Renato Nicassio last June wrote a blog on the ethic and spirit of Chiringuito, apparently a preferred spot in the city of Bari, Italy where people escape the summer heat.
This is my answer to Renato’s blog.
Introduction To Bar Gatto Verde
In the same town of Renato’s Chiringuito, Bari, Italy, in the upper area of the city at the corner of Viale J.F. Kennedy with Via Giulio Petroni, very near to Poggiofranco, there was a small bar called Gatto Verde. The tiny coffee shop (in Italian called bar, which confuses tourists looking for a dark place where to spend a few hours drinking hard liquors) sold the usual espresso, cappuccino, cornetti (croissants) always consumed standing up among a crowd trying to wake up in the morning rush hours. The bar also sold ice cream but that was reserved for the afternoon stroll and Peroni beer that most tourists would describe it as camel piss. Later when the bar made a little profit became a pizzeria with a modern seating area American style making it almost a luxurious pizza place.
(View Of Gatto Verde Cafe’-Bar- daytime)
Just like the Chiringuito, young people, mostly “nulla tenenti” meaning students and young workers at their first job, gathered every night outside the Gatto Verde. Even though Bari is a city on the Adriatic Sea, there, at the Gatto Verde we didn’t even get a swift of the salty water, too far to reach. You must know that distances in Italy are felt as a bubonic plague. Living in America now, I can drive 300 miles in one day to reach a client or a supplier, in Bari it’s s burden to drive or walk 30 minutes to downtown from Viale Kennedy.
(View Of Gatto Verde Cafe’-Bar- nighttime)
Chapter 1 and only one
There was nothing to admire at the corner of that intersection except a gas station directly across from Gatto Verde, tall modern apartment buildings sharing the same road with two storey, old small buildings and a series of utilitarian stores, fruit vendor, butcher, bread store, fish place, hardware, notion store, a photographer and a pagoda style Catholic Church, so much criticized when it was built. It was a corner without history or identity, like you say in your article about the Chiringuito.
There was nothing to admire, no palm trees, no one row of cafés and restaurant on the promenade, no Maserati driving by, nor handsome lads to drool for, nothing of nothing and the air was polluted just as at the Chiringuito, only a different pollution made by exhaust fans from cars, trucks, motor scooters and people’s loud voices. However, my group of friends met every night after 7:00 pm at the usual Gatto Verde and we were lot of us. At times we shared a couple of Peroni beer between 15 people as we couldn’t afford a beer per person, other times someone offered a cup of espresso to their best friends, but we met for the pleasure of meeting old and new friends. Among our group someone owned some used cars and most of the times we didn’t go anywhere, gasoline was too expensive even then. We stayed in the cars, sometimes we stuffed ten people in a small Fiat, to talk and laugh until our stomach muscles hurt either for the crunched up position or for the real laughter.
We spent the best hours there at the Gatto Verde, when it was just a small coffee shop. Many puppy loves and many serious relationships happened at that location. At Gatto Verde we didn’t say H & G (hi and by), we discussed real society matters and resolved personal challenges while we made a lot of cigarette smoke. Coffee cups being banged on the counter and in the sink was our background music. Imprinted in my head there are still our conversations; we struck friendship I can count on to these days, even though Oceans divide us.
“Why people go to such a place as the Chiringuito” or “We go to the Chiringuito because everybody goes there” and “What else do you want to do at night?” These are questions you raised, my dear Renato. My answers are simple. People go to Chiringuito or Gatto Verde because of the desire to cocoon with other people and especially because there is a lack of activities in that city from the dawn of time. How about the Mediterranean mentality? Don’t you think it has a lot to do with it?
a. The Mediterranean people tend to gather at night in places where there is noise, confusion and a lot of people wondering around without a program.
b. Mediterranean people go out after 8:00pm and live through the night, whether there is something or nothing to do. As long as there are people around and whether they know them or not, it doesn’t matter, they allow boredom to take place, this way they can feel miserable together.
c. Mediterranean people don’t eat under the sun rays, they eat under the moonlight, thus restaurants are full at midnight through early hours of the morning and empty in the late afternoon/early evening.
d. Mediterranean people are always tired in the morning, rushing to work and are unpleasant until lunchtime because they burn energies through the small hours of the night.
As alternative to places like Chiringuito or Gatto Verde, Mediterranean people could visit museums, or participate to cultural events, could visit art galleries or support the liberal arts, or could appreciate theatre art: opera, ballet and plays. What better activities then painting in a group, gathering to learn new cooking skills, or take classes on arts and crafts? Sport anyone that is not soccer on Sunday?
But none of that happens, Mediterranean people live in the street, the street is their theatre, it’s there where they show their art of coquetry and put it to a good use.
I was part of that ‘What else is there to do?” In that city, nothing is happening now just as much nothing happened then. I had the chance, since my transfer to California, to talk to Italian emigrants, who moved abroad like I did. My question always aimed to know the reason why they moved since they came from beautiful cities the world admires, like Florence, Rome, or Capri. Their answer was: “One can’t live with bread and love only”.
Well, at least I had the excuse of coming from Bari, a beautiful postcard city with little substance and huge believe in friendship and family ties.
As far as Gatto Verde, my group of friends left that meeting point when it became pretentious and attracted a different crowd. We were people with ideals, goals, things to do and we were not static. Some of us when to different part of the city, some others went to breath a different air abroad. That different crowd that took our place, contributed to the closing down of Gatto Verde, I guess they weren’t the crowd leaders we were and not as exciting as we were.
The Chiringuito will continue to exist as long as static people will frequent it. Ciao,
Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer working in the USA and Europe since 1990, specializing in kitchen, bath, wine cellar, and outdoor kitchen designs. Often people describe her as “the colorist” as she loves to color her clients’ world and loves to create the unusual. “Vogue” magazine and many prominent publications in California featured Valentina’s work. She also has made four appearances on T.V. Comcast Channel 15. Author of three published books, the latest RED – A Voyage Into Colors is on the subject of colors.