Archive for the ‘Family’ Category


March 30, 2010

A truvel, in the dialect of Fellicarolo, is a tool used by a cobbler; a shoe maker. It is a leather punch. My grandfather, Clemente Monari was a shoe maker, and along the way, he picked up the nickname, “Truvel”.

Truvel’ with his son, Ivo, making shoes


A Little Ditty Nonno Used to Sing

March 22, 2010

My grandfather Clemente used love to sing. Here’s a little ditty my father recalls his father singing:

Quando l’ amore ce’ (When there is love)

la gamba la tira il pie’ (The leg pulls the foot)

Il pie’ tira la gamba, la gamba, la gamba (the foot pulls the leg, the leg, the leg)

Il pie’ tira la gamba, (The foot pulls the leg)

e la gamba tira il pie’ (and the leg pulls the foot)

Castagne (Chestnuts): A Staple for Survival

February 11, 2010

In Fellicarollo, castagne (chestnuts) start to ripen in October. In the 1940’s, the townspeople used to clear the ground around the trees so that when the boys shook the trees the chestnuts would fall on the ground and would be easy to pick up and place into buckets. My mother was one of them – she was a chestnut gatherer.

During chestnut season, about a month long, they would gather the nuts and store them in the drying house, called “il seccatoio”. Each time they gathered chestnuts, they would dump their buckets in the drying house where a low-heat fire was used to dry the nuts slowly. Pryor to the introduction of a machine which removed the shells and cleaned the nuts, circa 1940, the prickly outer shells were all removed by hand. The chestnuts were then shaken by hand to clean them. Once dried, shelled, and cleaned many of the nuts were taken to the mill in town to grind into flour.

Chestnuts on the Tree in September

Chestnuts were eaten in three main ways:

  1. With the dark, hard inner skin, remaining, a slit about an inch long was made in the shell and the nuts were roasted over a fire (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire). This was the fun way they were eaten, since it involved a social gathering of friends and family.
  2. The skinned nuts were also boiled and eaten with milk and a little salt, as a meal.
  3. The most common method of consumption was they were ground into flour and used to make Necci (ciaci, in dialect). This is a thin pancake — sort of a mix between a tortilla and a crepe. Necci were eaten with cheese or bacon — all home produced products at the time.

Some chestnuts were sold for money to buy other food from other areas.

My mother, Elia, remembers times when she told her dear grandmother (nonna) Genoeffa she was hungry. Her nonna would tell her, “When your grandfather goes out into the field, I’ll make you a torta (cake).” Her grandfather, Luigi (he was known as Il Nunin Gigin), didn’t like the children eating when it wasn’t meal time. This “torta” consisted of two necci with ricotta cheese in-between them. It was a good snack to hold her over till supper, but it was her and nonna’s little secret.

On one occasion of gathering chestnuts in the piazza of the church, Elia remembers it being unbearably cold. Her hands and feet were numb and hurting from the intense cold. To make matters worse, she and her brother Remo had to pick the chestnuts out of a fresh blanket of snow, as more snow continued to fall. It was so cold, they had difficulty holding the chestnuts – they’d pick up two, and drop one.

La serva del prete (the priest’s housekeeper) nearby, shivering from the cold, said to Elia, “I’m praying that it will stop snowing so that you can finish picking all the chestnuts.”

Elia responded, “I’m praying that it will snow so hard they’ll all be covered and we’ll have to go home and warm up.”

The housekeeper went to Elia’s father and said, “Dear God, Andrea, the cold has gone to her head!” (in dialect: “Mo Dio, Andrea, e fred, e’ ghe anda’ alla testa”).

Normally respectful of her elders and polite, Elia quick wittedly retorted, “No, the cold has gone to my hands and feet!” (No, e fred e’ me anda’ ai pei e al man!).

Chestnuts were a major resource, key to the survival of the people of Fellicarolo in those days. My grandfather (nonnino) Andrea Giambi said that chestnuts kept them from going hungry during the winter months. Without chestnuts, his family of ten children may have gone hungry. Thank you, Lord, for supplying their needs!

… We’re Going to California!

January 11, 2010

My mother has shared many stories of her life growning up in Fellicarolo. Here is one that had prophetic implications.

Casa Norra

Casa Norra

When Elia was a little girl (around four years old) making fabric with her grandmother Genoefa at Casa Norra, Genoefa used to sing her a little song. Here are the words to the song:

     Taca la rocca al faj  (Attach the spindle to the Ash tree)
     Che’ ande’n in California (Cause we’re going to California)

Elia asked her grand mother, “What does it mean?” Genoefa explained that people in California don’t need to make their own material, because they can afford to buy it, so let’s put our spindle in a tree and go to California.

Elia asked her, “But where is this California  Grandma?” Genoefa answered, “E benedetta la mi bambina, i digian che’ le’ da claltra part de’ mund.” Translated, “Oh my blessed child, they say it is on the other side of the world.”

Elia responded, “Who tells us this?” Genoefa answered in her humble way, “Those that know alot more than we do.”

Little did the young Elia know that one day California would be her home and the home of her own grand children. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Elia never needed that spindle in California.