Saturday, April 27, 2013

Italo Cortesi shares his knowledge of the death of Italo Spadoni, his nonno

Friday, April 26, 2013
Italo Spadoni
I spent most of Thursday and today alternating between packing and trying to read some of the history of Ponte Buggianese in a book given to me by a librarian in Ponte Buggianese. I also took photos of some pages from two other books that weren’t available for check-out. I wanted to know more about how anti-fascist martyr Italo Spadoni met his end in 1924. Unfortunately, very little is written, but I have found out that his grandson still lives in town, and I have been hoping to arrange a meeting with him and Elena, my translator.

Unfortunately, the tourist season has begun, and Elena has been working 12-hour days this week. Also, now that the weather has finally turned spring-like, Italo is working even longer hours getting his fields planted. He is only available after 9 p.m., his wife says. We had a tentative appointment Monday at 9 p.m., but Italo was still working and couldn’t come. Tuesday through Thursday Elena worked in the evenings. I kept checking my e-mail throughout today to see if Elena had written that she was available. Finally at 9:03 p.m. she calls, saying she is on her way home and do I still want to try to see Italo. Knowing both she and Italo must be exhausted, I am tempted to say I could wait until next year, but what I had read in the history books had so piqued my curiosity that I had to say yes. I very badly wanted to meet Italo.

Too bad, though, because Elena calls back a few minutes later. She has talked to Italo’s wife Enrichetta, who says Italo is still working and hasn’t even come home for dinner yet. We’d have to wait until next year . . . wait, Elena has a call coming in; she’ll call me back. Italo has said he will drop what he is doing and come home immediately. He really wants to meet me too.

Paul Spadoni and Italo Cortesi. Italo was gracious enough to
see me at 9:30 p.m. after having worked some 14 hours on
his corn fields, tilling and planting seeds.
So at 9:30 p.m., we are welcomed warmly by Italo, Enrichetta and their son Francesco. Before we can sit down, Italo asks if we want to see the field where his nonno was killed. It would be better in the daytime, but I didn’t want to pass because I might not get another chance, so I say yes. With Francesco at the wheel, we drive less than a mile while Italo tells the story. Italo Spadoni, age 26, was out visiting family and friends after dark when an acquaintance told him he was wanted at home. He was taking a short cut across a field and was almost home when he was assaulted by a group of fascists. As he tried to jump across a big ditch, he was shot and killed.

There is a cross now at the site. It is not on family property, and at one time the property owner removed the cross. Italo Cortesi hired a lawyer, and the property owner was required to replace the cross, as the site has historical significance. It is too dark now to go there, but we do continue on to the house where Italo grew up with his brothers and lived with his wife, Caterina di Vita, and daughter Gina. The house is used now for storage of farm supplies, so I don’t bother to take a photo of the inside. When Italo’s brother Gino returned to Italy from America, Gino rented a room in the house across the street because the family house was full.

We drive back to Italo and Enrichetta’s house and talk for another half hour. I show Italo how our two families are distantly related and also give him some information about his cousins in California, who are much more closely related. He can’t recall ever knowing that Italo Spadoni had an older brother, Guido, in the United States. But he does remember Gino saying he had nephews in the United States, so it doesn’t come as a total surprise.

I ask him for more details about his nonno’s death, but he can’t come up with much more than he has already said. He knows that Italo was a communist and his killer was a fascist. He knows Italo was at the house of Armando Sorini before he started home, but he doesn’t know why Italo was singled out for such extreme measures. I tell him I read in a history book that Italo was accompanied by a friend, who escaped unharmed, but this is the first he has heard of this. He says he will ask around the town and see if he can find some of the old-timers who might know more, and he will have Francesco contact me by e-mail if he finds something interesting.

He does say that he is almost sure he knows who killed Italo Spadoni, a man named Boccaccino, and he said he sometimes thought about getting revenge for his family. One time he even tried unsuccessfully to run this Boccaccino off the road. Boccaccino is not the man’s real name, but that’s what everyone called him, Italo says. At first he tells me Boccaccino’s surname was Della Maggiora, which surprises me, because the history books I have been reading have page after page of information about an incident involving a Michele Della Maggiora, who killed two fascists in 1928. Later, though, I think Italo realizes he was confused because he had heard the name Della Maggiora often in connection with those years. He says he doesn’t know the real name of Boccacino, but he will find out.

He also says that when Gino returned to Italy, he often visited the cemetery and sometimes talked about getting revenge for Italo’s death. We talk more about what Gino was like and also about Italo’s other brother, Bruno, who died while in prison for supplying a gun to Michele Della Maggiora, the man who killed the two fascists in 1928.

The Cortesi family: Italo, Francesco and Enrichetta. And they
truly were molto cortesi (very courteous).
But it is getting late. Italo will start work at 6:30 a.m. and Elena has a full day ahead of her as well. Italo invites me to come back for a nice spaghetti dinner next year, and Francesco and I exchange Facebook names so we can establish online contact. I also invite Francesco to come visit us in America next winter, and he seems interested. He works with his dad on the farm and really likes John Deere tractors, but he is disappointed to hear that Seattle is far from Moline, Illinois, which he knows is the company’s headquarters.  Elena and I thank them for this hospitality and she drops me off at my apartment.

I have recorded our conversations, and when I transcribe the interview, I will have more details to add at a later date, but I am nearly homeward bound now. I will finish packing Saturday and then go to Lucca for a concert, staying overnight at a hotel. Sunday morning I’ll head to the Pisa airport and fly home, where I must almost immediately begin work. Thus the details of my research into Italo’s death as well as Bruno’s imprisonment must be put on hold for some time. Bruno’s story is turning out to be equally as interesting as Italo’s, and I will have a few more facts for cousin Greg to add to his account of Gino. This has been one of the most interesting hours of my two-month stay.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments welcome.