My home for three wonderful years was in a small Town in Italy, Residenti 814 in the Berici Hills “Zovencedo.” I have mentioned my home before in pervious post so I thought that this would be a good time to give you a little information about it, share with you some of the history as well as pictures and maybe give you a little insight on the Italians I grew to respect, live along side of, eat, drink (Vino) and enjoy their wonderful company !
Everyday Life In The Country of Yesterday’s Hills
Country people were born at home, and they died at home. In the evening, neighbours would gather at the dead person’s house to say terzeto (the third part of the rosary). All the people of the village would attend the funeral and would comment: “His/her troubles are over, at last”. Male relatives would wear on their jacket a black button or ribbon for six months after the funeral, while women would dress completely in black; widows had to mourn for at least one year.
Peasants’ life through the year in Berici Hills.
In January work in the fields was suspended, but after the Blackbird’s Days (the last days of January), when it was supposed to get a little warmer, it was time to start digging and pruning. On the 2nd of February, the Purification of the Madonna was celebrated, also called Candelora and Seriola, because of the blessing of candles during the ceremony, and on the following day it was S.Biagio’s help that was begged for, against sore throats. It didn’t mean that winter was over, anyway, yet during Carnevale the village was cheered-up by the singing and laughing of masked people, who would call at every house to receive some buns, fritters and sweets.
On the first day of March bonfires were lit-up to celebrate the coming of springtime; pranksters loudly announced fake engagements for the village girls. On the 25th of March the Fair of the Madonna attracted scores of peasants to Lonigo. On Palm Sunday olive-tree branches were blessed, and this was thought to bestow some magical power on them. In April peas were hoed and corn was sown before St.Mark’s Day, on the 25th, for: “if it rains on St.Mark’s Day, it’ll make corn grow even on rocks”, and “on St.Mark, half of the polenta in the land and half in the sack”. In April the whole family had to start to take care of the silkworms, which they were going to do for the following two months. In the three days before Ascension there took place the Rogazioni: the priest and altar-boys would go all around the countryside singing lithanies and blessing the fields: “A fulgore et tempestate, libera nos Domine”.
In May, work in the fields got harder and harder, but the evenings were dedicated to saying fioretti (little flowers), that is, saying the Rosary in the church or before road-chapels in honour of the Vergin Mary. In June corn was hoed again, vineyards had to be taken care of, and cherries were harvested. The holy days were Corpus Domini, St.Anthony with the Saw ‘s (13th) and St.Peter’s (29th).
July was the month of the great heat, cicadas but also of reaping, which was performed by all: men, women and children. In the ditches, melons and watermelons were grown, to be eventually sold in the typical straw-huts that can still be seen today.
Heat started decreasing in mid-August: “San Lorenzo (10th August) is very hot, San Vincenzo (22nd January) is very cold, but they both last little”; a little shower was enough to harbinger the end of the summer: “August’s rain cools down the forest”. The 15th of August was Assumption Day. September was polenta-time, because maiz was harvested; the land began to be ploughed. On the 8th of September, on Madonna of Monte Berico’s Day, hundreds of pilgrims walked from all over the province to the Berici Hills’ shrine.
In October (on October’s first Sunday, Rosary Day, duck was traditionally cooked for lunch) vintage required the labour of all the family’s members. After the grapes had been foot-pressed, wine was kept boiling in special tubs for a few days and then stored in barrels.
Before All Saints’ Day wheat had to be sown “By the Saints’ thow it onto the field, by St.Martin’s take it to the mill”, because St.Martin’s Day (11th of November) was the beginning of a new agricultural year: all payments had to be settled, rents had to be payed and those who couldn’t “celebrate St.Martin’s Day”, that is, leave their houses.
On the 25th of November St.Catherine’s Fair was held in Barbarano, where farming tools, wooden shoes and the new moon-calendar could be purchased. On the second day of December the weather conditions for the following two months could be foretold. In December the pig was killed, the family’s most treasured possession.
By then, work in the fields was basically over: everything was covered in frost and the farmer spent his time in the stable repairing tools. For Christmas a nativity scene was prepared in every house with moss and chalk figures, and a juniper-tree would be used as a christmas-tree.
In the evenings from Christmas to Epiphany children with a large paper star would go from house to house singing carols (singing “the star”) and would be given some flour, some food or a few coins. The year ended at the singing of “happy ending and happy beginning”.
AS I’VE MENTIONED BEFORE EUROPE IS SO RICH IN HISTORY.
Italian culture customs and traditions:
Anyway, don’t worry about taking off your shoes or stuff like this, just be polite.
Concerning the food, usually portions are about 70g of pasta and then after that there is a second meal, usually fish with vegetables or meat with vegetables. After that there is fruit or dessert.
Another thing you might find different is the time for meals, breakfast around 7 Am and it`s different. There is a different coffee from here in the US, the famous espresso, and yogurt or milk with cereals or a fruit but never all of these things. Lunch is around 1 Pm with pasta etc. and dinner around 8-9 Pm without pasta.
At dinner one night with a couple of American friends we were talking about how different things were and how we all were navigating our way around our new home. One of the stories that came up at the dinner table went like this;
One thing that threw me for a loop was grocery store customs (I can laugh about it now) specifically in the produce aisle. When you buy produce at the grocery store in Italy you’re supposed to put on little plastic gloves, then put your produce in a bag and take it over to a little scale where you punch in the item number (next to the price of the vegetables) and the machine prints out a sticker that you then put on the bag.
I didn’t do all this the first time I bought produce! My Italian wasn’t good enough to understand the cashier’s instructions, she was trying to explain that I needed to get the number for the item, so I went back to the aisles read the number went back and told her. She rolled her eyes and said, “No, non è così!” Luckily the man behind me in line offered to help me and showed me the little sticker machine.
Everyone in my little Town and surrounding area was really helpful and encouraging, and more so as I learned more and more Italian.
Unlike in America in an Italian restaurant you have the table until you leave. The custom is to not rush you and to not “turn over” tables quickly. Most waiters won’t bring you the bill until you ask – it won’t arrive until you ask for it, so don’t get mad.
There was one custom that took me time to get use to and that is Italians don’t have patience for lines or queues it’s very much a first come first served culture so don’t be shocked when they cut in front of you or you’re unable to find the end of a line because there isn’t one. Be assertive or you won’t get served. This isn’t really true of the Rome tourist sites because most of the tourists won’t be Italian.
In restaurants you’re asked if you want carbonated water or non-carbonated water (not tap water, it’s considered rude/stingy). This can take many forms: “con gas,” “frizzante,” which means fizzy or “naturale” – still.
Cappuccino is a drink on its own, after a meal Italians order Espresso and not Cappuccino. If you order a cappuccino after dinner you might get a funny look but they’ll serve it you.
Italy may be the Catholic capital but they are NOT VERY RELIGIOUS. Most young Italians couldn’t care less about religion. You will often hear “sono cattolico ma non pratico” which means they were baptized Catholic but don’t go to church.
Italians use their hands when speaking, and even more so when they are angry or very excited. If you happen to see two Italians involved in a car accident you will see those arms and hands just a flying, when I first saw this I thought that they were about to fight but no fist were thrown they just love to express themselves with their hands.
Let me not forget the “PIZZA” like heaven in your mouth with the thin crust cover in tomato, mozzarella, prosciutto, olives, mushrooms, with a craft of Vino, now that’s a meal ! I have to stop now I’m making myself hungry and I’m a Chicago pizza eater.
Until next time……CJ