Tag Archives: Fossa Abruzzo

Keeping the past…

Came across this in an old, cardboard box of photographs of my grandmother’s:

Fossa, 1975 – Nonno Anni looking melancholy (his first time there again since 1939), and Nanna Francesca, sleeves rolled, her usual harried look when about to get back to a pot on the stove or the washing or something. So very them.

Have kept it in a frame on my wall and whenever I wish I could seek their advice or miss just having a chat, it’s a comfort to remember how they were at times. (I think Nanna Francesca had almost this same look peering from the doorway when I arrived in Fossa for the first time 20 years later!!) xx

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Beautiful curling branches…

Came across this lovely tree when I was walking from the house in Fossa along the road to the village cemetery. It stands looking to the Aterno Valley and the Apennines in Abruzzo with Gran Sasso in the distance.

* Interestingly, the oldest (scientifically dated) tree in Europe is in southern Italy. A craggy pine (Pinus heldreichii) that is 1230 years old and called, Italus (and is still growing).

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Mar 6, 2019 · 1:09 pm

Abruzzo Economia interview…

Italian magazine, Abruzzo Economia, recently interviewed me for their Lifestyle section and it was lovely to speak to Raffaella Quieti Cartledge about Abruzzo and writing Mezza Italiana, including some questions I’ve never been asked before about the area. The article in Italian may be read here…

Abruzzo Economia – Una scrittrice australiana Mezza Abruzzese

or you may read an English version below…

An Australian writer who is half-Abruzzese…

by Raffaella Quieti Cartledge

Australian and author of the autobiographical book, Mezza Italiana, Zoë Boccabella describes her discovery of Abruzzo, her familial origins in Fossa (AQ), and her subsequent trips to the region and the rest of Italy. The memories of her grandfather’s stories come to life in the family home while Abruzzo reveals a part of itself that will transform her forever.

What inspired you to write the book?

The first time I arrived in Abruzzo where my family came from, I had a feeling of coming home, even though I had never been there before. I stayed in the house in Fossa that had belonged to my ancestors for centuries and my grandfather, Annibale, who was born in Abruzzo, told me stories of when he grew up there, the history of the area where he lived and how he left part of his heart behind when his father sent for him to join him in Australia in 1939. The experience had such a profound effect on me. Walking around the villages, hillsides, forests and deserted castles, I felt at once that Abruzzo was a very special place. Each time I returned and explored the area more, I wrote down family folklore, village stories and began to think more about my experiences growing up as an Italian-Australian, how I felt ‘half and half’, not like I fully belonged to either culture.

Who is your main audience and please tell us about them.

I began writing what was to become Mezza Italiana at the kitchen table in the house in Fossa, not thinking it might become a published book one day. Over time, I added more research and stories as I discovered them. Then the 2009 earthquake occurred in Abruzzo where my family’s village was and it was important to include this too. Especially when I saw how the Abruzzese handled the tragedy with such grace, strength and forbearance.

I wrote what I saw and felt, rather than thinking about who might read it one day. And because I grew up as a descendant of Italian migrants in 1970s and early 80s Australia when it wasn’t as accepted to have a Mediterranean background like it is now and migrants weren’t always treated well by everyone, I did come to hope that by sharing my story perhaps just one person who read it, who was a migrant descendant and feeling confused or ‘half and half’, might not spend decades surrendering part of themselves as I did.

Are you going to have the book translated in Italian and how many copies have you sold so far?

It has been such an unexpected and lovely surprise that Mezza Italiana has become a bestselling book in Australia and the best part of that has been hearing from so many different readers who shared similar experiences to mine. It has recently also become available in Italy, the rest of Europe, the UK and US as well.

What is it of Abruzzo that strikes you as different from other regional characters?

Secluded by the magnificent Apennines, in many ways Abruzzo remains untamed, natural, beautiful, but still accessible, with wonderful, down-to-earth people, talented artisans in centuries-old crafts and culinary traditions, and medieval architecture unchanged. When writing both my books, I travelled throughout Italy from the north to the south and in between and whenever Italians in other regions asked where my family came from and I mentioned Abruzzo, their responses were very positive with much respect for Abruzzese, who are well known to be forte e gentile – strong and kind.

What do you think is Abruzzo’s main resource (in every way, geography, people) and what do you think Abruzzese should do to stimulate its economy – attract niche tourism?

Because I live in Australia I can only answer from the perspective of a visitor to Abruzzo, even if that includes staying with family there. For me, the charm of Abruzzo is its many untouched landscapes and traditional ways. I understand it is important to be economically strong in the best interest of the Abruzzese people while protecting its valuable assets of the natural beauty and historical art and architecture of the region, so there is a fine line. To me, Abruzzo’s great strength is having more green space than almost any other region of Italy, as well as its fauna. This is a great tourist enticement.

A popular, growing part of tourism is photography tours where serious photographers are led by tour guides to photograph wildlife, flora and scenery. I believe Abruzzo’s renowned national parks, lakes, mountains and forests, brown bears, chamois, eagles and wolves among other wildlife are a superb attraction.

Abruzzo has a very rich art history and again this would suit tailored tours as well as culinary tours that could include local feste, not so well-known and waiting to be discovered.

In the past, due to its untouched areas and medieval buildings, areas of Abruzzo have also been used as locations for films, including Hollywood’s ‘spaghetti westerns’ and films such as, In the Name of the Rose, Ladyhawke, The American and The Fox and the Child and the region could continue to be a place that hosts international and local film locations.

Should the region establish better contacts with the descendants of Abruzzese ’emigrati’ abroad through their associations and bring them over to visit the land their grandparents came from?

This is an interesting question. Visiting the region did strengthen my ties to the area and prompted me to encourage more people to discover it too. For descendants of migrants, it can be such an enriching, valuable experience to see where their parents or grandparents came from. Some in Abruzzo may not be aware that many migrants in Australia continue to carry on traditional Abruzzese and Italian ways to this day – bottling their own passata, making pasta alla chitarra, sausage making, and celebrating traditional festive days – all to respect and keep alive their heritage.

How did the discovery of your grandfather’s region change you?

The first time I went to Italy I was unaware Abruzzo was about to have its way with me. As I journeyed up into the Apennine Mountains to L’Aquila and then Fossa, it was as though the Italian blood in me suddenly surged with recognition and I couldn’t resist the magnetic pull the place had on me. Abruzzo completely exceeded my expectations in its special beauty and gave me a sense of ‘coming home’ and belonging. Family history and ancestral links have an instinctive pull and over the next two decades I felt compelled to return to the house that had belonged to my family for centuries and for longer periods of time.

Curiously, as much as Australia is my home, going to Italy felt like going home too and each time I returned with my heart more open. It made me feel proud of my Italian heritage when I was back in Australia and of course to write about that and to share it with others. When I first stepped onto Italian soil, I was hopping off a train and a bird dropping landed on my shoulder. This is meant to be ‘a positive sign’ according to Italian folklore and I guess for me it truly was!

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Fossa’s village windows…

Following the photographs of Fossa’s doors, it seems fitting to share some of Fossa’s windows too. So many beautiful and distinctive windows throughout the village (and to me, so much more character than most modern ones these days).

These photos were taken over the past 20 years or more so some are a bit grainy since I had an old Pentax camera with film back then. I could have perhaps photoshopped them but that didn’t seem being true to the era of even 15 or 20 years ago.

I didn’t realise just how many photographs I’d taken of Fossa during my visits, especially windows! (And no, I didn’t peek in any!) But I loved the resonances of village life you’d hear drifting down from them as I walked along the lanes – loud conversations in rapid Italian I mostly couldn’t understand, the aroma of a pasta sauce simmering on a stove, a tv set blaring, someone singing… all lovely. xx

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Fossa’s village doors…

Walking around Fossa, along lanes that become so steep and narrow they merge into steps or descend into tunnels, I began to notice all the different doors I passed. Some with stylised, door furniture of lion heads or dragons and beautifully varnished wood, others crude, weathered timber, or painted mission brown.

Several were fastened with long, draw bolts that looked like from another era, stable doors with cobwebby corners, cat holes cut into the bottom by kind residents looking after the village cats. A few of Fossa’s resident animals managed to get into some of my photographs. I took these in the village four years before the earthquake. Perhaps one of the doors you may recognise as yours! xx

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My Nonni from Abruzzo….

Life in Abruzzo is currently doing a series called, My Nonni from Abruzzo that looks at how such migrant heritage may reach well beyond its original Italian borders to other areas of the world through the influence of grandparents. Such a pleasure to be asked to contribute and be among these family stories.

If you’d like to read the article you may do so here…   My Nonni from Abruzzo 

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From that first trip to Fossa…

With Nanna Francesca and Nonno Anni outside the family house in Fossa when I arrived there for the first time all those years ago (bearing in mind by then I’d been travelling and living out of a backpack for several months!!)

Little did I know how much this first trip to see where in Italy my family came from would come to have such an effect, and when this was taken I certainly didn’t imagine that Mezza and Joe’s would follow. Have just completed work on the next book (fingers crossed!) and wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for joining me here along the way. It’s so lovely to have your support and to know you a little through your messages. Thank you!! Xx

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via dei Beati… and being almost home

Coming up this street in Fossa always feels like being ‘almost home’ whether returning from nearby L’Aquila or a long flight from Australia. For just around the next corner is my family’s house and while it has centuries of history, to me it also has that comforting feel like coming to stay at your grandparents’ house.

In recent years, this street was renamed via dei Beati for two saints born here, Bernardino in 1420 and Cesidio, 1873. But for me, this is also where Granny Maddalena stood not far from the church door you can see and watched her son, Annibale, then 15, walk away from her as he carried just one port to start his journey to Australia. It changed the course of our family history from then on, but his keeping a part of Fossa in his heart to one day share with us showed me that in a way it was part of us too. (For which, after resisting it a long time, I’m now very grateful!)

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From Monte Circolo…

My grandfather, Annibale, on the eastern edge of Monte Circolo near Castle Ocre looking over the Aterno Valley (with Fossa just below) in 1975. It was the first time he was able to return to the village and was so happy to revisit all the places of where he’d grown up.

Exactly 30 years later, I took the other photo from almost the same spot. I didn’t know about this photograph of Nonno Anni at the time but I think one day I’ll have to attempt to replicate it by standing on the same rock. He was about 52 in that photo, perhaps when the time comes I should try getting the similar shot at the same age!

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Beyond the earthquake…

Since the earthquake, my family’s house in Italy remains too damaged to stay in. Much of the village remains empty. And now, thieves have broken into the house. They mainly upturned drawers adding to the mess of earthquake damage, since belongings inside are mostly of sentimental value, but of course it is another blow.

For the past week, my cousin has been there cleaning up and an unexpected side to what’s happened is that she’s come across old documents, letters written by our great-grandparents and photographs, including this lovely find!

My mother (on the left) was just twenty-two at the time when she and my Dad were the first to travel back to the house after the family migrated to Australia decades earlier. Pierina (on the right) is the relative who lived in the house and kept it maintained all those years before the family could return. This was taken in Fossa just before Christmas in 1970.

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Sitting still…

Sometimes it’s those little slivers in a day that you remember and miss most when you are far away… like stepping onto the balcony of my family’s house in Italy in late afternoon to sit overlooking the laneway seeing people stroll by below, hearing a Vespa buzz past and with the only thing to think about perhaps cooking dinner.

 

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Some of Fossa’s laneways…

 … at around dawn while most of the village still slept.

These are just a few of the lanes that wind under, over and around the village and to me they are magical. Some tunnels have small frescoes and lanterns in them.

Most are just wide enough for a tiny car, others only able to be walked. The dog on the steps is Musso Nero, the village dog who was looked after by everybody {page 328, Mezza Italiana}.

I took these photographs with black and white film and an old Pentax camera more than a decade ago while staying in the village writing Mezza Italiana.

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From over the Aterno Valley, Abruzzo…

Santa Maria Assunta, Fossa, AbruzzoThe steeple of Santa Maria Assunta in Fossa… the church that sits opposite my family’s house in Abruzzo. It was lovely to walk along the lanes below and listen to the bell tolling the time of day or to hear it from afar when you were on your way back to the village.

When I took this in 2005, it was a beautiful, serene day with no hint that just four years later the steeple’s turret would be gone when the earthquake caused it to crash down through the church roof.

Originally built in the 1200s, the church was expanded during the 1400s and then partly rebuilt following the earthquake of 1703. (At this time, my family’s house was about a decade old and had experienced its first terremoto.) I took this photograph with my old Pentax camera on black and white film. Although just over a decade ago, I didn’t yet have a digital camera then!

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Window light….

Fossa windowThis window in the small house in Italy, that has sheltered different generations of my family for centuries, is my favourite. It is the tiniest and gives a view out over the village of Fossa like peering from a cubby house. I also love that it shows how thick the stone walls are.

Currently, the house still stands uninhabited and damaged as it was from the day of the earthquake back in 2009 but the good news is, after a long wait, it seems several villagers are now in the process of their houses starting to be repaired.

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