I’ve been trying to stop people (including myself) moaning about this wash-out of a May by telling them that they’ve forgotten all about last year, when the heavens dropped a record 180-odd millimetres on us during the month which should be peak spring. I’ve been alleging that this year – though colder – hasn’t been nearly as wet. Until a few days ago I might have had a point. Now that’s so much rubbish. We’re over 200mm and we’re still not (quite) out of it.
I’ve hung washing on the line this morning in a kind of challenge to the weather gods. But the air out there is so wringing wet that I doubt it’ll ever dry. Ooops. I had to break off to bring it straight back in again as more rain drizzled into my rain gauge. My keep-sane mantra now: it will end.
EU and local elections have come and gone, and gone badly. The nationalist, ‘sovreignist’ League is smirking with delight, the bit between their teeth and ready to stir up more unjustified indignation to garner support for their policies of discrimination and aggression.
At local level, the ‘party-free’ confusion I wrote about before the vote still seems to reign after. In my Pilates class this week, conversation turned to the results. A lista civica had won in CdP they all agreed. But who was it? No one had a clue. And no one seemed to care very much.
We did our bit for the losing lista civica, which, after initial reluctance, made its centre-left allegiances fairly clear. But much of the election was fought over one single, bitter issue: the fate of our little hospital. A lot of incomplete information mixed with long-standing rancour skewed things. Now for the first time in who-knows-how-long, CdP is no longer a left-of-centre town. Hey ho. Let’s hope the ‘others’ run things competently.
Whatever they do, some fundamentals are unlikely to change.
I was chatting with a new arrival in CdP, someone who has bought a house here and is moving their lives to our town, lock stock and barrel, despite having no connections here, knowing no Italian, having no Italian backstory. She grew in up Zimbabwe, she told me, under what were more or less war-zone conditions. As soon as they were old enough, children were sent away to boarding school abroad, and not necessarily close to each other.
What convinced her that she wanted to live here was the scenes she saw in the parks, piazze and restaurants – generations of the same family all together, sharing their lives and pulling together.
Time may show her that her perception is rose-tinted. I mean, being ‘stuck’ here is the bane of many young pievesi, and overwhelming grand/parental interference causes all kinds of problems. But in a very simplified way yes, the great sense of community to be found here begins at a family level. And that is something you don’t get everywhere.
This sense of community continues in the terzieri (ie as opposed to quartieri), the three areas into which CdP is divided and between which there is some very heart-felt rivalry. Which is odd, as they are kind-of-artificial constructs, part-dusted off, part-invented in the 1970s and really not cemented in any way until the 2000s. I’ve been fascinated by a book I picked up recently which documents, blow by rather obsessive blow, the process of creating our terziere, Borgo Dentro. (I say fascinated, but I haven’t actually been able to bring myself to finish it: written by someone very thorough and very much on the inside, it details every step, vote, debate, disagreement and defeat suffered by the various factions battling to control the way the terziere conducts itself.)
What’s interesting about it is not so much the mechanisms as the end result: coming together – at times rowdily and acrimoniously – to whip up a ‘tradition’ out of the blue. The terzieri and their rituals have all the trappings of something emerging from the mists of time. The corteo storico (procession) at the height of our Palio in August features 700-plus magnificently costumed marchers, drawing visitors from all over Italy to watch. Then the three terzieri participate in a dramatic ‘historic’ archery shoot-out – which Borgo Dentro first took part in in 1977 and which took its current form with the revolving bull-shaped cut-out target in 1994.
But chronology doesn’t matter. Pageant does. Rivalry does. As I was thinking while in the cathedral a few weeks ago when bows and arrows were blessed in another of these ‘ancient’ ceremonies which have become an integral part of town life in the space of a few short years. The drummer boys up the back where I was standing were joking about and making sarcastic digs and doing all the things that you’d expect youth to do. But they had dressed up and turned out, and they played their drums splendidly. These, too, can be things that hold communities together.
Campanilismo (from campanile – church tower) is a term that’s often used pejoratively, meaning an exaggerated attachment to one’s own town, even to the point of aggressive antagonism with others around. It is perhaps the inevitable fall-out from a history of centuries of warring city states on the Italian boot. But if it can be parlayed into civic attachments of this kind, that’s not so bad.
In Ikea in the horrible Florence suburb of Sesto Fiorentino last week, the young woman at the check-out asked me for my postcode, as they often do.
Where’s that then? she said.
Città della Pieve, I told her.
Oh, she said, I went there once! I took my daughter for a bit-part in Carabinieri (the dreadful police sob-fest shot in CdP). Nice! she said, then paused. Well maybe it was. I don’t really remember anything about it.
So it doesn’t make a huge impression on everyone.