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  • Antonio Forte

Continua un'altra avventura...

Another adventure continues. [After eight months of neglecting this blog, I finally have the time and space--mentally, emotionally, and literally--to dive back into my writing. Also, and just perhaps a friendly reminder, this blog is about the research that goes into my musical compositions, about my love of words and their etymologies, and about the stories of the ancient Samnites.]

...And now I might say that my work begins again (as it certainly feels like it), but rather it continues. I have returned to Italy, this time to Campania, the region south of Molise on the western coast. It is here that I will continue the Ethnomusicological research-based music composition that began over a year ago. The Samnites continue to wait (for me [sic], or I for them), their bones, their words, their stories, their music lying still in deep repose for over two millennia. I take up the shovel again to dig.

And again, I start by going to Naples, my grandfather's words still ringing in my ears: a growling va nabola, inflected ever-so-slightly with his Abruzzo-Molisan accent, inherited from his parents, my bisnonni (great-grandparents).

Aerei, treni, e macchine (planes, trains, and automobiles), I flew from Boston to Paris, and from Paris to Napoli (Naples). Once landed in Naples (Napoli), mio caro amico (my dear friend) Ciro picked me up and brought me to the train station where I would then continue onwards to the next leg of my journey. After shaking hands and embracing Ciro in a friendly greeting [for those just tuning in, Ciro was my driver and instant friend the last time I was in Naples], I explained how horrible the seats were on the plane, how I hadn't really slept, and that ho bisogno di un caffe! (I need a coffee!). He laughed, grabbed my shoulder, and explained that when he wasn't driving he worked as a physical therapist. He added that today he could only help with one thing. We loaded up my luggage, jumped in his car, and proceeded to drive to wherever he was taking me. After a few kilometers of Neapolitan traffic (which would make even the most swarthy of American drivers flinch), we pulled up to a place directly next to the train station, its dark chocolate-brown sign reading Cuori di Sfogliatella (Hearts of Sfogliatella, or Sfogliatella Hearts). A sfogliatella is a type of pastry, similar to a cornetto (croissant), and originates from the region of Campania. The name means 'small, thin layers,' and derives from the word foglia (leaf or sheet), like una foglia di carta (a sheet of paper). I did not order one.

[Caption: Taking off from Boston. Landing in Paris.]

Un caffè ed una pezza di pizza, ummmmargherita, per favore, I said to the man behind the counter (a coffee and a piece of margherita pizza, please). It was lunch time. And besides, I had ordered a croissant during my layover in Paris. Instead of bedding down in Naples for the night, as I had done in the past before moving on to my destination, I decided to find a smaller, less energetic (to put it diplomatically) locale. So, after finishing my spuntino (snack) and much-needed boost of caffeine, I walked across the street and hopped onto the train going to a small Campanian town named Battipaglia.

The name Battipaglia is thought to originate from bapti and palea (the words baptism and paleo), meaning 'place formerly/anciently underwater;' a second origin takes the Italian words batta (beat) and paglia (hay), alluding to the act of harvesting wheat or straw; and a third etymology draws from the name Baptipalla, which is said to indicate a place consecrated to the ancient Etruscan goddess Voltumna, at times depicted as a vegetation deity of unknown or ambiguous gender. The Etruscans were another pre-Roman Italian civilization, contemporaneous and at one point allies with the Samnites, who suffered a similar fate at the hands of the Romans.

I spent one night in Battipaglia, staying in a hotel not far from the train station. Everything went smoothly and I was pleasantly surprised at the proximity of the hotel to the station, to the shops, and to some wonderful cafes. Unbeknownst to me, the next day would bring with it some unforeseen turbulence.

[Caption: Contemplating the primary colors at the train station in Battipaglia.]

Check-out time from the hotel was 9:30, but my bus was not departing until after lunch. I asked the hotel owner if I could leave my luggage in the locked office and go for una passeggiata e forse un pranzo (a walk about town and perhaps lunch) before retrieving my luggage and catching my bus. She said this was fine; I just needed to call her and she would buzz me back in with an app on her phone. An hour before my bus, I realized my phone had neither service nor wifi. I proceeded to panic slightly, running to the train station to use their free wifi. Alas, despite the signs advertising new, free public wifi, it was nonexistent. My next thought was to seek assistance from a cafe. I ran back to the town piazza which stood between the hotel and the train station, and walked into the first door I could find, which happened to be of the motion-activated, automatic sliding variety. The glass panels seemed to take an eternity to slide open. I slipped in sideways before they could finish their sluggish parting, and asked the young man, clumsily slicing orange wedges at the counter, if there was wifi. No, mi dispiace (no, I'm sorry). I then proceeded to explain my situation. He offered his cellphone, dialing the number I showed him, and then handed me the phone. It rang a few times and then an automated message began saying the number was not in operation. I ended the call and handed him back his phone.

Thoughts raced through my mind like starling murmurations. For those who know me personally, you know that I am addicted to problem-solving. In that moment, my brain seemed to compute and analyze dozens of solutions at quantum velocities. I thought of leaving my luggage in Battipaglia in order to catch the bus in time, coming back later once I had found cell service to contact the hotel. My emotional self seemed deep underwater (while I was literally starting to baptize myself in sweat); the situation seemed to be battering my psyche like ancient Etruscan farmers threshing grains.

Suddenly, as if appearing out of the ether, a young women's voice from behind me said in English, "do you need help?" My face lit up and my panic froze. I immediately turned around to see the young woman who had materialized and, half in Italian and half in English, I explained my predicament. Smiling calmly, she whipped out her phone, double-checked the number on mine, and called the hotel owner. After a brief conversation, she hung up and said the door would be open for me, everything was all set. I thanked her profusely, along with the orange-slicing youth behind the bar, and proceeded to retrieve my luggage. As I passed the cafe on the way back to the train station, I tried to find the helpful young woman who spoke a little English, so that I could thank her again, ask for her name, and perhaps buy her a coffee. She had gone, just as mysteriously as she had appeared. Perhaps Battipaglia is the place of the goddess Voltumna.

[Caption: The verdant Campanian countryside.]

Stay tuned for the next post. Piano, piano.

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Jul 01

The adventures continue...

A welcomed story this early morning over my own cup of coffee. Ciao!!


Jul 01

Antonio, I am thrilled thst your adventures continued. I sm.lookjng forward to more..

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