One of the reason we come to Italy is to interact with Italians, and it’s true that we do this to some extent on a daily basis. Usually, though, our encounters are pleasant but fairly superficial. We know some of the Montecarlo and San Salvatore store and restaurant owners, and we always exchange friendly salutations. I have relatives that we sometimes see and greet at the bank or grocery stores. But often our conversations are short and insignificant, owing both to our lack of language skills and shared experiences. It doesn’t help that we only live in Montecarlo for three months a year, or that Lucy and I are both fairly quiet by nature—but even nomadic introverts get lonely.
This is where the dead people come in handy. Because my genealogical research has made connections with so many other distant relatives, it’s become easier to find live people to talk to. We’ve been visited here by previously unknown English-speaking Italian-American relatives, and we’ve also made contact with Italian relatives that have resulted in some great conversations.
A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by Rita Spadoni and her fidanzato Giulio. We shared some antipasto and dolce while having a great conversation at a sweet shop in Montecatini. Both of them speak some English, and of course we speak some Italian. The great thing about having friends who speak some English is that we can start talking in Italian (and we always need practice in that), but when the proper words escape us, we can continue in English and still be understood. And our friends can do the same—speak English but switch to Italian at any time—without losing any flow of the conversation while still being understood.
|Selfie with Giulio and Rita at La Pasticceria Sweet.|
|Enrichetta, Italo, Francesco, Marco.|
|Bistecca alla fiorentina roasting|
on an open fire.
|Italo carves the steak into strips.|
‟I can still work 14 hours a day,” he said. ‟Maybe I could sell everything and stop working, but what would Francesco do? When I get home after a hard day’s work, I have a good dinner with my wife and son, I visit with my friends, and I feel completely satisfied with my life. Because of that, I don’t feel the least bit tired. I just start all over again the next day.”
|Italo and one of his classic tractors.|
Italo proudly showed us the bio-furnace he uses to heat his home. It uses dried corn from his fields as fuel. We saw his six tractors, some of them restored and certified classics that will be part of a special church mass and parade next weekend near Pisa to celebrate the planting season and give thanks for the abundance of the Tuscan soil.
|A classic John Deere restored by Francesco and Italo.|
We felt privileged to share our Sunday afternoon with a modern Italian contadino, a distant cousin who makes his living from the same soil that supported and sustained our shared ancestors. While looking online for information about the celebration Italo had told us about, I found this fitting quotation from one of the event organizers: ‟The Day of Thanksgiving is a joyous time to find ourselves and be together but also to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the farming sector. We entrust our lives every day to the providence that decides our crops and the fruits of that which we prepare, but we must not forget that the soil, the earth, are non-renewable resources and thus must be protected. Citizens need to defend and protect our agricultural heritage and the availability of fertile land from the advance of overbuilding in the cities and the abandonment of marginal areas. The road that Tuscany is taking now is the right one.”