Italy 1980

We live in a Sicilian village. It’s not the most beautiful village but it’s our home, the home of our families and the home of our ancestors. Every morning and every early evening we sit outside our houses, on chairs, in rows and we ponder and we talk. The young ones have different ways of passing the time but we old men, we like to remember, talk about old times, who’s gone, who’s gone for good and who’s come back – for in villages like this there are always departures, although more now go to Palermo and other Italian cities than to New York.  We wear our black suits and waistcoats and our pork pie hats, we scratch our grizzled chins. We lean back against the walls of the houses on our wooden chairs.  And we ponder; and we talk.

 

Tourists, in 1980, were rare so when a car dropped a bearded stranger with a backpack at the end of the main street we stared. We stared very very hard at the car which dropped him. No-one from our community would have brought a stranger to the village. Sure enough the driver was from Marineo, further along the road. We stared at the stranger, we even stopped talking and watched him, step by step, as he walked past. He looked uncomfortable but did have the grace to nod towards us. He walked towards the other end of the village, to the waterfall and the cave.  We sent young Vito to check on him.

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Vito told us that the stranger sat in the cave and looked at the view for a while, at sunlit rolling fields and the dramatic rocky outcrops in and around the village. He ate a snack from his backpack, scrambled up to the Saracen watchtower then walked back through the square and past the church. He took a different route to the main road, not past us. He stood on the road, waiting for a lift. Vito found someone with a car to take the stranger away as quickly as possible.

We are protective. Not every village has a name so famous from books and film as ours. Not every village has such a strong mafia history as Corleone.