Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Day Out in the Country with Family

AKA The Feast....
This morning I went over to nonno's to pick up the sfogliatelle to bring to my cousin's house. Anyone raised right knows not to come for a visit empty handed. I don't think that's expressly an Italian thing but its definitely important when you ARE Italian (and in Italy!). Of course nonno tried to feed me but I had to tell him we have a train to catch. Just in the nick of time too, we had four minutes to spare for the train out to Sessa Aurunca. Without googling, its north and a little inland from Napoli, and takes an hour to get there with all the stops.
My cousin Adele was waiting for us at the train station and she drove us to the little town where my great-grandfather is from. Let me tell you about Casale di Carinola. It sits in a fertile valley up against hills and its vineyards, farms and olive groves as far as the eye can see. The air smells like the rich soil, especially at night. The village itself is made up of buildings that are a couple hundred years old. There are only three main streets that meet in a piazza where there is a monument to those who died in WWI. I looked to see if there were any V's on there, which there was.
We parked and walked to my cousin's house. You can't call it a street or a sidewalk. Its an uphill twisty walkway that leads to other front doors. My cousin's mom Olga came to the door to let us in and it was a nice greeting. I've been writing to them for years but I am the first of our American family of V's to visit the village. So here's where it gets fun. I speak some Italian. My cousin speaks some English. Olga doesn't speak English or proper Italian, she speaks Casalesi or Napolitan. You see, southern Italy has a dialect for pretty much every town. They're all branched from Napolitan, which is identified by linguists as its own language. I can understand Italian but Casalesi is fast and the vowel sounds are cut off at the end of the words. My cousin L who was also with us can understand it, so she also did a little translating. We got through the day with a lot of laughter, hand gestures, Italian, Spanish and Casalesi. But I digress.
Adele went down into the cellar to get a bottle of wine. They make their own wine. Pretty much everyone there does. Olga set us out antipasti of bread, olives stored in oil, homemade salami, a mix of peppers and black olives, and small balls of smoked scimorza (a kind of mozzarella) with peppers in it. And a homemade apertif drink. The next course was pasta with a tasty meat sauce. The course after that was eggplant parmigiana,  which Olga knows is my favorite. The course after this was bistecca filetto, fried. Then there was the cheese course of bufala, which I love. Finally out came the tarts that Adele had made. One with apple, one with grapes, and one with cherries. I could barely move. But you better clean the plate or else mama is going to point at you, wave her hand and say "mang" (sounds like monge).
This is what it means being Italian. Food and family and welcome. I'm proud to carry the same bloodline as these people. Everywhere we walked after lunch it was "cugini Americani". Everyone knows Adele. And her cat Kika who followed us everywhere. Ha.
We went down to the little chapel of Santa Maria della Grazie where local belief is the Madonna appeared to a little girl who was washing clothes in a small river there. And the Madonna is all over town, on everything. In two weeks, when the vendemmia (when they harvest the grapes for wine) happens she'll probably be present too.
And the end of the day we said goodbye to Casale and my family and headed back to Napoli on the 10:30 train. We were all exhausted. We needed our sleep for tomorrow's adventure: Capri!


  1. Replies
    1. It was a really meaningful day for me. Especially after visiting the cemetery, but I'll tell you about that when I get back on Tuesday.