Coincidences started on my arrival at Canadian border while I was on tour to show our ‘Travellers’ Guide to Italy’ at the Ciociaro Club in Windsor.
I arrived in Detroit, caught a cab to downtown Detroit and I had to catch a bus going South. Yes, Canada is South of USA. It really is, at least when you are in Detroit Michigan and want to go to Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Windsor was my destination area for the Ciociaro Club, a strong link between Ciociaria in Italy and Canada-USA.
Switching my brain through 180 degrees I boarded an off-duty bus that took me into the tunnel under the river to the Canadian customs.
When asked my purpose for the short visit south to Canada, I took out a copy of our Guide to Settefrati, to which the customs officer, a lady with an Italian surname, said ‘I know this town, but I don’t come from there though I do come from Ciociaria’.
My next query received the answer: ‘Casalvieri’ (Guide of Casalvieri)!
What a surprise. This year we have been there at least 10 times for its Millennial birthday, enjoying local food and wine at Alessio or Osteria del Tempo Perso. There is an interesting wine maker in the area who has rediscovered local ancient grape wines such as Pamparano and Maturano. This wine is super and totally from bio-dynamic cultivation.
Our “Story of Saint Onorio” from Casalvieri has been one of the most read article of 2017 (The town in Val Comino that turns 1000!). This town is also the kingdom of balloons and the place where the great clown Coluche came from.
The ties of these towns with emigrants is strong and this is exemplified by a nearby municipality – Casalattico (Guide of Casalattico) – linked to fish and chips shops in Ireland and its ‘fraction’ Montattico – with wonderful villas and wonderful views that is a real Irish Italian community.
But let’s come back to Windsor, Ontario. Our first news of the Windsor Ciociaro Club was last summer during the creation of the Guide of Settefrati (Guide of Settefrati) when the great photographer Tonino Bernardelli told us: ‘the façade of Ciociaro Club is the same of the Sanctuary of Madonna di Canneto!”.
Therefore, we put a short description of Ciociaro Club inside the guide of Settefrati. But since that day I started to be very curious about Windsor and my aim was to find an excuse to visit Ciociaro Club.
So, here I am in Detroit on a bus to Windsor!
The bus driver kindly dropped me next to the Casino, a facility that wasn’t here last time I visited in 1988 and I picked up a taxi to take me to the Ciociaro Club. My habit of reading signs caused me some difficulty as we passed streets with names such as Ouellette. This brought me to the origins of Windsor which, after the native Americans, was paradoxically French since 1749, and today, while there is still a French-speaking minority in places like Tecumseh, Windsor is very much part of the English language sector.
It was a rural area with ‘Canadian’ style farms, long and thin, leading to the river, until the onset of the automobile industry. It was in 1794, after the American revolution, that the town was renamed Windsor and it is from this period that the oldest buildings survive. Windsor of today is actually an area that encompasses a number of previously independent towns and villages.
Windsor was a free town, a source of rum during the American prohibition, as booze was legal in Ontario (must be the French heritage). There is still an enormous distillery (Hiram Walker) in the centre of the city.
Arriving at the club I was astonished by the magnificence of the building. The Ciociaro Club is a wonderful meeting place for over 1,800 emigrants and their families from the area of Central-South Italy known as Ciociaria. Your blood line must flow from Ciociaria to become a member.
This area, covering most of the province of Frosinone, has many famous towns such as Cassino (Guide of Cassino), Alatri (Guide of Alatri), Anagni (Guide of Anagni), Fiuggi (Guide of Fiuggi), Veroli (Guide of Veroli), Castro dei Volsci (Guide of Castro dei Volsci) and over 80 others, all with a history of great civilizations, great destruction and rebuilding since 500 years before Christ.
I pass through the entrance foyer and am greeted by staff who go out of their way to accommodate this visitor from Ciociaria into their busy day. The manager was enthused and we had the opportunity to present our guides to one of the directors. The opportunities for promotion of Ciociaria through the club, to increase the bonds and reinvigorate Ciociaria, are real. I learned that each year the club celebrates a town from Ciociaria in their annual banquest, and this year it is Castro dei Volsci, a town of great beauty nestled around a hill not far from Ceccano. It is famous for the monument to Mamma Ciociara placed on the belvedere of the town overlooking the Sacco valley – a monument of peace. It is here that we enjoyed the recital by the Bellini Opera Foundation of Detroit, based just over the river from Windsor.
We have many ideas on how to reinforce and to create new connections between Canada and Ciociaria. But let’s start with the first step of getting to know each other and maybe dancing the salterello.
Now it is time to go north from Canada to USA and then to fly to Vancouver for the next stage of our tour.