When I was little, once a month more or less, on Sunday morning my parents loaded me and my siblings into the car.
Two scarce hours of travel and then, by opening the car door, we were invaded by Manziana’s sparkling air.
I tell it this way because starting from Velletri, south of Rome, reaching the far north of the province, also meant experiencing a slight temperature change.
In Manziana it was always colder than here … But there was no time to think, my brother Valentino and I already prepared ourselves from the start of via Tittoni for those who went out faster to get home first.
In Manziana, in fact, at that time there was still a key in the lock and it was enough to turn it to enter!
A jump back in time, to the communities of the past. Even for us who simply came from a larger village and were already on the path of modernity.
If this can be defined as the fraying of personal relationships, the social estrangement that we have lived with for a long time before the health emergency also led to physical distancing.
Open that door, for us children, but also as teenagers, we entered a happy reality.
It was the house, full of affections, of Aunt Antigone, the sister of our paternal grandmother, and then of her children Margherita, Peppino and Don Amedeo.
Then came the children of Margherita and her husband Peppino (also he), the children of the children, who were more or less our age … In short, a relationship that had not been exhausted and that still sees us united.
Because, even if it were not for taking care of the relationship, Manziana is for me the (mythical) country of my grandparents. Especially in my case, since I have no memories of any of the four “staff”.
The disappearance of Aunt Antigone, perhaps the first funeral ceremony of which I clearly remember, meant that the reins of intertwining of the families passed to Aunt Margherita, who as an “older” cousin had raised my father who was orphaned from his mother when very young, many and many years before.
And here, on the other hand, were the most beautiful childhood memories that my father keeps.
Going out with him for a walk in Manziana meant going to see Giulietto and many other friends.
Almost always it was enough that Uncle Peppinello (the brother of Aunt Margherita) indicating dad said “it is Ermannino” and people would open up with a smile and a hug.
“Ermannino” is now 90 years old, and for him Laura, the daughter of Aunt Margherita and therefore nephew of Aunt Antigone, always prepares Easter pizza, as well as spaghetti with walnuts at Christmas.
Perhaps these are similar to other dishes (homemade fettuccine topped with cocoa, rum and walnuts) or perhaps not really, but for us they were absolutely unique, with unmistakable aromas and flavours.
Without forgetting the famous “soup so good that nothing tastes like it“!
It was Aunt Margherita’s specialty for the evening, when she had to leave to go home: “maybe it’s better not to exaggerate that you will weigh yourself down for the trip …“. But for goodness … let’s not talk about it!
Today the frequency of visits has decreased. Indeed, they are more likely to come to Manziana to visit my parents. Times and rhythms have changed. At that time, we had an agricultural products shop and Sunday was really free.
Obviously people have also changed and that generation is gone.
Just a few weeks ago the last of the three sons of Aunt Antigone, Don Amedeo, disappeared, 103 years of wisdom left in a strange moment, which prevented us from being able to greet him for the last time.
But when I go to Manziana, perhaps to go and give some lessons to the courses for sommeliers, I am welcomed and spoiled as always: Laura and her husband Mariano prepare special dinners for me, a chat and a hug of those who warm the heart.
But I still have some mysteries that have yet to be resolved, such as a visit to the Solfatara, the sulphurous crater, a small lake with geysers. We could not go there because there were dangers and above all we always had a great desire to be with my uncles and grandparents.
I go there this summer and we will observe the micro-explosions of sulphurous water together! I will go back to Manziana and I will bring some Velletri wine with me, the wine made by my dad still today.
A way to celebrate the roots of my parents but also mine and those of my children.