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
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’ ”
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’ 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!’ ‘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.”
 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
(The name "blackbird" is also wrongly applied to other unrelated dark
Adult male Blackbird Adult female Blackbird
 ‘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.
 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
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.
 L’em’accidere – is dialect – meaning “Li dobbiamo uccidere” = We must