Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Mayor of San Secondo

Perched on the top of a hill a couple dozen kilometers north of Asti in the heart of the Monferrato is the tiny village of Villa San Secondo. San Secondo, as the name implies is not the first name of this hilltop sanctuary. The original name was Cossombrato, but 600 years ago the lord of Cossombrato decided he couldn’t get along with the people of the village and he decided to move lock, stock and castle-keep to the neighboring hilltop and retain the name of Cossombrato, leaving the village temporarily nameless and lordless. Being resourceful and practical, the village people quickly allied with the powerful town Asti and took the new name of "Villa San Secondo d‘Asti" which was soon shortened to Villa San Secondo. They also decided they could do without a new lord…thank you very much and they tore down the old castle and built their homes with the salvaged bricks and stones. You have to hand it to these folks, they were certainly able to make the best out of a bad situation.

Little has changed in San Secondo over the last 600 years and not much happens that would cause a media blitz. Life is slow and easy just the way the villagers like it, church is well attended and there are a few new building projects each year that help provide a slowly changing village landscape. There is however one very noticeable feature in San Secondo and that is the town hall, which is currently completely shrouded in scaffolding. I am told the loving and long-running restoration of the old hall is the project of the affable town Mayor “Luca Marchetti”. Luca is a jolly fellow that I liked immediately upon introduction and even more so when I heard his “story”. Luca is very proud of “his” town and works very hard on its behalf. “Hello, how do you do? Nice to meet you.” he said to me in very good English and then, in Italian, immediately told my friend…a resident of the town, to be sure and give me some of the free postcards of Villa San Secondo which are available in the town hall and then off he went in a cloud of blue cigarette smoke.

Regardless of all other details, Lucca is a promoter, and a damn good one at that. One day, through the gossip line, Lucca got wind that a Canadian couple intend to rent a village house for a week or so in February. As luck would have it, this is not just “any” Canadian couple…. the “misses” is none other than the Canadian entry for the women’s speed-skating competition in the Winter Olympics in Turin. Even in San Secondo, everyone knows that winter sports are not taken lightly by the Canadians and there is every hope that she might provide a more promising opportunity for victory than the luckless local football club in Turin. So Luca decided that the Canadian flag must be flown over the town hall so “all the world will see a sign of our solidarity with Canada and know that all of San Secondo will be watching and cheering for our Canadian skater!”

We can’t say with any certainty who will win the women’s speed-skating competition this year, but I hope for Villa San Secondo’s sake it will be Canada. I can also say that I am looking forward to spending a little more time getting to know the pretty little village of San Secondo and especially its colorful mayor!


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