On a Sunday, the road from Borzonazca to Camposasco is filled with racing motorcyclists, just like the narrow roads of West Marin. We manage to make it to the church in Camposasco by Noon, where we meet our relatives at the church to go for lunch at the local trattoria.
The view of Camposasco church from the road.
The house below is where our grandmother was born. It’s also the house where Ornella and Sergio grew up. They own the yellow section on the right. Their mother Giuliana died last year. Their father Genu Peirano was our father’s cousin. Our grandmother Chiara Peirano and Ornella’s grandfather Atillio Peirano were sister and brother.
The orange part of the building was added on later. It belongs to Adele, who is Ornella and Sergio’s cousin. Complicated enough? Suffice it to say we are family, and they welcome us with open arms.
Yolanda, our 95-year-old matriarch, is treating us to lunch at a trattoria called Paola’s, which is located right down the hill from the church. Despite her bad knees, she insists on walking down the hill from the church to the trattoria.
We eat outside beneath an arbor of grape and kiwi vines. The weather and food are perfect. The pasta plates keep coming, including ravioli with noci sauce.
The trattoria has been there for as long as anyone can remember. The current owner, Mario Gagliardo, inherited the place from his father, who also used to have a small grocery store on the property. Mario says he had some relatives that immigrated to Seattle, but he knows of none who came to California.
Several groups of middle-aged men sit at nearby tables. They finish lunch, then pull out the playing cards. When I ask Ornella where all the women are, she tells me that these men are single. I’m shocked at seeing so many -at least 15 – single, middle-aged men. It just doesn’t happen in Marin. Ornella says it’s “normalissimo” for Camposasco.
The conversation revolves around the family’s past activities. Yolanda is the last of the contadini generation. Her husband had a bull that he took around to other families when they wanted to breed their cows. Yolanda remembers raising silkworms as a child and selling the cocoons to a woman in a nearby town. The family had a mill for grinding wheat and chestnut flour somewhere nearby.
Ornella’s husband Maurizio poses with a little doggie who belongs to one of the men at an adjoining table.
Maurizio shows Cheryl photos of the enormous wild boar his son Alessandro shot. Maurizio is crazy for hunting. He got up at 4am this morning to drive with his brother over the mountains to Tornolo to teach their dogs to hunt.
Maurizio cooks what he kills, and he also makes olive oil and liquors. He gave us each a bottle of blueberries in his homemade grappa. Will we get them home?
We climb the stairs back to the church,
Ornella offers us coffee and gives us some towels printed with a map of the pastas of Italy.
She is also all alone in a big house in Camposasco and provides company to Yolanda, who is home-bound.
A photo of the family from Adele’s porch: Adele, Sergio, Ornella, Yolanda, and Maurizio.
Yolanda invites us for coffee. No one seems to know the origins of this rustico next to her house, but Maurizio points out the slab of stone next to the window. It was used for the “vaso di notte,” the honey pot put outside on the slab to avoid odors.
The two sisters in Yolanda’s kitchen.
Yolanda is an inspiration. Despite her arthritic knees, she still hobbles down slippery slate steps to work in her garden. Adelle remembers Atillio working on his knees in his garden when he could no longer walk well. So go the contadini…
We say sad goodbyes to the family. As Maurizio says, “it’s an ugly moment.” We can’t thank them enough for their warm hospitality.
When we stop in Borzonasca for gas, we marvel at the painted walls of the service station and the little man watching us from one of the windows.
It’s on to Emilia!