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Norma, not Normal.

Norma, my ancestral hometown in the Italian province of Lazio, is anything but normale. It is an ancient hill town- where the NEWER part of town was built in the 12th century! Where my many cousins speak Italian, and a specialized Romanese dialect. Where an evening passiegata turns into a family reunion every night.

I grew up in a very small town, but this paese piccolo is very different. First, as in all of Italy, everyone takes a stroll in the evening and eats dinner late. They love to socialize and prende un caffe quickly, but linger on the street. Cars are not king, but they are plenty. There is not a single smooth surface on the street- be it brick, stone or pavement. The food is ALL local, seasonal and artisinal. You know the person who makes your cheese, grows your vegetables, and butchers your animali.

My father and I have spent two incredible days so far here, and he's about ready to buy a house in "the Narrows" (the old neighborhood with stone streets too narrow for a car)! He loves the relaxed lifestyle, the way everyone walks and socializes, and the quality of the food and coffee. Just the drive up the hill from Latina (where the train station is located) to Norma is unbelievable- switchback, hairpin turns for half an hour. My cousin Anna drives this route every day for work- along with many residents of the town- because there are few jobs in the old comune.

The switchback road up the mountain is visible in the middle ground:

The ancient garden of Ninfa and its lake- a paradise of a garden that we will visit soon:

We took many photos from the top of the hill, and later in the evening- the view from her house of the old centro storico. After dinner, my father showed Zia Lolla and the other cousins the family photos he brought from home:

Norma last night at sunset:

Norma, from Anna's house, this morning in the clearing mist:

And this morning, cousin Anna surprised us with a visit to Antica Norba, the ancient community on the hill ABOVE Norma- which is Pre-Roman, from around the 2nd century. Our distant cousin Beatrice went to university for archaeology, and works at the site on excavations, and at the historical museum in town. She gave us an extensive tour.

An excavated street, complete with sidewalks, raised stone crosswalks, and the homes of wealthy Norbani.

A view of the style of house the Norbani owned (called a domus):

Norma in the distance beyond the ancient site- the oldest part is farthest away.

Partially excavated stone street.

The public baths, which were later used by people like my grandfather to house farm animals!

My dad (literally) on top of the world. :)

Yep, I have few words to describe this profound experience. I think the pictures say it all this time. A dopo, amici!

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