Every Day is a Great Day

This morning the buzzzzzzzz sang out on the lavatrice and my first thought was merde. My tea was piping hot and I haven’t finished my collezione. Why did I toss the clothes in the washer before breakfast! Now,if I didn’t take the clothes out of the washer they’d be a wrinkled mess. I went to the washing machine, plopped the clothes in the basket, hipped the door open and headed out to the line. The clothes line faces a mountain that was as green as green could be. I took a breath of clean mountain air, started hanging the clothes, looked up at the sky and said, thank you for this.

My next morning chore was to take a shirt back to the lavanderia. Jack is very particular and only wears cotton dress shirts. Yesterday, when I picked up his shirts one of them wasn’t cotton and definitely wasn’t his. What a drag. (Insert sad face.) Now… (Insert Sigh Sound.) I have to drive back to the next town. Grumbling about why couldn’t Jack speak enough Italian to take his own shirt back, I buckled up and pulled out of the driveway. A few minutes later, I took an even bigger breath – the village of Morcone was a swath of color oozing down a mountain side. The drive there was spectacular. A blue sky over the reservoir, mountains bursting with color, farmers cleaning around their olive trees – how could anyone be pissy surrounded by such amazing beauty.

The entrepreneurial young woman who opened the lavanderia was all smiles and happy to find the right shirt. As a matter of fact every shop I went into this morning was a happy place. What makes it even more special is that everyone knows my name. Living in a teeny tiny village next to a slightly bigger village – making that village just plain tiny – means that in a nano-second everyone knows everyone else. It is kind of special.

Every day, I’ve learned to say thank you to God, Goddesses and the Universe. Cause – no matter what – when you live in the Sannio Hills of Southern Italy- every day is a great day.

Ci vediamo!

Not to late to sign up for 2018 Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo!

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Paris in the Thirties – Guardia Sanframondi

Before the dinosaurs roamed the earth, I visited Montmartre, the old artist’s quarter of Paris. Noooo, the artists weren’t old the quarter was old. During the 2016 Vinalia in Guardia Sanframondi I felt like I was walking back in time. The purpose of the Vinalia Festa  is to reinforce the town’s position as a center for fabulous wines. What it also did was help me understand why American writers and artists were buying homes in the funky centro storico.  Clare Galloway, may have been the first artist pioneer.  She bought a house in 2011 for €10,000 and working alone transformed it into “Arthouse,” a B&B and artist studio.  Clare, has been an avid supporter of the arts in this hilltop village.


Borgo Artisti was the best part of Vinalia.  In the medieval quarter we found pop-up gallery after gallery of local art.  Every vacant street level space was professionally lit and showcased  individual pieces or groupings of art.




Jack and my pal the poet, Maria Williams, venture down the steps to Clare’s Studio.

During our walk we met some of the WOMEN who are homesteading in Guardia.  What really resonated with me, was that they are doing this alone.   We met a playwright, massage therapist/ alternative practitioner, artist and —well just a table full of really interesting international women who were looking for a different lifestyle.  AND  a  place to do their art that cost less than it would in the USA and offered the beauty of this Italian hill town.

The sexy sounds of  a French chanteuse  was broadcast through the air. Cobblestone streets, free flowing wine and art. Lots of art. Paris. No – Italy!!  Southern Italy the Sannio hills.

That said, it is 1/2 an hour from Ponelandolfo and really, if you want to live in a beautiful village with wonderful people, consider my hometown.  The hook?   Why me. of course!

Ci Vediamo!

Let The Second Act Begin!!!

Yawn, my eyes are little goopy slits but I feel compelled to talk to you.  Just a second.  There a gulp of tea and a quick peek at the clouds and I feel a wee bit better.  I’m perched on my Air Emirates “flat bed” seat gazing around the cabin at the sleeping beauties snoring.  Pretty subtle huh?  Yup Jack and I are on the way back to Italy flying Business Class on the classiest airline I’ve ever been on.

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Jack Huber – The Ace Airlines Shopper

Trust me – we paid less for these seats than we would this time of year for coach on anyone else.  There was an e-mail alert that Jack got – he is on all kinds of travel lists – Air Emirates was offering TWO coach seats to Milan from New York for $800 ROUND TRIP!!!!  Then they sent an e-mail that within a three hour window you could upgrade to Business Class for $900!!!  Jack rapid fired a response.  So our two tickets cost us a total of $1750.  Damn, Jack is a great air shopper.  The plane is lovely – Jack says his dinner of herb cured salmon was very good.  He also had huge prawns, scallops,  great asparagus with thin polenta – cripes I’m getting hungry.  I got on the plane, asked the steward to make up the bed and promptly fell asleep.  I missed the open bar.  RATS.  We are spending a week in Milan.  This is the prologue of our new second act.  A Second Act that finds us searching for new adventures.  Perhaps I should explain…

Sigh, some of you may have wondered where the heck I’ve been for two plus months.  Here is the ugly update – I got smacked with a bizarre something or other – lots of tests and no diagnosis – we have no idea illness made me dizzier than usual and held me couch hostage for two months.  As soon as I could lift my head from the pillow, we made good on our promise to each other to list our New Jersey home and start a new and exciting second act.  The house has been in my family since 1926 – my nonna fed all of us from that subsistence farm.

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We made quite a few changes to the place but the soul of it belongs to nonna & nonno.

 The family used the house as a safe haven in any storm.  Listing it was tough – but hey it could take years to sell a 250 plus old farm house.  WRONG – Seven days – 7 days.  The bloody house sold for full price in 7 days.  I’m thinking that Zia Caterina, Poppa and Nonna wanted me out of the house and on the road.

We frantically emptied 3 out buildings and the huge house of 3 generations worth of stuff.  The work was staggering physically and emotionally.  First came the estate sale company – they take 30% of the gross sale. Second I cajoled and begged family and pals to help me belly lug everything left in the house to the out buildings and set up for the “Free Sale”.  People queued up in the rain to be let into the garage ten at a time, race around grabbing all the good stuff they wanted before I bellowed “Your Done – Next Group In”.  Hey, you gotta make this stuff a game or be bored to death.  Shit – there is still stuff left.  A thirty yard dumpster and crew of three tossed the rest of my family’s possessions.  That night I stayed up with my pal Grey Goose and sobbed.

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Bye Bye 221 South Branch Road.  You served generations of us well.

Photo by http://galleries.johnfeistphotography.com/

We closed on the house a week ago.  Now what?  Sell the cars of course.  Might as well be car-less as well as homeless.  That pretty much brings you up to date.  Now that we have shed most of our belongings and bills we are back in Italy ready to open that Second Act.

I’ve got to go now.  The handsome cabin steward just asked if I wanted an omelet,  french toast or – who cares what it is served on china with real flatware!!!  We will chat again soon.

Thank you in advance for following the Italian journey with us.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Ragazzi Iacovella

The days are getting shorter, the wind is whistling in the mountains – summer is over.  Annalaura, Gabriele and Alessio Iacovella looked at each other and said – what did we do this summer?

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A Rainy September Day – Let’s Talk About the Summer!

After a warm your chilly bones lunch of tortellini soup, roasted chicken, home made french fries, local mushrooms and more at Carmela’s kitchen, her grandchildren eleven year old Gabriele, 12 year old Annalaura and 8 year old Alessio sat me down and told me their summer story –

During the day we stayed with Nonna Carmela – she is a great cook!  At night we went to Casalduni.  Casalduni has – Parco Giochi.  (Their dad, Pasquale,  is Casalduni’s Sindaco – mayor.  The kids burst with pride about that.)

Casalduni

Parco Giochi has a garden, lake with fish, scivolo – slide,  gonfiabili – inflatable houses to jump in,  and campo per pallavolo – volleyball, bocce, small paddle boats –  we know lots of kids in Casalduni.  We had fun every night.

Allessio – a real charmer chimed in – Mi piace mar in Puglia!  I took a long trip to Puglia with my family. In the car we looked at the paesaggio – panorama –  and we saw the flowers, albero d’olvio – olive trees e gira sole – sun flowers .

Gabriele – I was a little bored in the car – the trip was long.

AnnaLaura – No it was short to Puglia – per andare in Calabria il viaggio è lungo.

GabrielePer me è lungo

Annalaura – We stayed at the Orchidea Blu Hotel. (http://www.orchideavillage.it/ – San Menaio, Vico del Gargano (Foggia) Puglia)

Orchieda Blue Hotel

We went to the pool every afternoon!

It had a pool, un animazione – clown – a person to play with us kids. On a typical day – we went to the beach in the morning and in the afternoon to the pool.  That way my mother didn’t have to worry about us so much.

What did you like the best?

GabrieleDolce- dolce ogni giorno.  We ate in the same restaurant in the hotel every day and I ate tanti dolci.

Besides eating dessert what did you do –

Gabriele – I went to the pool to swim.  With the animazione – played darts, calcio in the streets, pallanuoto – water polo and ping pong.  OK, OK giocare con l’animazione è più divertente di mangiare dolci.

Alessio – Ho giocato con i miei nuovi amici nel mare.

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Those are old people in that picture.  I played with my new friends Samuele, Fabrizio, Giusseppe, Niccolo e Raffele.  We built castles in the sand, swam, giocare a pallone – calcio and ….

Gabriele – Rodi Garganico – one night we went there too.  It was like Pontelandolfo with an ocean.

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View from a piazza in Rodi Garganico

AnnalauraTanti negozi e bancharelle – shops and stands.  The ancient buildings – beautiful.  We were sad to leave Puglia.

Alessio – But wait till we tell you about our other trip to Calabria –

It is September – how did you spend your summer vacation?

I hope you got to play calcio too.

Festa Di San Antonio – Day Three and we are still Standing

August 2nd was Day Two of Contest Musica Live and day three of the Festa.  At 9:00 PM – dressed to the nines and with my party attitude on –  I left Jack snoring on the couch and forcing myself to put one tired foot in front of the other drove down to the piazza.  Gulp, I was going to a concert alone.  Who would I talk to, where would I sit, would I know anyone there?  The questions I just typed may have floated through my insecure 16 year old brain but the 65 year old knew that I would talk to everyone, sit where I wanted and – hey this is Pontelandolfo – I would know folks.

The first hint that less folks might be coming to this amateur event was the lack of vendors.  Many of the previous nights venders were somewhere else.  No one was selling shoes and there were fewer food trucks.  H’mm I got a parking space really close too.  This didn’t bode well for lots of people coming

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Look – a pre-lit stage!

Wow, somebody noticed that the stage didn’t look so professional for the first day of the talent contest or else they hired a different company for Day Two.  The set up was much more professional looking. There were blacks up stage – black curtains across the back of the stage and a different light set up.  Jack said how do I know these things – I just know OK.  You’ll see on the video.

The pre show started at 9:50 – a lot earlier than the day before and almost on time!  (The show was scheduled to start at 9:30 PM.)   The MC – who over the week I began to loathe more and more – did his usual warmup.  When the first group came on stage, folks started pouring into the piazza – not thousands but a healthy crowd.  The opening act was a fabulous singer and band from Pontelandofo!  That explained the enthusiastic crowd.  I also discovered that the day before many of our talented young folks were performing out of town with our dance company, hence, could not be bopping and rocking in the piazza.  They made sure to be back for our home town singer,  Eleonora Di Marzo!  She was terrific and so was the lighting. From smoke spurts to strobes it was much better rock lighting than the night before.

Bar Mixed Fantasy had tables set up that gave a great view of the stage – I bought my Campari soda, grabbed a table and started dancing in my seat.  As more folks came, I chatted, rocked and rolled and throughly  enjoyed the music, booze, friends and summer night.  I am not a music critic but can easily say that the bands the second night were a hell of a lot better than the bands we heard the first night.  They excuse Jack had given for not wanting to come – before he drifted to dreamland –  was the bands were beh the first night, why should we go and listen to mediocre music.  Because it is FESTA WEEK and it is our responsibility to go and support the festa.  OK, I want to go because it is always one hell of a party.

Unfortunately, my videos of the later bands had lousy sound quality.  So you will only hear our local favorite BUT note the clips of the accordion player – his group was amazing doing Neapolitan classics – too bad my camera recorded the conversation of the folks next to me.  UGGGG

Let’s go to the video.

http://youtu.be/SwNO7ynLa3U

Storms Silence This Yapper

Shout out to subscriber Kathy H. who said “I feel a blog about being silenced is in your future.”  Now, Kathy knows I love to chat.  We  Facetime, Viber or Magic Jack call each other a lot.  What do we talk about?  I haven’t a clue, but for about a week the chatting  stopped.

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Run Dorothy Run!

On those chatless days we were plagued with thunder, lighting, whooshing rain and turn  your umbrella inside out wind.  The internet went kaput. No Internet no chatting.

What? No Magic Jack or Viber?
What? No Magic Jack or Viber?

Suddenly I was silenced!

 Yeah, yeah I know – I could still e-mail from my smart phone but it ain’t the same as voice to voice chatting.  For one whole week I couldn’t verbally reach out to family and friends in the USA. WHAT!

It was a great opportunity to read books, sit in the caffè and gossip and maybe even play at writing something.  It also made me realize that my blabbing about our great cheap ways to communicate with folks in other parts of the globe needed a revision.  Here in the hills we have one communication tragic flaw – storms knock out the internet.

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Our internet is provided through an antennae on our house and a signal sent from an even bigger antennae somewhere in the hills.  When the wind is whoooooooooossssshhhhhhhing the signal starts swirling and may be providing internet to Saturn.

NO INTERNET

(Read – https://nonnasmulberrytree.com/2013/09/27/internet-cant-…ome-without-it/ ‎)

No internet means NO Magic Jack.

(Read – https://nonnasmulberrytree.com/2013/07/16/land-line-phone-no-voip-yes/)

No internet means NO Facetime or Skype

(Read – https://nonnasmulberrytree.com/2013/06/05/talking-for-fr…ound-the-world/)

How does one overcome this dilemma?  First, make sure you have a good cellular telephone provider.  We use WIND and pay ten Euro a month for 200 minutes of calls, 200 texts and UNLIMITED data.  Second, make sure you have a phone that can become a wi-fi hotspot.  I have an iPhone 4s that works well as a hotspot.

I will caution you, there were times when the storms also limited our ability to use our cell phones but not often.

To make quick calls to the USA – really quick because the more you use the unlimited data the slower it becomes – I would turn the cell phone into a hot spot and call through my iPad or Macbook Air.  Apple doesn’t send me dime for saying what I’m about to say (though I would gladly accept the latest iPhone.)  Apple products all work incredibly well together.  

I’ve installed Viber and Skype on my iPad.  Facetime comes with the iPad and Macbook.  Magic Jack also now has an application for smart phones a well as your computer.  Our New Jersey phone number is our Magic Jack number so folks can easily call us and/or leave a message. (Though I wish telemarkerters would stop calling at 6:00 PM Eastern Standard Time which is MIDNIGHT here.)

Bottom line – I may not be able to sip Campari Soda and talk about nothing with pals in America for an hour but thanks to a good cellular provider and the hotspot on my iPhone we can still get our words out.

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Thanks Apple for Facetime.

 

 

Finding My Great Grandfather

This morning when I got up there was a line of cars outside our house.

That is the line that starts the post I thought I was going to write.  You’ll get that one tomorrow or dopo domani.  It is about a funeral and the funeral/burial traditions of Pontelandolfo.  I can’t finish it today.  Because today in the basement of the Pontelandolfo Cemetary “Cappella” – Chapel, where the bones of the poor are stacked in wooden or tin boxes, I found my great grandfather.  Don’t ask me how I know it was him or how I found him.  When I saw the wooden box with the handwritten “Salvatore Guerrera” I just knew.  It doesn’t have a date – he died in the 1920’s – but I knew.

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There are hundreds of stacked boxes. I may be wrong, but when I saw this box – I knew.

My great friend, Nicola Ciarlo, had taken me to the cemetery to explain the rules, regulations and traditions of a Pontelandolfo funeral.  It is as unlike a New Jersey funeral as you can imagine.  The mountain is made of soil that is rocky and hard.  The cemetery has been used for generations and hasn’t grown in size.  People die – how could the cemetery not expand? Simple, after a number of years, the coffin’s are dug up, bones prepared and then placed in a little box that is placed in a nice marble drawer.  That’s if you can afford the nice marble drawer to share with your loved ones. But you’ll read that tomorrow.  Today I need to think about my bisnonno.

Nicola took me to the church basement to show me where the bones of the lost ones were housed.  The place is called “il ossario” – that is fitting because “ossa” means bone.  The lost ones either didn’t have family to reclaim their bones or they were too poor to be placed somewhere else.  In the 1920s in Pontelandolfo everyone was poor – my family was no exception.  They were contadini – farmers who worked the land for a rich dude. Back then, after World War I and the ravaging of the mountain by the troops, the poverty caused a mass exodus to the Americas. Noone had the money to come back for funerals or even knew that loved ones had died.  So, in the ossario there are stacks and stacks of wooden boxes.  Some were dated from the early 1900’s.  Most didn’t have any dates, just a name scrawled across one side.  Little white boxes held the bones of poor children.

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The bones of children are nestled in white wooden cradles for perpetuity.

As I covered my nose from the damp, moldy smell and looked around, I realized that the boxes had been piled in alphabetical order.  I kept walking and found a shelf containing the remains of Guerreras.  Since Guerrera is as common here as Smith, I didn’t think anything of the shelf.  Then, as though an arrow shot through my core, my entire being was pulled toward the box that said “Salvatore Guerrera.”  It has been 5 hours and I am still crying – though now I am crying in my scotch.  At first, I thought the overwhelming sadness was because the root of my family tree was tossed in a box and stacked on a shelf.  Or I was crying because of how very poor my family had been.  Then I realized that I was crying and felt an overpowering sense of loss for all the elders in my family that I didn’t know, haven’t found and haven’t taken the time to discover.  I cried from the depth of my soul.  The tears refused to stop.  Suddenly, I realized that I was mourning.  Mourning for my father, my Aunt Cat, my mommy, my Uncle Sally, grandma, Uncle Tony, Uncle Nick, cousin Roseann, Aunt Julie – mourning for all of the people I have loved, who had loved me unequivocally and died.  All of the sadness I had bottled up had been released by my great grandfather, Salvatore.  My sadness sits inside me and maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe in order for the sadness to escape I need to start whacking away at the memoir about finding my family.

Enough about me.  Let’s talk about Salvatore Guerrera. He was born on April 5, 1848 to Giovanni Guerrera and Maria Guerrera – since women here don’t change their names when they marry seeing the Guerrera married to a Guerrera was a wee bit disconcerting.  But hey, it was a small village and Guerrera is like Jones.  The Guerrera infusion in my body is even stronger – Salvatore married Caterina Guerrera.  Writing this makes me realize that my blood must also flow in over 50% of the people that I meet.  That connection is visceral for all of us and explains why I feel so accepted here. My great grandparents had five children that lived – Francesco – my nonno,  Maria Vittoria, Anna, Nicola, and Giovanni.

Book in comune

What I discovered years ago peering through the dusty books in the town hall was that Salvatore had a whole second family! He also married Giuseppa Iannicelli and had four more kids- Caterina Maria ( who died as a baby), Caterina, Michele Nicola and Antonio.  It is interesting that Salvatore’s first wife’s name was Caterina and he named his daughters with his second wife Caterina!  I wish I could flash back in time and hear that story.

Salvatore was a small man who was larger than life – a fighter, lover, leader.  I have only met him through the tales that others have shared. It isn’t the same as seeing his face and hearing his voice but it still links me to him.  Here are stories my Zia Caterina, Daddy John, and Carmine Manna told me.

Salvatore Guerrera was Robin Hood. He stole from the rich and gave to the poor.  In those days everyone was a poor sharecroppers – like a slave – worked the fields for the rich.  They had very little food or money.  Salvatore took and gave.  No one starved.

During World War I, Salvatore was out hunting and he heard some local women screaming. German soldiers were “having their way with them.”  Salvatore shot the soldiers.  He then dressed as a soldier, took their German guns and walked past the Germans – right back through the lines.  That took amazing balls.

With safety in numbers, peasants then lived in stone attached dwellings. The bottom floor was used to house the family’s animals and farming tools. The heat from the animals rose and warmed the second floor which was inhabited by the family. It was one room. The space was very small and yet everyone managed to live together.  The structure still stands in the Santa Caterina section of Pontelandolfo.

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Here is the set of row houses that date back hundreds of years. Now they are empty or used as storage space.
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Here is what is left of Salvatore’s. It was the end of the row and looks like I felt today.

Zia Giuseppina Guerrera, my dad’s first cousin, told me these stories:

Salvatore needed wood for a fire to bake bread.  In this time there were no trees left for wood.  (My grandmother told me that during World War I everything was taken from them and they started to make soup from the bark of trees.)  Everyone was poor and hungry.  Salvator wanted to cut down the tree of the the padrona.  Remember, Salvatore, like many others, was a serf and worked the land for the padrona.  The tree was incredibly large and the padrona said “No, you can’t cut it.  I need to tie my donkey to that tree.  So in the dark of night Salvatore cut off the just the top of the tree and tied the donkey to the bottom!

Tobacco was grown in the fields to make cigarettes.  The police – working for the rich – said don’t take this tobacco, it is to be sold.  Of course Salvator took a leaf of the tobacco, looked at the police and said, ” Beh,  don’t talk to me about this tobacco.  I will smoke if I want to – so get the hell out of here.”  Since he was as strong as a giant, the police went away.  The next day the police came back and Salvatore was smoking.  He was so very very strong and carried himself like a man of power.  There was no arrest.  They were afraid of him.

He was so strong that he would take things from the rich man to give to the others.  The rich man would say – “I’ll give you money to stop taking things.  Salvator laughed and said – “I’ll just take it.”  The rich man too was afraid of the very strong and persuasive Salvatore.

When Salvatore was very old he told Giuseppena’s father, Antonio, to bring him his cane.  “I want the cane.  Give me the cane because I want to beat these children.”  No one would bring him his cane. He was still really strong – even as an old man and everyone knew if he got a hold of that cane…

I obviously never met Salvatore Guerrera, the father of my father’s father and the very strong root of my personal family tree.  Those traits of his I have seen – in my father, my aunt and gulp – I hate to admit it but – myself.

“L saugu t chiama,” Zia Giuseppina, my father’s first cousin, constantly tells me in the dialect of Pontelandolfo, that “the blood calls.” “L saugu t’altira.” Blood like a magnet is drawn to like blood.  My saugu, is strongly attracted to the saugu here.  She hugs me and reminds me, that I am the only one who came back from America to search for those left behind.” 

The search continues.

 

Pontelandolfo Funeral Traditions

IMG_1512 Finally – the story you may or may not have been waiting for – the funeral traditions of my Italian home town. A shout out on this topic to  Art Adair of Somerville’s New Cemetery, Jimmy Cusick of Cusick’s Funeral Home and Mayann Carroll, former ace lobbyist for the Funeral Director’s Association.  Sorry that this particular blog was usurped earlier by my finding my great grand daddy’s bones and turning into a pile of weepy. (https://nonnasmulberrytree.com/2014/06/06/finding-my-great-grandfather/)

This morning when I got up there was a line of cars outside our house. (Thats a lie, it’s been a week since this happened but I didn’t want to mess with the story.) I mentioned the cars to Jack and he said they had been there late last night too. An all night bash and we weren’t invited?  Of course we are usually asleep by 10:00.  Our house is really close to the cemetery but it has a parking lot and this car line started further up the hill. H’mmm.

The yellow house on the left is ours - surrounded by cars.
The yellow house on the left is ours – surrounded by cars.

Our neighbor and friend, Nicola Ciarlo, stopped over for caffè.  Nosey Jack asked why Nicola wasn’t working.  “There’s a funeral, he said, don’t you see the cars?”  What cars, I said?  (Hey I’m not the nosey one.)  Looking at me like I had Campari for breakfast, Nicola said, “The ones on the road by the house?”  Oh those cars.  Why are they here? “People are visiting the family.”  We do that in the New Jersey too.  “With the body?” he asked.  I retorted, The real body – the dead body?

According to Nicola, here in Pontelandolfo they bring the coffin to the house, arrange the body in the bedroom or another room and everyone comes to the house to pay their respects.  People bring food and many kiss the dead person goodbye.  (Try bringing food to a NJ funeral parlor – I’ve gotten my hand slapped trying that one – right Jimmy.) 

The family stays up all night with the corpse.  My first response was YUCK will I ever use that room again.  Then, thinking about it, the idea resonated with me and actually sounds more civilized than schlepping the corpse from a drawer in the morgue to the paid company’s home. (Sorry Jimmy, your funeral parlor often feels like my home away from home.)   They don’t have funeral parlors in Ponteladolfo – they have funeral facilitators.  So unless you  want to cart the body to – well I don’t know to where – you have to use your own parlor.  H’mm that could be a lot of work.  I mean, how long is the body in the house — I’m thinking three visitation days – two hours in the afternoon and two or three in the evening – or something like that.  “Oh”, Nicola said, “its only 24 hours then the funeral at the church and burial.  People visit most of that time.”

I was blessed to be present when my dad died and moments after my precious Aunt Cat died.  During that period of time, I could feel the force of their spirits leaving.  It wasn’t ugly or scary – it was an opportunity to share yet another moment with someone you loved.  So maybe taking the process one step further and having your loved one pass on from their home isn’t’ so bad.  Years ago that was the American tradition too.

I only saw the sign for one “organizzazione funerali a Pontelandolfo” – notice it is not a “home or parlor.”  The company, Agenzia Funebre Diglio, located on Piano della Croce, 8 – 82027 – Pontelandolfo, BN, organizes funerals.  They do not embalm!  Bodies here are not embalmed.  I’m thinking the NJ Funeral Directors lobby would have a hissy fit if folks started screaming for our laws to change and bodies in their natural state were allowed to be viewed for 24 hours and interred.

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Conveniently located just down a hill from the cemetery.

My Italian is not the best so I may have misunderstood some of Nicola’s nuances but research and Jack’s memory of his Italian teacher saying the same thing confirms what follows – sort of.  Here you only lease a spot for a coffin.  If you have a lot of money you build a zinc box like thing and your coffin rests on a cement pad.  You then have thirty years to decompose peacefully.  If you have less money your coffin is partially buried in the dirt and you have a small shell of an exterior box. You get ten years of a cozy spot.

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The tall zinc model is on the left and next to it is the lower model.

After thirty years – or ten – the body is exhumed, bones are cleaned and put in a small box.  Often, there is another ceremony for the bones.  The bones are then placed in a smaller spot on one of the long walls of marble.  Poor folks who don’t have family drawers on the wall are placed in the basement of the cemetery chapel. Those of you who read my last post, heard that story.

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You can see how the coffin is not really deep in the ground.

 

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Here is a wall of family alcoves.
Here is a close up of a spot.  It reminded me of my favorite Aunt Cat.
Here is a close up of a spot. It reminded me of my favorite Aunt Cat.  Note the fresh flowers.

People of means have little private burial houses – what do we call those – memorials?   (If you know what these things are called leave a comment.)   The family’s remains can stay in the coffin in a place permanently or be removed later to make space for younger relatives, their bones placed in a glass box and put to rest in a smaller spot.

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There is a little village of these houses.
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This is the modern version.
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I peaked in side one of the houses. The flowers are fresh and changed often.

The people here visit their deceased family often. I see families come bringing new flowers weekly.  There is a real connection to the past.

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The cemetery association has these flower recycling bins to hold last week’s buds.

This exhumation and re-burial in a smaller spot is far from barbaric. It is done with love and a understanding of the cycle of life. The mountain’s rocky soil makes interment difficult. Usable land is farmed to bring food and income to the residents. The re-interment of remains has been going on for hundreds of years – think of all the bones found in ancient church lower basements- catacombs. More important than the burial process is the honor that is given to the dead – ongoing by even the younger generations.

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You can really see the height differences in the burial plots.

After Nicola patiently explained all that to me, I decided to walk down the hill and see the funeral precession for our neighbor.  I chose to watch from the great patio at Bar Mixed Fantasy. Whew, I got here just in time to watch the lead flower car slowly move up the hill to the old church. The hearse followed and following the hearse,  just like in every old movie of an Italian funeral, people from the village slowly marched up the hill too.  Wait a second – the person dies, is laid out at home and within hours folks are visiting, bringing food and clearing their calendars for the next day’s funeral.  How does the news spread that fast?  One of the services provided by the Funeral Agency is the immediate printing and posting of the large death notices.

These notices go up instantly.
These notices go up instantly.

The first time I came to Pontelandolfo – years ago – I saw plastered on the wall a death notice for Giovanni Guerrera.  It was a little freaky since I had spoken to my dad the day before and he was fine.  The death notices are either simple or adorned with art.  Within hours of the persons passing the notices are posted on the villages walls and posted at the cemetery.

Ok, back to my glass of succo d’arancia rossa and the procession.  I will admit I wanted to take pictures but I thought that it would be incredibly tacky.  It was a very quiet and somber movement towards the church.  OK,OK, I snuck one picture of the flower car. (This is for Cusick’s Funeral Home.)

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After the mass, the procession moved slowly down the hill to the piazza and on towards the cemetery. Where the loved one will be interred undisturbed until the lease runs out and they are moved to their final resting place surrounded by those that loved them.