Thursday, March 31, 2016

Gravina, Modern family, ancient history

Italy Italy Italy. I left off Part 1 with our first meal at Anna Maria and Vito's home in Gravina. Here are two of the best things I've ever ate. First, this glorious ricotta breakfast cake. It's beyond amazing. I swear I ate a whole one myself during my stay. I plan to share the recipe here but I have to convert it to British and/or American measurements. Second, Anna Maria's pressed figs. I even brought some home to boyfriend they were so good. We continued to eat with gusto for the next several days. But the highlight of my time in Gravina was definitely getting to know my extended family. I've determined laying out who these wonderful people are to me on this blog would be more confusing than beneficial.

Therefore, I'll suffice it to say they are all some kind of cousin. It's so interesting how much you can learn about a person's character without speaking the same language. I really expected it to be so much more of an issue than it was. We were able to communicate pretty clearly. Not with everything -- for example, I tried to teach them to play baseball. Card game instructions are always a bit difficult to convey but I needed a lot of help from Annie to get everyone on board. We had a fantastic time playing after we all caught on though! Click below to continue reading...

Sunset from Anna Maria and Vito's flat
Me, my mom, and my cousins jetted around Gravina until quite late in the evenings. Different culture absolutely! I can't imagine the average American just taking an evening stroll at 10:30 PM with no destination. I loved it.

They shared all kinds of little tid bits of info about the town and history and where everyone worked and lived and favorite this and that. Plus, since it was Christmas time, Gravina had pop-up events going on like a tiny ice skating rink and 10 or so stalls of Christmas goods for sale. Lots of crafts, soaps, jewelry. Being built such an old foundation, Gravina is full of crooked streets that lead to nowhere and cobblestones that turn to staircases and bridges that drop you off right where you started. It seemed like ages of circles. We had such a great time exploring and fell asleep every night with bellies and brains all filled up.

One of my favorite sites in town is the old cathedral. Gravina is quite proud to have produced a pope ("pOpaa" as they say). By day we just sat and - ate fried bread of course - I sketched the cathedral, by night we explored it's relief sculptures. It had a gorgeous handle - a solid bronze dove carved down to every realistic feather. These small things always make my heart jump. Something about being American and growing up where the common value lies in things that are shiny and new. Everyone wants new homes and new designs. Being ever so Ellie, all I like is the old stuff. Vintage clothes, records, homes. I want character, I love to see the age of something and how it's stood up against time - the elements, demands, and changes. I guess that's the kind of person I want to be. It's important, I know, to appreciate new things too. I definitely don't want to be that old person who doesn't understand a computer. But, I also love being someone who knows Motown music and still wears my grandmothers mink scarf from the 20's. I want to be the same me 25 years from now, maybe with minor improvements. This cathedral is just that. There's a fresco on the back wall and new warm mahogany pews. Balance. That's what it's all about I guess.

Late one of the evenings Anna Maria sat down with my mom and I to show us the family tree (or planet, as you see above).

We even ceremonially added my name. My great grandmother had made sure my mom was put in but I think she only met me once as a small baby.

Everyone is so separate now and branching out so far. Who knows how long it can go on this way. I just feel lucky I got to know them before we got too disconnected. I'll definitely be keeping in touch with my young English speaking cousin Annie. I'm already excited at the prospect of her coming to visit me sometime soon. It was really really fun to see all the names of my relatives. Repeated names, as is the Italian tradition. If you aren't named some version of Anne in my family - you'll be thrown out. My mom's middle name fits the bill but my name sort of came out of nowhere. I don't want to have kids, but in one fleeting moment or another when I thought I might, I of course already decided I would use family names.

Gravina from the ledge of the Cathedral

Another one of the evenings we went to Annie's family home to have dinner. Her mom made these incredible things that are like huge pizza pockets. They are just as yummy as you'd think. We all gathered in for this shot. I love how game they were on the photo taking. Especially my younger cousins. Isn't it funny how we're such a glasses wearing bunch? I guess I know now where I get it from. Next up, our day trip to Matera. XOX Ciao for now!