Well that was easier than I thought it would be. I couldn't get over the fact in less than 1/2 hour we were out of that Commune with a copy of the birth record in hand. Really unheard of in Italy, and the craziest part is they never asked Joe for any I.D !
We really had no plan after that except to just wander around Aragona, maybe catch lunch and maybe try to locate the vista where a photo was taken of Joe's grandmother 30 years before. So we decided to just walk, walk through the little town from where his family came.
Aragona at first glance was kind of nondescript. Looked like any other town, no real landmarks to distinguish it. The streets fanned out up and down from the main artery along which most shops were closed. I'm not sure if the closures were due to siesta or just lack of business. You could catch an occasionally glimpse of the surrounding countryside peeping through the somewhat run down buildings that lined the streets.
As we walked we could feel the eyes of the people we passed watching, they knew we were not from there, this was a town where I'm sure everyone knew everyone and stranieri (strangers) were a quick spot. But it wasn't an unwelcoming feeling , you could tell that it was just curiosity. The town is completely "old school" down to the obtits posted at nearly every other corner.
We came upon a fruit and vegetable shop, one of the few places that was open. It was run by an older man who was settling up a woman's purchases. Joe made note of what I thought was a tomato, he said they sell them in the North End of Boston. I said , "yeah, it's a tomato" he said," NO, it's NOT a tomato ( it looked like a tomato) When the man appeared again from inside the shop I asked him ," Che cos'e'?" ( what is that) and he said a litto.
We had a small audience by now, the woman hung around to see what "the Americani " fruit inquiry was about and another man who was picking up some leafy greens. By the look on our faces I think the vendor could sense we were confused by what it was and so he grabbed one and with the edge of his shirt sleeve, like only an Italian fruit stand guy could, he polished off one of those "litto", split it in half handing a piece each to both Joe and I.
It was sweet and delicious, but the best part was the intense interest of how we would like that fruit, the fruit from HIS fruit stand. I told Joe to give the guy a Euro and with that the man filled a bag with that fruit. We said it was too much, give him some more money. Joe handed him another 2 Euro which prompted a bag of kumquats, I think, but we politely declined.
I tried googling litto to no avail and finally asked a friend ( a former chef :) and she said they are persimmons!! I guess I having been living under the fruit rock, I'm sure I have seen them before, but never had one.
will he like it???? so funny!! note the guy in the middle
As we walked away thanking the man we couldn't believe how nice everyone was. It wasn't the sometimes unauthentic surface nicety you get in the north, it was different, from the core, it's just who they are. The reason I love that picture so above is the expression on both the men's faces. You can't fake that sort of interest.
We continued along the main street kind of at a loss for which direction to head. I said down, Joe said up, we couldn't agree and so found ourselves to the side of a small church where there was a small wall over which you could see the countryside. It seemed as if we were the only ones there but then we spotted 2 older men chatting, actually it was more like catch up gossip. I did not realize until days later but Joe realized right away that one of the men was the guy with the leafy greens at the fruit stand. Joe said he was telling his friend the story of us, the 2 Americans and we how tried the fruit and why we were there.
I told Joe to pull up that picture of his grandmother on the Ipad, that maybe these guys knew where it was taken. As he tried to get the photo up ( and we all know how Ipads can stick sometimes) they started walking away. "Hurry, they are walking away!!" I said. He said he was." O.k, they stopped!! Hurry, Now!" He was, " I'm trying!!!" They would take a few steps, then they would stop, then a few more steps, then they would stop during which I would report, they are walking, they are stopping, they are walking, they are stopping. Actually, I'm surprised Joey didn't throw me over the wall at that point . It was almost as if they knew we were looking for something. FINALLY! he gets the photo up and we approach the two men.
Me: Buongiorno Senore, ho una domanda. Sapete dove questo posto e' in Aragona?
(good day, I have a question, do you know where this place is in Aragona?)
Joe pipes in as he shows the photo on the Ipad ( isn't technology freaken AWESOME!!)
Joe: this is my grandmother, here in Aragona the picture was taken about 30 years ago, my grandfather is from here and I'm looking to find this place where the photo was taken.
All in English, rapid fire speed, Boston accent . So, when he finished the men both just turned their heads to me as to say ," WTF did he just say??
After translation and the two men talking amongst themselves they agreed they had no clue BUT they knew someone who might. So the shorter guy from the fruit stand who I will now call by his name Sebastian yells across the street to a guy in a frame shop. He yells for the guy to come to us to look at a photo, and so he does.
This frame shop guy ( whose name escapes me) is the "go to guy" for all things Aragona and Agrigento. Been there for ever, like 80 yrs old, knows everyone and everything. Sebastian tells me if anyone will know it's this guy. So the 3 men and Joe huddle around the Ipad for a 15 minute pow wow on that photo, all the while I was taking photos myself.
After much discussion amongst the 3 men, frame shop guy says yes! in fact, he knows where this place is, it's on the outskirts from center and that he knows where the Luccheses can be found. That in fact there are Luccheses still in Aragona, they live in a specific area, but which houses he is not sure. He begins to tell Sebastian about the area and the name of the street and tells him it is too far to walk. He begins to give him directions.
Sebastian then turned to the other taller man and began talking to him, his name is Gregory or Gregorio. They went back and forth and I was laughing while listening. Now , because this conversation is going on in Italian, Joe really hadn't a clue what they are discussing but I did. I couldn't help but smile , that I heard the frame shop guy tell Sebastian to take us with his car, that I heard Sebastian tell Gregorio he was coming with, that I heard Gregorio say basically no way and Sebastian tell him yes way ( I'm paraphrasing again) . And while Sebastian and Gregorio were discussing I leaned over and whispered to Joe that they were taking us there. That they were taking us to find Luccheses. "No! really? That's crazy!!" he said. Yep, it WAS crazy but it was true. If that day hadn't already been surreal it was about to get a whole lot more so. So after the frame shop guy wrapped up his directions and said his goodbyes and we said our thank you, Sebastian looked at Joe and I and said, " Andiamo!!"
Looks like a three parter as I actually have stuff to do
Part 3 " The meeting of Luccheses" on Monday for Christy's La Dolce Vita series ( and be sure to check out her blog)
Hopefully with video if Joey gets off his slacker ass and emails it to me :)
Joe and Gregorio in the back seat