The Girls of Piazza d'Amore
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A quintessential Calabrian love story.The Girls of Piazza d Amore traces the lives of three village girls and the forces that lead them to leave home for a new life across the ocean. Set in southern Italy in the 1950s, Connie Guzzo-McParland s short novel walks us through the piazza and the narrow alleys of her own childhood, imaginatively recreating an entire world as seen through the eyes of a young girl who accompanies her friends on their evening passeggiate to the spring water fountain and carries their love notes to the boys they love. The joys of Calabrian village life are palpable, and so are its frustrations and heartbreaks, but this is a world on the cusp of irrevocable change, as family after family is leaving. And that s what is most heartbreaking of all.
before the feast. The water in the drainpipes crystallized into icicles around the houses. A light blanket of snow covered the rooftops. Mother reached over Comare Rosaria’s rooftop from our kitchen window and filled a bowl with snow. She sprinkled sugar and cold coffee over it to make scirubetta for me, Luigi, and my desk-friend, Bettina, who came over every afternoon to do homework with me. Signor Gavano gave us lots of homework. Mortified and inconsolable since their boyfriends abandoned
of stone mason, but never worked at anything more strenuous than small repair jobs around town – fountains, terraces, cemetery crypts. He couldn’t get used to the slave-like conditions in New York’s Lower East Side, where the immigrant men lived. Years later, he would say, “They called us dagos and frisked us if we wanted to go in a movie theatre or a bar. But that was before Mussolini came and made the world respect us.” He left New York City for a while to go searching for lighter work at
themselves to the municipal office and ask to be married in a civil ceremony, after which neither side of the family could do anything to stop them from being together again. Even if the civil marriage did not go through, the two had spent the night together and were as good as married in everyone’s eyes. Alfonso would have to deal with Pasquale’s brothers, who would certainly reclaim the scooter and whatever money Pasquale had paid for. Lucia’s honour would be saved by marriage. No one knew
century. And why would the Romans have bothered to build anything so deep into the mountains? At the centre of the structure was a long, carved wall. Water flowed from the mouths of its gargoyles and chubby-cheeked faces and into a shallow, waist-high basin. The water jugs were placed in the basin to be filled with spring water, which was renowned for its clarity and coolness, and which was preferred to the water from the aqueduct. From the two sides of the fountain wall ran a system of long
ventured with a smile. Donna Rachele, his landlady and cook, had a very limited and predictable repertoire. “Ah, maybe, but… it could also be pasta e broccoli. I’ll tell you tomorrow, but whatever it is, it will be delicious,” he’d say with a wink and a little squeeze on my shoulder. I’d turn toward my house and he’d walk up one house further to where Don Cesare and Donna Rachele lived. I remember Signor Gavano in tones of tan and sand. It must have been because he wore a tweedy jacket with