In 1927, in a town deep within the Calabrian mountains, an oppressed and isolated family lives under the tyranny of a violent baron who wants to subdue and recruit the brothers Pietro and Ferruccio by any means possible. When the brothers reject his offer, the enraged baron exacts his revenge on the family in a brutal attack-on their children. He attempts to kill Ferruccio's toddler son, Nicola, and forcefully adopts Pietro's now-orphaned four-year-old niece, Carmen. As astute as he is dangerous, Pietro-now calling himself Zione-insinuates himself into the baron's inner circle, waiting for the perfect moment to exact his own revenge.
Years pass, and the world is at war. Ferruccio returns from the horrors of the Russian Front with a frostbitten foot, only to find there are battles to be won at home as well. Nicola, now a man, is engaged to Carmen, who carries his child. But the baron forbids his adopted daughter to marry. Under threat of death, Ferruccio flees to Miami. There he seeks protection and help from a local boss. Back in Italy, Carmen gives birth to their child before joining Nicola in Florida, in the hopes of starting a new life in the New World. Together they open an Italian restaurant and try to find happiness so far from home.
They will never forget the Great Sila, the viddanedda, the beech forest, the fountains, and the procession of Santa Caterina. They will always remember their lost Calabria with love.
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CALABRIA WITH LOVE
By Gianni Callari
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Giovanni (Gianni) Callari and Raffaele Zuccarelli
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOver the centuries, mankind has suffered virulent and deadly epidemics, endemic and pernicious diseases, and faced environmental catastrophes and cataclysms, and scourges caused by natural events. And when these problems were lacking, man has filled the void with his own wickedness and destructiveness, committing crimes, massacres, holocausts, persecutions, deportations, and other ignoble events throughout the course of history.
World history, with the opportunity for reflection and repentance, has told mankind of these atrocities committed by man against his fellow man, involving the entire community.
Heinous characters throughout the ages have afflicted entire populations.
Then there are occurrences of personal violence for motives of envy, jealousy, arrogance, threatening individuals and impacting his everyday life, the tranquility of his family, his customs, and his serenity at work. The tyrant, the bully, takes aim at this person, sometimes someone in his own family, and becomes the persecutor and the torturer, imposing harassment and vexation. These events, those that involve man as an individual, are not recorded in world history books which report the actions of nations; rather they are told through stories, novellas and romantic novels.
These despicable acts can happen anywhere, in any given place, and are dependent on particular economic conditions, specific social situations, and historical moments, those combinations of elements that set the stage for these things to happen.
The strength of a despot is not absolute but is related to the momentary weakness of the opponent and of the social context.
It is hard to react because the lack of economic means impedes our fighting or escaping, and because of indifference and fear, no one intervenes to defend us or bring valuable aid.
This family saga tells of the struggle against the abuses of an arrogant baron, but the message must extend to all arrogance, bullying and violence, and to the sacred struggle against those bullies who exploit their social position, abuse power, offend women, blackmail others, and benefit from other people's difficult situations.
When a tyrant's arrogance and violence takes away others' freedom and conditions their lives to exasperation, causes anger, hatred and the strong craving for human revenge.
"Revenge is mine," thunders God in the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament, but it is also written that "if a man hates his neighbor, assaults him, and beats him, the elders will deliver him into the hands of the avenger to be put to death."
Revenge is not on the list of the capital sins. It may be the eighth sin, or it may be the daughter of wrath.
Man, as a human being, cannot bear this overwhelming weight forever.
Chapter TwoThe Great Sila, Calabria.
Here is an uncontaminated territory where extensive flat land dips into valleys and plains with radiant forest vegetation.
Beech, oak, chestnut and pine trees provide a particular wood used by the ancient Romans to build the shells of ships.
The area, seen from above, looks like a huge crater formed by volcanic mountains, the highest peaks arranged along the circumference, one next to the other.
The climate of the plateau is characterized by extensive and thick snowfall in the winter season and clear skies in the summertime. This steep and rugged terrain is crossed by cold, clear streams, their courses interrupted by steep waterfalls, which over time have been carved by erosion into deep caves used for hideaway and refuges by the bandits who for years have infested the territory with their feared gangs.
This is the natural habitat of wild boars and ravenous wolves, an area over-flown by the adorno, the rapacious hawk who is always on the hunt for his prey.
Artificial lakes occupy a large portion of the territory, a land of contrasts, with features of alpine scenery, yet a hot southern land lying stretched between two seas.
The prominent and hilly land is rich with olive groves, citrus orchards, and vineyards.
Breaking the magical silence of the pastures is the bleating of flocks of sheep, the bellowing of cows, and the stamping and neighing of horses.
In ancient times the territory was colonized by the Greeks then later inhabited by the people of Bruzio, then conquered by the Romans and dominated by the Byzantines, who were succeeded by the Arabs, the Normans, the Angevins, the Aragonese, the Spanish and Bourbons, and finally by the Italian Kingdom.
This region, as with all of Southern Italy, rages with disease, poverty, ignorance, heavy economic hardship, and episodes of rampage as well as true acts of banditry such as robbery and extortion, a plague that the South inherited from the previous century, not yet healed. The brigands have often disguised their crimes by participating in patriotic uprisings, encouraging political movements, fomenting riots, and riding social unrest against rulers to such an extent that they are considered heroes by unwary townspeople. Some brigands have even become a symbol against social injustice; their lives have become legends told in folk songs, when in fact they were only outlaws who committed theft and murder.
The particular layout of the terrain offers them the possibility of hiding in burrows and in caves, as though they were hungry predatory animals. Those depressed areas are ruled by the law of arrogance and violence dictated by unopposed and bullying masters, the baruni. These are remote and isolated places in the mountains, where the fascist government is far removed, more because they are not involved in local administration, assistance and public safety, than because of geographical distance. The strict governmental system is carried out by barons who provide protection to the villagers; they are the guarantors of the law. They drive away thieves, give work, and take the place of the state in accord with the local representatives who, out of convenience, pretend not to see or know anything.
The barons demand respect and obedience. When you meet them, they must be greeted; you respect them to the point of kissing their hands, and when they walk by, you bow and take off your hat.
They bear the title of don, a modified aphorism of dominus, a reminder of an ambiguous primacy and absolute power in some way linked to a higher being, the Eternal Father.
Despite committing acts of violence, in the festivals and religious events, the barons appear in processions alongside the flock of faithful parishioners, attend religious functions and rituals, and light candles in church.
A Town on the Slopes of the Sila
Because of the summer heat, the streets are deserted. The trickle of the water fountains in various parts of the town break the silence. Those fountains are witnesses of history, used to quench the thirst and wash the clothes of generations and in recent years have been used to soak the gorse fibers which are used to make fabric for clothes. The fountains are the gathering place where women talk, sing, and gossip; they are accomplices of the lovers' meetings during the courtship period. It is the only place where, at certain times, couples can meet undisturbed.
The church bell chimes eleven beats. The shadow of the baronial palace looms over much of the square. The stone building is well preserved, though it dates from the seventeenth century. From the carved portal, which bears the emblem of the house in bas-relief, one enters a large patio area overlooked by balconies with long wrought-iron railings and by stairways from which one accesses the rooms of the palace; in the back there is a garden protected by a pergola and a path leading down to the stables.
On the second floor, from the balcony with a marble balustrade, Don Ferdinando, the almost forty year-old, proud and arrogant baron, the owner of lands as far as the eye can see, while sipping a lemonade stares curiously, as if it were the first time, at the wine cellar with an adjoining shop across the square, which is run by two brothers. Don Ferdinando is tall and, though strongly built, athletic and agile. His proud and arrogant manner, the elegance of his clothes, and his hats for every occasion, suggest at first glance the temperament of a man accustomed since childhood to be served and, above all, to give orders. His is an ancient family entitled in the eighteenth century when the count that ruled the whole of Calabria appointed one of his ancestors baron. Like those before him, Don Ferdinando keeps an army of well- armed mercenaries to carry out raids on horseback, to keep the people in a state of subjection, and to personally collect the iniquitous taxes he imposed on the people in exchange for protection. Farmers and ranchers who cannot pay with money, and this is almost always the case, pay with the produce of the land or with livestock.
Distrust forces Don Ferdinando to never be far from his possessions, so he has them fenced in and under constant surveillance by armed guards.
The baronial palace and surrounding dwellings of the vassals maintain a medieval system that has remained unchanged over the centuries and remained strong. It's maintained by the interest of those in charge and the isolation from the rest of the nation, keeping the townspeople ignorant and preventing communication and contact with the external world that moves on toward progress. The Baron leaves only for work or to take care of business. Once in a while he gives himself a diversion, "a fling" as he jokingly calls it, but goes no further than Salerno or Naples. He has ties with some cities in the United States where native Italian and American friends reside and with whom he does business, mainly the export of wine and flavored vinegar that has been carefully aged for years in old oak barrels. But these activities are used to cover many profitable illegal businesses, shady dealings that are mainly drug trafficking, smuggling, and black-market pharmaceuticals.
Don Ferdinando is unscrupulous and ruthless, only interested in satisfying his greed for money and excessive venality, his neurotic hunger. He has a circle of highly placed and influential acquaintances; he has built around himself a web of protection that he is considered impenetrable. He is the capobastuni of the area, and the strong ties that connect him to underworld organizations, local and overseas, date back to his ancestors and are lost in the mists of time.
His brother, Baron Don Ruggero, has an equally large estate which extends toward the Aspromonte and, to the north, borders the land of Don Ferdinando. There's bad blood between the two, and that bordering land of borderland is the thorn in the side of Don Ferdinando. He cannot stand the thought of the two lands touching. The Baron is hot; he wipes his forehead with a linen handkerchief while he confides a reflection to Ignazio–an elegant and conceited consigliore with the unlit pipe in his hand. Ignazio is thirty-five years old but looks older because of the beard and mustache that definitely age him.
"Ferruccio and Pietro, brothers inseparable. I have always left them be; I've never thought of them, but times change. I need new men."
Under the reed canopy, in front of the entrance of the store, Nicola, a lively two year old boy, plays with his young mother Elena and his father, Ferruccio.
Leaning against the door frame is Pietro, a robust and handsome young man, with his arms crossed.
"Home and work; they mind their own business and are esteemed," continues the Baron. "I could use Ferruccio as Mayor instead of that fool, Rino."
The Baron enters the living room followed by Ignazio and leaves behind him a scented trail of bergamot cologne mixed with sweat. He lights a Cuban cigar and then starts the gramophone to hear Caruso interpreting the piece "Viva the Sparkling Wine" from Cavalleria Rusticana.
"Imagine Pietro armed to the teeth," continues the Baron. "It's like having at your disposal an armed tank!"
"And perched up there, at Varco del Diavolo," adds Ignazio, supporting the idea, "in that manor that looks like a fort."
"Yeah, a fort too close to the border with the land of Ruggiero. That damned fool could recruit him, but instead I will use Pietro against him to destroy him! Go pay them a courtesy visit ... and take with you the Albanian, you never know."
Chapter ThreeBeyond the banal clichés that classify and stick labels to people, Pietro and Ferruccio are the archetype of a Calabrian: generous, sincere and passionate. They love their job and their birth land. It's a second mother. Their parents opened the bottle shop to sell and serve wine and, after a few years, expanded the store in the back, adding general goods. When they passed away, the brothers, with a lot of good will, rolled up their sleeves and continued the work.
Ferruccio is about twenty-five years old. He is lean yet strong, a serious person, often surly, distrustful and cautious. He minds his own business and loves a peaceful life. He lives with his young family in the apartment over the shop. He steps away from the store only to go grocery shopping because he prefers to take care of it himself rather than to leave this activity to his wife.
Pietro is the younger brother, just a year or two younger. He is cunning and Machiavellian, taller and better looking than Ferruccio, and he is resolute and impetuous when making decisions. He helps his brother in the store occasionally and works at the manor, where he breeds horses. Having lived since childhood in contact with nature, he's had the opportunity for direct experience and has learned to listen more than speak, and to act at the right time. He's been married for a few months to Paola, a Calabrian beauty who is very skillful working wool to make sweaters, blankets and scarves. They live in a cottage on the outskirts of the village, next to a citrus grove, together with the family of Rosanna, Paola's older sister, composed of her husband Mino and her daughter Carmen, a baby girl who has just had her second birthday.
Sitting at a table of the store, Ignazio smokes his pipe while he speaks with Ferruccio over a glass of red wine. Leaning on the counter, the Albanian keeps an eye on them through the opaque and scraped mirror. He is a brawny mercenary, a man experienced and self-confident, his eyes hidden by the wide brim hat. He rolls himself a cigarette of cut tobacco with his left hand alone. It is one of his abilities, which he can do even while riding a horse. Elena, by the window, feeds the little boy.
Ignazio speaks in a low voice. "Often we bad-mouth certain people and then we discover that they are good men. Don Ferdinando is cultured, loves poetry, and knows the law and even Latin. His ancestors came into accord with the Bourbons, ensuring the obedience of the people, which goes on even today. He who is at the top doesn't want any problems, and don Ferdinando smoothes things out. In short, one can count on him, and he has political contacts and..." Ignazio pauses to chuckle, to hint he refers to the criminal secret society "non politicians. It is a privilege to be at his service and to have his protection!"
Ferruccio with a nod of the head orders Elena to take Nicola away. "With all due respect, I don't believe I have the need," Ferruccio replies assertively. "I just mind my own business, period!"
"But you see it with your own eyes that nothing moves around here," insists Ignazio. "Here we don't have any type of control! Here there is no mayor, priest or designee that counts, but only the Baron. He commands and everyone obeys."
In the adjacent room, Pietro, intrigued, eavesdrops while he puts away some boxes. He opens the drawer to take out a gun and keeps watch from the curtain that separates the two rooms. Ferruccio, unnoticed, sees him and with a nod of his head tells him to go away.
"However you decide," Ignazio concludes bitterly. "He awaits you at the palace to entitle you. To antagonize him can be dangerous."
A customer comes in. "A glass of wine!"
Ferruccio goes behind the counter, serves him and also fills up the glass of the Albanian, who looks at him with a slight grin on his face. Ignazio puts out the pipe and saves it in the pocket of his jacket.
Pietro comes from behind the curtain and, taking advantage of the Albanian lifting his head to drink, whispers to Ignazio, "Hey, come here a moment."
Ignazio, a little annoyed, goes in.
Pietro forcefully grabs him by the tie; he picks him up and nails him to the wall with one hand, while with the other he thrusts the gun under his chin. "What do you want?" asks Pietro harshly with a hoarse and threatening voice. "Stay away from us! I do not argue about things., I shoot!"
Ignazio trembles, kicks him and, moving, loudly knocks over flasks and bottles on the shelves. An empty bottle falls down; it does not break, it slips under the curtain and slowly rolls until it's blocked by the Albanian's boot.
Excerpted from CALABRIA WITH LOVE by Gianni Callari Copyright © 2012 by Giovanni (Gianni) Callari and Raffaele Zuccarelli. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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