Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Benvenuti a Pettorano
The rooftops of Pettorano
"For us to go to Italy and to penetrate
into Italy is like a most fascinating act
of self-discovery back, back down the
old ways of time."
~ DH Lawrence
"Let's take Rosa some groceries," I mentioned to Mike yesterday. "She has a hard time getting anywhere, especially since she's so frail now." Rosa, as you may recall, is thee widow of my second cousin, Cesidio, and she lives in the house in which my grandfather was born and raised.
"That is a great idea," Mike replied. Since we picked up our rental car yesterday, we waited until today.
We gathered apples, oranges, bananas, bread and a few other things and headed to Pettorano this afternoon. Because the streets are so narrow, there are not a lot of places one can drive in the town, so we parked in our usual spot at the top of the mountain and walked back down through the village to Rosa's house.
She was there, and she was very grateful for the food we brought her. She recognized me today, so we stood and talked to her a bit. I don't want the story to be about her yet, becausee we mostlywalked around Pettorano today. I'd like to introduce you to the village my grandmother loved so much.
Pettorano from the banks of the River Gizio
Pettorano sul Gizio means Pettorano next to/by the River Gizio. If you look at the photo above, I took it from the banks of the river. The city manager, Raffaele Pace, told me at the time that the homes at the bottom of the hill are the oldest ones, built around the 12-13th centuries. The newest homes are the ones toward the top of the hill, built 17-19 century or so.
I won't bore you with the town's history, but at one time, 6000 residents lived in Pettorano. Today, about 600 or so live on the mountain, and another 600 or so live in the valley (according to a resident with whom I spoke today). I have to check that with my friend, Marcello.
Pettorano is proud to be one of Italy's Most Beautiful Towns, and if you had the chance to walk around, you would see why.
The medieval castle was built in the 16th century and sits at what I think is the highest point in the town. It was one of a series of fortifications built by the Cantelmos when they ruled the Peligna area. It's empty today,, although Mike and I got to go into it during our first visit to Pettorano in 2010.
The back of the castello
Looking at the photo of the castle above this photo, you'll see a round tower on the left and an orange house. Between the house and the tower is a narrow walkway which ends at the arch shown above. There is a little piazza there with a fountain in it.
What you can't see in the photo of the castle/house is the left side of the house, which is above. The original stone wall is there, and the owners always have such wonderful flowers out.
Actually, no matter where you walk in Pettorano in the spring, summer and fall, you'll see flowers on terraces, balconies, and doorsteps. Mike and I marvel at how colorful and beautifully kept the town is. In our travels in Italy, we've been to a number of small towns, and while we're prejudiced and think Pettorano is the most beautiful, we can say quite objectively that we have not seen the number of flowers and plants on display anywhere else.
Pettorano is a maze of narrow streets, steps, alleys, and corners. Mike is walking down one street away from the castle toward the town hall. We thought we'd give you some perspective as to how narrow the streets are. Not long after we got to the bottom of the street, a truck (small, small truck), headed down. Again, note the flowers.
On the westside of the church in the main piazza in town, there is a plaque honoring the Pettoranese who died in World War I. Cesidio Berarducci, my grandfather's youngest brother, was one of those killed. His name is on the left side of the memorial. Rosa is the widow of Zio Cesidio's son.
Just a note of interest here. . . . I did not know that Gramps had a brother who returned to Italy from the States until we were in Pettorano the first time in 2010. No one ever mentioned it, so it was a pretty big surprise.
My new friend, Anna
While we were walking down one street, I heard someone call to me.
"Signora, from where do you come?" I had just shot a photo of the narrow house that you see at the end of this street, and when I turned around, I saw the woman on her balcony.
"The United States. My grandfather was born here," I told her. For the next five or ten minutes, Anna and I talked. I was so happy to not only understand her but also have her understand my Italian.
Further down the street from Anna's house, we found a shrine to Padre Pio. (It's behind the green gates. I love the setting.
We're probably two-thirds up the mountain here and looking toward the river side of town. The valley that you see is the Santa Margherita Valley. Santa Margherita is the patron saint of Pettorano. About two years ago, I found out that a lot of Pettoranese (my grandfather included) moved to Columbus, Ohio, to work in the limestone quarries. They lived in the Marble Cliff area (westside) in an area they called Village of San Margherita. In 1921, they built a church and named it after the saint, and St. Margaret Church still exists there today.
The town is full of wonderful doors, and we never saw them with pieces of plywood (above) or formica or anything in front of them before. We saw a bunch yesterday in Castrovalva and today in Pettorano. Apparently, the part time residents put the plywood there to protect the doors from heavy snowfall. When the owners return in the spring and summer, they remove the protection until the following winter.
Another note of interest: Pettorano has been around since before Roman times, and for a long time, it was a favored destination for the well-to-do to get away from the hubbub of city life. Apparently, it still is as a number of Italians who live in Rome come to Pettorano in the summer to escape the heat and humidity of life in the big city.
Mike and I love European clothes dryers. Note, please, the narrow street and the beautifully kept stone walls.
We were standing on a little overlook about midway up the mountain when I took the photo. These homes look at the Santa Margherita Valley, a view to die for.
I hope I didn't bore you too much. I know now why Grams loved the area so much. Mike and I are quite fond of it and joke about "our house" every time we see one for sale or abandoned.
Tomorrow we plan to go to Pacentro to hunt for Madonna. (In case you didn't know it, her family is from a village about 10 minutes from Pettorano.) I'll let you know if we find her.