Village Life in Italy 2011
We settled into village life in the tiny hamlet of Luscignano in Northern Tuscany for our two month stay. The village only housed fifty-seven permanent residents. Rick and I were made welcome once the local’s early suspicions were allayed.
Why were we living in their village?
Did we have Italian heritage?
Young people rarely visited this village
Why did we choose Luscignano?
These questions had to be answered before our immediate neighbours accepted the fact that I wished to speak their beautiful language fluently. They loved the fact that we wanted to learn about the REAL Italy, experiencing village life. This won them over!
We had been fortunate to visit the main Italian cities over the years as a tourist.
I had been learning basic Italian for two years, but only two hours a week. Progress was slow. I was obviously feeling a little anxious about conversing here where there was no English spoken or understood and a broad dialect, something I had not factored in when I selected this authentic destination.
Having unpacked our car and settled into our tiny apartment, we set off on an exploratory stroll. As we passed the village church, an elderly man stepped out and spoke the first words of Italian to me;
‘Mi dispiace ma la chiesa e chiusa oggi’
(I’m sorry, but the church is closed today)
I was so ecstatic, I understood this sentence only because it was one of the first phrases we had learnt in class! What a great welcome to village life in Italy, but I knew it would not always be that simple!
I met our immediate neighbour Signor Nobili in funny circumstances. He lived in a grand house alongside the wall which enclosed our apartment. It was a very steep drop from our tiny balcony where the clothesline was situated. I had to hang over the balcony and peg the washing on the line. On my first day I happened to drop a pair of Rick’s undies way down below. I knew I would need to go through Signor’s vegetable garden to retrieve the missing item. I was tempted to leave them, but Rick didn’t have the luxury of multiple pairs.
I timidly knocked on the imposing front door. Ninety-seven-year-old Signor answered the door with a smile. I had prepared a simple explanation for the reason for my visit. I stumbled my way through my spiel. He replied in rapid, unintelligible Italian which I failed to understand, but he had obviously been watching my dilemma with some amusement.
I returned with the said undies, armfuls of delicious tomatoes and lettuce and a new friend. We often sat outside with this delightful gentleman enjoying a bottle of wine and cheese and a congenial chat, but I failed to understand his conversation. It didn’t matter. We became great mates, sharing minestrone, dinner, and a tour of his gracious home. We noticed the name ‘Nobili’ in the local cemeteries. It was obviously an origina,l large family from the area.
All the residents were elderly and mainly women. They adopted us with enthusiasm and invitations into their homes. One lady did exquisite embroidery, white thread on white linen and she didn’t need glasses. Their homes were filled with embroidered items, cushions, pillowslips, tablecloths, and doilies. They were proud to show us their handwork which would fill many long hours in winter..
It was a sad fact that their families rarely visited, having moved to the cities for work and schooling. The youngest resident was aged eighty-seven and the oldest one hundred and seven. They longed for company and embraced us into their lives.
In winter the village was isolated by ice and snow for many months. This necessitated large amounts of firewood to be collected and stored in readiness. One morning we heard an altercation in our tiny laneway. Opening our front door, we were greeted by chaos. Several men had a trailer loaded with firewood which was stuck tight in the narrow lane. The cacophony brought the residents out to offer their solution to the problem. The little tractor was attempting to pull or push but the trailer wasn’t moving. It was a very typical Italian scenario, with everyone bellowing and no-one listening. We decided our advice would fall on deaf ears, so by passed the blockage and headed off for our daily drive. On our return many hours later, order was restored. Apparently the men unloaded the trailer by hand. The firewood was stacked in the recipient’s cellar, ready for winter.
Village life in Italy. I loved it!
The dear old ladies adored Rick who didn’t speak a word of Italian. He acted out his conversation which they loved. He was a favourite, even inviting him to join their pottery group where they made a dish with his name, Ricardo etched onto it.
It was a sad day when we drove away for the final time. Our farewells were emotional, bringing tears to many eyes, especially ours because we knew it would be a final ‘arrivederci.’
Thank you to the residents of this tiny village. This was an experience we shall never forget.
Rick and I are grateful we were able to be part of the real Italy and experience village life in Italy.
Jenny Old AUTHOR
‘Innocent Nurses Abroad’
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