...continued from The Italianista and the Dilapidated Castle http://rominaartsandculture.blogspot.ca/

Oooffa…andiamo al bar…al fresco!' A woman’s voice bellowed out beyond the gatehouse. In response to this lament were roars of laughter coming from the same direction. Since she sounded especially friendly, insofar as inviting everyone to join her for a drink at the local bar, I decided I felt comfortable enough approaching this lively crew.

I dusted off my shorts and patted down my newly incurred hairdo, courtesy of a wire mesh lurking above a doorway in the castello. I extracted a twig from my inner ear and began to make my way to the site. I silently prayed that I looked presentable, bloodied limbs notwithstanding. After all, I was going to be encountering some serious professionals.

There were tools scattered about as well as buckets and enormous piles of dirt. The closer I got the more I was taken aback by man’s interference with nature’s harmonic tapestry. This portion of the hilltop, as I had known it since childhood, was no longer inundated with bountiful fruit trees, lush shrubs and Bouganvilla but instead looked like an urban construction site. I saw several young men and women down on their knees, chiseling at the earth and gently brushing away the remaining dust. I cleared my throat. ‘Buongiorno!' I shouted nervously.

Suddenly all heads turned in my direction. I was received with blank stares and insipid grins. Dismissing me, the group looked downward towards the earth and resumed their task at hand. My Grandmother had been right, I was already a nuisance and I had only just arrived. Reluctantly, I began to make my way toward the road. Suddenly I heard, ‘Aspetti!’ I turned and saw a girl come toward me. She was saturated from top to bottom in sweat and dirt and wore a protective scarf around her head to block the sun’s powerful rays. She was young. I always envisioned archaeologists to be as ancient as the relics they uncovered. Smiling she introduced herself as Natascia Fasiolo, a local archaeologist. Would I like a quick briefing on the objectives of this project?
‘I can’t impose. You’re so busy!’

‘You’re not imposing. It’s a pleasure. I wish more people would come up here and show interest’
I was surprised to learn that Natascia and her team from the Universities of Milan and Udine had excavated a water cistern along with its channels dating all the way back to the Roman occupation and were currently unearthing a three-tier wall that encircled the entire mount from base to peak. As we toured the grounds, she explained the metamorphism of this human settlement from its Celtic birth, to a Roman military castrum and then as a medieval fortezza and residence. I told Natascia that my desire was to learn more about the techniques concurrent with the excavation process. I explained to her that I had never pursued my dream of Archaeology.

‘It’s a hard career. No one appreciates what you do. No one cares’, she said sullenly.

It was then that Natascia invited me to participate. Was she certain…and when could I start?! Yes, she just needed some time to obtain a special permit from one of the universities. But I had no skills…no experience! Not to worry, she would teach me.

Out of breath and clearly elated, I rolled down the hill, into the village and back into my grandmother’s kitchen to drink limonata and recount the afternoon events to both her and my mother.

‘I can never go back to ordinary life after this!’ I told them.

A week later I was a volunteer on site. Natascia taught me how to gently break ground using a pickaxe. How to delicately remove and brush away centuries of earth to reveal the ancient Roman stone that lay covertly waiting underneath. She taught me how to sift the discarded dirt through the shaker screen, in case anything of interest should present itself. Natascia showed me how she had tediously mapped and recorded every nook and cranny of stone with intricate detail.
During my interim as a volunteer I personally uncovered a significant portion of a Roman wall, discovered large pieces of amphora (ancient vessels for drink) and a few delicate bone fragments. The group ended up being an amiable bunch after all; archaeology students from Lebanon, Egypt, Albania and Armenia. At times I would stop what I was doing just to relish in the moment. I wanted to be aware and appreciative that I was experiencing a rarity, when one surreally finds himself consciously living a dream.

Every evening before sundown I would descend the hill and walk the streets toward home. The locals gasped as they saw that my skin was black as soot and my knees ablaze and red as a Sodona sunset! Unfortunately Natascia forgot to mention that I would require knee pads. By the end of my inaugural expedition both my knees bled from sheer rawness and throughout the remainder of my holiday I would wear bandages wrapped around the middle of both my legs.

My involvement in the dig had raised eyebrows and in turn had stirred a renewed interest from the local community. I became a conversation piece and had to endure endless teasing from friends and family until I could not stand it any longer.

‘You should all be ashamed of yourselves! If we discovered something of this magnitude in Toronto it would become a shrine!’
Presently the Castello Savorgnan is a museum dedicated to the Castrum Artenia Exhibition featuring the artifacts painstakingly unearthed from underneath two thousand years of debris, all researched and categorized by Natascia and her team. This museum has sparked pride and deeper unity within the community and her achievement is finally recognized. Natascia also unknowingly altered the course of my life. At Castrum Artenia I helped uncover history but I also discovered the meaning of satisfaction. I had finally recognized the true power of manifestation. If you want a dream to become a reality, all you have to do is release your fear and truly believe. Once in awhile I’ll glance down at my knees. Four years later, I am still proudly displaying the scars of my passion.

Me and Natascia