Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Gravina, Finding a second home

When I decided to move to London, I knew it was a good time to do some travelling. Boyfriend's job would have him start right away across the pond, but I'd be job hunting regardless of timing. I always take advantage of gaps. Could be a reason I haven't had a job longer than a year since my Denver job...but I digress.

I've always wanted to spend a month in Italy. It's been my number one trip for years. I kept putting it off because I wanted it to be just right. Smart idea? ...yeah not so much. After some much needed encouragement and support (in the form of pup-sitting, among other things) from boyfriend, I finally decided now or never and booked the flights. It wasn't just perfect as I'd imagined but it was just right for right now. Click here to continue...

Sofa Rock
I started out by flying with my mom to Bari. My relatives are from this area. There is so much history here for my family. I won't pretend to understand the older generations, nor claim to know what it feels like to be an immigrant. I suppose you could call me one in England but with technology and the global economy...things just aren't the same as they were when my great grandparents immigrated from Italy to America. I think the effort to assimilate was there. The prejudice was there. The independence was there. My grandmother doesn't really talk about Italy or her Italian heritage. Her parents are gone and her siblings have had a whole life in America. My grandma is a now person. It's something I love and admire about her. She's never been a past-loving nana who filled my ears with the old stories. Instead, my grandma has taught my by example how to make the most of a moment and enjoy your life as it is now. So, mostly what I know of Italy are speculations my mom shared and dreamed about. She's a past person. She has a great memory and she cherishes the story - beginning to end. Which is why, really, it was perfect for my mom and I to venture off to Italy and discover the past of my grandma (and other relatives) on our own. I'm sure we'll share our experience with my grandma and she may ask if we saw so-and-so but I doubt she'll be that interested otherwise. And that's ok. If there's one thing that comes with growing up (and turning the dreaded thirty), you really start to accept people - appreciate them - feel nourished by what they offer. For a long time I wanted my grandparents to be something they just aren't. Now, I know I am much more like them and I can truly appreciate who they are. Alas, that is another story.

That's Annie with her record player :)
We arrived to meet my second cousin, Annie, and her grandparents, Anna Maria and Vito. Anna Maria is the daughter of one of my great grandmother's siblings. They greeted us with big Italian hugs and kisses. Anna Maria is bustling caretaker with a sweet smile, a sharp mind, an ability to read the room, and a lovely curiosity. You can tell she wants to know what we think about everything. Since we can't speak Italian and she doesn't speak a word of English, well...actually, she had no problem at all. She seemed to understand us perfectly! It helps that my mom and I both are as transparent as a window. Heart on our sleeves, what can I say. Vita is a pretend grump who cares completely right down to his soul. He's a joker, family oriented, proud, maybe a bit stubborn, and takes glorious sofa naps every afternoon. If I had any doubt these people were related to me, it was all cleared up in the naps.

We squeezed into their little car and drove out to Gravina. This town blew me away. I felt so incredibly proud to see this place - my history intertwined here. What an amazing piece of the world to be from. Originally colonized by the Greeks, the area was conquered time and again throughout history. Now in modern Italy, it's competing for tourism with neighboring Matera. Matera has the ancient city, but Gravina has the sofa rock, as my cousin calls it. A rock shaped just like a sofa placed in just the perfect spot to have the best view of the ancient Roman bridge (1686) across the gorge. 

Gravina is currently pushing to become a UNESCO sight but I'm sure there are so many places to compete with, who knows when it will happen. That status would greatly increase their tourism. It's a bit selfish, but I'm glad there are no tourists. I much prefer to see the town and place as it really is - not the marketed, kitschy version currently on sale at Matera. It's just more stuff you have to get through to see the real site. Alas, someday Gravina will change but I'll always know I saw it before all that.

First thing was pizza...with french fries. Delicious! 
The family apartment was very nice - spacious, homey. We settled in and were quite comfortable right away. It's a bit overwhelming to only be able to speak to one of 7-12 people. Thankfully, my cousin is a lovely person. She was really patient with everyone and it's only because of her we were able to have this amazing experience with our new found family. 

After a night's rest from our journey, we eventually sat down to an incredible welcome lunch. Fish, veggies, venison, gosh who knows now. There were like 8 courses! Each one more delicious than the last. Clean flavors, tomato, herbs, small red chilis they turn into an oil.

At least one of the courses included my new challenge, our family pasta: cavatelli. It's so yummy. I've now tried to make it twice so far. It's a work in progress, but even seeing this photo I'm realizing my cavatelli is too short. Practice makes perfect! 

I'm looking forward to sharing more of the trip now that I'm writing it out and remembering it. I also kept a journal to share. For now, Ciao! Ciao amico mio xo