from Sandy Needham

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sulmona Dispatch

November 10, 2007

Newton and I rode the train from Rome due east for three hours. Our destination was the town of Sulmona in Abruzzo, nestled in the mountains 73 kilometers from the Adriatic shore. This was Newton's third attempt since 2004 to get Italian citizenship, possible by way of his great-grandfather from Sardinia. The same Brazilian-Italian, Gelson, who orchestrated the other two attempts, was meeting us there. Citizenship had eluded Newton thus far due to Gelson's own disorganization, time simply running out previously up north in the Veneto, and then Gelson's trouble with the law (he was arrested for falsifying Brazilian soccer players' Italian heritages for EU citizenship, and the police had held all of our legitimate documents for a year. No trial yet).

The passing vista of mountains and valleys with beautiful little towns tucked here and there was gorgeous as darkness fell. Some towns featured huge old fortresses and churches. We just threw up our hands and said, "Is there any region of Italy that is not beautiful?"

We went out to a late dinner with Gelson and Tomasso, the local official who performs the newly streamlined citizenship process. Afterwards we stopped at a tiny bar/cafe for espesso. Here I conversed with a young man who loves to play Brazilian bossa nova guitar and some middle aged guy with a wild look in his eye. When Gelson, Tomasso and Newton were walking out the door and I was saying good-bye, the wild-eyed one actually picked me up off the floor by grabbing my butt with both hands. I was yelling 'Newtonnn" and fighting to get down, but Newt didn't hear. Finally I got my feet on the ground, slapped the guy across the face, and ran out. It was shocking. I don't know if I'm supposed to feel flattered at my age, but I would have selected the younger guy, at least!

Sulmona is the Roman birthplace of the famous 1st century poet, Ovid, and the capital of "confetti" since the 15th century. We assumed this meant confetti, but it refers to sugared almonds fashioned into little nosegays of flowers that look as if they are made of smooth, bright-colored plastic. The town is great for exploring, with charming piazzas and parks and beautiful walks towards the surrounding mountains. I kept buying a pistachio gelato to take along that I will never forget! I was doomed to wear 'closed' shoes here for the first time since January, so I hobbled around like a Beverly Hillbilly, developing blisters on most of my toes.

After simple preliminaries at the post office, Newton and Gelson endured a late night with Tomasso that turned out to be the magic trick for citizenship. They waited an hour for a tipsy Tomasso to leave a party, then went to the closed prefecture hoping for a fax to arrive from Brazil confirming the formality that Newton had never before renounced Italian citizenship. It didn't arrive, but Tomasso trusted it would and put all in place for the following morning. He then drove them around to further carouse until the wee hours. Bright and early at the open prefecture, Newton actually received his Italian I.D., although the fax did not arrive till evening. The card looks like something from the '50's typed on an old crooked typewriter, but it is authentic and served for travel all over the European Union! Newton will get an Italian passport through the consulate in Brazil - some day.

Poland next!


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