I spend a lot of time here. This coffee bar, like countless others across Italy, is the main meeting spot and central diffusion point for all gossip in town. It is in the main piazza, so all comings and goings are clearly seen...and discussed. Everything starts here; when the stone masons arrived, we met up at the bar and had to have a coffee before proceeding, a preliminary courtesy. At the end of the day, it is customary to offer them a beer or aperitivo to cap off their hard work.
Bar owners of Lucanella
Old men always occupy a table inside, whiling away the time with cards and caffe corretti. Their own conversations stop to listen to my comments, no matter how banal they may be. At one point, a cappuccino-drinking patron asked me a casual question and a man from the table responded to her with my answer before I could!
One fine morning a man initiated a conversation and we chatted for about ten minutes about all manner of things, after which another guy entered and bobbed his head in my direction asking his friend if I was a foreigner. "No, la signora e' una paesana nostra," (she is one of our villagers) he answered, which told me clearly that I was accepted as an official resident. Since my family heritage lies in a village nearby, I have been accepted as a local despite my far-away accent and my inability to maneuver my car into tight spaces in full view of everyone.
Another day while enjoying a cappuccino and cornetto, a man was passing through the piazza, glanced over and saw me in the bar, and made a bee-line for me. "Mah! You're Michele's cousin? I saw you yesterday with Michele and asked around...I was told you're cousins! E' vero? Wow, Michele was the greatest soccer player in the region! He's a legend. Benvenuta...welcome. If you need anything, you come to me. I'd do anything for a family member of Michele's!" Hmmm, interesting, since my cousin had never told me of these glorious victories of his.
Throughout my three weeks, little by little, I met the majority of the townspeople while standing at the bar sipping my coffee. And little by little, they got to know me and shed their initial wariness or curiosity about me. After all, I'm just an ordinary villager like them.