more and more we lads were growing ,so more and more frequent became his presence.
He stopped to speak with us, seldom only, but he was often looking at us from far away. During our excursions in the countryfields nearby , he was suddenly appearing next to us, quiet. The rare times he stopped to chat with us, we made a joke and pulled his leg a little; I remember he was telling “ Te testa grosa sta zet !” ( You, big head, shut up!) The same phrase that my paternal grand’mother told to my mother the first time she met her.
There is an episode making me laugh still now on recalling it ,that is to say what happened in a tavern beside the ballroom Drago Verde . It was late summer and there were enough big “rusticani”(rustic plums) on the trees .
We were three, Picciuna, one boy native of Bologna called Dario and I. Banana, so we had nicknamed him, was an handsome young boy. While he was stretching out to catch the “rusticani” Franceschi passed by him saying “ Magna pur i rusticani cat cras cresce la cana" ( do eat the rusticani, so your nitwit will increase ) a phrase which remained unforgettable. Another time we were about ten ,all aged fourteen more or less, gathering together at the beginning of via del Carroccio , near the ice-cream shop of Mazzoni, and Franceschi passed thereby with his usual bicycle and the black dog, and said another phrase unforgettable for us still at present: “ Gli usil a branc an fan mai fourtuna” ( birds in pack are never successful).
One evening, on the Via di Mezzo, a route from the Village ending in the middle of the countryfields, we suddenly felt him behind us, with the dog and the bicycle as usual, there was a shining moon in the sky and he passed beside us at a quite high speed, brushing against us, but not even looking at us, then he disappeared in the dark, without a word, just so as he had come into view .
He died many years later, and when I learnt it, I was really upset, as he had been a nice character in my youth.
Another mythic homosexual was named “ la Valì” ; we had so much heard about him and as finally one day we could see him, we were astonished : we had imagined him as a strange person, on the contrary he was an ordinary person , only somewhat effeminate . People was telling about very ferocious jokes played on him by older boys.
When I was about fourteen years old, I was trying like all the young boys, to look older and was willing to attend the Bar Edera ,located in the center of a building called “The Train” in the Village. It was a place attended by people of any age, almost only men – at that time,bar-rooms were carefully avoided by women –
The bartender, who had given the bar-room her name, let anybody enter there, but when it was up to me, she always said “ Te mezza pugnatta du vut andér “ (And you pygmy, where do you want to go?) “Mezza pugnetta” is used to refer to someone still little, a child….
And she was pointing at the door, and this had been happening for a long time.
So, whilst the others were amusing themselves, I was obliged to wait outdoors, but Edera was never touched by my waiting, and I always came back home angry.
Once, I was hidden behind the others, but in vain, “ Sa fet al furb,mezza pugnatta, va for a!” She looked like one having a radar to locate me. I really didn’t bear her, also because she was treating with cruelty my most vulnerable side at that time. Whilst the others had already reached an acceptable height and their physique was almost the one of an adult, I still was very little, slender and full of complexes.
Perhaps, the reason for her refusal was another: one day we made a trial and called a child twelve years old, Michele, who was half-tall, with respect to me . He was to try to enter the bar-room together with us. As we stepped in, she received me with the usual phrase, that my friends later on would have been repeating until I got married, whereas Michele, who in comparison to me looked like a dwarf, passed into, undisturbed. Mrs.Edera looked like St.Peter before the gates of the Paradise and was saying: “You are allowed to go into. You… aren’t allowed”. But…., it was I, who was rejected from that door, only I. Into that bar-room I was allowed to step only when I was aged around 16 years, as my height already measured 1,75 meter and a half.
At last, I could taste the mythic back-room of that bar, where the billiards and the card- tables were located, with the adults, who were playing never-ending card games or with billiard-cues and telling about women and adventures, among smokes and wine.
At that time it was becoming evident the difference between Southerners and Northerners. The Southerners had an higher number of children – even nine, as in my case – whereas the Bolognesi families were not so large, so that the sons of the locals could dress better, whereas we, so many and with modest means , were dressed the worst.
I met my first integration and adaptation problems as I first went out of the Village. My parents put me down for the secondary school Zanotti, beside the “Palazzetto dello Sport” (Sport Palace), near Via Lame.
The difference between me and the other boys began to be strikingly visible: I always wore the same garments, I was already growing up, but I was obliged to wear the jacket of the preceding year. I was feeling me like Charlot: the jacket was short and the sleeves reached only five centimeters above the wrists. Even the trousers had become very short : but my parents had no means, to buy new ones for me.
I was beginning to feel sad and depressed, as I was seeing me like an inferior person and realizing my diversity. I was thinking that the girls in the school would have never looked at me, and that was because of my origins from the South.
In the first class of the secondary school I was admitted to the next one, but I always thought that it was because of the appendicitis striking me towards the end of the school. Probably, it had been caused by some pastries sold to me that very morning at a discounted price by a milkman next to the school. A few hours after eating I began to feel a belly-ache ,that with the passing of time was more and more increasing. To free me from that pain, Mommy placed a warm-water bag on my belly, but this worsened the situation. I was suffering from hell pains, and in the morning, after many insistences of my sister, who just suspected the appendicitis, Mommy persuaded my father to accompany me to the doctor. He visited and had to let me be taken to hospital as an emergency case. I remember that, by then, I couldn’t even move the leg, so that one had to carry me in one’s arm, from the fifth floor down to ground floor.
Then, Mr.Mezzini, who already possessed a car, accompanied me to the Ospedale Maggiore . There, they operated me in a few hours. Doctors were telling that if it had passed still a little bit of time, there would have been nothing one could have done about it ! I spent Easter in the Hospital and had even complications, a few days after the operation :,again, they had to cut me, not anaesthetized, because of an infection .
To speak again about my school admittance, that year I had to repeat three subjects, but in September I was admitted. Professor Mioli, mathematics, who, when had lost his temper said, that “they had got on his tits”, was very kind towards me and asked me whether my appendix had been given as food to the cat.
In the second class of the secondary school, it happened the most humiliating episode in my whole life, one of those which mark people during their whole life. In that period of time I was learning in the morning and working as a waiter in a bar-room in the heart of Bologna city, to gain few lire. Owing to tiredness, or the flue, I don’t remember , I remained at home a few days. When I came back to school, a lady teacher ,aiming at a good deed, told me that during my absence from school , she had collected garments for me and my family . I felt so humiliated that I decided to change school the next year. My mother tried in any possible way, to make me change my mind , but in vain . What had happened had beaten me so deeply, that still now, when recalling it, I am feeling badly..
My schoolmates often went and ate ice-creams, even by a cold temperature. When I told to Celesti, one of them, that it was still too cold, he answered that I was speaking this way , because I couldn’t afford an ice-cream to myself. He told “voi marocchini siete dei piumoni” (you, the Moroccans, are wretched ones).
Once I quarreled with a boy in my class-room. We came to blows, fought and he, to justify himself , told the School Principal, that I had provoked him, by simulating a sexual intercourse with him. I didn’t even know the meaning of his speech and luckily, the school-class leader , a certain Boschi, told they were just lies, so that the Principal forgot it.
But I have also pleasant memories of the secondary school: I remember with great love the lady teaching artistic education, by whom I was allowed to keep standing, when I was drawing. She was always congratulating with me, by saying that I was utmost clever and bent for the artistic subject.
Later on, as I was overwhelmed by the passion for fine arts, I still remembered that teacher and her encouraging words as well, so that I didn’t feel tiredness anymore, even after a long time passed on painting and sculpturing .
A short time ago, in October, a Sunday morning at seven a.m. I went for a walk around in the Village. From the moment when I decided to write about my childhood, there are emerging again my memories, my emotions from that period of time and I feel a deep homesickness for that place, where no relative of ours is living anymore and to which I only seldom came back,after Mommy’s and Daddy’s death.
Again, I walked along the streets, all the streets of that time and was struck: how beautiful it had become ! perfectly fit into the Bolognese outline, with the colours of its small blocks of flats: the ochre yellow, the shaded red , the warm grey, that characterize the old Bologna. Even the architecture is splendid: some foreshortening views of via Normandia look like a view card, the balconies are adorned by flowers, by geraniums ,which give a delicate appearance to the old-lived facades. The trees, which, when I was a boy, looked like twigs, have grown up enormously. It seems that Nature has granted to the Man a little space to build some houses and not that it has been the Man, who has built, to add the green later on !
At that hour there were only very few people, but the green sign of Bar Edera was lighted up. I met Vincenzino, son of the teacher Gini, we lived in the same building, but I spoke no word and he didn’t even recognize me.
In via Pontida I saw a young pair coming out of a main door, he was white, she black. I was wondering about their children, whether they had some and in this case, those children ,once grown adults, would they have the same nice memories as I have ?
I wonder, whether in this neighborhood there still exist tolerance and respect for the others as in the Fifties. The Village is no more isolated from the remaining part of the City and the empty spaces have been filled up with enormous buildings. In comparison, the white ones in via del Carroccio , which looked in my eyes like sky-scrapers , are looking now like tiny houses.
The house of the farmer Marozzi, on the opposite side of via Emilia , has been demolished. As already told, its place has been occupied by Ipercoop, where thousands of persons go shopping every day. Villa Rotta is no more visible from the village . The north-eastern areas are surrounded by superhighways and ring-roads, which inhibit the view of the railways connecting north and south, the same railways, from which my relatives from Benevento, waved to us with a white handkerchief, as they were passing by my house. Anyone of them was looking for a better future in the North, and unwillingly was repeating backwards the patch ,through which our Ancestors, the Longobards, had gone 1500 years before.
In the middle of the group of houses, where I was born, there is an old oak. It has been there from immemorial time, is bent, full of ailments due to the passing of time.
In this oak I see my parents again, who, elderly, did not hesitate a moment and left their land, where they had been leading a modest, but dignified existence.
After Daddy’s retirement, he and Mommy often came back to their native village and there were staying for many months every year: down there they started again to live in their own way of living.
Mommy left us in ’79 in San Giorgio owing to a heart attack. She was taken to Bologna and buried in the Borgo Panigale cemetery. Daddy lived ten years more , when he died he was eighty-three. During his old age he continuously moved between Bologna and Benevento , splitting himself between the love for his native land and the love for his children, all resident in Bologna; every day he went to the cemetery and met his wife, and, by the tombstone, knocked three times on the marble, to communicate her, that he was there,arrived.
I would like to conclude this my little story with a poetry, which invites to Tolerance and is an homage to the place, where I was born and to the one, which has received me:
when you shall no longer hear my breathe, I would like to be buried under the oak, the one bent, which has seen me being born , and when you shall throw onto my body the earth, I would like to hear the song of the Dead, that the ancient ancestors brought from the cold.
Then, I shall hear the light whisper of the pure water flowing down the ditch and the sun, strong and steady will warm up the earth, so much as to make me feel its heat. Gald, the ancestor, who first chose this warm land, shall be grateful to me.
And Alma, the Samnite, who mated with him and begot all of us, shall take me there, where her descent had origin, up there on the high meadows, where the sky and the earth join.
Held tightly in my fists I would like to have a handful of fat earth and an ear of corn, which are three thousand steps far from the point, where the Reno river starts on the plain and you can see the hills blue.
LETTER TO MY DYING DAD
CASALECCHIO DI RENO, JULY 31, 1989
During these hours of your agony, I am thinking of all those things,that remind me of you. These memories go from my infantry , when you were coming back to Cesine’s house on leave from Bologna, until that time, when you went and saw me in Turin, in the military hospital during my draft time.
Often I did miss you. You were always a very reserved man, never allowing yourself any tenderness
towards your children. Even lastly, when you were needy for affection, you always kept an inwardness attitude, What in you has always been been strucking is your great pride, strength of character and will of living.
You would have liked to see the dawn of 2000, one cannot say you wouldn’t have seen it ,provided that terrible illness had not struck you.
Often, with regard to you my attitude has been of envy and admiration: me, so emotional, you so strong and vital, in spite of age and missing Mommy.
Should I be allowed to, I would place a little terracotta hear in your jacket, that I have sculpted this morning. Thereon, I have engraved a flying dove with an olive tree twig in the beak, to symbolize peace and serenity you’ll reach when your suffering will be over.
In this heart there is a small container with this letter inside and a little bit of earth I picked up yesterday out of the digging site beside the beltway in Casalecchio, where a Roman settlement has been found.
Dear Dad, you have got so many sons and grandsons and your blood and race will never extinguish. In some generations there will be among your descendants a man or a woman unsociable, proud and strong, who probably , even without the faintest recollection of you, will have your character engraved, that is an hymn to Life.
A thought for Mommy and for my Life Partner
You give the Love.
The most profound one.
Some Remarks about Racism
The real racism shows in a very subtle and insidious way; it is not the dummy one, rare enough, of people saying that the different is dirty or takes job from locals. But it is the unbearable one, in the everyday petty things, whenever your voice tone becomes louder , owing to a troubling situation, or even whenever some aspects of your temperament are being emphasized by yourself, when you hide your shyness behind a somewhat arrogant attitude. Well, here you are! You are a different one, you are not this way owing to your character, but because you are a host coming from another place.
As if the locals, they all, were robots repeating identical emotions and attitudes.
In conclusion, the real racism comes to the surface whenever you, the foreigner, go out of the ordinary behavioral schemes, that from the locals are tolerated and understood.
Descendants of Giovanni Soricelli and Adelina Iadanza, residing in the province of Bologna:
Antonio and his daughters Ada, Tina, Grazia, Valentina.
Pina and her daughters Lucia and Cristina.
Saverio and his children Stefania and Giovanni.
Carmine without heirs.
Dante and his sons Fabio and Alessio.
Emilia and her children Carlo and Simona.
Carlo and his children Elisa and Lorenzo.
Teresa and her daughters Barbara and Daniela.
Pia and her sons Christian and Luca.
Angelo and Federica , Ada’s children.
Alessio, Tina’s son.
The Author himself admitted that the input to set out to write in one go, has been given him by a revolt-like feeling against the secessionist pretensions from the Bossi’s League.
Pretensions of a minority, who – as Soricelli states – “..have no legal, nor moral value “, and, anyway, are bringing about a climate of incomprehension.
This pleasant tale about the experience of a child coming from the South to Bologna in the early 50s , facing all the problems with a difficult integration, strikes all above owing to the grace and tenderness of the Author, on remembering his past time. And I do believe this is not only brought about to a childhood-regret . One can also guess a general climate in Bologna in those years not being of bitter hostility towards the new citizens come from the South.
The Author himself. Moreover, clearly recognizes the open-mindedness of our City.
Anyway, today and perhaps more now than at that time, in front of the theme of a civilized living together, we are never to be off our guard, never to feel satisfied with a tradition , which has to be continuously recurred and reaffirmed in our daily commitment and pledge.
Of this book, Pupi Avati gives in his affectionate preface an introspective key to the reading, as it suits an artist, and peculiarly the artist Avati.
As far as I am concerned, I would like to propose a further, better two further, in my opinion so much meaningful ones.
The first one is coinciding with a Soricelli’s desire, stating :” I should be happy, if this could be considered as a little Bolognese story too “.
Well, we are considering it truly like this, and I am stating this in the common conviction that Bologna would be today a very different city, without so many people coming from outside, who are giving their contribution to its growth, and without the hosts having absorbed our habits in part, even without losing their own identity .
This is leading us straight to the second key to reading, utmost important, as it is casting us into the future. A future already begun, to tell the truth, a future, which we are to face every day in Bologna, in Italy, as everywhere in the Western countries.
The problem with the integration has got different characteristics at present: no longer North and South in the same country, but North and South in the world are involved in the effort of trying a possible way of co-living, together.
It is question now of a cultural epoch-making challenge. Therefrom people can come out richer, thanks to a spirit oriented towards solidarity, and towards curiosity and attention too.
“…I do hope that tomorrow a child, may be Albanian, Arab, African, Philippine or Pakistani can write a story like mine, and cherish the same nice memories of the place, where he has been received.” This is Carlo Soricelli ‘s wish.
I hope the same too, really.
Senator of the Italian Republic,
Former Mayor of Bologna.