According to Carlo Levi, the famed author of, Christ Stopped at Eboli,
Mussolini callously referred to the Italian area south of Naples as,
"No-Man's-Land." He, and others before him, saw that area of Italy as a
remote land of rugged mountains and dark forests where primitive and
savage people lived and fought, and where the possibility of visitors
risking their lives would have been quite high.
from the southernmost part of "No-Man's-Land."
born in a small town in Old Calabria, the southernmost Region of the
Italian South, where for centuries few foreigners thought of ever
visiting, given its distance from the major Italian tourist centres and
the dark and frightening images the word "Calabria" elicited in people's
today in 2015, there are maps of Italy where my town of Capistrano is not
to be found. It is definitely there between the two sister towns of San
Nicola and Monterosso, but Capistrano might still be invisible, as I
found out when I recently perused a map given to me by my Automobile
in summary, I come from "nowhere" in "No-Man's-Land." Not a very
flattering assessment of my origins.
yet, Capistrano has always been there under the oppressive Calabrian sun,
peopled with a great many unique, dynamic, kind and intelligent people
striving daily to eke out a living from the parched and rugged land at the
feet of the Serre mountains in Central Calabria.
Capistrano has always been there; tranquil at times–violent at other
times. It was most beautiful and welcoming to the strangers who rarely
came to visit; but it was not always kind to its own children that for
generations struggled to survive in a beautiful but frugal land.
in this unknown town filled with contrasts that I was born in the early
fifties, and it is this special town that I hope will embrace you and hold
you tightly, as you read this book; for this book is not just the
autobiography of someone who wants to share a joyful past; this is the
autobiography of someone who witnessed the most wonderful acts of kindness
from people who justly deserved the title of saints, juxtaposed with
incomprehensible acts of violence by people who acted like devils and left
behind unspeakable pain.
was life in my town in Old Calabria, when I was young. Was it typical of
all of Calabria? No, it was not. Some Calabrian towns never experienced
the traumas that my little town had to endure, but other towns in the
southernmost part of the Region saw similar violence–and more. That
violent phase in my town's existence has been over for decades; it is
unfortunately quite pervasive in other areas of Calabria–and
there are no signs that it is close to the end.
this book is not just the result of my need to help my children understand
the forces that shaped their sombre father. It is also an attempt to help
the children of Calabria - they who descend from this beautiful and
tortured land - to understand their parents, their grandparents or even
their great grandparents and to shed some light on the cultural forces
that shaped them and that may have had a lingering effect even on they who
descend from them, many decades later.
my previous historical works which explored Calabria's amazing history, I
am now offering the reader a new gift; but this gift is not the result of
digging deep into the historical layers of my land; this is the result of
digging deep into the layers of my mind and of painfully re-living several
traumatic moments no child should ever be subject to.
share the joyful and the painful recollections, I also hope to share some
relevant observations and some precious lessons that I believe are worth
Under a Lion Sun
is an honest and transparent account of what was and what in some cases
still is the reality of a region of the Western world where the civil
rules of life do not always apply; where fear and injustices still raise
their ugly heads, limiting the great potential of a bright and energetic
to Calabria, then. Welcome to my beloved Capistrano, and may you be
greatly enlightened by my honest sharing of what my eyes have seen and my
ears have heard in a non-existent town in "No-Man's-Land" in the
southernmost part of Italy.
There is only one master in Capistrano. It rules like a
merciless potentate–like a pagan god who demands fear and respect. It –
not the saints nor the revered Madonna worshipped in the main church – has
the pre-eminence. It is the supreme lord. For centuries it has shaped its
people's future and moulded their temperament. Most of the year, it
cruelly scorches people and land. When its power and pride reach the
highest point, its weary subjects refer to it as, “Il Sol Leone” (The Lion
Sun), a name which implies lordship and cruelty–to be feared and to be
My people live under this lord and master all year long. In
winter, it briefly slumbers, as if to regain its strength and vigour; but
as the month of April and May approach, it wakes up seemingly more
determined than ever to remind its subjects that he – and only he – is
master; and that he – and only he – will shape the months ahead.
I lived under its authority and power for fourteen years,
from 1953 to 1967. I have been reminded of its authority and power
multiple times, as I returned several times to my beloved Calabria to see
my relatives, my friends and the places I hold so near to my heart.
It is because of the Calabrian sun's fierceness and its
power over its subjects all year long that I chose to title this book
Under a Lion Sun; for all you will read took place under its force and
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