Archive for the ‘italian culture’ Category

The Last Serenade

I was the only one in my group of friends who was able to play guitar. This meant that everytime one of us decided to get married, I was the unlucky guitarist who had to play “La Serenata” (“The Serenade”) under the window of the future wife. Generally La Serenata is performed a few days before the wedding day, and it involves all the  husband and wife’s friends and relativies. I repeat, All,  I’ve seen serenades more crowded than a concert or a soccer match.  La Serenata was, and still is, the most boring and embarrassing “ritual” of the Italian folklore. As I wrote here before, it is set under the window of the wife’s bedroom and it starts late at night because, theoretically, the musician should awake the girl  with his repertoire of songs. Once the wife wakes up, she looks out the window (next to her mum) and smiles to the crowd of friends and relatives. At this point everyone start to sing as loud as possible along with the husband and the unlucky musician.

Years ago a good friend of mine, Alessio, organized   a  Serenata for his younger sister who was going to   marry with a guy called Gabriele.

Obviously, my fate was sealed.

“Hey Matteo, can you play the guitar for us?” asked my friend one day, “we need a guitarist who can play along with us”. I had no choice. “Sure, it will be a pleasure” I answered  fake as Pamela Anderson Boobs , “I’ can’t wait for it to arrive!”. It arrived for real, and it was to be the worst Serenata of my life. Alessio and his family lived in Borgo Carso,  a little Borgo near the city. Most of the times the Italian Borghi are a sort of little villages, in which the people know each other very well. It’s like a family, a very big family formed by all the Borgo citizens. When I arrived at Gabriele’s house there were tons of people that were waiting for me. “Finally, the guitarist” screamed aunty Maria, “come on, let me hear you. Play Strada Facendo”.

The “Requesting Time” started.

Suddenly I realized that I had a problem: the repertoire of songs. Alessio days earlier had told me that he had all the songs tabs that the relatives wanted to sing.

It wasn’t true.

“Matteo sorry” he said to me, “but I don’t have the guitar tabs that I have promised”.

This meant that I had to “find” the chords for the songs during La Serenata, while everybody were singing. It’s not easy find the right key when you play along with so many drunken persons. Alessio’s father said that it was time to march to his daughter’s house. We started to walk and the marching parade of relatives, friends, and citizens became bigger minutes by minutes. When we arrived at the future wife house, there were all Borgo Carso Citizens.

Italian Borgo

My Long Hard Road to Serenade

An Alessio cousin start to sing a song that I ever heard in my life.

How could I find the chords?

The most sad thing was that everybody at Borgo knew that song, and immediately they started to sing. I play something with my guitar but it was completely out of key. “Stupid guitarist” said an old man, “you have to play along with us, and you have to play our songs”.

Their songs? I didn’t know their songs.

“Hey Alessio, where did you find this guitarist? He is USELESS ”. When they finished to sing, arrived the moment for the instrumental repertoire. So I started to play with my guitar classical songs as Jeux Interdits and other romantic pieces. “Play louder asshole” screamed at me Alessio’s father, “You have to wake up my little daughter. Play LOUDER”. One of the Alessio’s cousin catch a firecracker and threw it near my feet. As it took the ground it exploded with the violence of a flashbang. All the Borgo Carso citizens laught at me, but I didn’t hear them because I became deft for a few second.

Finally Alessio’s sister  woke up.

She looked out the window and smiles to the drunken citizens. They started to sing a song (which obviously I didn’t know). Somebody took my guitar and played along with them. Alessio’s father gave me a huge and said: “don’t worry, we have our guitarist. Relax and enjoy the serenata”.

I begun to drink red wine,  just to forget the embarrassing situation.

This is the last time I attend to a serenata” I sweared to my self while I was drinking, “no more serenate”.

Obviously, that night I got drunk.


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This is a short movie based on the post “Cavity Wall Noises” (scroll down and read it!). It is entitled “In The Hollow Of The Walls”. I hope you like it.

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This video shows exactly what could happen during a Liscio Concert. The crowd interacts with the orchestra in a very “friendly” and participative way, and in this case the one who joins the band on stage (as I wrote in A Cocktail At The Pierrot post: “every night someone would join us on the stage while we were still playing”) is a guy who introduces himself as “Danilo l’Alpino”. He sings (completely drunk) a whole song called “Madonnina dai Riccioli d’Oro”, and it is important to highlight the behaviour of the band leader who encourages and congratulates DANILo l’Alpino, despite the fact that he is out of tune in every single part of the song. He also invites the others listeners to sing along with him. DAniLo l’Alpino is the worst singer I have ever heard, but it doesn’t matter, the crowd claps hands and sings because the most important thing to do during a liscio concert, is not to see a good show, but be part of it and share good times with people. So, Viva Danilo l’Alpino.

In this other video the interaction between public and orchestra is outstanding. The crowd itself becomes the “stage”, and each spectators holds a sheet with the lyrics of the song that the band is going to perform. The setting is a square of a little city in north Italy, and the song that everybody sing is a classic from Liscio Tradition: “Casa e Chiesa” (litteraly “Home and Church”), a piece that describes the figure of a shy, devoted and beautiful young lady, which the protagonist of the song falls in love with.

The chorus says: “Sei una ragazza tutta casa e chiesa, sei una ragazza come piace a me”, this means: “you are that kind of serious lady who loves going to church any given Sunday, you are the kind of lady who I’d love to marry”. It is an example of how much the “religious factoris present in most of the songs from Italian popular music.  

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Two videos that explain very well what I wrote on “Cavity Wall Noises”.

Fantozzi Subisce Ancora- film director Neri Parenti

This an extract from a movie called “Fantozzi Subisce Ancora”. The protagonist of this little masterpiece is Ugo Fantozzi, a middle class man who embodies all the contradiction of his country. This scene is about a condominium meeting, and anyone who lives in a building here in Italy knows that what is represented in this scene could happen for real  in every day life.

About the extract: Ugo Fantozzi is nominated chairman of the meeting. In the beginning everyone is very kind to the others, but when the reunion starts it suddenly becomes a BATTLE…and Fantozzi has to wear a helmet on his head!

Così Parlò Bellavista- film director Luciano De Crescenzo     

This scene is taken from the movie Così Parlò Bellavista. Two characters are trapped inside the elevator, and immediately all the other owners decide to help them.


Dialogue “Highlights”

Relax and don’t worry” says the character with the black beard, “we are going to rescue you, but to do this we have to operate manually, with a crank”. “And why are you going to do it instead of doing it now?” ask the man who is trapped. “We cant’ do it now” replies the man with the beard, “because now we don’t have the crank”. This scene describes perfectly the Italian disorganization, but also our will to help and share the problem with other people. 

Key Words translation:   Crank = Manovella – Resist= Resistete

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It is a Blog very similar to sòitalians.  Read it, this web site has an elegant “female touch” .  http://www.theitalianblog.net

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Living in a building of eight floors teaches you one thing above all: sound spreads in a very strange way.
Saturday morning.
I’m quiet in bed, and suddenly, I hear a deafening NOISE that seems to be coming from one corner of the room.
It stops after a few seconds.
Then it starts again, and this time it seems to come from the living room.
I go there, listening carefully, very carefully, and finally I have one certainty: it  comes from upstairs, exactly from the Bertaccini’s flat.

I hate them and I am happy to have a reason to quarrel.
Furious I leave my aparment, go up the stairs up to them but before I can knock on their door the noise, as if by magic, moves away.
Meanwhile the old maid who lives beside me opened her door, and now she’s looking at me curious as a cat.
Got a problem?” she asks, “I heard you open your door and I thought something might have happened”
People like her who say the expression “something happened” often mean “disgrace.”
She is an old and fat widow called by everyone in the building Nunziatina.

Aldo Moro Square (Latina): Where I grew up....Home Sweet Home. Photo by Alessio Casalvieri

 “No, nothing has happened” I answer crossing one’s finger (she is the classic Bird Of Ill Omen), “everithing is ok”
In an italian condominium the eyes that watch you are everywhere, especially behind your back.
And infact another neighbor, specifically the PENSIONER who lives in the flat next to my one, catches me in the act.
“What are you doing?” he roars to me with a tone of reproach, “Why you are crossing your fingers? Did you mean to say that talking to Nunziatina could bring you bad luck?”
Oh my god, no!” I respond, “Why do you think these kind of things?!”
He doesn’t answer me, and looking at both me and Nunziatina (who is obviously still not back in her apartment) questions: “Anyway, what ‘s wrong? I have heard you talking and I thought that something had Happened”
The pensioner is a curious conversationalist pretty aggressive, who would be able to keep me at the door for the rest of my life just to talk about his suppositions.
I’m frightened, so I decide to cut short immediately and confess: “I came out of my flat, because I heard a noise and wanted to understand where it came from”.

The aggressive Pensioner

Now the entire building has noticed me.
Directly from the sixth floor, enters the scene the woman who plays in the condominium the role of the “well informed“.
“The noise comes from the family on the first floor, they are restructuring their flat.”
“I don’t understand” I say to her, “why I can hear the noise in a such deafening way, if they are so far from us?”
This time it is the condominium administrator who answers the question, he arrives from the sixth floor.
‘It happens because the bricklayers are beating near the CAVITY WALL“.

It is a five people conversation: the administrator and the “well informed”, the pensioner, myself and the maid.

Attracted by the voices like sharks to blood, all the other owners come to us and ask: “What is happening? We heard you talking and we are alarmed”.
As the voices are now much higher than the noise, we are also achieved by the owner who is making the restructuring work.
“What is going on here?” asks the crowd.
Everyones look at me: “Mr. Roccia complained about the noise” they say.
“Really? and what would you have to say? ” he questions me.I am not intimidated and I answer: “In a condominium you can not do work on Saturday.”

“I know” says the administrator, “but in doing so the restructuration getting finished in a shorter time.”
The owner who lives on the first floor shares this stupid theory: “It is true. And also the most important thing to say, is that if the bricklayers work near the CAVITY WALL, is normal that we hear that noise!”
The entire building says “YES” nodding their heads, it’s logical, how can you discord when somebody talks about the cavity wall?

The administrator says: “From Monday nobody will no longer beat at that point, so you’ll not hear anything and you will be peaceful and serene.”
“Serene?!” exclaim the most alarmist of the widows group, “I don’t Know if it will be possible. Once the son of a person I know, has had a burst eardrum because of noises coming from CAvity wall“.

Nobody makes the case for a story so shamelessly invented.

Before he return in his apartment, the man of the first floor accuses me: “you have ruined my weekend!!”
Understanding that it is the end of the story, each one of the owners goes back to their own apartment.

When I rest alone I start to imagine me living in a villa, without other owners with whom to share noises.

But after I think better: living alone could be so boring!

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My favorite Liscio Standard is a valzer musette called Romantica Parigi. The French musician in this video plays it pretty well. Vive la France (after all we are cousins!)


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