We were staying in a little family-run hotel called Hotel Lidomare. It was set back from the main square (Piazza del Duomo) on a kind of small square of its own. The real beauty of the place though was that it was two minutes walk from the the Piazza del Duomo and about a minute more from the front.
Criscuolo is a local surname and it gave me immediate cred as someone who belonged there. If you're at all curious, you can go to http://gens.labo.net/, type 'Criscuolo' in the search field in the top left hand corner and hit the red arrow. It'll give you a lovely visual display of the distribution of the Criscuolos in Italy. It'll do the same, of course, for any surname.
On the first day there - it was a Saturday - I seem to recall that we walked up the stone mountain stairway (scalinata) to Pogerola. It was a stunning walk and breathtaking in every sense of the word. Some 800 steps to the top left all except dad pretty much knackered by the time we got to the top.
Much and all as I couldn't wait to go to Pontone, I was scared. Petrified of what I'd find. Scared stiff that I'd be disappointed. Afraid that I'd be rejected. What would I do, I asked myself, if someone I'd never met in my life turned up on my doorstep insisting that he (or she) was my long lost cousin? I didn't know the answer and I wasn't entirely sure that I wanted to know it.
While I was building up my courage, I started to get my bearings around the place. This was heaven. This was, without doubt, a place where I could happily live and die. Like I said, my surname gave me immediate credibility. Criscuolo. It was local. Combined with the fact that I spoke Italian, with a southern accent, and without any trace of an English accent, it was a real asset.
I started making friends. Friends who, many years later would turn out to be real, solid friends. The first of them was a gentleman - a real gentleman - called Alfonso Lucibello. A man of real dignity and serenity. A man of boundless generosity. Over the years he has become a friend for whom I would definitely walk five hundred miles.
Dad looked the part. After one day in the place he looked the part. He only had to walk out into the sun for his skin to suddenly take on that rich Mediterannean bronze colour. He has that rugged southern Italian face too ... and the schnoz. The only thing that picked him out from the locals was the fact that he couldn't speak a word of Italian.
I really enjoyed that first day. It was barmy. Laid back. Italian. I was still petrified about the adventure up to Pontone that I knew had to come but I was starting to feel easier about it. The reception that I was getting from the people to whom I wasn't related was starting to make me feel a little easier about the whole thing.