Saturday, April 27, 2013

My Cousin Vinnie

"If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers,
it shows he is a citizen of the world."
~ Francis Bacon

If you look at the photo that I took of Spoleto (above) yesterday when we were at La Rocca, the palace on the hill, you can see our apartment.  It's in that red-rile roofed building that resides on a narrow street down in the historic center of town.

Confused?  So were we.

We walked up the hill to La Rocca yesterday (In the interest of fairness, we took the escalator most of the way to the top.  Had we not, the four of us would probably have collapsed before we got half-way up the hill.)  We took the round-about way down the hill, stopping to see the duomo and a few other historic sites before getting completely lost.

At this point, I need to tell you that we had a map that the landlord had given us.  Unfortunately, he didn't really point out where the apartments are on the map, and we didn't think to look at the name of the street that we're on.  The only things we really knew were that our street ended in a piazza (something quite rare as there are only about 500 in the historic center), and that there was an arch there, too (another rarity in Italy).

The other thing that I have to mention is that my husband and Bob admit that they don't have a good sense of direction.

"If I come to a place where I have to turn either left or right," Mike always says, "I'll choose left and be wrong 100% of the time."  He's right.  I personally think he married me for my sense of direction.

At any rate, we walked the narrow streets and headed down.  Since we had climbed up, we knew that, at the very least, going down was the right thing to do.  We'd come to a crossroad, and someone would ask,  "Which way should we go?"

"Down," either Steph or I would say, and we'd head down another winding street that would end somewhere not on the map.  Finally, I recognized the name of one street, and from where I thought our apartment was, thought we should turn left.  Left we turned only to find ourselves going in the wrong direction.  Steph and I pulled out the map and studied it trying in vain to find the street we needed to get us to the piazza with the arch.

A uniformed man was standing at my side.

"Bongiorno, signora.  Gobbledy-gook. Gobbledy-gook."

"Scusi? Lenta, per favore." I asked him to repeat what he said more slowly.  I don't know exactly what he replied, but he looked at the map in my hands.

"Weer-a you try-a to go?"  Now, imagine my embarrassment at trying to tell the guy that we wanted to go to our apartments but that we had no idea what street they were on.  I pointed to the one landmark on the map that I realized was close to our apartment since I knew if we got there, we could find the place.  He pointed me in the right direction and motioned down the opposite way from which we'd come.

"You getta dare isy."  I was glad he was confident.  "Where you frome-a? Englanda?" he asked.  (Another side comment:  Since we've been in Europe. we've had a number of people ask if we'r Brits or Irish.  I think the American accent is so different, but I guess the non-English speakers don't hear it.)  We all answered, "Las Vegas," and he got very excited.

"Etat Uniti!  Jee-mee Hen-dreex!  Bobe Dee-lan!  Wood-Stoke!! I loove-a eet!"

For the next few minutes, we talked music with him even though he spoke very little English.  Something popped into his head, and he started signing, "FREE-DOME!!  FREE-DOME!! Who-a sing-a dat?"  When I tell you that the four of us had been talking about that particular artist earlier, you might not believe me, but we were.  Of course, at that particular minute, none of us could remember his name.

He finally gave up, and I mentioned to him that my grandparents were born in Abruzzo.

"No!! Napoli!" he exlcaimed (No, Naples!)


Napoli!!" he laughed back at me. "Como si chiama tua nonna?" (What is your grandmother's name?)

"Liberata Crugnale," I answered him wondering why he asked.

"Mio nonno si chiama Liberato!" he replied.

"Cugino!" (Cousin!) He kissed both of my cheeks, we all laughed, and he started to walk away.

"Arrividerci!" he called back to us as he headed down a narrow street.

Bob, Steph, Mike and I stood and talked a few minutes about how interesting it was to have the officer stop and offer his help.

"Was he military or police?" Bob asked.

"You know, I was trying to understand him, and I didn't even look at what the badge said," I replied. Someone thought he might be military, and I just wasn't sure. We finally all agreed that he was probably a detective or lieutenant of some sort. After a few minutes, we headed down the same street into which the officer had disappeared.

"FREE-DOME!!" We heard him before we saw him hurrying back in our direction. "Ree-chee Heavans!!

"That's it! Richie Havens!! We chatted a few more minutes, and he sang "Free-dome" a few more times. I asked Mike to take my photo with my new "cousin" (It's below.).

"Como si chiama?" I wanted to know his name.

"Vincenzo Russo," he replied proudly. "Io sono il comandante della polizia municipale di Spoleto."
He is chief of police. He cheek-kissed me again. "Ciao, cugina e amici." (So long, cousin and friends.)

The four of us are still talking about our chance encounter with that kind man. If we see him again, we just might take him to lunch or dinner.

                  Moi with Comandante Russo

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