Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Doorways of Calitri

I am in Italia today and I could easily fall into its lifestyle. A few local friends along the streets to chat with could easily fill the empty parts of my day. Beginning with a morning cappuccino and a seashell shaped ‘soffietto’ pastry at a local café and one thing leads to another as various patrons visit their favorite barristers.

If you need something done, no need to ‘Google’ here. Just wait a while until the appropriate tradesman passes through and you can arrange for just about anything. Here are a couple examples of what I mean – standing at the counter in Mario’s café the other day, I mentioned that the street lamp by our door was inoperative and it was repaired that very day. This for me is a record in Italy! On another day in came Amelio, the electrician, and by 10 am he was installing a satellite dish for us. Somehow, coffee diplomacy seems to work, at least here.

We have been here now long enough this time to learn which switches control what, and with Amilio’s help, even had time to add a few. I feel comfortable as if slipping into a pair of old slippers. The familiar surroundings and neighbors add to the welcoming feeling. Even the ants knew we had arrived. It wasn’t long before the tiny, pesky, sugar ants appeared to welcome us and I guess any extra sugar we could spare. A trip to Josephine’s mercato for a ‘trapola per formica’ (ant trap) soon put an end to their neighborliness, however.

In this village of Calitri, a place not yet tainted by globalization and where tradition overweighs modernity, stepping outside through our door is like stepping into another dimension, another world, somewhat akin to that scene from “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”.

With this in mind, as we made our way through the ‘antico borgo’ to church, to a restaurant or to visit with friends, I could not help but notice the doors we passed. New, old, some in need of repair and others beyond repair, their gradations of difference is striking. Some are of great size, antiquity and beauty. For others, their birthdates duly engraved into the stone above the entry, the gravitas of their years could not but emote wonder in me. Here in this old place was something that has stood before I was alive, even before my grandparents parents were alive. It is hard to fathom all the subsequent events of consequence and insignificance, which have unfolded before them in the meantime. Some entrances are welcoming. Others are informative, as in the case of the love note from some lovelorn admirer scrawled on the wall beside one particular doorway (see photo album). Another may brandish a necklace of pepperacini peppers drying in the sunshine, a door knocker or some icon symbolizing what went on inside. Over the centuries, others relay a spiritual message.

You will be hard pressed to find doors like these of the ‘borgo storico’ in the art cities of Rome or Florence. This is especially true of those primitive types, which might for example grant entry to an abandoned grotto or chapel, their stone thresholds worn concave from the foot-traffic of centuries.

Much like Robert Frost described how stonewalls make for good neighbors, so to doors serve a similar purpose. A doorway, as a dividing line, is both entry and departure point, shield and point of passage. They divide and separate people and worlds. They can even create different worlds. Doors open to the world, and equally well, can close behind us to shield and sometimes seal us from that same world. Enter solitude or just as easily escape from it - it’s your choice. Pass through one to meet the people outside or pass in the opposite direction and enjoy their hospitality. At times, looking at an old door can even give us insight into what lies just beyond as a sort of glimpse into its hidden mysterious world. A motioning arm in invitation or a ‘permesso’ is the password to gain entry. Doors to me are therefore gateways of passage from one domain into the realm of another.

I can’t help but also feel that the people who inhabit the spaces behind these portals are but temporary ornaments. Much like flowers, we bloom and then gradually fade, yet the doors remain in testiment. Their sides buttressed by stone and cement, worn and weather-beaten, they betray their age not to all passersby but to those who idle long enough to inspect their detail and search for their story.

Enjoy the accompanying photos of the Doorways of Calitri, which I captured this week. Try to ignite your imagination and envision the vibrant stories these portals in time tell us, the current caretakers of this place.

Divertiti, Paolo & Rony

P.S. This just in on the TV here … it is reported that 50% of Italians are unfaithful. (apparently even doors can’t stop love). So I guess that means that if you aren’t the one being untrue, it must be your spouse!!

For related photos, click here on Eyes Over Italy. Look for and click on a photo album entitled "Calitri Doorways".