Chewing Gum in Holy Water: Mario Valentini's Childhood in the Abruzzo Mountains
A charming, tender and vivid memoir of an Italian boyhood in a small village in post-war Italy, high in the remote Abruzzo mountains. A nostalgic, delightful read.
Set high in the heart of Italy, the Abruzzo is a region of spectacular mountains and medieval ruins, of ancient forests and lush mountain fields. Into this wild and beautiful place Mario Valentini was born.
With money short after the Second World War, at the age of just four Mario was sent to live with his uncle, a travelling priest. And so began a life of unusual freedom and wondrous adventures, roaming mountains and hilltop villages at a time when soccer balls were made from paper and wheat was cut by hand.
From meeting hungry wolves at dusk, to collapsing intoxicated inside a gigantic wine barrel and impersonating his uncle in the confessional, Chewing Gum in Holy Water shines with the exuberant daring of Mario's childhood. As he grows our young hero learns that life's lessons can come from the most of unexpected places: be it his caustic aunt, the communist who eats priests, an illusive and alluring young principessa or the irreverent wit, passion and endurance of the Abruzzo villagers.
Ever-present are the scents and tastes of the region: the smell of bubbling quince and roasting nuts from the nuns' kitchen; the crisp, smoky crusts used to seal the village oven; and the tantalising squares of golden polenta oozing tomato, garlic and oil that are Mario's breakfast.
With an uncomplicated joy for life Chewing Gum in Holy Water is a truly original tale, reminiscent of a time that was simpler and somehow richer. First published 2006.
Shortlisted for Victorian Premier's Literary Award 2007 and VPLA - Grollo Ruzzene Foundation Prize for Writing About Italians in Australia 2007.
IntroductionPart 1Chapter 1 La Suora-The NunChapter 2 Il Lupo-The WolfChapter 3 Il Pittore-The PainterPart 2Chapter 4 La Moneta-The CoinChapter 5 Il Frate e Il Gesuita-The Friar and the JesuitChapter 6 Il Garibaldino-The Red ShirtPart 3Chapter 7 Il Monsignore e il Fiume-The Monseigneur and the RiverChapter 8 La Ragazza con il Coltello-The Girl with the KnifeChapter 9 Il Tocco-The TouchChapter 10 Amore in un Campo di Papaveri Rossi-Love in a Field of Red Poppies