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Strength in Unity

by Monica Jennings

Vincenza Genovesi and Maria Torri

Vincenza Genovesi and Maria Torri

At any moment in Cagli, Italy, one may be greeted with a genuine smile that nourishes the soul.  From the cafes and bars lining the city’s center to the small shops and markets peeking between homes and office buildings of the narrow streets, the faces of the Cagliese are joyously illuminated.  There is a spirit in Cagli that amplifies life allowing people to live happily at peace well beyond their eighties. The Cagliese spirit is embedded in the holistic health (health of mind, spirit, and body) of the community.

Vincenza Genovesi, daughter and caregiver of her 83-year old mother, reveals that the secret to the source of happiness in Cagli resides in health; “Without health there is nothing.”

Vincenza lives in an upper level apartment that was built in the middle ages, and overlooks a courtyard that meets the skyline of the Apennine Mountains.  Seated at her kitchen table, Vincenza explains how the strength in unity of the community has helped her remain holistically healthy in mind, spirit, and body.

Both Vincenza and her mother, Maria Torri, agree that the strength of the mind begins at home with the family.  Remembering her past with eyes openly alert, Maria, lifelong homemaker, emphasizes that keeping the family together is significant.

“When my daughter was away I waited for her return each day,” she says.

With a warm acknowledging smile Vincenza adds, “When I returned from [my travels], my mother was standing in the door waiting in the same spot as she was the day I left.”

Family and friendship to the Cagliese provide the framework for survival.  My mother, Lillie Thomas, has taught me the importance of community stating that “A missing loved one is as a blank space in an artists’ composition.”  The family is simply incomplete.  The Cagliese strive to preserve the family; this practice extends into their daily lives.  According to Vincenza, everyone knows each other within the community and works together to provide unconditional love and support for one another.

This mindset of togetherness is the foundation for spiritual health among the people of Cagli.  There is an internal need to be united with each other and united with Christ.  Each Sunday, people of all genders and ages gather in the 15 churches of Cagli to unite mind and spirit.

Attending church each Sunday is critical to Vincenza’s well-being.  She attends church each week and wears a cross around her neck symbolizing her faith in and relationship with Christ.
Vincenza and Maria elatedly reminisce about the time when their priest passed in front of their apartment.  Maria recalls sticking her head out of the window and waving with gratitude to the priest confirming his importance to her faith.

Not only do mind and spirit contribute to the holistic health of the Cagliese, the lifestyle is inherently healthy.  Vincenza has walked 20 kilometers commuting to and from work.  Others casually stroll to the city’s center, visiting friends or patronizing local businesses.  Walking is a natural way of life.

Many youth of Cagli, however, choose to remain physically active in various ways: working out in the local gym, flocking to the courts to play a variety of sports, dancing, or swimming in the recreation center’s pool, according to 15 year old Alessia, another resident of Cagli.  Regardless of the approach to and time commitment for promoting physical health, it is certain that in Cagli there is a designated time to reconvene as a family for pranzo (lunch) during the early afternoon, pausa (a period of rest and relaxation) midday, and their evening cena (dinner).  These times are sacred among the Cagliese.

Perhaps this is why the people appear to be happy and holistically healthy, free of the worries and stress that frequently cause poor physical health.  According to Alessia, the Cagliese have worries and problems just like any other group in the world, but Cagli’s uniqueness is in the way these problems are addressed.  “The Cagliese do not wear their stress on the outside, [nor do they carry it alone],” voiced Alessia emphatically.  Cagliese are a united people.

Vincenza recalls a time when she was in need of encouragement and called upon her friends in the middle of the day to come to her home; “My friends immediately came to check on me and stayed as long as I needed them to.”  The people of Cagli are selfless and devoutly concerned for one another.

Vincenza and Maria both have physical health concerns, but their mental and spiritual health improve and sustain their quality of life.  With laughs that echo off the walls in their apartment, mother and daughter make it known that “Cagli is not a place of wealth and glamour, but is rich in community facilitated by the family.”  Cagliese make interpersonal union a priority, and for this they are holistically prosperous.


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