From My Tuscan Window

Chapter 46
The Stretcher in the Attic
A look of surprise came over her face, and she exclaimed, “Dio buono! Quando io avevo dieci anni, mi hanno tolto l’ appendice, e mi hanno portato a Gioviano sopra quella lettiga.” (“Good God! When I was ten years old, I had my appendix removed, and they carried me up to Gioviano on that stretcher.”) I was taking Giuseppina and Roberto on a tour of the Palazzo, and we had climbed the stairs to the attic, which I call “il museo”(the museum). There, we had taken bits and pieces of the history of Gioviano that would otherwise have disappeared.

There are hand blown demijohns that once stored wine that in modern times have been replaced with stainless steel vats. There is a hand forged chain of the type that once hung in every fireplace to hold the pots above the cooking fires. An ancient school desk brings back memories to almost all Giovianini visitors to the museum. Old doors, shutters, an antique bed, a bed warmer, chestnut roaster, coffee grinder, and a sad iron are also found there. Many other objects of the types discarded during the last few decades grace the former servants’ quarters in the attic. These obsolete items had been replaced by more modern conveniences in the Italian home.

Giuseppina had spied the antique chestnut stretcher upon which the sick were carried down the mule path to the bottom of the hill where they could be transported to the hospital in an ambulance. It is difficult to believe that when my parents and I made our first trip to Italy in 1964, the stretcher was still in use. The carrozzabile (road for vehicles) had not been completed to the parcheggio (parking lot beneath the town) until 1966.

The old stretcher had been stored in the basement of the Church of San Rocco, and when the room was in the process of being converted into a community center, the stretcher along with several other venerable objects were in danger of being placed on the wood pile to be burned. My pack-rat mentality and love for Gioviano’s heritage saved the old stretcher from oblivion.

For anyone living beyond the parking lot who is sick or infirmed, times have really changed very little in over 1200 years when the pilgrims’ hospital was located in Calavorno. This morning (June 16, 2006) the doorbell rang. It was Silvia. Her father Pietro, needed to be transported to the hospital, and his house is located on the far side of town. This meant he would either be transported to the ambulance in the parcheggio on a modern stretcher or pushed in a wheelchair with tiny wheels that bounce painfully over the cobbled and dissected lanes through the village.

She asked if it would be okay for the men from the Misericordia (ambulance service) to borrow my parents’ carrozzina to take Pietro to the ambulance waiting in the parcheggio. “Certo, signora!.” (“Of course!”) I am extremely happy when we can help make the lives of our amici (friends) more comfortable.

I was interrupted once again later in the morning. The ambulance was back from the hospital in Pisa with Pietro. Silvia was calling from the parking lot to our upper loggia. I drove the carrozzina down to the ambulance, and we helped Pietro climb aboard for the smooth and comfortable ride up to the house. After he was settled in his big recliner, we discussed how best to make sure that he would be rejuvenated from his terrible ordeal of being virtually comatose after a stroke back in January.

I suggested that “portiamo qualche fanciulline belle in casa per ringiovanire caro Pietro.” (“Let’s bring some beautiful young girls to the house to rejuvenate dear Pietro.”) Daughter Silvia thought that would be a great idea, and Pietro grinned from ear to ear. Just the thought made him feel better. Guess I ought to take him today’s Il Tirreno so that he can choose from the personal ads the type of “Public Relations specialist” that might help him fully recover from his stroke.

It dawned on me that instead of storing the carrozzina for the 11 months that we are not here that we should leave it for the Misericordia to use as necessary. The men thought the idea great but had no idea where it could be garaged. The answer was very easy I said. Pepino willed the Misericordia his garage just opposite the front door of the Palazzo. That would be a great place to keep it until needed. The men agreed. I hope it works out.

Updated December 22, 2009
Copyright 2005-2009 George H. Russell
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