Those of you that know me, know that my command of the Italian language is mediocre at best. No, no, no, do not try to suck up to me by telling me I can do more than get a room in a hotel, food in a restaurant and make little kids laugh.
What I can do is weave a story. When Renato Rinaldi, the editor of Pontelandolfo News, asked me to translate the stories behind the historic sites in town I gasped. “Me?” Was he kidding? Everyone in town has to help me with my Italian.
He wasn’t kidding. What he was looking for was an English speaker with a passion for the history of our village and the ability to tell the story of one of the most horrific incidents in the history of Italy’s reunification – the burning and pillage of Pontelandolfo in 1861.
This past summer, I immersed myself in this story. Renato, like a brilliant actor, told me bits and pieces that stoked my imagination. I am thankful for the opportunity to help him share this story with English speakers. Follow the link – touch the name of the historic site in town and when it opens touch English for the translation.
I had been coughing for three days – you know that deep you can’t sleep barely move kind of coughing. The ever wonderful Carmela Fusco insisted I visit the doctor. Last Wednesday morning she pushed me up the stairs to the doctor’s office. After the visit and a trip to the farmacia to pick up antibiotics etc, we sat down at Bar Mix Fantasy for a cappuccino and a cornetto – I needed food in my stomach in order to take the pill. I looked like hell, red nose, dirty hair, don’t touch me I’ll kill you look on my haggard face. OK, you got the back story?
As I sat staring, my head so congested I can barely hear, breaking through the clogged head barrier comes “Sei tu Midge?.” I glance over my right shoulder to spy a tall distinguished gentleman looking down at me. “Si” I reply, “Sono Midge.” Carmella smiled at him and said “Ciao Renato”, so I knew we were OK.
Prof. Renato Rinaldi had wanted to meet me and recognized me sitting there – I’m not sure how – and introduced himself to me. “Buon Giorno,” I say – delighted to meet the esteemed gentleman but also embarrassed at how I looked and felt. You see, I had contacted him a while back to let him know about this blog. http://www.nonnasmulberrytree.com and wanted to meet him. Prof. Rinaldi is the creator and editor of Pontelandolfo’s local on-line news magazine – Pontelandolfo News. He is a Pontelandolfo activist and advocate. Check out his web-site at http://www.pontelandolfonews.com/
I often read the Pontelandolfo News to find out what is going on locally – from politics to real estate. It contains link to news articles on other sites, info on local businesses, reports on government and well, lots of material on Pontelandolfo.
After chatting for a while, Prof. Rinaldi made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, he said that I had his permission to use content from his website for this blog! Grazie mille! I will absolutely take him up on his generous offer. But more than that, he said he had a gift for me and popped back to his car to get this –
I was incredibly flattered and touched to receive this huge book. It represents years of research and editing. As the editor, Prof. Rinaldi has created the ultimate compilation of documents that recount the heinous burning and mass murder of Pontelandolfesi on August 14, 1861. Last year the young theater folks of Pontelandolfo staged a venue specific theater piece and frankly, that was the first time I truly understood the story of Il Brigante.
Not all parts of Italy welcomed the idea of “risorgimento” – unification as one country. Frankly, the south wasn’t all that interested and it was only the heavy handed military actions that induced their cooperation. One such incident occurred on August 14, 1861. Pontelandolfo and the neighboring Casalduni were attacked – some bad folks had killed a few members of the army and the army took its revenge. The citizens of Casalduni had a little warning and fled. The attack on Pontelandolfo occurred in the dead of night. Gun bursts and fires waking up the town. It is said that about 3,000 men, women and children were mutilated, raped and murdered. The entire town was burned to the ground. We will do a full story on this when I’ve had a chance to read Rinaldi’s thorough collection of essays and historic documents.
Prof. Rinaldi was sharing his insight into this history with me, but I was having a difficult time understanding. My head still spinning with the bronchitis. He gave me his card and offered to meet with me again. He also said he would share some historic photos with me. I can’t wait to sit down with him.
Prof. Rinaldi took my miserable morning and turned it into a wonderful Pontelandolfo experience. I thank him for that and his generosity.