Tuesday, July 17, 2007


In San Venanzo, as in most small towns, there are four ways to get the news: #1, read the daily regional paper, #2, read the posters along the side of the main road, #3, check out the local bar, or #4, (and of course this is the best way to get your news) ask a local.

While I was working in the orto the other day, our neighbor Adamo (in whose yard the orto is) stopped by to make sure I knew about the festa that was scheduled for Sunday night. For once I was able to tell him that yes, I had seen the poster in the bar and that we were planning to attend. Normally I never go into the bars, mostly because I don’t drink coffee. Art usually stops into the bar nearest our house when he gets his hair cut or makes a run to the Post Office, but his focus is more on socializing than in looking at the fliers taped on the bar.

The other day we happened to be out walking and Art said “Let’s stop in the bar to see if Vittoria’s there. Vittoria is one of the owners of the bar, and she’s the one who never charges Art for his coffee…NEVER! As a thank you for her kindness I’ve sent American sweets from time to time, and I was disappointed that when we dropped off our latest treat (zucchini muffins!), Vittoria’s husband was there instead of her. That was a week or more ago, and I was anxious to hear what they’d thought of the muffins.

As luck would have it, Vittoria was there that day, and the first thing she said to me was how much they’d enjoyed the dolci (sweets). I’d told her husband that the muffins were really good with cream cheese, known here in Italy as simply “Philadelphia”. Vittoria told me they’d used Philadelphia and that yes, it was delicious!

As Art enjoyed his quick shot of coffee, I took a quick look at the announcements in the bar, and noticed a flier for “Summer Fun”, to be held in the main piazza on Sunday evening. The flier promised fun, games, food and more!

On Sunday evening we didn’t head up to the piazza until about ten since we’d already eaten dinner, but apparently there had been bruschetta and pasta. The tables still held bottles of water, wine, and big platters of watermelon, a typical Italian dessert in the summer. Someone asked us if we’d like something to eat, but we declined.

There was a big movie screen set up at the far end of the piazza, near the volcano museum, and the kids were watching cartoons…Tom and Jerry cartoons! There was a table with two large glass jars filled with beans, and for 50¢ you could guess the number of beans. When we stopped by, the number had been determined to be between 8, 500 and 9000 beans and the guessing continued.

An easel was set up containing a single photograph, with the caption “What is it?” written above. Several of us crowded around the picture, turning our heads this way and that, trying to make sense of the photo. Adamo told us it was something that was known all over the world, not just in Italy. That clue didn’t help at all. I had two guesses: my first guess was graffiti sprayed under an archway, and my second was the Eiffel Tower. Neither was correct.

At another group of tables there were some serious card games going on, and apparently it was some sort of tournament. There were sheets of paper listing the winners and the brackets, but I’m not sure if there was a charge to participate. Italian card games always intrigue us…the cards look different and the decks contain only 40 cards. Someday I’m going to get someone to explain the game that’s played every afternoon at the bar…there are usually two games going on, each with a large group of spectators.

At the end of the piazza nearest the road, nearest our house, there were women sitting in a circle, knitting away like crazy. They were using a rather thin yarn, and we were told that the women would knit for 45 minutes….45 minutes! After the time was up the rows would be counted and a winner would be declared. The prizes sat in the middle of the circle….a set of espresso cups and saucers for the winner and pasta for the runners-up.

Okay, back to the post, but first I'll mention that we had such a good time with Steve and Pauline last night! It had been nearly four years since we'd seen each other in person, although thanks to the internet it didn't seem that long at all. For those of you not familiar with the story of how we came to live in Italy, I'll tell you that we give credit for our life in Italy to two people: first my son; If he hadn't been stationed in Italy we never would have visited in the first place. Secondly we credit Pauline (and Steve) for establishing the ST website (and subsequent message board) where we were able to connect with lots of helpful people and gather most, if not all of the information we needed to make our move a reality.

Okay, back to the festa.........

At some point we discovered that someone had correctly guessed the number of beans in the jars. When I saw the winner, a woman I don’t know, I saw what her prize was…..the beans! “Tomorrow night, dinner at your house?” I jokingly asked her in Italian. “Yes…..and we’re having beans!” was her reply.

While the knitting and the card tournament continued, Adamo circulated through the crowd with a huge platter of cantaloupe. Man, it’s sooo sweet! We’ve quickly learned the advantages of eating what’s in season. Yes, you may be able to get cantaloupe year round at Kroger, but really, how many times have we all been disappointed by the taste?

People kept stopping by the photograph and trying to figure out what it was. Someone stopped by while I was looking at it and told us what it was. The entire group looked at this person like they were crazy…none of us could figure out what they were telling us! We kept asking and asking, and eventually decided that it was some part of a toilet, but an antique toilet that apparently no one recognized. I’m still not quite sure, but until I can catch Adamo and get him to show me the picture and explain the perspective to me and point out what’s what, it’ll remain a mystery.

Time was running out for the knitters. The woman who seems to be involved in all of the community events stood in the center of the circle and told the women their time was almost over. At the end of the 45 minutes she blew her whistle, then asked several women spectators to be judges. We all waited while each piece was counted first by one judge, then another.

Eventually, after some discussion a winner was declared! I’m not sure if the second and third place winners were tied, or if it was intended to be that way all along.

Now all that was happening was the card tournament. It was down to four players at one table, and they seemed pretty serious about it. We decided to head back home before the winner was declared, but I’m sure it was an exciting finish.

As you’ve probably guessed by this and other posts about San Venanzo, the town really is like one big extended family. The best part is that they’re so welcoming to us. When we moved to Italy we specifically decided to be IN a town so that we could be a part of the town, and we’ve certainly gotten our wish!



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