The village is small, just about 600 inhabitants. A friend quipped that we're raising the number to 602. While it's a little joke it is also a small point of pride because in these parts and all throughout the Mezzogiorno, small towns like this are losing population numbers annually as kids go away to college in the north and others seek work in industrial centers throughout Europe, never to return to their roots. Those who remain are somewhat resigned, shrugging sadly and sighing, "Beh, e' cosi'" (It's how it is) - while wishing otherwise.
We are rather surprised that more people don't live here because it is within commuting distance to Potenza, which is both the Regional and Provincial capital. The village is certainly much more picturesque and less costly, but apparently city living is more attractive than hamlet life.
Not to us. We like the piccoli paesi with their medieval centers, sinewy pedestrian-only streets, and friendly shopkeepers. We like that the caffe owner already knows us - and how we prefer our caffe' (or the locally-loved espressino, as the case may be), and like exchanging a few words with Giovanni at the little supermercato while stocking up on meal provisions. And this level of familiarity is after an all-too brief visit; I have been shopping at the same stores here in Viriginia for several months without a single employee recognizing me, greeting me warmly, or even attempting anything akin to an actual conversation.
Our village may be small but it is not spartan. It has practically everything we need for daily life; the necessities that we can't find here can be procured in Potenza. There are three bars, two food shops, and a fruit and veggie store, along with a butcher, a baker, and an iron-works maker. They have a respectable weekly mercato, and a pretty piazza for gathering and gabbing.
The views from the ridgetop are mesmerizing. Verdant, thickly-forested mountains unfold into thin, jagged gorges. Birds with differing songs raise harmonized chirpings in the chill morning sun. Hawks and falcons dance on the wind currents. Faint fluffs of clouds skid along the peaks and tuck into hillside folds and hang suspended above the river valley. Distant sheep bells clatter a rhythmic melody.
We have been hesitant to put the name "out there"; once it's online it can't be erased. We have decided to call the village Lucanella. Being newcomers into such a small town we don't want to publicize the real name of the village, unsure of how our fellow townsfolk would react to internet publicity. We would never want them to think we're patronizing or exploiting them. Besides, at the moment we feel rather possessive, and kind of like it being our little secret.
Lucanella will be home...one day. For the moment our bodies are in Virginia, but our hearts are on that hilltop. I close my eyes and I can hear the tinny clang of the church bells. I can see the barista's smiling face and feel her warm and enthusiastic embrace when I told her we purchased the appartamento. I walk through the streets in my nearly-asleep state each evening and say buona notte to the sheep in the valley below. But I'm not asleep, it's not a dream. Lucanella is real...it has already become a part of us, and we are slowly becoming a part of the village, as well.