Friday, 1 December 2017

la famiglia

I have started this post a number of times and found myself stuck. I do not know where to start or how to describe such an extraordinary day. I usually try to keep my posts short but that won't work this time.

The main reason for our being in Italy was to spend some time in the place where my father was born; to see his country and his people, to experience something of his culture and most importantly to meet the Di Cocco family here in Abruzzo. It was also about discovering and reclaiming a part of my own heritage. The first anniversary of my father's death felt like the right time to come.

If you want to understand something of the Italian way of being then the following tells you all you need to know.

We arranged (via my cousin Marisa in Melbourne who actually speaks Italian, and Google translate, because I do not) to meet my cousins on a road near to Pollutri. I have three cousins in Abruzzo, Anna in Pollutri, Dino in L'Aquila and Vincenzo in Vasto. Vincenzo, Dino and his wife Maria Grazia were there on the side of the road waiting to welcome us. We exchanged greetings and apologies for the misunderstanding in where to meet (Google translate is not that good!). We followed them all to Anna's house nearby where we met her husband Giovanni and two of her daughters. Google translate got a good work out and my very rudimentary Italian was rescued when Luigi (a second cousin) arrived speaking some English.

We walked around the corner to the place where Anna's daughter lives. It also happens to be the place that my father helped his father to build before he left for Australia. The old part of the house still remains (unused) and the new house has been built along-side it. We met my Aunt, Zia Teresa, who is about to turn 90, she lives downstairs. She is one of the few remaining from her generation. (my father was one of seven boys, two remained in Italy, four came to Australia and my father's identical twin was tragically killed in an accident when he was 13. There is only one of the brothers alive now)

my sister Carla and I with my cousin Dino outside the old part of the house
A short drive and we came to the house where my father was born, where he spent his childhood working on the family farm. It is abandoned now. We saw olive, fig and pomegranate trees, wild asparagus growing amongst the weeds, the old well and the outside kitchen area where so many tomatoes were bottled and food preserved.

my sister and I sitting on the steps of the old house

the cousins

the women

the family of my generation
Lunch was at two in a trattoria nearby. We were joined by Vincenzo's wife and brother in law. First there is antipasto (cheese and salami), followed by primi (pasta, in this case lasagna followed by fricelli, a kind of maccheroni) My kids were very full by this time and thought that was the end. My previous experience had taught me otherwise. Primi is followed by Secondi, the meat course; in this instance a huge steak accompanied by baked potato and salad. It is all washed down with red wine. Then it is photo time, a record of this special day. Dolce consists of platters of fruit and the family have brought along a cake saying 'welcome to Pollutri' accompanied by a selection of local biscuits/sweets. More photos and champagne, followed by coffee and liqueur.

It is now close to 7pm. During the preceding five hours the second cousins and third cousins and parents in law have all arrived. Thankfully some speak a little English and we can set Google translate and its questionable translations aside for a bit.

It turns out that next week there is a special festival in Pollutri in honour of their Patron Saint, Saint Nicola, for whom my father is named. Would it be possible to come? We change our tentative plans to travel to Napoli and decide to stay here in Abruzzo longer. We also organise to visit Dino and Maria Grazia in L'Aquilla, organise to stay in Vasto and see Vincenzo and Giuseppina (and their 3 daughters) when our time here at the villa is complete and to join Anna and her family for the festival in Pollutri.

Family and food is the life blood of Italians. We were welcomed with open arms and privileged to experience both in abundance...

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