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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Italian Butt Pinchers Extinct, but Kissers Abundant

Italian men: Cyclists in Castrocaro Terme, military man (below)
Butt pinchers are extinct, according to random interviews with Italian women during my first days in Italy. Before they disappeared from their habitat, some women I know who traveled to Italy in the 1980s or earlier say they witnessed (or felt) the butt pinchers.

"Now, NO !” exploded Jovanna when I asked her about the butt pinchers. “Italian women are stronger now. All over the world, women are stronger,” she exclaimed, clenching her fist. “Italian men treat women with respect. They are romantic now.”

 I spoke to Jovanna, singer and animator for the Meldola Jazz Band, after the band’s performance on an outdoor stage in the small town Castrocaro Terme.

Italian men: Mauricio, wholesale wine vendor from Forli, man reading on stairs to castle ( below)
There on Notte Celeste I received a kiss al italiano from Mauro the trumpet player. But I am getting ahead of my story.

That evening light blue (celestial) balloons adorned every pillar and storefront downtown (photo, bottom of post.) To my questions about the reason for Notte Celeste (Celestial Night), people would say, “It is just that.. We are having a festa

So the festa started, and a fire eater pranced to the beat of drums. Japanese-Italians in kimonos from the Japanese Cultural Association in Florence hosted a crafts booth, and a troupe from the nearby medieval village of Terra del Sole put on a Renaissance drum and dance performance.

Meanwhile on an outdoor stage, the 20-piece Meldola Jazz Band swung into 1940s Glenn Miller songs, then played “The Girl from Ipanema,” and a crowd of 300 or so clapped heartily to the beat. My dancing feet could not stay still.
Jovanna picked me out of the crowd and spoke in Italian. I covered my face bashfully with my celeste-colored scarf, but she kept pointing at me and talking. I said, “Non parlo italiano.”
Castrocaro Terme was adorned with blue balloons for Notte Celeste

Men in Terra del Sole

Then a man emerged from the crowd to explain to me in English: “For being the  liveliest person in the audience, you won a prize, a kiss from the trumpet player.”

After the show, I went to the stage to claim my prize. I met Mauro, an olive-skinned man, perhaps around 45, and 5 feet 2 inches tall with long, dark hair and a radiant smile. Pointing to his mouth and then to mine, he asked in Italian if he could give me a kiss. I said “si” and pointed to my cheek.

When I met Mauro, I had been in Italy just 36 hours, but his gentle kiss was already my second. The first bacio was from a man I shall call Signor di Milano (because he is married).
He said in Italian, “What the heart does not see, the heart does not feel.” I understood him because I speak similar languages, Spanish and Portuguese.

 The heart he was referring to was his wife’s heart, which was far away in Milano. The elderly man then squeezed my cheeks with his hand and grabbed a kiss in a corridor of Hotel Eden.

 A few days later, I thought about Signor de Milano when a choral group sang about the Italian tradition of infidelity. The group, Il fascino dell’ Operatta, included in its program, “E Scabroso Le Donne Studiar” ( It is Difficult to Understand Women.)
They sang love songs into the night in a park at Piazzi d’Armi by the side of yet another neighborhood castle ( Palazzio Pretorio) in the medieval village, Terra del Sole.
The choir of 25, men in tuxedoes and women in long gowns, sequined and dazzling red and turquoise and pink, celebrated with their music the many dimensions of love. “With passione,” said  Romeo Signani, one of the choir’s soloists. Indeed, Love is a Many Splendored Thing (L’Amore E Una Cosa Meravigliosa. )

And now after more than 10 days in the Emila-Romagna region, I am a veteran recipient of kisses. I did not come to be kissed; I came here because I am among the so-called “bloggers” selected for a subsidized stay in “Blogville,” a project sponsored by the Emilia-Romagna Tourism Board. ( )

Meanwhile as I received more kisses, I remembered Jovanna’s words about Italian men treating women with respect.

In fact, her colleague Mauro requested permission before giving me two more baci (kisses), one on each cheek, as he exited the stage. Then he went into the jasmine-scented Notte Celeste, carrying an instrument case in one hand. With the other hand he waved with exaggerated flourishes while saying, “bella, bella”...
Story and photos by Carola C. Reuben, earthy reporter, copyright, 2012

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