Photo from I Borghi piu Belli d’Italia
This is where I’m heading when this (COVID-19 Pandemic) is all over. It's the Ricetto, a walled 13th century village within the town of Candelo in Piemonte, Italy. Its purpose was to store grains, wine, etc., in good times, and shelter the town's inhabitants when times were perilous. It's listed as one of the most beautiful small towns in Italy, but Candelo's always just been where family is from, a home away from home for me. It's going to be bittersweet when I get there next time. My mom, Lillian, passed away in July this year.
In the work I do I spend a lot of time talking about how to find your values to be a better manager and maybe person. Lil didn’t need to write her values down on a piece of paper. She lived them. They included:
Pride without Ego
A Strong Work Ethic
These values and others enabled her to be proud of her children and grandchildren. She knew what was right and when she thought someone she loved was being treated unfairly she didn’t hold back from speaking her mind forcefully.
Because of these values she made friends easily and deeply, adding new ones at every stage of her life.
Lillian was serious. Growing up I knew which of our parents I shouldn’t cross, and although she wasn’t as indulgent as our dad, David, she never stopped him from spoiling us. Of course, I tried to play one off the other and exploit that as much as possible.
She also loved to have fun - be it on the dance floor, cooking, entertaining friends, or making holidays special with stories about our family.
Candelese, the specific dialect spoken in Candelo where her parents were from was her first language. She learned Candelese from her parents and grandmother who came to take care of her in the first few years of her life when my grandparents were both working. English was Lilly’s second language. She learned it in elementary school. As a result, some expressions of hers came out the way that you would say them in Italian. We teased her for that and for her malaprops. In the end, as she would have said, “It’s just water over the bridge.”
While my daughter Clair came to visit Lil at the hospital we talked about how sad we were, but at the same time I felt that it was even more important to realize and hold onto all of the things that we got from Lillian than dwell on what we were losing and in that moment I realized I was thinking about what made Lil who she was, about what she valued and how she shared those, as she shared herself with us.
After that, the more I thought about her legacy and what I could possible say to our family and friends, I realized that it would be appropriate to talk about all the values I’ve mentioned and to be sure to cap it off with my realization that the value that stood out to me the most was her tolerance.
I don’t mean that she tolerated or put up with things or people at any cost. What I mean is that she was accepting of anyone and respected the person as well their ideas until or unless they showed she shouldn’t.
She never forced me to do a certain thing or try to work hard or take pride in the things that I do. She taught me how to do and be through how she lived.
I try to have patience. I try to balance my pride and ego. I try to accept and respect the people I meet. I try to be honest, to work hard, take things seriously, to live with integrity, and have fun pursuing my passions.
The things I got from my mom are things I want to pass on.
They are more than enough.
On the side of the Ricetto facing its small, but central piazza, Candelo built its town hall in the 19th c. The piazza is a triangle. On the southern side just off the piazza is a farmhouse that has a very nice restaurant on the ground floor now. The property was owned by my grandmother's side of the family. My mom stayed in what was essentially the hay loft on her first trip to Italy in 1949 at age 16. We’ve eaten at the restaurant a few times and the owners were super nice. They asked for any old pictures we might have, but there are none unfortunately. It was a little odd for my mom to be sitting in what was the kitchen sixty-some years earlier having lunch, but she really enjoyed it too.
At the northern end of the piazza across from the movie theater is my grandfather's family's house. It's a modern sort of art deco thing so it doesn't exactly fit into the medieval look of most of the old part of town, but so be it. I don't know who owns it now.
I've spent a fair amount of time in the Ricetto's various private and restaurant spaces. I’ve been there for the wine and flower festivals when it's packed with partying people, and I’ve visited a lot of times when no one else was around. Visits to the private spaces were always interesting and always involved drinking local Barbera wine - lots of Barbera - to wash down the stories veterans told about WWII, or toast fellow cyclists' achievements on long rides in the mountains and at races.
As recently as the mid-80's when I got to live with some cousins for the summer, Candelo didn't seem like a place a tourist would go to. I only knew it as a place that people came from. There isn't any famous art. More recently the couple that ran the bakery across from the farmhouse my mom stayed at retired. We loved that place and they loved seeing us, especially Lillian. There are a few other places around town that are still special to me. Fortunately, another cousin inherited his grandparents’ house on the northern end of town. My grandfather helped his brother Luciano pay and get that house built. I've been visiting and staying at that house since I was five and was fortunate that my great aunt, Zia Angelina was still living there when my wife Ellen and I visited for our belated honeymoon. Since then I've made it a point of it to visit with our family in order to pass the connections on to the next generation, and will continue to visit to enjoy everything the region around Candelo has to offer...un altro bicchieri di barbera, un bel piat di polenta, stradine belle per la bici...