In Italy, the common toast to accompany clinking wine glasses is salute, meaning: health. You can also say cent’ anni, which wishes all the clinkers 100 years. When you do that, however, you don’t really think all the gathered people will actually live 100 years.
Any of you who happen to see my Facebook page might recall that I always recommend you read my friend Liz’s blog called My Village in Umbria whenever she gets around to writing about life in Allerona — about 10 miles outside of Orvieto. A couple of weeks ago, I suggested you read her wonderful homage to Nonno Gino (her grandfather-in-law) -– cleverly entitled “Nonno Gino: The man and the legend” (http://myvillageinumbria.blogspot.it/2012_02_01_archive.html) — and if you haven’t already done it – I REALLY suggest you do now…..just as soon as you finish this…..
…..Because Gino took all those cent’ anni toasts along the way seriously, and this past Saturday celebrated his 100th birthday. I could say it was just a family affair because Gino, in one way or another, is related to almost everyone in Allerona, and all of the town showed up….100 years’ worth of family and friends.
They had a special church service for him in late afternoon and then the party began in the town hall. There was enough food to feed everyone in Allerona for the entire month of May; the dessert table alone was so long that you couldn’t see the other end. This was all washed down with an endless supply of carafes full of red and white wine from the vineyards surrounding the town. The mayor presented him with a plaque and short speech, as did a few other organizations…..some with slightly longer speeches. Music? Of course!!! And there can never be a gathering of more than 2 people without Gino serenading them. I’m not sure if the microphone helped or hurt his reputation as a “song stylist”, but the old songs from 80 – 90 years ago are always sung with great gusto, and he has passed them down to the younger generations – all of whom revere him.
The day’s schedule was supposed to be the mass in the town’s Duomo, which sits in the top piazza, and then he would walk down to the town hall, accompanied by the Allerona marching band. You would think that after 100 years, the least the gods could do was give him a beautiful day, but instead – at that EXACT time, the heavens opened up and it poured. My first thought was how unfair it was after enduring 100 years, but I then reconsidered when I realized just what it was they wanted him to do. That walk from the Duomo to the town hall is a very steep downhill, and let’s face it – spry as he is, that “spry” word is always followed by “for his age”. 100 IS, after all, 100. So I concluded that the gods — continuing to look out for him as they have for all these years — sent the rain to make sure he was driven in comfort to the festivities. The marching band accompanied the car.
It is such an honor to know Nonno Gino, even though we’ve never been able to communicate…..that language thing again. Actually, it’s not just the language. I really can’t talk to him because every time I see him, I cry, and who wants to talk to someone with constant tears streaming down her cheeks. There’s something about his enduring enthusiasm for life, his almost totally toothless grin that lights up the room, his determination to live his life on his own terms, and the fact that he’s every bit as adorable as a puppy that just brings tears to my eyes. On Saturday, Liz was standing next to a friend when Gino entered the hall. She said to her friend, “Somewhere in this room, Susan is crying right now.” She was right.
You deserve to know Nonno Gino, too. So really – read Liz’s piece.