“Close your eyes,” my grandmother said, “I’m going to tell you about a magical place. Once upon a time….”
“Is this a fairy tale?” I asked curiously.
“No,” she responded with a sweet smile while she rolled up the blankets. “This place really exists, and its called Raggiolo.”
“Imagine the sound of running water: gurgling, bouncing, splashing, flowing from boulder to boulder, as pure as crystal. It comes down from the Teggina and Barbozzaia torrents, which eventually join together and encircle a small village. The sound of the water reverberates under the Usciolino bridge, which they say was even able to support the weight of Hannibal’s elephants.”
“Really?! Elephants?! How many were there?” I asked, amazed.
“Thousands. All of them on the bridge, and although it’s small, it’s still there. And you can see Raggiolo from it! Protected from behind by the Pratomagno, which casts snow storms when it gets angry, Raggiolo still preserves the character of an enchanted village.”
“Oh yes. Small houses, carved from stone, gathered together like a herd from down near via Molino all the way up to via Campi, only accessible on foot: that’s Raggiolo, like a nativity scene.”
“Like a nativity scene?!”
“Every house, a light and a fireplace….and the smoke that rises smells like chestnuts.
“Chestnuts are delicious!”
“In the forests around Raggiolo there are millions of them! And the village gets its name from the local variety: the Raggiolana chestnut.
“And who lives in this village?” I asked, captivated.
“Oh, this is the best part: Raggiolatti!”
“Who are they?! Tell me grandma, please!”
“A proud, quiet and shy people, but who had a way with words that could capture your attention:
Raggiolatti were educated. They were free spirits and were never under anyone else’s control. In their town, they dictated the law.
“More or less. But Raggiolatti are real.”
“And where do they come from?”
“There are those who say Corisca, like Napoleon Bonaparte, the Emperor. But Raggiolatti were there even before! At least since a Count built a castle, right in the village.”
“A Castle? With a tower and everything?”
“With the tower and everything: Count Guido Novello, he was called.”
I was already dreaming of dragons and knights and sleep was about to overtake me.
“Raggiolo, can you bring me? You know how to get there, right?”
Grandma pulled a folded handkerchief out of her pocket; she started to open it and I saw that it was an old map, like a treasure map, and there were drawings on it: in the middle of a sea of green chestnut and beech forests, there were a series of small, red rectangles, all grouped together at the end of a street: they were the roofs of Raggiolo.
“Ohhh! So it really exists!” I dreamily exclaimed.
“I told you,” she replied with a smile. Then she kissed me on the forehead and turned off the lights, whispering, “Go to sleep now. I will bring you soon, I promise.” And she began to sing a sweet lullaby:
“Pesta Menghino ti darò la mela… Menghino un vol pestar perché un’è in vena... Canta Menghino ti darò una noce, Menghino un vol cantar perché un’ ha voce…”