The Village Blackbird [1]

That which we open here might become a fixed column, open for anyone to collaborate. The title ironically alludes to the capacity of certain species of blackbird to reproduce sounds, noises, even human speech.
Our blackbird goes around the village gathering gossip, testimonies, records of episodes, facts and people of a Torricella that used to be but for the most part is no longer, thus, with the passage of time and the alternating of generations, destined to disappear even from our collective memory

by Gianni Materazzo


We asked sisters Urania and Maria D’Annunzio:

Is it true that about 70 years ago there was a sort of a popular uprising in Torricella? What do you remember about it?
Urania: “We were on the balcony of the top floor of our house, the D’Annunzio house, and we saw someone arrive who was wearing a large cloak and riding on a white horse. It was Quirino De Laurentis.”
Maria: “He was the leader.”
Urania: “I don’t remember whether they had a red flag. There were a lot of people behind him. Suddenly they began to attack the shops. It was evening. They started with Camillo Porreca’s shop. They took everything, the rolls of fabric, and they hung them from the balcony of the church.”
Maria: “It was called ‘Le terrate[2]’ ”
Urania: “And they set fire to the materials. Then they got drunk because they had looted the liquor store too. The women joined them too. The second shop to be damaged was that of Zi’ [3]Antonio Aspromonte.”

Where was this shop?
Urania: “Where the one belonging to De Stephanis used to be. The owner, Don Antonio, wasn’t in … he had gone to the Town Hall, which used to be near the Church … They (the crowd) wanted to kill him. The cousins Nicola and Antonio D’Annunzio interceded, and since Papŕ, that is Nicola, was a Socialist, he managed to calm them down and convince the people to let him (Uncle Antonio Aspromonte) go free.”
Maria: “Then they took him home scared to death.”

And what did they have against Antonio Aspromonte?
Urania: “It was because he was a “gentleman”, rich and a landlord. Uncle Antonio Aspromonte was a merchant. Then they went into Porreca’s shop, that was Gilberto’s father. The Porrecas defended themselves, throwing roofing tiles and boiling oil and resisted until a squadron of Carabinieri arrived from Lama, Lanciano and thereabouts, who scattered the crowd and sent them packing. Many were arrested, and amongst these there were many drunken women.”

In the preceding period, had there been any warning of this uprising?
Urania: “No. But we were children and knew nothing about it. We only knew that a Socialist Movement had been formed. There were two places where people held meetings in Torricella: the Casina where the important people went, men of the Right and Liberals; and the Circolo which was where Socialists met, amongst whom was Ettore Troilo. In fact when our father died, it was he who gave the funeral oration.

What part did Socialists like Ettore Troilo and your father, that is the well-to-do middle class, play in this uprising?
Urania: “They didn’t approve of it.”

And what were the consequences of the uprising?
Urania: “It ended there. They weren’t really Socialists, they were just scoundrels. They wanted to create a revolution without having made any plans. They had heard talk about Bolshevism and believed that they were able to do anything.”

What reaction did you children have?
Urania: “Fear and amusement.”

Do you remember in which year it took place?
Urania: “I think it was straight after the Great War. I was about 13 years old, so it must have been about 1919. It was summertime, I think July. I remember that Papŕ left the house and all the demonstrators followed him and he went to set free the Aspromonte family.

Were these so-called revolutionaries armed?
Urania: “No, they only had sticks and pitchforks. I think Quirino had a rifle slung over his shoulder.”

How many of them were there?
Urania: “About a hundred, especially when the women joined them. There was a certain Marziale who was a terrible leader of the people. He dragged in the others. He was a peasant.”

What did Quirino do?
Urania: “As soon as he saw the Carabinieri he fled. He rode from the Via Sant’Antonio on his horse with a throng of people, and they stopped at the D’Annunzio house and then they started to spread out. A shop very well stocked with everything, food and fabrics, was destroyed and never re-opened again. It belonged to another Porreca. It was where Toronto is now. Their nickname was Chiss’ di Calzone.”

What were they shouting?
Urania: “ ‘The Revolution!’ That is why this episode is still called by that name: ‘The Revolution’. Against the Aspromontes they shouted ‘L’em’accidere! L’em’accidere!’[4] ‘Let’s kill them! Let’s kill them!’ Everything was thrown into the middle of the street: handbags, shoes and clothing, and wine and oil were knocked over and spilled. A slimy mess…. It took a long time to clean up Torricella afterwards.”


[1] Blackbird - Order: Passeriformes, Family: Turdidae.
There are many species of Blackbird or Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) world-wide. The European blackbird, a songbird, member of the Thrush family, is familiar to most people. Adult males are all black except for the bright orange-yellow eye-ring and bill, which make them one of the most striking garden birds. The male sings its varied and melodious song from trees, rooftops or other elevated perches. The female and juvenile are all brown (lacking the bright yellow bill and eye-ring of the male).
The blackbird is a resident bird (non-migratory), common in woods and gardens over all of Europe and much of Asia. They build neat, open-cup nests in trees or shrubs, laying several (usually 4) bluish- green-grey eggs with brown reddish marks. Females generally build the nests and incubate the eggs; males help feed the young.
Blackbirds are 23.5 to 29 cm in length. They are omnivorous, eating a wide range of insects, worms and berries. They do not form flocks.
The European Blackbird is not related to North American blackbirds, such as Red-winged Blackbird or Brewer's Blackbird, which are Icterids, family Icteridae.
(The name "blackbird" is also wrongly applied to other unrelated dark coloured birds.)


Adult male Blackbird                      Adult female Blackbird

[2] ‘Le terrate’ – is dialect – meaning “la terrazza” = the terrace … in Torricella this is a small terrace just below the churchyard of the Church of S. Giacomo Apostolo.

[3] Zio (Uncle) or rather in dialect zi’ is used in Torricella as a sign of respect, especially when speaking to or about an elderly person. To be precise, for a man one uses Zi, like Zi Antonio, Zi Peppe, Zi Vincenzo etc, whilst for a woman one uses Za to be precise, Za Maria, Za Rosina etc.
In a similar way, when speaking to an important person, such as the Doctor, the Priest or the Notary Public, one uses the term “Don” for a man and “Donna” for a woman.

[4] L’em’accidere – is dialect – meaning “Li dobbiamo uccidere” = We must kill them.


Translation courtesy of Dr. Marion Apley Porreca

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