Funny what you find out rummaging around in your old record collection.
Let me start again. I’m recording many of my old LPs onto CDs so I can bring them to Europe with me. A suitcase bulging with vinyl might be suspicious, if not a bad idea in general.
But while perusing my jazz discs, I came across a recording by Ettore de Carolis called Ciociaria, a Land of Ancient Silences. It is traditional festival music of a region in Central Italy—and it’s quite compelling.
After reading the liner notes, a bit of enthusiasm to discover where this Italian country folk music was coming started to seep in, leading me to discover other interesting stuff about this shadowy region. Ain’t it always the way?
I found that the name “Ciociaria” refers to an area around Frosinone with indistinct boundaries. It’s a territory in Lazio, south of Rome. It’s also a hotbed of traditional festivals.
“Part of the Ciociarian folklore are the songs, both sacred and profane, dances such as the saltarello, accompanied by music and cheered by the dishes of local cuisine,” Wikipedia tells us.
The word also has ties to a shoe worn by shepherds—a very interesting shoe. the Ciocia, sometimes called zampitto.
In the traditional form, ciocie were made of large soles in leather and straps (strènghe or curiòle) with which the leg was tied from the ankle to the knee. Feet were covered by a large napkin (pèzza).
But who cares about shoes, right? Even when combined with napkins, which seems like a good idea in a culture that eats outside all the time. In any case, Ciociaria also happens to be near Montecassino, which caused another problem.
Before the Allies recaptured Montecassino, the Goums Marocains —Moroccan colonial troops of the French Expeditionary Corps commanded by General Augustin Guillaume—were fighting Germans against some long odds in difficult mountain territory. To spur them on they were evidently promised, “For fifty hours you will be the absolute masters of what you will find beyond the enemy. Nobody will punish you for what you will do, nobody will ask you about what you will get up to.”
When the Allies moved in and took Montecassino, the Goums Marocains took advantage of the promise.
The next night, thousands of Goumiers and other colonial troops scoured the slopes of the hills surrounding the town and the villages of Ciociaria (in South Latium). Over 60,000 women, ranging in age from 11 to 86, suffered from violence, when village after village came under control of the Goumiers. Civilian men who tried to protect their wives and daughters were murdered. The number of men killed has been estimated at 800. ~ Marocchinate
While the shivers work their way out of your system, let me tell you that Italian writer Alberto Moravia wrote the novel La Ciociara based on the mass rape and Vittorio de Sica made a movie of it starring Sophia Loren called Two Women.
In the little town of Castro dei Volsci you’ll find a monument called the “Mamma Ciociara” which serves as a reminder to us of the women who tried to defend themselves and their daughters.
Castro dei Volsci is also the setting of a fine B&B and cooking school called Casa Gregorio Bed and Breakfast and Cooking School
Yes, it’s amazing what an old record with an interesting name and premise can bring up 40 years after it was issued. As we reflect upon Italy’s current economic and political situation and wonder why they can’t be more like America, wouldn’t it be wise to also consider how Italians in the recent past have lived with things we Americans haven’t?
In any case, there’s one more thing. Ettore de Carolis has a web site. It hasn’t been updated since about 2008, but there’s some darned interesting music he plays there. It’s not like today’s background music, intentionally recorded to offer the part-time listener a complete lack of compelling sound so that workers and dreamers don’t take to actually paying attention to it. No, it brings me back to that exploratory wonder of my youth.
That’s a good thing, I think. Or a time suck. You decide.
Play Gocce in un sogno de Chetro by Ettore de Carolis. (Chetro is evidently the nickname of Ettore de Carolis, who founded a folk group called Chetro & Co.)