Donald and Mimi in Italia, 2001

Sersale, Catanzaro, a community at the foot of the Sila (a National Park/mountain range)

This view of Sersale from our cousin's garden
Sersale was founded about 500 years ago. Compared to its neighbors, this makes it a fairly “new” town. My family apparently traces back to the original set of 12 peasants that agreed to work for the Sersale family so many years ago. Sersale is built on a hill,apparently to avoid the “bad air” or malaria that plagued the lower regions, and also for protection from marauding armies. Sersale is very fortunate, as it has year round springs of incredibly wonderful water (we actually brought some home) and the weather there is quite pleasant, compared to the heat of the cities in the north. If I could sum up our stay in Sersale with just a couple of words, i would have to say “great texture” it describes the roads, the houses, the gardens, even the way the houses are built.

The arch above the door of Casa Torchia
After living in the USA my whole life, where subdivisions in the Chicago area are identical to subdivisions in the Seattle area or even Utah, and house after house on a street are so identical that without the numbers, one might not be able to tell them apart, the rich differences in texture here in Sersale are truly a feast for the eyes. Every house had a character.We found ourselves just as excited by the nicely done houses of the comfortable and well to do as we were by some of the dilapidated and abandoned old places along the way. All the houses were cement or stone, but each was done a little different,

some people arranged the stones in strips of color, some had very nondescript walls, but absolutely sumptuous doors, hinting at the splendour that might be inside. Even the street surfaces had character. In this little town, someone took the time to put a mosaic in the middle of the street! and I’m not talking about the town square, just a little street halfway up the hill!
Everywhere we looked, this diversity was apparent. The houses we had the good fortune to enter were the same way. Each house made by hand, all sorts of wonderful little details that no american architect could have thought of, like rings in the ceilings for pots no longer needed, wonderful terrazzos, gosh, why would you need more than one? everywhere, all sorts of built in nooks, lovely arches, high ceilings. Great ventilation. And they have something called Persian blinds. for complete darkness and insulation, close the blinds and the windows. For complete darkness, but plenty of air, close blinds and leave window open. For light, you open the blinds, with or without the windows opened.
Of course, in 500 years, one would think that everyone in the town must be related in some way. That might be true. But even here, the diversity was apparent. . I was surprised that almost half of my relatives and other people in Sersale have green eyes, and a few are blue eyed too. Although most the folks I met were short by american averages, I found some cousins that were easily 6 feet tall. I didn’t meet any relatives with red hair, but saw redheads in town. I had always thought it was odd that I was so fair skinned, but then I met some cousins with the same complexion as mine. Even spookier was how many times I saw my father’s face, and not necessarily among known relatives. It was interesting to see women in black, sometimes more than one in a family, just as my grandmother had described so many years ago as “old fashioned” yet many in Sersale are still dressing this way. On the other hand, there were plenty of very fashionable young men and women walking down the same streets. My cousin told me it (the wearing of black) is more of a personal choice now, she only wore black for 2 months after her father died. On the other hand, another cousin is estranged from the young widow of her son, who at 21 years of age remarried only a year after her husband of less than a year had died. (seems reasonable enough to me!)
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