This year, 2017, May 5th marked the 1000th birthday of Casalvieri. Not that the area of the Val di Comino or Terre Comino was not peopled previously, but this date records the first written acknowledgement of its existence.
One thousand years, each remembered here with a word to create a picture of a special town. The first celebration for this millenial anniversary has been held on May 6th.
To reach the centre of the celebration, one passes through the more modern section of the town at the bottom of the hill and rounding the bend arrive at the opening into the municipal square (Piazza Municipale) with the city hall ahead.
Arriving in the morning before the expected start time for celebrations we found the square to still be sparsely occupied, four flags draped on poles outside the City Hall, a few banners with 1017 and 2017 emblazoned on them, the ‘Da Alessio’ cafe and restaurant still waking, and what we assume to be the memorial plaque covered with a blue cloth.
Standing near Da Alessio and gazing across, Casalvieri municipal square reminds us of something from further south in Italy, buildings are white or pale shades and of no more than three levels. The square seems to be nervously waiting for the summer heat. Meanwhile, the triumvirate of street lights, ubiquitous in Circiaria towns, remind the visitor more of Baker Street in London in Sherlock Holmes’ era.
Within a few minutes the various official delegates began arriving and locals and visitors added occupation to the square. The variegated audience created a moving image of Italy from an old movie while the the backdrop, the square itself, remains just as pristine as during our previous visit.
Just about every job and personality type could be recognised. Leading the attendance register was a football team of local mayors, bedecked in their ribbons of office, five of whom had brought their badges of honour, the pennants of their towns such as Vicalvi, Fontechiari, Alvito, Santo Padre and Picinisco. A smaller team of the brides of Christ in their traditional uniforms waited on the edge of the square.
The classical Italian officialdom was represented by a portfolio of uniformed senior representatives – the challenge for each authority must have been to find a new colour scheme for their respective uniforms. A group of girls and boys were dressed in traditional garb – the girls reminding us of how beautiful young Neapolitan heritage girls can be, and the boys with white shirts and red scarves struggling to not break out into typical behaviour of their type.
One group of ‘ragazzi’ – ‘children’ is not a good translation – displayed their commitment to karate, while another bunch of girls displayed banners they prepared at school, commemorating the event. Old men chatted and one or two groups of politically active men could be espied.
The traditional Italian life of a ‘piazza’ (square) was interrupted by the sound of drums and the arrival of the ‘Sbandieratori’ (Flag wavers) of Carpineto Romano, a quite famous group of young men, in bright renaissance dress, who perform a wide range of aerial ‘stunts’ with large flags, backed by drums and trumpet horns. The initial display by the Bandieratori gave entertainment time for the stragglers to arrive and subsequently the movement of the now about 200 attendees to the City hall, and into the ‘council chambers’ on the first floor, where about 100 were safely seated.
The official proceedings commenced with the council formally adopting the memorial, followed by speeches by the mayor, and other elected officers and the President from the province. A large framed reproduction of the original text from 5th May 1017 was unveiled while Don Luigi translated the text, introducing us to the local history.
Returning to the square, the marble plaque on the front of the city hall was unveiled and the throng was led by the musicians and traditionally dressed lords and ladies, a bandit and peasants up the cobblestone way to the front of the Church of St John the Baptist. It is not Italy without a religious celebration! This procession seemed to interest the swifts who swooped and soared, swerving and diving around the crowd between the buildings fronting the way.
The sound of the beating drums fell away to be replaced by the glory of the magnificent pipe organ of the church.
The ‘music master’, Natalino Catallo performs an enviable and joyous task in bringing the beauty of the organ and the voices of the choir to those who are fortunate enough to worship in this wonderful church. The memorial service was led by Don Alessandro, who promised the local politicians gathered under his gaze that he would not overstay his welcome and reminded them that even an emperor like Henry II had been accepted as a saint into the kingdom of God, ahead of some righteous competition.
The service closed appropriately in time for the procession, led once again by the musicians, to return to the top of the square and line up at Da Alessio to gain a share of the buffet banquet provided by the goodwill of the city hall. The exercises by the musicians and the flag wavers were well rewarded by plates, full and refilled with the local meats and pastries. There were also many of us keen for a sip or two of the pleasant regional wine, keeping the waitress busy between the cellar and the serving table bringing replacement bottles of red and white.
Standing on the open balcony at the rear of the restaurant one could appreciate the power of nature in Val di Comino, with the hills and lower mountains covered in verdant forests from which other small towns such as Casalattico peeked.
On the bar was a plaque that reminded us of the role of emigration in the culture of this town. It is a gift from the Casalvieri people of New York, expressing gratitude to the Da Alessio family for bringing the culture of the town to their city.
Buon Compleanno Casalvieri