And like all books, it boasts a…
Strolling along the streets in Italy is like taking a trip on board of a history book. A beautiful full-color edition. Every corner tells us something, you just have to listen. Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince, wrote: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly”. Although Italy can be perceived with all senses, it is the heart that reaches the unseen… the essence. The art, literature, cinema, architecture, the aroma of a cappuccino, the smell of pizza, the taste of wine, the flowered windows, the accordion that plays O Sole Mio on the streets… Italy is all of that!
For me Italy has something magical. Finding my own story, my roots, on the pages of this hypothetical book has an indescribable value. And it so happened to be in Torreglia, a welcoming town in the province of Padua, north-east Italy, that I found a very special chapter. In this summary I’ll introduce you to all those things that Italy has to tell. I’m taking you on this journey!
Italy in chapters – from prehistory to Middle Ages…
The first chapter leads us to Prehistory. Italy has been inhabited since the Paleolithic, and according to an article published by the magazine National Geographic, the site Monte Poggiolo, in Emilia Romagna, is the oldest evidence of human presence in the country. “The first hominids arrived at the Po Valley about 850 years ago, following a drastic changing in climate”, says the magazine.
The second chapter takes us for a walk in Ancient History and makes us discover the Etruscan, Phoenician, Greek and Roman civilizations. Palermo, founded by the Phoenician, Naples and Rome were among the most important cities of this period. Flipping through the pages, we find that roman sociopolitical organization left everlasting marks in human history. The Roman built cities, harbors, roads, aqueducts, fortifications, and it is not uncommon to find ourselves before a Roman archaeological site. History comes alive before our own eyes.
Would you like to go for a walk in the Middle Ages? Well… that’s also possible. The Medieval festivities are always eye-catching. I had the pleasure of living the medieval period in Correzzola, in the province of Padua, which has since then housed a small community. Every year, in July, Correzzola is magically set to revive the dark ages and… oh Gosh, what an adventure! I ended up with my head in a “gogna” (pillory). “Gogna” is the last part of the word “vergogna” (shame) and this is what we feel when find ourselves in that embarrassing position. Luckily, my tormentor had a good heart and freed me, or I would not be here to tell you about the third chapter of this book.
Renaissance, Modern Age, Risorgimento, the wars…
In the fourth chapter we leave for a journey towards the Modern Age. The departure gate is the Renaissance, a period of transition and changes in European history. Florence plays an important role in this path where we meet Dante, Giotto, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo…. Many are the pages added in this voluminous book. The geographic discoveries, the inventions… Marconi invented the radio and Meucci, despite the late recognition, invented the telephone. It is the beginning of a new era.
And here we are proud to fight for national unity, thus participating in the Italian Risorgimento. The Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed, the capital moved to Rome and the Tuscan dialect chosen as the national language. Then the wars happened and left deep marks. We still find scars left by the bullets, small but deep wounds on walls, kept as memories of the conflicts. Researching I found the Fasolato Brigade, one of the many that took part in the Italian Resistance. I’m wondering even if I had some relative partisan, but this is a research yet to be explored.
And much more to discover.
This book tells us much more. On its pages we figure out how Venice, the city that seems to float, was built. Venice’s beauty is incomparable and invites us to get lost in its narrow “streets”, to follow the pace of the gondolas… to fall in love in Venice. And then, taking the vaporetto, we get off in the magic colors of Burano. For us, a walk of enchantment. For the fisherman who lives on the island, the varied and bright colors with which they paint their houses, help them to find their home when immersed in the thick fog. History passes in front our eyes like a masterpiece of Italian cinema and while we hum Nel blu dipinto di blu we understand that life is beautiful. In the book called Italy we never stop adding pages.
Torreglia, a special chapter.
Now we have arrived at Torreglia, located at the feet of the Euganean Hills. It’s a special place for me because it was there that I found my roots. Flipping through the ancient books held by the parish and by the registry office, I discovered various Fasolato. Some famous, such as Giacomo Fasolato, writer, linguist and lexicographer, born in Italy in 1682. He liked the Latin language so much that he latinized the spelling of his name, becoming Jacopo Facciolati. Many are also the registers of Fasolato belonging to the stone cutter and sculptor guild that appear in the documents preserved by the State Archives of Padua. Among then, Agostino Fasolato (ca. 1750) who carved 60 figures in a single piece of Carrara marble almost two meters high, which he called “The fall of the rebel angels”.
However, it was in front of a little house, made of stone and brick debris, that I touched history more deeply. There, in Via Vallorto, in front of the small house where my great-grandfather Valentino lived, I made a movie in my mind. I imagined it inhabited, illuminated only by a faint light that barely reached the window… Yep, I entered the time machine and I found myself in the nineteenth century. I looked at the landscape through his farmer’s eyes, I went up the long road to the church of San Sabino that kept history alive by registering all births and marriages. This history that until today tells me that in 1895, Valentino Fasolato married Elvira Pressato.
I imagined Valentino while he was making the decision that would change his family’s whole life: leaving for Brazil on a one-way trip on a steamship called Rosario which, after so many trips, in 1915, had chosen to rest at the bottom of the ocean. As all of this was passing my mind, the church bells rang. Maybe they did it on purpose so I could hear them as Valentino and Elvira had heard before leaving. In my imagination, I turned off the city lights. I saw darkness, winter, loneliness and hunger which made them leave their land and their bonds behind. I always return to Torreglia. It’s nice to look at the hills. Torreglia told me so much about my history. Italy goes way beyond the five senses.
Now, tell me about you… Where do you live? Is there a place where you “left” your heart? Which city in Italy would you like to visit… or come back?
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