Friday, March 11, 2011

Old Calcata

I went to the Old Calcata the day before yesterday. 

The roads are too narrow for cars, so I parked outside of town. What I did first was go to the only bar that Calcata has to ask an important question, "Dove public restroom?" .. The man seated at the bar intervened on my behalf, he said some things in Italian, then said, "you can use the bathroom here."

After drying my hands I sat down at the bar for a coffee next to this American who did not look like a traveler. "Do you live here?" "Yes," he said. When the questions that were provoked by that "yes," were over, I had learned a few things about the American.... He is a former New Yorker and a musician, who had returned to Calcata, the village, (Where he and his mother moved to when he was fourteen from New York.) after a long time in New York,  and a three year stint in Berlin. Now let's do it this way: New York,  Calcata, New York, Berlin, Calcata, and basta. When I asked what Berlin was like he said it was beautiful. When I asked what the people were like, he said he didn't like them. What I thought was, and you stayed for three years, okay then. Before leaving I asked if there were any other Americans residing in Calcata. He said, "There's a guy from Texas." (I wonder if that's the punishment chair?)

When walking through the maze like streets I stepped carefully since the road was more like odd shaped stones in dirt rather than cobblestone, or whatever one thinks when cobblestone comes to mind. I slipped once and caught myself.  A piece of the wall that I had held onto became unattached and fell on the ground. I looked around to see if anyone saw, then I picked up the fallen piece and placed it in a nearby pile of rubble: "You live here now." 

At the town square I got to talking to this older Italian woman. Her clothes seemed new, she had a scarf tied around her neck, and black eye liner around her eyes. I asked her if she was French, mainly due to the eye liner. She smiled and said, "No, I'm Italian," in English. ...  I then asked about the Texan. She said she wasn't sure, then called over someone who was walking past us with a small and old Jack Russell Terrier..... After she asked the inevitable question he said, "You mean Pancho? Yes, I know Pancho. Want to go to his house?" My response was, "Um, sure why not?"

Outside of Pancho's house this man produced a key from his pocket, went inside, and announced there was a visitor. A confused Pancho came to the door. I introduced myself, what followed was an invitation to come in to see what Pancho was working on. .. There was no Texas accent, actually he spoke English as if he were walking on legs he hadn't used in years. I guess that probably has something to do with living in Italy for the past four decades.... Anyhow, Pancho showed me this egg that he was working on (Calcata has a number of residents who are artists.) for Easter's exhibition. Easter's exhibition: Chosen artists of the town create a theme for an egg the size of a seated white pitbull.  .. I then asked about the other project that was on a work table near us. He said, "O that's  a tombstone I'm making for my friend. It's his one year death anniversary.... When I'm done, I'm gonna make one for myself." I'm not sure what my exact response was.. I know I said something about that being morbid, then I took it back, and said that he was being prepared, and that that was good. 

I then met a man who creates paintings, sculptures, and knives. I went through a small photo album of shots he took of finished paintings. The one that caused me to stop for a minute had a couch with a floral print on it, behind the couch was a large book shelf with books on the shelves that varied in shape and color. There was also a woman seated on the couch, her clothes were plain which made me say, "she just looks like another object in the room." His response: "She'd probably say the same. She's my ex." .... Then came the story of the ex, which I will leave out since this post is about the spirit of the town. 

 Although everything I just wrote may sound like moments from a day dream, they aren't... When I was with Pancho he told me about a writer who moved to Calcata for a year in order to write a book about that experience... When I got home I did a google search and found, An Irreverent Curisoty: In Search of the Chruch's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town, by David Farley. Something tells me the book isn't about Jesus's foreskin that resided in the old white church until 1983, or about the pigeons that seem like members of the community, facts such as these are hook lines. A village atop a mountain, that's also a hook line, in fact it was the reason I went.... A place is it's people, a place is it's people. That's it for now. 

P.S. I also found this in a New York Times article about Calcata. If you took the time to read this, it may be fun to compare what I reported to the article...  I had no idea Pancho "runs" (does that mean he manages it?) Grotta dei Germogli, a restaurant I had planned to eat at that afternoon. It was closed. Was it closed because he was making a tombstone? I wouldn't be alarmed if that were true. 


  1. I thought you might! I'm so happy! :)

  2. Hi Jane,
    I'm glad you went to Calcata and met Pancho, one of my best friends there. Cool that you discovered my book and my NYT article as well.

    david farley

  3. It was truly my pleasure. It's a special place. .. I'm going to read your book when I'm done with the current thing I'm reading.. I'm excited about it since I met a few of the characters.

    Thanks for reading!

    Jane F.