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  • Antonio Forte

Tante vite in pochi giorni

So many lifetimes in a few days. After watching the sunset over Nova Scotia, and the sunrise over Ireland, I landed in Italy. Once at the airport, I couldn't help but to recall memories of my grandfather when angry, exclaiming something like va nabola! Which apparently was not a nice thing to say. In an Abruzzese dialect, it means "go to Naples!" (Va a Napoli is the actual sentence.) So I did. I spent only one night in Naples, in the historic center, which seemed like nothing but narrow alleyways lined with cavern-like shops, bars, and cafes, lots of people, and Vespa drivers weaving in and out of everything. For some it would seem at least claustrophobic, at most dangerous. Warned by my driver Ciro (Italian for Cyrus) as he dropped me off, "Don't get lost," I refrained from purposefully getting lost, as I am wont to do when encountering a new city, as I had when first moving to Washington, DC, and then again in Florence, Italy during college. Ciro was an incredibly down-to-earth individual, and we became instant friends. Un uomo molto gentile. We discussed everything from the history of buildings as we drove past them, Gregorian chant, our favorite Jazz musicians, and the price of petrol (gas). Both of our faces lit up when we came to the agreement that a large portion of ones experience of music is the space in which it is performed (i.e. Gregorian chants won't have the same power if not performed in large, cave-like monasteries, etc.). I was disappointed to turn down his invitation to join him and some friends that night for some local Jazz, but knew I had to catch up on sleep.

The next morning Ciro picked me up and brought me to my car rental. He wished me luck, told me that where I was headed was un posto magico, to follow my heart, and that the inspiration would surely come to me. I was disappointed to depart Ciro's company, but I look forward to my next car ride with him when I go back to Napoli. I hopped into my rental car and proceeded to leave Campania, the region in which Naples is located, driving up the autostrada to the Molise, the region of my ancestors, the Ancient Samnites, rolling green mountains, and of the Zampogna.

[Caption: Sunset over Nova Scotia. On the autostrada from Campania to Molise. The castle doorway and narrow streets of Castelnuovo a Volturno.]

My first stop in the Molise was a tiny hamlet called Scapoli, to attend the International Zampogna festival. My Airbnb was located on the neighboring collina (hill-top, kind of like small mountains) called Castelnuovo a Volturno. The Volturno is the name of a river that runs through Molise, starting in the Apennines in Abruzzo and flowing to the Mediterranean. As the name implies, Castelnuovo a Volturno is indeed a castle (although at this point not new), and to get to my apartment I had to walk through the old stone gate and up the cobbled narrow streets. After quickly putting away my luggage in the tiny apartment, I headed to Scapoli. Walking up the steep cobbled pathways, I came across a group of people in orange shirts carrying large wooden barrels who looked absolutely exhausted. È finito, la festa? I asked as I walked past. Sì, sì, they answered. I was suddenly struck by both disappointment and dubiousness. I paused for a moment to let the sound of footsteps on centuries-old cobbles diminish. Following my ears, I strolled up the continuously inclining streets until, rounding a corner, came across the festival. Not finished. Still happening. And still lively.

[Caption: In and around the Zampogna Festival at Scapoli. Sunset and moonrise at Scapoli, overlooking the Apennine mountains of Molise. A beautiferous lunch at the Volturno ristorante.]

[Caption: I'm uncertain about the first few canzone (songs), but the last one is The Carnival of Venice, one I played a lot on the trumpet in high school.]

Stay tuned for the next post. Watch out for bears.

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