I was born and raised in a small village. Civitella Marittima is home to 350 people more or less. When you grow up in a small place like this, the kids who live there are your friends. I didn’t understand the difference between “friends” and “acquaintances” until I left to go to university in Pisa. I was 19, and, up to that point, I had never had to interact with people I didn’t have anything in common with. Nor had I met many people who spoke a different regional variety of Italian. I had never had to negotiate my social status and make an effort to make friends.
If you come from a larger reality, you won’t know what I am talking about. You will be used to having to get out of your comfort zone and meet people. But in a place like my home village, you are literally born with friends, and most often than not, they will be your friends for life.
Growing up, I played in the street, went to school, celebrated birthdays and holidays, received the sacraments all with the same 14 kids who were born in 1975 like me. And I interacted with maybe 10-15 more kids who were one or two years older. I never wondered if they were really my friends or if they were just acquaintances. We were all there was out there for each other.
Growing up, going to school in Grosseto, I expanded my circle. But until you can drive, you are still pretty much spending all your free time with the kids in your village, hanging out at the local bar, park and events.
(Photo by Martina Santi)
Then I moved out to go to University and it was shocking. I soon realized that, in a city, not all the people you meet have to like you and some of them might in fact not want to hang out with you. And viceversa. It was liberating and disorienting at the same time. In my mind, if you cross path, you are friends. Of course that was just the result of my upbringing in a small community (and I am still pretty much like that). The big world out there is a different thing. And I also discovered my sense of humour, my values, my behaviour were not universally accepted (and I am not talking about foreigners, but by young people my age coming from different parts of the country).
It took me a while to understand who I really was.
When you are born in a small community, you are born with a specific identity. You are first of all “the daughter of somebody”, part of a specific “family”, neighbour to somebody, somebody of the same age as somebody else, and being of the same age is the strongest bond of all.
In the city, even in a small one like Pisa, you are just you. And you have to build your network. You have to understand who you like and who you don’t like, who likes you and who doesn’t. You might find this crazy, but it was hard for me to figure out that my place in the world was entirely up to me. I could be whomever I wanted to be and I could choose my friends. Rejection was also a thing. And I was not equipped to cope with it.
Of course, the other side of the coin is that no matter what happens, I will always have my place in my home village. Some of the friends who were my friends as a young child are still and will indeed always be my friends.
Also, Civitella is my safe harbour. I have my very own “place” there and it’s in my family’s history in our small community. It’s a great feeling. It’s like having a nest to fly back to, and it is simple and complicated at the same time.
And friendship there is a very different unique type of bond. It’s a bond that you are born into. It’s almost like having a large extended family. And like in a family, you love and you hate, but you know your role and your place.
If you want to get a taste of what living in a small community in rural Tuscany is like, take a look at our vacation rental home Casina di Rosa.
Italy Blogging Roundtable
This is a post in a monthly series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Here you can find the posts of the other bloggers who participate in the roundtable. Our topic this month was “friendship”: