Passing By

Funerals are fairly frequent in our little town of Petritoli.  This doesn’t seem to be unusual in the hill top villages around here, perhaps because many young people have moved away so the majority of the population are over seventy…(I’m just guessing) although having said that the primary school and the middle school seem to be well stocked and thriving.

The way funerals happen here is the way I remember them happening when I was a child in Ruislip, Middlesex, back in the late1950’s and early 60’s.  If a funeral procession passed by then people would stand still and take their hats off as a mark of respect and not move on until the tale of the funeral cortege had gone. The hearse and all the following cars would move very slowly and no other car would dream of overtaking, they just drove patiently behind. Well, that is exactly what it is like here. The hearse waits at the bottom of the town and then drives at a snails pace up through the old cobbled streets to the church in the centre. Behind the hearse the mourners follow on foot with close family members leading the way. It is quite something to see and when we first came to live here I was quite taken aback but found it easy to conform and noticed that in the short time of waiting and watching I had time to reflect on close family and friends that I had lost; a moment to remember.

When someone dies in Italy, posters are put up in the town announcing the date of the death and the day and time of the funeral, which is normally within two days.  It is quite common for a photograph of the deceased to be on the poster, which is actually rather helpful to us outsiders, because often a person can be recognised by sight but not by name. The Italians also put photographs on the graves in the cemeteries; I think both ideas are rather lovely.

What I have noticed is that in Italy and particularly in the rural areas death is totally accepted as a natural thing to happen, especially to an older person. The funeral is well attended and the departed person is given a respectful farewell and most importantly people take the time and care to show their feelings and support the bereaved family.  Everything slows down; people are open with their comfort and with their grieving, but it doesn’t last long, it doesn’t feel depressing.

Having said all that, what prompted me to write this blog was an incident in town today. I had left the house early and then had to park outside and walk up as it was market day and on these days the traffic is stopped from driving through the old centre as the stalls are spread across the road and there is no room. Particularly at the moment while the Water Board are doing major repairs it isn’t possible to drive into town one way and out the other but the vehicles have to turn around in the middle. As I was walking up I saw quite a number of people walking down together, I thought it was strange that the Petritoli Market was so popular and why was everyone leaving at the same time? Imagine my surprise when I realised a funeral was taking place…the chaos was unimaginable with our local police woman trying to direct everyone. But of course, everyone just paused for a while and let the funeral continue as if it were the most natural thing to be happening.  The market and the shopping carried on once again after the hearse and followers had left the town and made their way to the cemetery. Imagine this happening in London or anywhere in the UK in fact.

market stall by church

Market Stall Opposite the Church

Patients and Patience

I have just returned from a visit to the hospital in Petritoli, I had to have my ears “seen to”.  It was a typical Italian experience.
My appointment was for 08.00 so I arrived in good time and paid for the treatment first at the machine and then went to find the department. It was 07.55 and there were a few people already waiting. The ear specialist arrived but was unable to open the door so he had to go and find someone to open it for him. Eventually he found a nurse who brought a key. It’s now 08.10. So, as soon as the door is open a man pushes his way in for his ‘appointment’. Ah,  I wonder what the score is here so I ask a couple of people in my not very good Italian, “does everyone have an appointment for 8 o’clock?” They mumble something in dialect so I don’t fully understand, but something like, “first people here first in”. An old lady asks me if the doctor is going to call people and I say that it doesn’t look like it.   Some of us are standing and others sitting and we all stare at each other smiling, pulling faces, communicating visually with grimaces and raised eyebrows. I notice that some patients move strategically into position closer to the door and I do the same. So we are all waiting about. Again I mention the time of the appointments and notice that on my sheet of paper its says, ‘Presentazione 1’ which I assume means first. This time I’m ready when the door opens but a man beats me to it by swiftly maneuvering his wife ahead of him and deftly sweeping her in front of me!
Eventually I get my turn and in I go, the time is now 08.43. I hand over my paperwork and on the desk I see the list for this morning with my name at the top at 08.00! The next one at 08.10 so I ask him why it is that I had to wait and why didn’t he call people in order. He’s a rather nice, good looking doctor and I like a man in a white coat, but, typical Italian he just shrugs his shoulders and says, “that’s the way it is”. So we get on with the job of clearing the ears and when he goes to run the tap there’s no hot water so he goes out of the room, kidney bowl in hand to search elsewhere in the hospital for some warm water. When he comes back, five minutes later at the least, another patient tries to get into the door and he has to try and forcefully shut him out, the patient’s hand is waving a piece of paper through a tiny gap in the door but thankfully the nurse is here now and she deals with him. There is no privacy in an Italian consulting room by the way!
Ears finished I shake hands with the lovely calm doctor in his white coat, no stethoscope though, pity I could have had a proper fantasy. Such a shame the morning was spoiled by the selfishness of some Italians who simply couldn’t possibly wait their turn for anything.

If you can’t beat them join them. Next time I’ll be there at 07.30 for my 08.00 appointment.
Oh and its cost me €26.50 for all this.