Yes, the world is truly small!
How two "paesani" from a little town in Basilicata happened to meet unexpectedly for the first time in a Queensland holiday suburb
How many times in life have you said “com’è piccolo il mondo!” (what a small world!). It is a common refrain that I recently found myself saying out loud yet again.
A couple of weeks ago I was on the Gold Coast, at Broadbeach to be exact, exploring its beauty. I woke up at 5am to watch the sunrise from the balcony of my apartment and posted a picture on Facebook. After a few minutes, I received a private online message from a friend of my parents, Linda. It said, “Ciao Mara, I have seen that you are on the Gold Coast, why are you not going to visit my cousin, Giuseppe in Robina where he has a restaurant? He would be very happy to see a “paesana!”
I couldn’t believe that a “Lucano” like me, from Basilicata, a region at the bottom of the “boot”, had ended up running a restaurant in a Queensland holiday suburb!
Without hesitation, I did my online research and found Spaghetti & Jazz, the restaurant of Linda’s cousin and booked a table for dinner.
With great anticipation, I arrived on time and sought out my paesano.
“Ciao Giuseppe, io sono Mara, I’m from Stigliano,” I said to him. When I mentioned our “paesello” (little town) I saw a mix of astonishment and disbelief on his face: “Really? Are you from Stigliano?! Non ci credo, non ci posso credere!!” (I don’t believe it, I can’t believe it) he said.
“I’ve been in Australia for twenty-four years,” he told me excitedly while seated at my table with of a cold glass of white wine. “I arrived here in 1993 for a holiday and I never went back. I made fountains in Florence and then after a hard “gavetta” (working one’s way up from humble beginnings), I opened my own business and I brought the idea of designing fountains in Australia”, he recounted with pride.
“My wife Natalie is a jazz singer so we had the idea of opening this restaurant, Spaghetti & Jazz. It started as a joke, every night a different jazz bands and a “piatto di spaghetti”, but then the customers asked for more and here we are,”he went on saying with a typical Italian flair.
Do you miss Stigliano? I asked him. “Of course! I miss my people,” he answered with shining eyes. “I feel that I belong to Stigliano and what I really miss here is the feeling of belonging to something, but this is the land of opportunity and I have to tell you that I’m very lucky because I’m doing the job that I love.”
I read in his eyes a trace of nostalgia when he told me about his family in Italy, about his friends and all the places we both have travelled through, remembering some icons of our paesello that no longer exist because of the terrible landslide of three years ago.
It’s unbelievable how much Giuseppe and I have in common: our roots are the same, having been born in that pretty little town in Italy and our heart is in Florence, the city where he grew up and where I spent ten beautiful years of my life. Yes, just as I did, Giuseppe’s family left Stigliano for a better life in Florence and every summer they returned to the village of their birth to see the rest of the family and friends.
The world is small. Yes, it truly is. “L’è piccino” as the Florentines say. Two Lucani who lived in Florence met and reminisced together in a Queensland suburb, so far away from their little birthplace. The beauty and the oddity of life!