At our new abode there was ample space to erect the caravan’s awning to provide us with some valuable extra living space, and to make things feel a little more homely and orderly. Nonetheless 3 people and 2 dogs residing together in such a confined space could be described as an “interesting experience”, but generally we managed to rub along pretty well. Everything was something of a challenge, even the simplest of chores.
Feeling a little sorry for myself one day as I stood at the stone sink laboriously washing and rinsing out our laundry by hand, I recalled how my mother had described my “Nonna’s” hard life as teenage girl back in Atina.
On washdays she and the other women folk would have to walk a long way carrying their dirty laundry down to the river bank in large baskets, which they skilfully balanced on top of their heads. Subsequently they would kneel down by the water’s edge and commence scrubbing the soiled articles with a large bar of soap, pounding and pummelling the clothes against the large flat stones to help displace the dirt. The washing then had to be rinsed by swirling it around in the icy flowing current before it could be arduously wrung out by hand, hung up to dry. Finally the women had to carry their heavy loads all the way back up the steep hill to the village. How we take so much for granted in these days of modern appliances !!!
Each morning Salvatore would arrive and immediately disappear to change into his “work clothes”. He would emerge sporting a sleeveless vest, tatty shorts and some plastic flip floppy shoes that seemed to be a few sizes too small for his bare feet. In addition he would don an old canvas hat, pulling it down tightly over his balding pate to protect it from the burning sun. From under the brim his kind eyes twinkled. The compassionate Salvatore seemed truly concerned for us, being “all alone in this strange new country” and was eager to take us under his wing. We were soon to become firm friends.
He was keen to share with us some of his valuable pearls of knowledge, offering his personal tips on gardening, cooking and keeping chickens and life in general. It was obvious, that over the years he had learned to be thrifty and was very reluctant to throw anything away, in case it might turn out to prove useful some day. He busied himself preparing for the arrival of the demanding summer visitors, as were many similar establishments right along the coast. We were informed that the Italian summer season started off gently in June, and accelerated into July, reaching a dramatic peak in August, when virtually all Italians habitually take their annual holiday, and was over by September.
We tried to help him out here and there by doing some odd jobs around the site: tidying up the grounds, whitewashing walls with lime, splashing a lick of paint here and there, putting up shading and numerous international flags, erecting tables and benches, airing the little chalets and taking the parasols and deckchairs out of mothballs. “Lavoro, sempre lavoro, ma ……. piano, piano” he would say.
At the weekend a couple of families turned up at the campsite, to prepare their plots for the summer season. A family from Rome were very sociable and sometimes, occasionally of an evening, invited us to eat with them. We soon learned that Vittore, a gentle, bronzed giant of man, was a “muratore”, a builder who had done some work for Salvatore over the years. His wife Maria Angela gave us more tips on Italian cooking, especially on how to prepare artichokes, aubergines, and peppers and an array of other vegetables that we are not so familiar with back home.
They took us to a local small holding or “orto” where they often purchased their fruit and vegetables. Here nothing was weighed out, there was nothing precise about it, quantity was just roughly gauged by the handful. For just a few euros we would leave the market garden with bulging bags of fresh produce. Somehow in Italy everything seemed to taste so much more flavoursome, we were sure this was because everything is grown or produced locally and is still so very fresh when it comes to the table.