Hic sunt leones

I was eleven when my family moved from Trst, the Habsburg city where I was born, to a small village in Italy. It was not the first time that I was visiting the country, however I never lived there before. I remember traveling by train with my grandfather, and every time the train was passing the village of Duino, he was always telling me: “Now we crossed the border, and we are in Italy.” It did not matter to him, nor to me, that the border had been abolished many years before. And that Italy was now extending its sovereignty to all the province.

Monfalcon, ormai xè una nazion!

The first three years we lived in this village, St***, not far from the industrial harbor of Monfalcone. All names I heard sometimes in my childhood, as far away lands, and that soon became familiar. Still, for the first two years, I kept attending junior high school in Trst, commuting every morning with my mother — who was still teaching in a close-by school in our old hometown. Moreover, I was still participating in the activities of my scout group, in the same city. So, the move did not really give me any feeling, if not the annoyance of one hour drive every morning.

Things changed when I turned thirteen. I enrolled in a local school for the coming year, and I started to explore my new village in infinite bicycle tours. The public library became my reference point, where activities were organized every afternoon. In some way, I enjoyed my time there.

Five kilometers from civilization

However, the cultural shock came the year after. When from St***, we moved to an even smaller village (but to a larger house) I never heard before, even though it was just 5 minutes by car from there. It took a while for me to memorize the name: San C***. A church and two thousand souls. Five kilometers and two hundred years away from civilization.

When I think about that small village forgotten by god, it always come to my mind this image of a rural area in Khomeini’s Iran. And it made no difference that famous football player Fabio Capello was born here. A bar and two shops represented all the village had to offer, beside the church. I remember trying to hang out at the public library, as I was used to in the other village. The desolation was disarming. So, I turned to the parish. A new priest just took over his flock, after twenty years of domination by an older character. The local mafia was represented by a group of devote church-goers, singing in the female choir of the parish.

Hic sunt leones

My diffidence was enhanced by the fact that I was hardly understanding the local dialect. Every word sounded hilarious, since they had the custom to add the suffix “-onon” to each adjective. Even worst, they were distorting each word with an ugly sibilant double “s”.

Attendance of the Sunday church service was required to be accepted in the community, and every one knew everything about everyone else. A constant eye was following the residents, and news were traveling from one ear to another ear in matters of minutes. It felt suffocating.

On top of this, local old ladies were referring to me as “the son of foreigners” (“foresto”, in local language), accentuating my idea that Trst, actually, was not Italy. And that I was now living not just in a nightmare, but also in a foreign country. So I soon understood why, on ancient maps, these lands were often referred as unexplored places where civilized human beings were not welcome. Hic sunt leones.

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