It started with a phone call to a cousin who lived in Rome, progressed to a quick tour of my father’s village an hour south of Rome and an introduction to other distant cousins and eventually to our buying a house in my father’s village of Supino. We bought it sight unseen, based on a cousin’s assurance that he had seen it about a decade before and it “looked pretty good although maybe it needed a little work.” We hired strangers in the village to fix it up so we could bring my father back to the old country for the first time in 64 years. In many ways, nothing had changed in the village during that time.
Over the past twenty years, we have spent part of every summer in my father’s village of Supino, and every year, we are introduced to yet another relative through blood or marriage and perhaps we are related to the entire village.
|via Condotto Vecchio|
People often ask who takes care of our house when we are not there and the answer is twofold. Our neighbours across the street are the official caretakers as they have the key but everyone on the street, “Keeps an eye.” Sometimes people who’ve read my books come to Supino to find via Condotto Vecchio and walk uphill to our house, which is #10, just to take a look. As often as not, a neighbour will appear and engage them in conversation and before you know it, they’re all down at the Bar Italia having a coffee and a chat. If we happen to be in Supino but away from the house when an interested stranger comes along, the neighbours send them, or bring them, to wherever we are. As you may have surmised, everyone in the village knows everything that’s going on.
I’ve done some book tours to different cities in Canada and the United States, and two things always surprise and delight me. Supino is a small village, yet there are immigrants from Supino in cities from Dearborn, Michigan, to Moss Point Mississippi, to Aliquippa and Pittsburg and Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and from New Haven to New York. In Canada, you’ll find Supinese from Vancouver to Toronto to Halifax and most major cities in between. The other thing (the most delightful thing) is that every one of them I have met has been very much like my father: gentle, calm, kind, friendly, helpful and ordinary in the best sense of the word.