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STOLEN BY FAERIE?

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I am convinced that’s what happened to me.

My unsuspecting mother, daughter of Viking raiders and minimalist Scandinavian designers, raised me, a fairy replacement for the Italian child I should have been.

I know this because, at a very young age, I rejected that god-awful canned spaghetti that earned James Wattie his knighthood. No self-respecting Italian would dream of eating that stuff, right?

But it was not just the spaghetti thing. Oh, no! I used to spend hours looking at pictures of Roman ruins and the “rude bits” of the Herculaneum frescoes and had a picture on my wall of Vesuvio, smoking ominously. I knew how to pronounce “Pinnochio.” In later teenage years, went a bit mad for Chianti bottles. There was the famous Chianti Party of nineteen sixty something when, wanting the iconic raffia-covered bottles to decorate our flat, we threw a party, requiring all guests to “bring Chianti!” Trouble was, only one chap actually liked the stuff. Boy! Was he a mess! The flat looked very Tuscan though!

And then, of course, there was Puccini…

The first “workable” Italian I learned was from an English friend who’d married a Napolitan seaman. She, in turn, had learned her Italian in the market at Naples. So, yes, it was a pretty salty vocabulary!

I never spoke it often enough or for long enough to become fluent (it’s true that you use it or lose it!), but I managed reasonably well when I rented a villa in Liguria one summer.

If you have Google Earth on your computer you can find the village of Tellaro. And if you don’t have G.E. I have some old, faded photos!

tellaro-main-street

The main street

Every day, I walked down this street to buy bread. Anyone who’s eaten the fresh-baked bread of Italy will understand. Hovis might well be considered the slice of life in England, but it does nothing for my tastebuds.

villa-garden1The garden at the front pathway. Typically, a blaze of pelargonium, bougainvillea and oleander. A tortoise lived in the side garden; I tried to make friends, but the vicious little bugger bit me. Hard! Still, he was a cute tortoise and I still said “buon giorno, Torti!” I just wasn’t silly enough to put a finger near his beak after the first time.

I said I rented a villa. Well, technically, what I rented was an apartment in a converted (modern) villa. There were two other floors; one also rented, one the home of the housekeeper and her husband. I think the owner was an absentee landlord with rather a lot of lire invested in the automobile industry.

Next door was another rented villa. When I was there, the occupants were an elderly Italian woman with her young grandson. Apparently, her her daughter was married to the German industrialist owner and they spent summer holidays at the villa with Nonna.

lerici-savings-bank

Main square, Lerici.

Tellaro was (is still?) a small village, with only basic shops; butcher, baker, two small grocery stores, post office, a couple of cafes.  So, for banking, or beyond-basic shopping, I went to the nearest town, Lerici. Sometimes, I rode the little local bus; sometimes, I walked. It was on this  sometimes steep road to Lerici that I first noticed a sign which I’ve since wanted to erect on my present street.

“Evatate rumori inutili.”

Avoid unnecessary noise is what it means in English. What it means to Italians is: blow your horn as often as possible so that people can determine how necessary it is! And, just in case people are still uncertain, stick your head out of the window and add vocal accentuation. Any perceived disagreement is met with further (loud) vocal opinion and classical gesticulation.

On one side of this square was the local office of the Italian Communist Party. I think the office must have been pretty hot and stuffy as whenever I was in Lerici the local Mayor and several other men spent their time at a table in the shade of the building, occasionally venturing indoors, then returning to pick up the always animated discussion. It may have been only local politics, but it engaged them (and sometimes passers-by!) with a vitality and purpose lacking in our pomposity.

lericiitaly-1975

The harbour front, Lerici.

Ah…in a time before gravity won the battle !

Sometimes, I ventured abroad from my comfortable little apartment. La Spezia is  not far around the Bay. Neither is the Cinque Terra region. It does tend to be a tourist bottle-neck, but if you can pick day when tourists have mostly gone to Siena or Firenze for a festival it’s a lovely place. ( I suppose that can be said of any spot that has that “Hallmark” look! : )

porto-venere-1975Porto Venere.

I went over to Porto Venere by ferry a few of times; again, jostled by tourists on the boat, but able to find less crowded spots once  ashore…

porto-venereitaly-1975_Like this cafe/bar  with tables on the terrazzo.

See that hat? I bought that from a fantastic market stall on the front at Lerici and I wore it for years. It finally “died” a couple of years ago. I cried.

This is one area where the English Romantic Poets hung out. And it was in the Ligurian Sea that Shelley was swept overboard in a storm and drowned. It’s become a watery grave for many a hapless sailor. A deceptively “gentle” sea, it can be whipped to a foaming fury in minutes and the  unwary are given no quarter.

The Italian navies  (yes, plural, it’s only today that they are unified) have farewelled maritime greats from ports all along this coast. Genova, Livorno, La Spezia…

I seem to have lost my photos of La Spezia  and when I Googled I found this:

Just goes to show that you should not believe everything on the web! You don’t want me to tell you why, do you? Go check your own atlas!

view-from-villaThis was my first-view-of-the-day.

The bedroom opened to the balcony, looking across the bay.

You would expect local seafood to be plentiful and delicious. It was!

fishwife-from-villa-balconyThis leathery-faced woman walked along the street, fish basket balanced on her head, calling her wares. As you can see, they were pretty popular!

Thirty-five years is a long time to be away. Too long…

Those damned faerie have a lot to answer for!

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Author: dinahmow

A New Zealander, currently living in tropical Queensland,Australia (with 2 cats and one Main Man).Old enough to remember George VI, white tennis balls and life-before-television.You want more? Read the blog!

15 thoughts on “STOLEN BY FAERIE?

  1. We’ve never been there. Stuck at home here with the dogs. Certainly time you got back! Loved the map – I guess it was a bit windy on the coast!

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  2. robyn…yes, definitely time I went back! And isn’t that map priceless! I wonder where they put Dubrovnik!!

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  3. Wonderful post, Di. Thanks for transporting me. I think it’s the same for me. I was raised by Danish Modern parents but there’s a little Tuscan hiding inside. I first visited Italy in 1979 so not so different from the Italy you knew, then visited again in 1987 and 1990. I was sold. Are we having fun with that scanner yet? 🙂

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  4. andrea…thanks. It does have that effect on one doesn’t it?
    Having scanner fun? No! (But I’ll keep practising)

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  5. Fantastic Di. I love Italy and especially Tuscanny, thank you for taking me back there! Did you ever watch the horse racing in Siena?

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  6. Dinah, this is a lovely walk down your memory lane. What a fun and interesting life you have had. These are magical places that I would love to visit, but know I never will. Thank you for letting me see them through your eyes.

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  7. ziggi …I love all Italy, but the NW and Venice area holds my heart. As for Il Palio, well, yes and no. I am 5’2″ and when there are several thousand 6 footers in front of one…Watched on tv many times. Those flagmen-wow! Here’s a wiki link if anyone wants to know more.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palio_di_Siena

    kate…it’s been a pleasant stroll down that lane for me, too! Maybe I’ll tell another tale another day…

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  8. Wonderful post Di. I’ve never made it to Italy but feel it must be my spiritual home.

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  9. carol…you’re posting today? I didn’t expect you to have your cable wotsit so soon!
    And of course Italy is your spiritual home…it’s packed with ancient texts and leathery tomes!

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  10. Enjoyable post with nice sunny photos reminding me of many buone vacanze in Italia ith the next one already organised for late March when we travel to Milano. I’ll take some pics and blog them for you!

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  11. david…welcome and thankyou. Milano in March? Take a woolly tam! Looking forward to photos.

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  12. This was a great read. You should write a column. Your writing had me engaged and enchanted.

    thank you.

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  13. catnapping…good to see you again! And these days, the blog is pretty much my column! 😉

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  14. I bumped into your blog when I was searching information about Tellaro because I’m going to visit it in a couple of weeks. I have been in Lerici and Chinque Terre a year ago and I just fell in love with that region. After reading it I could already believe that I have been to Tellaro too. Thanks. Can’t wait to be there already.

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  15. sireli…welcome and thankyou for stopping. If you need someone to carry your luggage…
    Have a great time and, perhaps, a vino for me?

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