Fiorino Pera
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Ancient ruins discovered

By Fiorino Pera, 2010-07-05
The prince has been dropping hints to me to explore the estate, but this morning he told Rico and I that his builders had uncovered some ancient ruins near the seaside.

Rico and I did not know what to make of the prince's conversation with us. When the adults are around, the Prince warns us to be careful because there are many dangers at the port, in the hills, in the forest. When there are no adults around, he tells us about fantastic places that we should explore. Rico figures that the prince says what the grownups want to hear when they are near, but that he really wants us to go and explore.

So this morning he was very enthusiastic in giving every detail about the ancient ruins. There is a new science called 'archaeology' that looks for ruins as evidence of life in the past. How exciting that we have ruins right on our own estate. These could point to the presence of something bigger.

Early this morning, when we met some other friends at the docks, Rico and I decided to explore. Stella was there and Santi and Rosaria. Yes! Santi and Rosaria finally arrived from Venezia!! I was so glad to see them - and wanted to take them all over the estate. We went through the gardens and then through the woods and that is when Rico saw them: the ancient ruins!

Rico cheers as he discovers the ancient ruins

As exciting as the ruins seemed to be, we could only ask one another: what are they? what do they mean? Our friends were not shy about jumping up on the ancient stone floor to examine this find. Stella, who had made friends with a parrot since coming to Melioria, was the least shy of us. She touched every pillar, and traced her fingers over the inscriptions on the center column. The images seem to be of a god, she mused, but I cannot tell which one.

Santi snorted. That just looks like some man getting out of a bath. It does not seem to be a god to me. That's when I stepped closer. I did not know what to think. The sculpture seemed to be of a man that was standing among huge serpents. Who was that man? What could it mean?

Fiorino examines the ancient sculpture

Unlike Stella, I was careful not to touch it. It was a good thing, for just then I heard a woman clear her throat. Do not touch that, Fiorino, she said. I turned around to discover that the Contessa Rezzonico was standing at the edge of the stone floor. I jumped to my feet.

The Contessa Faustina Savorgnan ved. Rezzonico often visits the orphanage where I was brought up. Her palace is almost connected to it. That is why she knows us all by name. But I did not realize she was in Melioria, much less that she had been watching us.

The Contessa Rezzonico had been watching the young friends and approached

What have you discovered? Is it safe to touch this, do you suppose?, she asked us with a certain tone in her voice, as if to say beware, there is danger here and you must be prudent .

Santi spoke up first: Good day, Contessa! It seems to be very solid. There is no danger here.

It is not physical danger that concerns me, the Contessa said in that very even tone that we knew meant she did not approve. The ancients did not expect children to be climbing on their altars. There are things here that are not for you.

Altar?, Stella echoed. Is this a church? It is a strange kind of an altar if it is, she said, turning around to survey the stone circle again. But the Contessa repeated her warning. It is better not to touch these sorts of places.

Contessa Rezzonico warns of moral danger.

Within a few moments, Stella followed the Contessa up the hill and into the village. Santi, Rico and I waited until they were out of sight before venturing back on to the stone platform. A soft sea breeze rustled through the trees, whispering to us to ignore the warnings we had received. This will make a perfect headquarters for us, Santi exclaimed. We can call all the boys to meet here and make our plans while we are away from Venice. This could be our headquarters!.

Rico looked at Santi but did not say anything. Really, they barely knew each other. No matter, Santi went on with plans to organize all the exiled kids and prepare to defend the group. I did not know what he was trying to say. I kept looking at Rico, who kept looking at the ancient, pagan altar. A cold wind blew over us and I saw Rico shiver. Santi did not notice. Maybe the contessa is right, my friends, Rico said. We should be careful about this place.

Rico's statement was accompanied by another cold blast of wind from the sea. We knew it was time to leave, and walked back through the woods and into the village.

The boys make their plans to make the ruins their headquarters
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Homesick kitchen helper

By Fiorino Pera, 2010-07-04
When we were in Venezia it felt like everything was easier. I knew everyone in our area of Dorsoduro, rich and poor. Every day I would go to the fish market where I knew the fishermen; I knew all the gondoliers and I knew every short-cut in the area of the Rialto bridge. I could greet everyone and know whether I was to give them the highest respect or whether I could tease and joke with them. I knew most of the orphans, most of the street boys, and most of the officers in the Guardia. Most were my friends and I have to say that I liked them all and enjoyed to be with them.

Fiorino is homesick for Venezia

Now, I do not wish to complain about Melioria. It is incredibly beautiful. The gardens are open to all of us, and the air that flows in from the sea is fresh and pure. I love to watch the dock workers and the Prince himself has almost made me his special helper, for he gives me many jobs, big and little, to fulfill for him. If I did not have so much nostalgia for Venice, the villa and the village of Melioria would be perfect.

Nostalgia How i miss my Venice!

That is why when I see someone from the city that I knew before, I am always happy, overjoyed, festive! I go crazy with happiness. And today I saw two people that I did not expect to see: the Contessa Elena Foscari and Ambassador Count Loredan.

The Contessina Foscari was sitting quietly in Villa Vesuviana when I came inside with some supplies for the Signorina Cece, who cooks for the count. Signorina Cece is a wonderful cook, but she is not so gentle. She yelled at me for being late. I said it was not my fault that Nella the Asinella refused to climb the hill and I had to carry the supplies up on my back. My excuses did not impress the Signorina Cece who said she would have slapped me for my insolence if she had time, and told me to empty the beans from the sack into three bowls. This I did, and more, for I did not want to displease Cece.

Cece meets Fiorino as he comes up the stairs into the kitchen

The Prince has often told me: Never displease the cook!. I was afraid that it was too late. As diligently as I tried to do everything that Cece told me, I only continued to make a mess. This, of course, only displeased the cook more. What is troubling you, child?, Cece demanded: Why are you in such a tizzy today? But I only fumbled the bowl that I was stirring and risked spilling the contents all over the floor.

Santo Cielo!, Cece exclaimed. I keep telling the Prince to send me girls to work in this kitchen and not these thoughtless, awkward boys! They only learn how to work when you hit them into place. Thats when they learn.

Just as Cece pulled out her rolling pin, the Contessa Foscari came into the kitchen. In the sweetest of voices, the Contessina told the cook that I was needed outside .

Never displease the cook, the Prince has told Fiorino

Cece gave her permission, and the Contessina brought me on to the steps that lead out to the garden. I was very glad to see the Contessa Foscari and wanted to give her a hug, but I knew this was not proper. Still, I wasted no time and immediately asked her if she knew whether the other orphans were going to leave Venezia or stay behind. The Contessa told me that they were all on their way, for Monsignore the Patriarca has secured passage for every one of them .

This was very good news, and I was going to ask more questions about my friends, but just then Count Loredan came walking towards the villa with his own sister, the Contessa Selina. I have known the Conte di Loredan ever since I could remember. Sometimes he even asked me to groom his horse and he allowed me to go with him when he brought out his falcon for hunting at times. He is very intelligent and wise about the world, and has always been very interested in us orphans. In fact, his palace was just across the lane from the orphanage.

The Conte di Loredan and his sister the Contessa approached the villa and greeted the Contessa Foscari

Instead, his sister the Contessa Selina is someone that I have heard about but never seen. They say that she speaks many languages like her Ambassador brother, and that she has visited many countries. I thought it would be good to talk with her like I do with her brother, but when I greeted her, she seemed very curt. I did not know what to do or say, but her brother the Count made a sign to me to be patient and not worry.

Garden Entrance to Villa Vesuviana

Then I realized that I did look like a mess. I was all sweaty from working since early morning, and my face was still flushed from the half-hour I had just spent in Ceces hot kitchen. Perhaps I smelled of garlic and onions, or even smelled like my partner Nella the donkey after hours of hauling supplies to and from the village. It was becoming very uncomfortable for me to stand there. As beautiful as the evening was, the atmosphere in that moment was not clear and calm. I found myself ready to go back to the kitchen. Cece is a tough lady, but after all is said and done, Cecce the Cook accepts each of us, especially us orphans, the way we are and then challenges us, encourages us, teaches us to become better .

Cece the Prince's cook helps the orphans

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Faithful friends and fierce pirates

By Fiorino Pera, 2010-07-03
All these days since our arrival in Melioria, Rico and and had wondered what had happened to the other children of Venezia, especially the orphans and apprentices that we knew so well. Where was Lodovico? and Rosaria? and Stella? Did Santi come to Melioria? He had told me many times that he never wanted to leave Venezia. Did he get his wish?

These were my worries until this morning when I suddenly ran into Lodovico at the port. What a surprise! I had gone down there to try to see if I could go with the fishermen, and there was Lodo (that's what I call Lodovico for short) who had the same idea. But we never went fishing! We were so excited to see each other that we forgot all else.

Then, another friend showed up: Stellina! She is so funny. She chatters and then twirls like a dancer when she begins to think of a new idea. I love to be with her, because she makes me laugh so much. Both Lodo and I were glad to see that she made it safely to Porto Melioria too.

Stellina has made it safely to Porto Melioria

Just as we were talking, we saw a strangely dressed man -- or maybe I should say undressed man. He wore no shirt and had a small, silly little hat on his head. and some horrible markings on his body. I was staring at him until Lodo poked me and hissed: He is a pirate. Don't stare!. We did not ask his name, but he saw us staring, so he called us over to the pier where there were some canon balls stacked up. He told us to try and shoot a canon ball, if we dared.

Lodo looked at Stellina and me, and then went forward. He followed the instructions of the pirate and loaded the canon. The pirate told us to move away and cover our ears - and then he set off a blast.

The pirate set off a canon blast

The noise was horrific. Worse, the whole port shook. I thought that everybody from the town would come running out, but no one did. Only the pirate ran down the pier, and on to a little skiff that took him out to sea.

I never spoke to pirates in Venezia, Lodo said, as we watched the pirate row out to sea, but they were certainly there. Maybe we will get to know some pirates this summer while we are in Melioria.

Oh, that would be very sweet!, exclaimed Stellina, much to our surprise. With that, the girl giggled (as she often does) and skipped and danced away, past the docks and into the village. Lodo looked after her, and then said to me: Pirates or no pirates, I am very glad to be here, Fiorino, and I am glad to see you again.

This was good to hear, and I told him that I thought the summer holiday was becoming very wonderful and that I hoped he would join all the rest of us at breakfast every morning at the Prince's villa. Lodo nodded and said that he would. After all, it is best to meet pirates on a full stomach.

Lodovico and Fiorino look forward to many adventures in Melioria

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Confusion at the Mill

By Fiorino Pera, 2010-07-02
Yesterday, when Rico and I carried the big yellow sack into the mill, Pepe il Mulinaio began to yell at us most ferociously. What do you think you are doing? Are you trying to make off with my flour without paying for it?.

Rico and I looked at each other and remained most confused, but Rico recovered before I did and responded, By no means, Signore. We carry to you this sack that the Prince of Melioria entrusted to us. We are not taking, but consigning, Signore.

Pepe il Mulinaio became as confused as we were. Consign? Did the Prince tell you to consign to me this flour, when it is my own product? Is it gone bad? Is he unhappy? Yet before either of us could answer, the miller took the bag from us and opened it. He examined the contents, and mumbled to himself as he did so: And yet it is in perfect condition perfect.

The miller accuses the boys of stealing

The miller eyed us suspiciously: Tell me who you are, boys: I have never seen you before and you sound like you are outsiders. I told him our names and explained that we were freshly arrived from Venezia after the flood, that the Prince was providing us food and housing, and that the same Prince had given us a job this morning to somehow help with the added work of providing for many orphans.

The miller listened attentively, then told us that he would see to it that there was enough whole wheat and barley to serve the Prince's needs. He took the sack of white flour and put it to the side, then gave us two of whole wheat and three of barley, which we loaded up on the cart. He handed us a note as well that was filled with numbers and told us to give it to the Prince's cook, the Signorina Cece.

The miller listened attentively to the boys and notes their accents

Just as we were about to get on the cart, Pepe il Mulinaio handed each of us a small cake and told us we were welcome to come again.

The sun was very high in the morning sky as we began to return to Villa Vesuviana: it had been an exciting and confusing morning. Still, it felt good to do something productive, we both agreed, as we ate the cakes and chatted on the way back up the hill to the Prince's villa.
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Summer breakfast al fresco

By Fiorino Pera, 2010-07-01
The Prince of Melioria, whom I have known all my life without suspecting that he was a prince, has often told me that his cook, the Signorina Cece, is a genius. He says that she can cook cakes and all manner of sweets, and can prepare a fruit cocktail that the prince says she learned from the women of Macedonia -- a dish that is incredibly fresh and delicious! The night before last he told me all this again and said From now on you and your friends must come to Villa Vesuviana for breakfast, because Cece is going to make every good thing for you to enjoy. And since I had said nothing in reply, the prince insisted: Tomorrow when you must not fail to bring your friends to my villa and enjoy whatever Cece prepares!

Rico and Fiorino start to walk from the port to the hilltop villa

Yes, the prince had told me all this, but never had I ever tasted any of Cece's meals until yesterday morning. When the morning bells sounded from Melioria's churches, and Rico and I prayed our Aves, we remembered that the Principe had told us to come up to the garden at the side of his great villa. The morning air was still very fresh even as the sun climbed quickly into the sky, and the walk up the hill to the villa only increased my appetite. Rico said the hike made him hungry too.

Fiorino and Rico climb the hill from the port to Villa Vesuviana

Near the villa, just below the vineyard, we found a long table, set with many different fruits and cheeses, with chocolate to drink and hot milk flavored with coffee. It was all tasty, nutritious and very satisfying. Rico and I met Marina and other children from Venezia: it was so fun to eat breakfast outdoors with friends that we had not seen since leaving Venezia.

Fiorino, Marina and Rico approach the breakfast table

When the meal was over, my friend Signor Capo (who is none other than the Prince of Melioria), asked me to take some bags of flour from the kitchens of Signorina Cece to the village. He showed me a cart that the kitchen workers had loaded near the stable. He also introduced me to the sweetest donkey that he called Nella. He told me that if I sing to Nella, she would let me harness her to the cart.

What could I sing? I wondered but finally I sang a song to Venezia and to Nella at the same time.

Voga e va gondolier,
Canta el cuor
Non posso andar pi via
Perch Venezia mia
M'ha fatto inamorar

(The gondolier paddles onward and goes, and sings within his heart: 'I cannot ever go away because my Venice has made me fall in love with her).

So many times have I heard the gondoliers sing these words, but now that I was far away from Venezia, a lump came in my throat. I could not sing more. How sad I felt to be so far from Venezia, which I last saw sinking under the flood waters.

Nella the little donkey seem to sense my sorrow. She he-hawed and let me harness her even as I wept. She rubbed her head against my arms as I attached the harness, as if to say: Sing to me some more, Fiorino .

Nella lets Fiorino and friends bring the supplies to the Village of Melioria

So, I sang and found my courage again. I kept singing as I mounted the cart and brought the flour to the village. Rico and Pierluigi came with me and joined in the song. By the time we reached the village, my heart was light again. This reminded me of the prince's own words: This is how kingdoms last: they are not brittle. They let the waves carry them forward." I guess by 'waves' we can also mean little donkeys like Nella.

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Port Melioria filled with cargo

By Fiorino Pera, 2010-06-30
Early this morning Rico and I went to the docks again. I was hoping that more ships were coming from Venezia with our friends, but that did not happen. Instead, many ships came in with cargo: barrels and crates were lined up on the decking of the wharf in no time.

As soon as the ships put into port, about 20 dock workers seemed to appear out of nowhere. They shouted directions to the sailors, and guided the unloading of the cargo. Some boxes were lowered in giant nets; others were brought down on carts by the men. Everywhere that Rico and I looked, there was activity.

Fiorino and Rico watch the dockworkers unload the ship's cargo

There was a lot of work to do, and Rico and I got as close as we could to the action, looking to see what could be in those shipments. It was exciting, even if we had to duck sometimes, and jump at other times so that we would not get in the way of the workers. Rico said we would be smarter if we sat down out of the way, and so this is what we did.

As we watched the men unload and mark the cargo containers, Rico told me about his hopes to continue his apprenticeship as soon as we can return to Venezia. I told him we should enjoy the holidays, but he said that we need to work hard so we can learn our trades. I suppose he is correct but I have not yet found a master with whom I can apprentice. That's when I realized how serious my friend Rico really is about the important things in life.

Fiorino listens to Rico explain his career plans

At noon the Angelus bells rang in the many church towers, and the workers all crossed themselves and stopped working. They stood there and said the prayers, and then they gathered their tools and left the docks, saying their greetings to one another and going off in different directions. I am guessing that they each went home for dinner.

Rico and Fiorino inspect the crates from the cargo ship

Rico and I moved among the barrels for a while, and looked at the crates Signor Capo had told us to come to his villa for dinner and that his cook the Signorina Cece would have something ready for us but that would be a little later, so Rico and I sat and chatted a little more, waiting and hoping to see a ship arrive with our friends.

Funny. All that work got us hungry - even though we did nothing but watch. So, we decided not to wait for the ship and go to try the Signorina Cece's dinner instead. I can tell you, it was very wonderful!
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Arrival in Port Melioria

By Fiorino Pera, 2010-06-29
As we pulled into the port of the isle of Melioria, Rico and I thought we would be the first to get off the ship. We were so ready! But what a surprise when everyone rushed, and we lost each other in the crowd. I waited on the dock and kept calling out Rico's name.

It was exciting to be in the new port and to see everyone so eager to find their new homes. It was also exciting to see the sailors at work, and the dock workers who hauled in the cargo that we had brought with us. I did not realize that we had brought so many containers, and was amazed to see the great pile of barrels and crates that the workers put on the dock. Meanwhile, I kept calling out Rico's name and looking here and there, hoping to catch sight of him.

Finally Rico came up to me - we gave each other a hug as if we had not seen each other for so long a time, even though we were separated for less than 20 minutes I suppose. By now everyone else had left the dock to find their quarters in the village of Melioria. We took a moment on the dock to look out at the great expanse of blue sea and to wonder where the rest of our friends were.

"Do not worry, Fiorino," Rico said to me. "They will come soon. We will all be together again."

Rico is someone that I trust and so I can only hope that my friend Rico is right.
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Leaving Venezia

By Fiorino Pera, 2010-06-28

Somebody told me that the English say that men do not cry. Well, I am not yet a man and I am not at all English. I am Venetian. In Venezia I see that men express emotion. So I admit that for four days my tears flood my heart and soul more than the Adriatic floods our city of Venezia.

To see the destruction of the city brings fear and anguish. I do not think it possible that even an Englishman could hold back from crying, for all of Venezia is flooding and the water does not seem to want to go away.

The boy Fiorino Pera walks through the flooded piazza

Then il Signor Principe di Melioria made the announcement that he would open his island for the Venetians. I did not think he meant the citizens and the workers, much less the orphans. But then my lord the Patriarch said that the Principe was making room for everyone who had not any other place to go. Before I could know what to think, I was on the ship and sailing to the island of Melioria.

On the ship I saw my dear friend, Signor Capo. Many times in Venezia I see him fixing houses early in the morning. I also meet his sons who are very funny. They are on the ship too, and they make me laugh so much that I forget that I am so sad. But then comes the big surprise: my friend Signor Capo is really a prince! He is the Principe di Melioria! When I find this out I feel so bad, for I have never given him bows that are deep enough for a Prince. But on the ship he tells me that he does not need deep bows: that we are friends and that he wants me to help make the other young people enjoy their time in the country, away from the danger. Signor Capo er I mean, Sua Altezza tells me that he will himself teach me to drive the horses that take the wagons around the island.

It is exciting, but as the sun comes down over the sea and we go slowly toward the island, I am again filled with very deep sadness. With the setting sun, which is the hour of the singing to the Madonna, I ask the Star of the Sea to bring us safely to port, and to ease the pain in our hearts.

Fiorino Pera (L) and his friend Rico Millefiori (R) talk quietly during the sea passage

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