It’s interesting to observe that almost all truly worthy men have simple manners, and that simple manners are almost always taken as a sign of little worth. Giacomo Leopardi

A 40 minute drive separates me from Giacomo Leopardi’s hometown of Recanati (Italian pronunciation: rekaˈnaːti). I find myself thinking of his words quite often. Sometimes I recognize them in the people I meet. 

Those “simple manners” that Giacomo Leopardi illustrates in words, captured my heart the moment I set foot in Grottazzolina. That was about ten years ago when I was invited to present my first book. A beautiful winter evening spent among people I had only just met but who helped me feel at home, at ease. 

The subject of my book, geared towards teenaged readers, was arduous. A parallelism between mafia and bullying. The latter had been a first-hand experience for me, when I was 12 years old. I travelled through schools and towns all over Italy for nearly 5 years with that book, telling my story. Not an easy thing to do but surely a healing experience. I was always greeted with kindness, always, by everyone, wherever I went. Yet, there was something different about Grottazzolina. It made me feel safe and accepted. No effort needed, I could be myself. That crowded room inside the town parish, full of children, parents, grandparents, teachers, students, associations and friends who had come from nearby places had the distinct scent of community. A tightly knit one at that. Not something that’s easy to come by anymore. 

Throughout the years this ancient hamlet nestled in the heart of the province of Fermo halfway between the Adriatic Sea and the Sibillini Mountains has become my second home and, if you ever get the chance, I highly recommend a visit. It’s nice at any time of the year, but if you’re into festivals, culture, traditions and food the best time to come is during the summer. 

A well-deserved break during a biking event in Grottazzolina. Photo by Andrea Traini on Girovagando Grotta’s Facebook page.

Biking in Grottazzolina. Photo by Andrea Traini from Girovagando Grotta’s Facebook page. 

The tower with the clock is Grottazzolina’s City Hall. Although it seems like a construction from medieval times, building was only completed in 1926. Unlike the rest of the town which saw it’s first settlers during the 7th century B.C. 

Photo from Girovagando Grotta’s Facebook page. Flower festival in Grottazzolina June 2023. 

Every year during the month of June, all over Italy, town streets are decorated using various parts of flowers. This is done to celebrate the Catholic recurrence called Corpus Domini. The solemnity, more properly called solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, is one of the principal solemnities of the liturgical year of the Catholic Church. Whether you’re religious or not, it’s quite a sight!

I would love to be able to convey the feeling, and the atmosphere there is in Grottazzolina. Walking along the cobblestone roads, between walls that have witnessed history, where civilizations left their imprint, somehow fostering us to the present, gives a profound meaning to words like: conservation and appreciation. Taking pride in our heritage means taking care of our homes outside our houses. That’s exactly what I see when I walk through Grottazzolina in the early afternoon, when silence is only broken by dogs barking in the distance. I stop to admire the view and rest in the shade. I am surrounded by the aroma of food and flowers, by the sound of leaves rustling in the cool September breeze. Dishes, pots and pans can be heard clanking from open windows. Families are having lively conversations around the table as the midday news blares on the TV. 

A bunch of us having something to eat before hosting an anti-mafia conference last May. We were at a country house called “Montebello”. The food you see is all local and traditional. Photo by my dear friend Angelo.

My friends from Grottazzolina tell me: “Don’t think everything here is perfect because it’s far from it. We have our problems too.” 

The key is not to expect perfection. The key is to feel enough love to bring positive change for all where it is needed. It’s to find solutions that stem from common values even where there are differences that can divide. It’s choosing everyone’s well-being over our own, over individuality. When this happens, beauty in its facades shines through problems and difficulties like a guiding light. That’s when good things not only become possible, they happen.

Grottazzolina and sunflowers. Photo by Felicano Monti from Girovagando Grotta’s Facebook page.

Grottazzolina is doing something extraordinary for the times we live in. It is progressing in a beautifully human way. 

To the right is the Mayor of Grottazzolina Alberto Antognozzi. To the left is the Vice-Mayor of Grottazzolina Giorgio Litantrace. Great people! Photo from the Comune di Grottazzolina’s (Grottazzolina’s City Hall) Facebook page. 

Enjoy the video! If you happen to stop by Grottazzolina give us a shout.