#3 a spectacular place

‘Spectacular’ is almost inadequate a term to describe the landscape that opens up from so many sites in the small town of Casaprota. My first view of the landscape is from the garden of the Palazzo del Gatto, our residence. It’s a warm sunny afternoon, with the gentlest of breezes and swallows darting around. It’s a dramatic landscape that overwhelms me with a sense of space, an excess of volume. Huge green rolling hills, wooded with forests and olive plantations, green valleys where most of the olives are grown, and medieval towns perched on the tops of the hills, glinting in the sunlight, as if signaling to each other. Photographs do it no justice, but I include some anyway.

Below: the neighbouring village of Collelungo.

Casaprota is an intriguing combination of tiny alleyways (vicoli) in the medieval historical centre, (the heritage sign dates it at AD 934), and these spectacular views from almost anywhere around the periphery.

My strongest impression is that you would always know where you are, because you are surrounded by these points of reference in this dramatic landscape. It is not so much that there is ‘a sense of borders’, but rather a sense of location.

These hilltop towns don’t ‘bleed’ gently towards each other, they are located precisely, even if their town walls are now mostly gone. It is sense of place and identity that is irresistibly rooted in geography.

A few days later, I visit the cemetery, which surrounds an old church, Santa Maria delle Grazie, where it is said that there is a miraculous image of the virgin. The church is closed, but the cemetery is open. (A few weeks later I head to the church for Saturday vespers, it is refreshingly modest inside.) Sometime in the last 30 or 40 years, I would think, the cemetery was renovated, the graves mostly placed into niches on huge stone walls.

There are wheeled ladders available for relatives to place flowers on the niches at the top, and there is plenty of evidence that relatives do. I am looking at the other elements of identity — la famiglia. They are many recurring family names, Filippi, the most common, but Tomasi, Tomassini, Spagnoli, D’Emidio and Mancini also well represented. The graves/niches are not so old (the earliest dates of birth are from the 1850s) that I can tell how long these families have been here, but I have to assume it’s centuries.