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How different our life is here in this little village in the Appenino Tosco-Emiliano mountains to that which we lived for 14 years in the city of Nottingham, England. When we wake up in the morning no longer do we hear the distant rumble of traffic, the regular wail of sirens and the general hubbub of city life. These sounds have been replaced by gentler, more timeless ones.
Usually the first sound we become aware of when we leave il mondo dei sogni (the land of dreams) is the river flowing over the rocks (il fiume che scorre fra le rocce) in the valley below our house. This is often accompanied by il canto del gallo: chicchirichi’, le galline che fanno coccode’, e i loro pulcini che pigolano (the crow of the cockerel ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’, the clucking of the chickens and the cheeping of their chicks).
Throughout the day, depending on the time of year, we will hear various other sounds:
C’e’ il cane che abbaia – there’s the the dog that barks
la mucca che muggisce – the cow that moos
le pecore che belano – the sheep that bleat
gli uccelli che cinguettano – the birds that twitter
il corvo che gracchia – the crow that croaks
e il cavallo che nitrisce – and the horse that neighs
Hmm, sounds a bit like a nursery rhyme!
During the summer there are of course innumerable insects such as le api (the bees), le mosche (the flies), and le vespe (the wasps) that serenade (or annoy) us with their ronzio – buzzings and whinings. Two such sounds that are very characteristic of a long hot summers day are il canto dei grilli e il frinire delle cicale (the song of the crickets and the screeching of the cicadas). Then there is il suono delle lucertole che fanno frusciare le foglie secche (the sound of the lizards that rustle the dry leaves). We have learned to distinguish the quick furtive rustling of the lucertola (lizard) from the longer drawn out sliding rustle of the serpente (snake) which we have disturbed whilst it was basking in the morning sun. Most of the snakes that we see are, like the two meter monster who lives on our orto (vegetable plot), the fairy harmless frustone (western whip snake), but we always have to be aware of the vipere (vipers) which are deadly poisonous.
We also hear, of course, the many customary sounds of rural working life such as il trattore, (the tractor), la motosega (the chainsaw), and l’Ape (the Ape: not a real bee this time but the ubiquitous tiny three wheeler van with a motorbike engine, usually containing an old man wearing a cap, his wife and their dog, all squashed together in a minuscule cab.
But marking out the pace of the day is the most pleasing of these man made sounds: il rintocco delle campane (the chiming of the bells). As they have done for centuries the bells of the village clock regulate rural life: three times a day, at 7.00 a.m., 12 a.m., and 6.30 p.m., they sound out the Angelus to call the villagers to prayer. The twelve chimes of midday also signal ora di pranzo (lunch break), and usually, as the first of these twelve chimes begins, we hear our next door neighbor shout out to her husband who is out on the orto “Adriano, la pasta e’ pronta” (Adriano, the pasta’s ready – in other words stop work and come and eat, now!). Other sequences of bells are used to announce funerals and weddings, which are public in Italy.
It’s 11.58, in two minutes time the clock will sound mezzogiorno, ora di pranzo, so I’ll finish here and say arrivederci.