Marilyn Geary

Journeys Illuminating the Old Ways

Marilyn Geary

2014 April Day25 – Camposasco



Today the sea pounded the shore of Zoagli in the early morning rain. We made sure to take umbrellas on our excursion to Camposasco. Maurizio picked us up in the Zoagli piazza, then we headed for Bocca di Leivi, which in Genovese means the “spine of Leivi,” a crest on the mountains across a valley from Camposasco.

Maurizio stopped to point out the houses of Iolanda and Giuliana. This photo shows the Camposasco church and Giuliana’s home on the farthest right.

The building has been converted into two homes: the yellow side, the birthplace of Grandma Chiara, belongs to Giuliana now. The pink side belongs to Adele, Iolanda’s niece. Adele’s brother Rino has built several homes on the land above and sold them as condos. The whole little area of four or five houses is called Case Cade in Genovese.


We visited Iolanda first, whose home sits on a promontory from which she can see far down the Fontanabuona Valley.


Slabs of slate are scattered around the house, material for which the Fontanabuona Valley is well-known.


Iolanda took us through her house, enormous for one sole 94-year old person. She has 3 stoves in her kitchen, two for cooking (one of them wood burning) and a third for heating (also word burning.)


A stone rustico sits next to the house. Maurizio pointed out the two slabs of rock that extend out from each side of the window as a typical Genovese feature. People would put their chamber pots on these ledges to keep the smell outside the house. Then they’d dump out the pots when full.

Iolanda’s husband built the road to the house in the 1970s. Prior to that time, they had to walk up to the house from the main road.

Next we visited Adele, who lives in the pink side of the pink/yellow house where Grandma was born. Adele is Iolanda’s niece, the daughter of her husband Giovanni’s brother.

It’s not clear how/why Adele came to live here. I seem to recall some controversy about splitting the house, but I don’t recall details and did not want to ask.

Adele’s brother Rino may have bought half the house along with land above on which he built several other houses. Adele worked for the postal service as an office worker until she retired two years ago. She has created a beautiful garden surrounding her home.


Inside, she showed us her many bedrooms, (we counted four or five,) and the lovely coverlets and pillow covers she crotchets. She is saving three of these big bedspreads, all similar in style and color, for her nieces and nephew.


Adele also showed us where doors had been blocked off to create two living quarters out of the one building. And outside she showed me some dates inscribed on the house, indicating it was first built in 1852.


On to the church where the mass had just ended. The priest had to hightail it over to the next parish for another mass, but we met him just as he was leaving. He agreed to look up records on the family after we send him a written request.

Two young women parishioners showed us the small church, which may be somewhat unique in that it features “funghi,” gas heaters that trail down the center aisle to keep worshippers warm during services. They were installed in the past few years.


The women asked if we wanted to see the organ, so we climbed up steep, narrow stairs at the back of the church. We were in for a very special treat. The organ is what’s called an “instrumental organ,” one of the few remaining intact. It was built in 1855 in Pistoia.


Diana, the organist, tweaked the different “voices” and played several hymns.


Tonal choices can be obtained by moving the wooden knobs labelled on the side of the organ.

As Diana played and Nadia sang, and we thrilled to the sounds of Ave Maria played on this beautiful old instrument.


We visited the cemetery, where we came across a profusion of Peirano monuments, along with Gagliardos, Cuneos, Solaris, Molinaris.


Next on to Giuliana’s side of the house, where we sat in the kitchen for some coffee. This side of the house contrasts sharply with Adele’s side, as it has been poorly maintained, probably since Genu’s death. Giuliana had been living there with Sergio until her recent hospitalization. Sergio works as a boat restorer and spends little time on house repairs.

Maurizio and Ornella took us up behind the house to the school she and Sergio attended. Eight children in the entire school.

The school sits right above the area where Ornella and Maurizio come on weekends to work in the garden. They have planted most everything anyone could want for the family’s use.



Maurizio also showed us their two rabbits, also a food source.


Iolanda treated us to dinner at a local trattoria called Ristorante Primo Sole S.A.S. Di Cantarella Monica, where she had worked as a young girl over 75 years past. First the antipasti, with this chewy cheese-filled delight.

Two kinds of ravioli, the first with a nut sauce…

The second with a meat sauce…

And a selection of meats…rabbit and veal…

And frites…fried melanzana, prosciutto and cheese, zucchini…

And for dessert…zuppa inglese….although Cheryl and I and Giuliana had strawberries…

This gentleman, a distantly related Peirano, sat with us for dessert. Here Maurizio is writing down this man’s recipe for home-made Sambuco…

a liquor made from the Sambuco flower.

We wanted to pay for dinner, but Maurizio told us we would start World War III with Iolanda if we tried, so we took pleasure in the meal and in the company with the assurance that Iolanda took great pleasure in treating us.

At one point, when she was cajoled into having a little grappa in her coffee, she motioned for more and said, “It’s true, I do like my grappa.”

Between themselves, much of the conversation was in dialect, but we had few problems understanding when they spoke Italian.

At one point Cheryl let out that we were thinking of returning next year, although we had talked only about Emilia-Romagna, to visit the other side of the family on the other side of the Appenines. We thought it was a bit much to cross the Appenines by car this time, and we thought we might approach that area from the east another time. But now that we have made such family connections here, if we do return we will surely visit here too.

Maurizio gifted us each with a bottle of home-made olive oil and his special hawthorne berry liquor, which we hope we can pass through customs without trouble.

Here is Iolanda, leaving the trattoria owned by the Gagliardos, with whom she has been chatting. The fuzzy photo conveys the warm, good feelings we experienced with our visit.

A la prossima!



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