Less than an hour north of Stresa, Italy lies the little mountain town of Trontano. There are about 1,500 residents the sit high up in the mountains with a wonderful view of the valley. Residents must drive 10-minutes down narrow and windy roads to go to work, grocery shop or take care of daily errands. They even have to make the drive to take their children to school. With only 12 children registered, the local school recently closed.
To me, this mountain town is the birthplace of my grandmother. I grew up listening to tales of the castle my grandmother grew up in. The so-called “castle” is less castle and more rubble these days, but it still belongs to my Italian family.
You know the saying …
“You can lead a horse to water …?” Apparently, that has nothing to do with anything, I’ve been told. But I do have this for you.
You can take the girl out of Italy, but you can never take Italy out of the girl.
That, right there, describes my grandmother. She never forgave her mother for taking her to America when she was 14 years old. Although, without that trip through Ellis Island she would never have met my grandfather, had my mother, who in turn would never have had me.
I spent most summers with my grandmother helping her tend to her garden, cook all sorts of amazing Italian dishes in her kitchen and listening to her sing opera. You see, my grandmother was training to be an opera singer before she left Italy for America. It might be one of the reasons, she hated to leave.
I remember hiding out in her garden (often) and eating vegetables straight off the vine. As I roamed the hillside, I could see where she got her love of gardening and of being outside. She used to talk about playing in the hills. Before visiting Trontano for the first time 10 years ago, I sort of imagined it was like Maria on the hilltop in the Sound of Music. And while that image is not far off, I now can picture my grandmother when times were easier and a bit more carefree than usual.
My Italian family, Franco, Viviana, and Cinzia hosted us for a wonderful lunch and lovely walk on the hillside. I have plenty of pictures of the town but failed to document the amazing lunch prepared for us.
I admittedly sometimes get so caught up in enjoying the experience that I often forget to pull out my phone and take a picture. And while sad that I don’t have a picture of my family and the beautiful feast they prepared, it is hard to find regret in just soaking up the moments. I love the charm and old-world feel of this town that I did not even stop to take a selfie. Not one. Sigh.
Cinzia speaks good English and Viviana and Franco speak some. Cinzia loves the chance to practice her English and has someone come to stay with her and her children every summer to help them speak it better. We talked about the possibility of Carter joining them next summer at the sea. No arm-twisting needed for that job.
Between their English and Way’s Italian, we were never without something to say. I love that there is no awkward silence between us. The family bond is strong with us Italians.
As I write this, I wonder who would make the trip up the mountainside to see this little mountain village. Is it just family and friends of the townsfolk? Maybe. But if you are around Domodossola and are looking for a little escape up the hillside to experience some old world charm, I say do it!
The air is fresh, the water is cold and people still wave to passersby in this charming little village. I hear they even have a castle.