This week we had no internet at Loren’s cousins’ home in Alfiano Natta, so this post is late…
We started our week sharing more laughs with our dear friends who live near Verona about differences and similarities in the Italian and English languages – the sorts of phrases, idioms or modo di dire’s – ways of saying. One example being, Tempe da lupe, for Weather of the wolves, which is a little like our Piove gatto e cane for Raining cats and dogs. By the way, where did that phrase ever come from?
Perhaps it is obvious that we had heavy rain on leaving Lucca. Our friends generously drove us to Acqui Terme to help us settle in at our next AirBnB. This is in the region of Piemonte – Piedmont, where Loren’s mother’s genetori – parents, were born. Along the way, we stopped at Loren’s and my first Autogrille – a restaurant chain located alongside the motorways, for a leisurely break for pranzo – lunch. Then they dropped us off in nearby Morsasco, a village of 700 people where Loren’s Nonna Maria – grandmother Mary, and Bisnonna Constanza – great-grandmother Constance, and earlier generations nata – were born. We enjoyed greeting Loren’s cousins, then said farewell for now to our dear friends.
We had a wonderful visit with these special cousins. After a short visit with the youngest members, the filia – daughters, had to return to college after the weekend. The youngest girl was in a baby carriage when we were here before! We reminisced together of our visit 20 years ago and talked again about how the cousins are related. The grandmother and I had drawn up a little genealogical chart together that other time. This time the family connections were more readily identifiable, especially after having heard many of the names in California, Massachusetts and Virginia from other cousins, more recently.
Loren and I then had a rest day, which allowed me to compile notes about some of Loren’s Italian side family history. Later he and I walked around the city of Acqui Terme – literally Hot Water. We did not soak in the thermal waters here where the ancient Roman civilians had once bathed and coveted, but Loren did run his hand under the bollente – scalding water tap in the City Centre! We were again fortunate that the bruta – bad, storm with thunder, lightning, and large heavy raindrops came just as we returned to our AirBnB.
The next day, our one cousin picked us up in the afternoon for a walk around Morsasco before having a FaceTime with Loren’s mother and sister in California. Afterwards we had a wonderful dinner with our cousins. It was after midnight when they drove us back to Acqui Terme…
Our cousin is a butcher in la macelleria – the butcher shop, that his father had started over 55 years ago. His father had died before our previous visit together here. The cousins helped us to finally understand the differences of the cold meats we have been eating, specifically: Prosciutto crudo – a rich flavorful raw and sliced very thin ham, and, Cotto – a cooked, moist ham. Loren likes these, but his favorite of all is Mortadella. La macelleria was very busy this week for the annual June 2nd Italian Festa della Republica – to celebrate when in 1947/48 Italy changed from a Monarchy – rule by King, to a Republic. It had been a very close result back then – of 25,000 eligible votes, +/-13,000 were for the Republic, +/-10,000 for the Monarch. We were most grateful that our cousins could also make time for us during this busy week.
On our last full day in this area we enjoyed a bit more of Acqui Terme, confirmed where to catch our train, then visited Morsasco for another delightful time. I reminisced with them how twenty years ago we had stood on the balcony when one of the cousins pointed out many of the small picturesque villages – Cremolino, Trisobbio, Carpeneto and others – each with their own castle and church on each of the nearby hillsides.
Loren and I took one last walk around this village and photographed the homes of his grandmother Maria’s and great-grandmother Constanza’s birthplaces. We enjoyed another dinner together with our cousins including one of the students, as she was home for the Festa. It was not easy to say goodbye to this special family.
Loren and I then took trains through Alesandria to Asti, famous for our favorite sparkling white wine, where the locals were proudly displaying the Italian flag for the Festa. Another cugino – cousin, picked us up to stay with he and his wife in their beautiful remodeled farmhouse home. We have very much enjoyed seeing them because twenty years ago we had only a short visit with the older brother. One very strong memory from then are the delightful sounds we heard of nearby villages’ church bells ringing one after another where they lived. Our one cousin’s name I now understand is the same as Hercules, still lives in the home where he and his sister were raised. This time Alfiano Natta greeted us with its own and nearby village church bells ringing in the noon hour!
I felt welcomed by our one cousin’s T-shirt proclaiming, “New York, US – Life is Love – Enjoy It!” [I am honoring her request to not include any photos of her, her husband or her brother on the blog.] Our cousins’ and Loren’s Nonnos – grandfathers, Giuseppe and Enrico, were the two youngest of seven fratello – brothers born in Alfiano Natta. We looked through precious family photos together here too, and I can now see why 20 years ago a friend of the cousins’ who we met while there remarked how much Loren looks like his grandfather… I now see it is an uncanny likeness!
Together with our cousins we visited cemeteries to see family members’ final resting places, joined briefly in working in the vineyards and fields, ate delicious homemade meals with ingredients from so many of their home grown fruits, verdura – vegetables, and greens, walked a little around the comune – township, saw the one cousin’s cherished childhood shell, butterfly and insect collections, played a little bit of cards, and simply visited.
We also enjoyed machina – automobile, trips to beautiful churches in the nearby comunes of Montalvo and Crea on two different days. One day we walked a trail to the top of the tallest hill in the area, on the way seeing 22 small chapels that depict biblical events, which were each built by a surrounding local communities. They led up to the 23rd chapel depicting Paradiso, with a stunning view of the surrounding countryside. Our cousin remembers picnicking here and walking this trail with her mother. Another day we had a fun picnic in the car because it was raining heavily outside, then the glorious sun returned and we had a tour of the local church and Monastery.
On our finalmente giorno – final day, with our cousins, we awoke to low fog. We were grateful that it cleared for us to have a wonderful hike on the Sentiero de la Spirito in the bosco – forest, after another delicious lunch that our cousin prepared. We then enjoyed a FaceTime with Loren’s mother and sister with these cousins later in the day. It was once again hard to say goodbye to these very special family members. As she drove us to see the cathedrals in the nearby city of Asti on the way to our train to Lugano, Alfiano Natta’s church bells rang out the 10th hour of the morning.