Going Down the Hill

July 25, 2011

“Sometimes the questions are

complicated, and the answers

are simple.”

~ Dr. Seuss


Or sometimes, the answers are just as — or more — complicated than the answers.


If I've learned anything while doing research into my grandmother's life, I've found that the answers to the questions I have are just not that easy to find. And sometimes, if I do get what I think is an answer, it isn't easy to decipher.


Last year, as you may recall, I found out that Grams and Grandpa actually did not both live in the actual village of Pettorano sul Gizio. Grandpa was born on the mountain, but Grandma was born in ValleLarga, a village that is part of Pettorano but that is in the valley and not on the mountain. ValleLarga is a suburb of Pettorano, if you will. If you look closely at today's photo, which I took from the ValleLarga, you can see Pettorano in the distance. (Side note: The ValleLarga has fewer than 200 inhabitants. It has been inhabited since paleolithic times, mostly by hunters who, out of necessity, turned into shepherds and farmers. There are remnants of an ancient Roman settlement there as well as a Greek relic of sorts.)


What I found interesting was that if I mentioned Grandma's maiden name to people in Pettorano, they were quick to say "She was from ValleLarga;" or "She wasn't from here. She was from ValleLarga." If ValleLarga is a "suburb" of Pettorano, I wondered, why was everyone making sure to specify she was from VL? I asked my friend Marcello why people made this distinction, and he laughed a bit. In the past, those who lived in ValleLarga were mostly the farmers of the area. They lived in small, inexpensive houses and did the menial jobs. They didn't, for the most part, have the "wealth" that the people who lived on the mountain did.


Marcello told me that the people on the mountain called those in the ValleLarga the "casete," which means "little houses." It was, of course, an insult. He also mentioned that VL is on the border of the town limits of both Pettorano and Sulmona, the largest city in the area. "Most people in the ValleLarga prefer to think they're part of Sulmona," he said. Hmmm.


Today, ValleLarga is still home to olive groves, vineyards and farms. Marcello's son said to me, "THey have the larger houses now." There are a number of larger, unattached homes there that appear to be rather new. I was unable to figure out which, of the older homes, was the one in which my grandmother was born. Last year, Zio Pietro told me that her house was a "palazzo" (basically a big house) and abandoned. We think we found it, but we're not sure. This year, we did drive down the road through ValleLarga a few times. One afternoon, we found a few people who would talk to us. We found that their view of Pettorano wasn't too different from the view the Pettoranese had of them.

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