Chapter 42 Vittorio Savoia

On the other end of the humanity spectrum from La Lega is Vittorio Savoia.

Don Vittorio is an elderly and eminent scholar from Gioia Tauro, a coastal town within sight of the Straits of Messina in Calabria. Don Vittorio is one of my links to the old country, thanks to Facebook and the Internet. Prior to the Internet, oriundi in the U.S. and their families in Calabria exchanged letters, arriving painfully slowly a few times a year. My nonno did take a return trip to Miglierina in 1959 but, soon after, we lost contact with miglierinesi family and friends. In 2000, I returned to reignite the family spark. Now, because of Facebook and Twitter, I’m in contact with Saccos all over the world and with numerous dear miglierinesi such as Luigi Luciano Guzzi, Umberto Guzzi, Stella Mazza, and so on.

I always refer to Vittorio Savoia as dottore or Don Vittorio when I write him. Dottore is the sign of respect that we give educated Italians, even if they don’t hold a doctorate or a medical degree. All other Italians on Facebook refer to him informally as Vittorio, as if they had inherited American informality. I would never dare call him Vittorio.

Don Vittorio sends out messages of love, of hope in his Mottette, canzuni, proverbi e dette calabrisi. The goal of this open Facebook group is “Fare conoscere alla nuova generazione calabrese come la pensavono i lovo Avi.” (To make known to the new generation of calabresi how their forefathers thought.) Because of Don Vittorio and Facebook, we emigrated calabresi from all world get to share these wise words, songs, proverbs and sayings from our antenati.

Don Vittorio’s posts include proverbi calabresi, songs, video links, recipes, and scenic pictures of sunsets and majestic mountains. In many of his postings, Don Vittorio includes an Italian translation to his proverbi calabresi. Since I have yet to find a grammar of Calabrese dialect or even a dictionary, Don Vittorio serves as my Rosetta Stone–not the commercial foreign language program, but the type of Rosetta Stone that Bonaparte’s scholars used to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics. I never learned to read Calabrese dialect but I do read Italian. Here’s one example:

“DEV’ESSIRI ‘I CRITA LA PIGNATA, MU VENI ‘BBONA LA SURIACA! Per i buoni lavori, ci vogliono gli attrezzi giusti !!!! (To do a good job, you need good tools)! The same saying could be said about talent and coaching on a soccer team like La Juventus, the favorite team of my cousin Luigi. You can’t win without good players!

Sanbbenediga, Don Vittorio!

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About growingupcalabrese

Professor of French and Italian at San Diego State University
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