Bravo! This February 12th, Forum Giovani di Pontelandolfo produced E Fuori Nevica! The young actors had only planned on one performance – wrong! The show was so well recieved that an encore performance is being presented stasera, tonight, Friday, February 24, 2017.
2’nd Chance to See the Play!
Enthusiasm for the actors, the play and the project has moved beyond the boundaries of Pontelandolfo. The play will also be touring to Casalduni and Fragnetto! Whew – my enthusiasm is leaping ahead. You’re probably wondering who, what, where…
WHO:Forum Giovani di Pontelandolfois the association of young adults that actively endeavors to bring culture, entertainment and a grand good time to the village. Many of them were involved in the July, 2016 collaborative theatrical production of Sacro di Santa Giocondina. The production was so well received and such a positive experience for the young thespians that they wanted to continue to bring quality theater to the community.
“It’s Snowing Outside” presented in Teatro San Rocco
The comedy deals with the familiar theme of family relationships and dealing with a handicapped sibling. The characters include: the burgeoning musician, Enzo, played by Gennaro Santopietro; Cico, suffering from autism, played by Antonio Del Ciampo (President of the Forum); Giovanni Ruggiero plays Stefano, the brother with an excessive sense of responsibility; and Valerio Mancini (my handsome cousin in blue blazer) plays the notary. Paola Corbo and Jonathan Moavero provided technical support.
WHAT: E Fuori Nevica! by Vincenzo Salemme is the tale of three brothers thrust together by their mother’s death. In order for the three men to inherit from mom, they had to live together . That means three incredibly different personalities – including an autistic adult, obsessive, and bopper – find themselves in the same house. The story is hilarious, touching and heartfelt. Author, Salemme, born in Bacoli, Province of Naples, is a familiar comedic actor and writer. He worked with the prestigious company of Eduardo De Filippo and has written and starred in numerous films. You might recognize him from the RAI series Da Nord a Sud… e ho detto tutto!
WHERE: The City Council granted Forum Giovani free use of sala-teatro Papa Giovanni Paolo. The multi purpose room is behind Chiesa San Rocco on Via San Rocco.
I am in New Jersey and this is happening tonight in Pontelandolfo! ERRRRRRRRG.
Need an excuse to come to Southern Italy? Here is a great one – a production of the story of Santa Giocondina. The play is produced every four years – so if you miss it there is a long wait to see it again. Every four years, residents of Pontelandolfo come together to share the story of this Christian martyr. The catalyst for the production is a relic of the Saint that the parish is privileged to own . It is a huge undertaking! The cast of twenty six plus people rehearse two nights a week for months in the village’s theatre. Elaborate costumes are made. Sets are built and the community gathers to see the life and torture of the Saint. This year Gabriele Palladino, the artistic director is putting the cast through their paces.
I snuck into a rehearsal and was impressed with the caliber of actors I saw on the stage. They were in the moment, took the roles seriously and we’re obviously committed to bringing realism to the stage. When I mentioned that to Jack he reminded me where I had been a few weeks ago and why the actors were comfortable on the stage. You might remember, I went to the Scuola dell Infanzia to see an end of year production called “Paese Mio Che Stai Sulla Collina.” In case you missed the story – 5 Year Old Actors Rock The Stage. The ritual of performing is ongoing throughout all grades. As are class trips not to theme parks but to wonders of art and architecture. Residents as young as three years old perform with the folklorico dance company – Ri Ualanegli Di Pontelandolfo. The arts are a part of life in Pontelandolfo. (Hmm – maybe that explains my families artistic bent.)
During the rehearsal, I heard actors question Gabriele about their motivation. Gabriele gently led the actors down the path to the through line of the story. The narrative places in context the antithesis between good and evil – salvation and damnation. I witnessed characters growing under his guidance. The cast includes a cross section of the community and all take their roles seriously. Become their FaceBook pal and see more pictures.
Eleonora Guerrera (I don’t think we are related) is doing a stellar job portraying Giocondina the tortured Saint. I asked her how she felt about creating the character –
Quando mi è stato chiesto di recitare nel dramma sacro di Santa Giocondina come protagonista, è stato per me un grande onore accettare la parte, nonostante i miei tentennamenti!! Il gruppo che si è creato è molto affiatato, come una famiglia; lo svolgimento delle prove una boccata d’ossigeno; far parte di un gruppo come questo può solo farmi crescere. Sono felice dell’esperienza che sto vivendo e ringrazio Gabriele Palladino per la fiducia riposta in me e per aver tirato fuori qualcosa che non ero al corrente di avere!
When I was asked to perform the sacred drama of Santa Giocondina as the protagonist, despite my hesitation, it was a great honor to accept the part!!
The group of performers that has been created is very close-knit, like a family. The development of the work as been a breath of fresh air for me. Being part of a group like this can only make me grow as performer. I’m happy that I’m living the experience and thank Gabriele Palladino for the confidence placed in me and for having pulled out something in me that I was not aware of having!
The 2016 production features Eleonara Guerrera, Paolo Tranchini, Michela Delli Veneri, Gianmarco Castaldi, Antonio Addona, Giovanni romano, Gennaro Del Negro, Salvatore Griffini, Davide Cocciolillo and Antonio Silvestre. Angels are played by Serena Romano, Paula Corbo and Margherita Sforza. There are countless others in the cast in supporting roles. The assistant directors is Dolores Del Negro. Director, Gabriele Palladino wrote an article on the back story for Pontelandolfo News– which can be read in English.
The production is slated for the end of July – just before the week long festa of San Salvatore. Buy that plane ticket and come visit Pontelandolfo in time to see the Dramma Sacro Di Santa Giocondina!
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?
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.)
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.
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?
Gabriele – Dolce- 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.
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.
View from a piazza in Rodi Garganico
Annalaura – Tanti 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?
There I was, rifling through my tiny little notebook, looking for a clue as to what happened on day five of the festa. The seven day event filled party had addled my brain. Movie? 9:30 – what the hell did that mean. I pulled up the Festa poster to read the list. Cripes! There are 8 – I counted – 8 days of late night events, drinks, etc. No wonder I can’t remember. Whack – it hit me – what did movie mean – just the biggest event to happen here – Comicron. A two day film festival that drew entries from all over the world. Note it was a TWO day even – so I only have to write one blog. The web site is slick – http://www.comicronfilmfestival.it – and states:
Il Comicron international short film festival nasce da un’idea di Ugo Gregoretti di creare un’inedita manifestazione dedicata esclusivamente ai cortometraggi comici. Un’esperienza in grado di scoprire nuovi talenti…
The Comicron international short film festival grew from the idea of Ugo Gregoretti to create an unprecedented event dedicated exclusively to comedy shorts. An experience that allows us to discover new talent …
This festival and the drawing power of Artistic Director Maestro Ugo Gregoretti, attracted a huge well heeled audience – including the red carpet crowd. They made the mistake of setting up the red carpet during the day – so that any old riff-raff could strut their stuff – like me!
Slick, slick, slick. The roadies and volunteers were all dressed in red t-shirts, had communication equipment and moved about with purpose. High end ear buds could be seen on crew chiefs scurrying about with clip boards. Banners from the highway led you to the piazza. The banners were a nice touch and perked up the streets.
We got there in plenty of time, sat on the red chairs and made sure I wasn’t sitting behind a tall person. The show was slated to start at 9:30 and being run by professionals so we knew curtain would be at 9:30. Sitting there, I discovered that being on time was actually late. The cutting of the ribbon and parade down the faux red carpet had started earlier – rats!!!
Having the attention span of a gnat, I promptly started looking around – whoa flowers on the down stage edge. That’s a nice touch and the screen is huge. It was obvious that the A-team had done the setup, the stage was nicely dressed and lit. Suddenly, I noticed that everyone was pointing to the front – must be someone famous – it is! Sarah Maestri was here – she is an incredibly famous Italian film, television and radio star!!!! She also just recently released a novel that has become a best seller. Of course, I was here on time and didn’t get to meet her – ugggg.
Scared you – thought you wouldn’t see her face! Don’t worry in the next photo we have Giorgio Arlorio, Sarah Maestri, Ugo Gregoretti and our own Sindaco Rinaldi. H’mmmm I bet you are wondering who Giorgio Arlorio is – just an incredibly successful screenwriter with tons of film and television credits.
On the big screen, the asino – donkey of yesterday’s Pontelandolfo came to life and licked the screen revealing Comicron! The wait for the show to start was broken by counting how many times they would repeat the mule action accompanied by some killer swing music. Then the graphic changed. The music changed. The lights changed. I raced home and changed.
The producers of Comicron are in the film business so the film work and the digitized graphics was top shelf. Media held our attention and signaled what was going on. You didn’t need a program because the art infused graphics let you know who was on stage and why. The hosts, Laura Abbaleo and Rino Genovese were real pros and a welcome change from the creepy guy of the night before. Unfortunately, they had to read an incredibly long list of sponsors but moved it rapidly. Now those names should have been on an opening graphic and we could have read it while we were waiting. I got just a tad antsy. The duo really impressed me when I realized they were verbally synching with images that were flashing behind them!
They opened the show with a home town favorite, Ri Ualanegli Juonior, performing Gioca Dei Bambini. Sadly, many in the audience left their seats after the little dancers performed.
Don’t you leave your seat – check out the dance. I shot their concert in June and you’ll see Gioca Dei Bambini, the traditional dance that everyone loves. The opening is kids playing games – the dancing is a few seconds past that.
The folks that scurried out of their seats didn’t go far because the kids also performed at the very end of the night. I was gone by then and really couldn’t grasp why you would have little kids stay up until 12:30 to be the finale of a film festival. Oh, I get it – audience numbers. I don’t think the programmers needed to do that. The audience – like me – was there to see this international slate of short comic films. The red carpet notables were another big draw.
Speaking of unnecessary fill – the night also featured additional live entertainment of of the well known professional variety. Next up, after the spirited young dancers was comic Antonio Riscetti. I appreciated his political humor and the fact that he spoke slowly and beautifully enough for me to understand.
Finally, we got to see the first set of three films. Then a singer came on who had starred in Notre Dame de Paris – It was already 11:00 ish we didn’t need another famous person we wanted to see the next set of films. I was a bad girl and got up and walked around to get a drink.
Let’s talk about the movies. The professionalism of cinema, writing and editing varied. All were well done but some reminded me of silly student films – you know slap stick and stupid sophomoric ideas. I mean “Mafia University” – come on. I loved the well scripted and thought out Fulgenzia – Until A Name You Do Part.
The next night an additional six films were shown – sans a lot of the extra entertainment.
They flowed on to the grand denouement – the announcement of the winners!
When my nonna told stories about life in Pontelandolfo she often mentioned the fountains. There is a massive one in the main piazza but there are others scattered among the hills. Some of these fountains date back to Roman times. These fountains were a hub for gossip, doing laundry, getting a quick drink on a hot day and gathering water to drink, cook with and wash in. For generations, mountain spring water has run through ancient pipes and spurted out into jugs that were carried home.
The fountains still exist – but there is a new kid in town! This year when we drove into the center of Pontelandolfo we noticed this big stainless steel box – Acquaself – and a bunch of people hanging around with plastic bottles. Holy smokes – they are getting water! It costs only €.05 a liter for spring water – sparkling or plain. Oh no, I thought, yet another rural ritual blown out of the water.
Years ago, Jack joined Mario Mancini and went up into the mountains to one of five or six ancient fountains. Mario, a foodie and mountain gatherer, knew where to take his bottles to get the best tasting water. They drove miles away from the village center and what did they find – other men filing bottles. Jack was flabbergasted when one of the men turned to him and said in English – where are you from – “New Jersey” – “Me too – Livingston”! That is the magic that happens around the fountain.
The Pontelandolfo main fountain has been a meeting place, photo op and life blood of the community. In the summer kids fill water balloons from the constantly flowing spring water. When that happens I run in the other direction – cross fire can be pretty wet. Can Acauself – a stainless steel box – really replace all that? Interesting question. I’ve gone for our water – I mean .05 for a litter of sparkling water – and chatted with folks who were filling their bottles. Maybe the conversation will continue at the box but I can’t see anyone doing their laundry. The talented Annalaura Iacovella will explain how Acquaself works – so those of you who speak Italian can test your skills – those of you who don’t can read the titles. Happy mineral water to you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The people here visit their deceased family often. I see families come bringing new flowers weekly. There is a real connection to the past.
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.
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.
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.)
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.