View from Fossa.
The torre, Fossa’s oldest structure dating back to the 12th century.
I can’t quite believe it’s twenty-five years since the first time I went to Italy… And those who know Mezza Italiana know that, for me, going to see where my family came from was a trip I took with some trepidation and mixed feelings, and yet it turned out to be incredibly life-changing. Little did I know then, I’d one day write a book about it and that the best thing about that would be connecting with so many of you and discovering how you shared either similar experiences about your ancestry and/or a love for Italy. It still amazes me to think that trip became the start of Mezza Italiana, especially as I wrote about something that I’d kept so close inside for my whole life until then.
Monastery on the outskirts of Fossa… Il Convento di Sant’ Angelo d’Ocre, founded in the 13th century.
Rich blue skies in the middle of the day.
Being twenty-five years on, I decided to dig out the photos I took on that first trip to Fossa in Abruzzo. (Some of them certainly look like they’re that old now!) I also had a modest Pentax camera that took rolls of film so some photos mightn’t be the best or as many as I’d take now on a phone camera, considering the cost to get rolls of films developed on a backpacker’s budget then! Still, it’s lovely to look back, especially to see Nanna Francesca and Nonno Anni next to me on the front steps the day I arrived as well as beautiful Fossa when there was no hint of the earthquake to come more than a decade later. And I still can’t get over the rich blueness of the sky some days up there in the Apennine Mountains! No filters or tricks on these photos, just nature at its most exquisite. Thank you for taking the Mezza Italiana journey with me and for sharing your stories too. Grazie infinite cari amici! Zoe xx
Early morning mist over the mountain with the romance of chimneys, terracotta roofs… and a quite tall tv antenna. 👀
Fossa at dusk. Almost timeless.
More photos here …
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
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
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!
The 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!
This 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.