Turn right at the bottom of strada della Liberta where the town ends and go past the stone shrine in honor of the Blessed Virgin. It's big enough to step into, and there's nobody around anyway to see you peek inside the cards believers have left impaled in their floral offerings. They ask the Mother of God fo help.
Past the shrine sits a peculiar piazza, an expanse of stone where some three dozen old wells, also made of stone, reside. The piazza and the pozzi seem must belong to an time when their position had some significance. Today they seem set in the middle of nowhere, really, on the edge of town, at the mouth of olive groves leading to Calimera three kilometers away.
The road from Martingnao to Calimera cuts through well-tended olive groves on either side. This is the path people used to take before the highway was built a little further up. It's paved and flat, except for a small downhill dip about half way. Now and then a car hurls by -- this is Italy, after all -- or maybe a jogger or a clutch of matrons wearing running shoes taking an evening constitution.
On the way, you can't help but notice stone. The fences along the road and between the groves are dry stone. The rocks are ochre, pink and white. They have been piled, who knows when, securely on top of each other and thread their way through the whole landscape. Tiny stone houses grey with age sit in the middle of an occasional empty fields.
In October the trees are becoming heavy with fruit. The harvest will take place soon.
The road ends in Calimera, home to some 3,000 families, (Unlike Martignano, Calimera has a real supermarket.) a very old woman stands struggling with a recalcitrant Dachshund. She wishes the visitor buona sera when the stranger stops to admire her dog.
Assunta is tiny, has rheumy eyes sparse white hair and a ramrod straight bearing.
As Tipi the Dachshund strains at the leash the old woman tells the stranger the dog turns 3 on Oct. 5, the same day as one of her three grandchildren, as if to explain who she would remember her dog's birthday.
Assunta was born in an impoverished town in Calabria and at 27 she jumped at a chance to work as a nanny in Rome. She lived there until 1999 when she retired and moved in with her daughter and her family. She loved Rome, she says. She found love in Rome.
When asked, Assunta reluctantly reveals the year of her birth: 1923.
After a time the two women wish each other another buona sera. The visitor turns to retrace her steps back to Martignano. Assunta resumes her struggle with Tipi.