Radicondoli's audible clock

When we come here for our annual stay, it is not long before I become aware of the constant sounds of the town and the surrounding countryside. Here I have no need for a watch, as various sounds mark the time of day. How different it is from where we live in Dublin.




Early morning starts with the sound of the baker finishing up his shift and the first birdsong. This is followed by what can only be described as a cacophony of different pitches of “Ciao!” (often sounding more like “Miaow!”), together with the excited screaming of the bambini at the doors of the school. It all ends abruptly with the ringing of the school bell.


Throughout the day there are the bells of the church, chiming on the hour and half hour. But, for me, it can be a bit unreliable, as between the twelve rings of the bell at noon and the two at two, there are just three single bongs, half an hour apart! If there is a funeral, there is a long solemn toll. In the early evening, at a quarter to five, there is the call to mass, an insistent dong-dong-donging that goes on for about a minute. In the summer, they add another round of this, at a quarter to eight. The meaning is fairly clear (even for the non-religious); stop what you are doing: it’s time to get ready to end your day’s work.


We are lucky to have a very old chestnut tree which partly overhangs our terrace. The tree has certainly been through the wars, having been struck by lightning several times. Parts of it have died, but remarkably it seems to be like Lazarus, resurrecting with the appearance of new leafy branches and lots of chestnuts.


This tree is a magnet for all sorts of birds and animals throughout the seasons. And as we are one floor up, we get close to tree creepers, various warblers, bee eaters, blue tits, doves, robins and jays as they serenade us all day. I say serenade, but there is an exception; the jay, which for such a beautiful bird, has the worst squawk imaginable. In autumn, they are particularly raucous as they snaffle the abundant chestnut crop. One time we even had a family of owls.


Last year the tree played host to a pine marten, who used to jump onto our window sill for scraps and wasn’t a bit afraid of humans. I named him Sid (Vicious), because of his lethal reputation!


The undergrowth at the base of the tree is perfect cover for wild boar and deer, we have often heard at night the boars snuffling around or the deer barking their calls.


The tinkling of little bells announce that the sheep are moving from distant fields to the milking parlour, (this is the land of Pecorino cheese). The sound of faraway gunshots remind us that this is also a region renowned for its game, especially cinghiale (the wild boar).


On Thursdays a local political rally comes into town with a loudspeaker blaring: only of course it’s not. It’s simply the fishmonger announcing his goods as he drives into town. This also leads to a reprise of the aforementioned cacophony of ciaos as he pitches up.


Summer afternoons, swifts and swallows acrobatically swoop over our terrace screeching. I really have to marvel at their skill and am amazed that I haven’t been hit by one as they whizz by so close, I can almost feel their wings.


The evening brings everyone out for the passeggiata, and the low hum of people greeting each other and discussing the world. I am quite sure that a lot of gossiping goes on, as when they pass me in the street the hum stops dead. Sometimes voices are raised and what might sound like a heated argument is in fact a discussion about how to cook a certain dish. Food is a very important aspect of life here.


As night falls, the almost inaudible pipping of bats and machine-like owl cries punctuate the silence.


Often, if I wake during the night, I hear the hunters coming back to town with their dogs barking, drowning out the sound of the baker, as he sets to work for another day.


So, for all the ‘silence’ our visitors tell us they envy when they come; there is in fact quite a lot of hubbub.