Two weeks ago, I introduced you to the guys when they were babies. By the time they were 3 and 4 years old, they were already singing. Their parents, family and friends already knew there was something special about these kids. Three boys from three different cities in Italy, at the same time, took their first steps on the road to stardom. But, you know, it wasn’t always about music. As young boys it was about family and friends. For Ignazio and Gianluca it was about soccer and for Piero it was his minicross! So, they did have other interest. These interests were the things that helped them to grow and to become the fine young men they are today!
So, let’s step away from the music and see how they grew up….
Today Piero will tell us about his life as a young boy. He will introduce us to his family and tell us what was important to him.
I remember in detail the years from one to fourteen. Details like how many euros of gasoline I put in my motorbike. That would be 10. Or how much gasoline I consumed each day.
I recall for a few months, during the summer, when I was nine years old, I went to work in my fathers’ body shop but because I had bad allergies and asthma, I was not able to deal with the paints and powders so, the decision was made that I would go to work in my uncle Angelo’s (my mother’s brother) mechanic shop which was just in front of my father’s shop. I clearly recall, at half past ten, on time, my uncle gave me two euros and I went to buy a sandwich at the supermarket. The sandwich was ham and provolone. How good was that sandwich!
To Piero, these are things that have remained in his head and will not go away. Piero recalls a morning in 2001 when….
At eight o’clock, as I was getting ready to go to school, a phone call arrived, my grandfather Francesco, my paternal grandfather, died. I was small, but the pain was great because I always had a wonderful relationship with my paternal grandparents. These are the sad things that remain in my head and will not go away.
But what remains in Piero’s heart is what he calls the “campaign” of his grandparents. How does Piero explain this campaign? He sees this “campaign” as a “family” a couple that cannot be divided. He compares this campaign to his mother, Elenora, and his father, Gaetano. He sees their marriage as an example of love that he hopes to one day share with someone.
Piero is not naïve about love. He knows that in most families there are obstacles.
He recalls…. I happened to see some quarrels between my parents and, I did not understand. However, all things worked out and the two returned to be more united than before.
But what is close to Piero’s heart and what he recalls caused much pain in his life was his mother’s illness. Piero recalls….
The worse moment was when my mother had a serious health problem. My parents left me and my brother with my grandparents and, my father took my mother to Milan for treatment. They were always united and always facing difficulties together. A ‘campaign!’
Piero tells us about the close relationship between him Francesco and Mariagrazia….
My brother and sister and I are three pieces that cannot be divided. The oldest is Francesco he is 17 months older than me. I am very proud of my brother. Francesco graduated cum laude in Literature in 2015. I am very proud that he is working hard for his future. If he wanted to, he could travel the world with me, work with me. But, no, he wants to be known as Francesco Barone and not Piero’s brother and that’s why I respect him so much. I have realized my dream and, he wants to make his own.
Piero and Francesco resembled one another and as children their mother dressed them alike….
When we were young my mother dressed us as twins. I tell you the same: same shoes, same pants, same shirt, we looked like twins. Everyone thought we were twins.
And then there is Mariagrazia. She is six years younger than me, and I love her endlessly. While she was in high school, she lived at home with my parents.
Piero regrets he doesn’t see her very often and he says….
I am sorry because I miss her very much.
Although the three do not see each other often, Piero says….
Francesco and Mariagrazia are my friends, the people I trust and with whom I confess, me.
From the time I was one until I was thirteen, I spent every summer at my grandparents’ house. And who was there with me, my grandparents and my great-grandmother Lina (my grandmother’s mother). I swear, they were perhaps the most beautiful days of my life, and I will never forget them.
Piero’s maternal grandfather Pietro made a campaign with his hands. He built it all, the house, the plants, the land, everything.
Saturdays were very special for Piero….
I could not wait for it to be Saturday morning when we lit the wood burning oven. I went to collect wood around the ground, I helped to light the fire, and I helped to take out the pizza. In addition to pizza, we did “u pani impurnatu”, which is bread baked in the oven. How good it was! It kept that good taste all week. The week passed and the next Saturday we started over again. The bread was beautiful, warm and fragrant. We also made the “impanate”, which are rolls of pizza dough with vegetables inside, a typical dish of my area. In short, I ate a lot of good things, and it was visible (I was really fat).
(Note: This area was invaded by the Spanish and what Piero is describing as an ‘impanate’ is an ‘empanada’ which was first made by the Spaniards in the 16th century. The Spanish brought empanada with them when they invaded Sicily.)
The ‘campaign’ was also the kingdom of my minicross. I always had a passion for motorcycles and cars. And at age six or seven my father gave me a minicross. It is a cross-country minimoto, but without the gears. Why did I tell you that I spent the best time of my life in the country because I was there with my minicross!
I have lived the most beautiful adventures in the garden of the Riolo family?
Our neighbors in the countryside were the Riolo family. They were the owners of the villa that was right next to my grandfather’s house. They were the richest family in the country. They lived in Agrigento and since they only came to the villa once a month, the marvelous orchard that surrounded it was practically abandoned.
What was I doing then? I took the minicross, my grandmother would sit back, and we would get into what we called ‘a stradella pi ‘Riola,’ the road of the Riolo. Their gardens were full of, very, beautiful fruits trees. The Riolo’s knew of the raids. My grandmother, Rina, told them that we went to collect the fruit and they gave her permission to do so. My grandfather had worked for Mr. Riolo for many years, and they were family friends. But for me, what was I doing I was going to ‘steal’ it was a secret.
There were no fences, so you could enter from anywhere. The fact that we entered through the gate in the saddle of the minicross gave me the feeling of really doing something dangerous and secret.
Piero tells us that he and his grandmother enjoyed these little escapades…
“Grandma, where are we going?” I said, even before finishing the road.
“Lemon trees” she answered.
“Here we go!” And off we go to fill the bag of lemons.
“Grandma, where are we going now?”
“Pear trees.” And off we go to fill the pear bag.
There were peaches, plums, there were fruits of all kinds. But how did we get the bags home? I put a broomstick on the handlebars of my minicross, we hung the bags on both sides and, we walked.
Also, on the ground were walnuts and prickly pears. We picked up the prickly pears, and then with my great-grandmother we peeled them, she cleaned them without even putting on her gloves, at the end she scraped away the thorns from her hands with the knife, rinsed herself with water, all right.
In the countryside there were almonds. My aunt Lucia, my grandmother’s sister, had them on her land, and in the second half of August she had a “cugliuta di mennule” (almond harvest). There were always two, three huge bags to be shared for the whole family.
Who peeled those almonds? My great-grandmother. Stone fingers, tac, tac, tac. And after who divided the almonds from the skins? I. So, my grandma tac, tac, tac, and I divided. An assembly line!
This was what happened to us in the countryside. They are images that I will never forget.
Let’s leave Piero in the countryside and turn to Ignazio on his way to Marsala….
We rejoin Ignazio when he is preparing to leave his friends and his school in Bologna and start all over again in Marsala. The journey he fought every step of the way would bring him to stardom! All the What if’s come into play! What if the family didn’t return to Marsala? What if Caterina didn’t open the pizzeria? What if that customer didn’t hear Ignazio sing? What if Ignazio decided not to take singing lessons?
Ten-year-old Ignazio begins his story shortly after his arrival in Marsala….
In 2004 there was a great change, the economic stability that mom and dad were looking for had arrived. Mom had regained her health and then what do we do? We return to live in Marsala.
My parents always thought that sooner or later they would be back in Sicily, but Nina also had her part in the choice. Every time we went on holiday in Marsala, for Nina, it was a pain to go back to Bologna, given the beauty of Sicily and since she left a lot of friends and all the rest of her family there. However, in the end, on July 24, 2004, our family moved back to Marsala.
So, let’s see how Ignazio is adjusting to life in Sicily….
In the beginning I did not accept Sicilian life. It was difficult for me to set myself up at school because the programs were, very, different from the school where I had trained. The consequence? I was seen by everyone as ‘the polentone’ of the situation, it was the Bolognese accent….
(A “polentone” is a somewhat derogatory term that is given to the citizens of northern Italy.)
In the beginning I did not take it very well. At a lunch at my paternal grandmother’s house, my mother was so hurt by my words that she started to cry: ‘I recommend you, if I die you must take me to Bologna.’
Fortunately, Ignazio met new friends close to his home and this changed his mind….
Let’s start from the assumption, if there is still any need for it, that being lively every now and then can cause some damage. What damage is that?
To answer this question, let’s go back with Ignazio to Bologna.….
My main project when I went to school was to get home and spend the afternoon playing football. It had been less so after I started taking singing lessons. I had less free time and then no free time and I realized that singing was more important than all the rest. But in general, soccer was really a big passion for me. From an early age I had a passion for football, also because my sister played football when we lived in Bologna and then she continued, even in Marsala. She played volleyball first, and I also inherited that passion, then she moved her passion to soccer.
At school I was bored, I was learning but I was bored. But I always enjoyed playing soccer. I came home, had my lunch and did my homework faster than light, because even homework bored me. As fast as I could, I went down to the playground to play football with my friends. It happened in Bologna, and it happened in Marsala, “nu puzzu” (It refers to the well, but it literally means the well stinks!) it was there that I went after school, in time to eat something, and then everyone ran behind the house to the well.
Let’s say that there were some basic rules to be followed in order to stay away from home all afternoon. One of these was that I always had to tell mom where I was, if I walked away, I called her with the intercom and warned her that I was going away, and if I did not go away, I would call her with the intercom and warn her, ‘Mom, I’m down here!’
After five minutes: “Mom, I’m down here!”.
Another five minutes: “Mom I’m down here!”.
“Because I worried that she was worried, and I wanted to let her know that I was ……. down there.”
Near the end of July 2004, we had already packed everything and, we were ready for the move to Marsala. I went to get an ice cream with some friends, near home, really, just a few steps away. Upon returning, I saw some guys in the building next to ours playing football. I could go home and do nothing but, it was the last days I was in town? And the game was in the courtyard next to mine, it was practically like it was mine. So, I stop. I did not think to call mom with the intercom, and I played soccer, all afternoon, without even a ‘Mom, I’m down here!’ And mom started looking for me, all over Molinella. She rode around the city and did not find me. Then she called my father, who was at the supermarket shopping: ‘Come I cannot find Ignazio.’ My father arrives, my mom throws the bike in a corner, runs in the car, then, out of the corner of her eye she sees my shorts.
“Hey, mom ….”
At one point, my mother from anger also spoke Chinese. If it had not been that we had already packed everything for the move, I certainly would have to iron two beautiful chairs full of clothes for punishment. Instead, as a punishment, no more backyard and no pizza for a month. What then, being without pizza for a month, was worse than two chairs of clothes to iron, because I always ate pizza. And pasta, too. Two other passions of mine, together with soccer and music. I know, I know, you could see from my form. In the canteen, at school, I liked to eat toasted bread! And I always asked for an ‘encore of pasta.’ Mamma told the ladies who worked in the canteen: ‘Do not give him too much soup as he is chubby, just a little bit of pasta and if you do not give it to him, even better.’ One day, one of them replied: ‘But when he comes with that little face and tells me, please another little …. here, lady, how can I say no?’ I was a born actor.
But in all, the one that gave me the most satisfaction with pasta was Nina. I ate some huge dishes. Because mom and dad had to work at night, I ate with Nina, and she cooked pasta. ‘Nun è che ci ni calava settanta grammi!’ (It was not that she cooked two and a half ounces!) She cooked almost 9 ounces for two people. We ate, really, full dishes. And then, Nina would call mom at work and ask her for recipes: ‘How do you make ragout like grandmother does? How do you make crepes?’ And she started cooking for the whole family.
The moral of the story, in addition to my passion for soccer and volleyball, Nina gave me a passion for cooking.
If you combine the damage in Bologna, the notes at school and various red crosses and the punishments: ironing, washing dishes, cleaning the floors, in short, housework. You can now imagine the teasing that I had to hear from Vito, Vincenzo and Ivan, my new friends in Marsala, every time I did something wrong, and mom made me do the housework. One day, I face my mother. Dear mom, I tell her, the pleasure is over, I’m not going to have you make fun of me anymore.
Here in Marsala, it was the same as in Bologna’s straight straight “‘nu puzzu” it was there that I went after school, in time to eat something, and then everyone ran behind the house to the well, that is a square in the center which had a closed water well.
Ignazio met with Vito, Vincenzo, and sometimes Ivan every day at the well to decide what to do….
We would build huts, play the game of the week, go for a bike ride, in short, everything and more, and this is also where we met to go to school football that was just two kilometers from our homes. And sometimes, in the middle of a challenge or under a hut, under construction, you could hear shouting ‘Ignazio!’ and everything stopped.
We stopped breathing a second and descended silent. Mom wanted me to go home and do my homework. She wanted, but I did not always agree.
So, Ignazio started his new life in Marsala. He made friends and then everything started taking form. Then he took his first step towards stardom! But that’s another story!
Let’s turn to Gianluca. Last we left Gianluca he was beginning to tell us about his school years? He certainly didn’t like school much, but he did get good grades.
Let’s listen to what Gianluca had to say about his school years….
I never liked school. I was a lazy man and I’ve never been a great scholar. But in spite of it, I had good grades. I liked algebra in middle school. But most of all I had always been fascinated by languages: Spanish, French, English. I did not have a hard time studying them, I am naturally inclined to study languages. I remember that when we sang the first songs in English and Spanish, I was the one who took the least time to do the right phrase, with the right pronunciation, because I immediately feel the musicality of foreign languages. I contribute this to listening to Sinatra who had perfect pronunciation and I understood every single word of what he sang. It was a great way to learn the pronunciation and even the songs.
After middle school I did not choose to go to linguistic high school, it was only because I thought that with my work I would travel and, I would learn the languages directly.
In 2009, I enrolled in a classical high school as a privatist to study Greek, Latin and French translations. This is also difficult. I liked Greek more than Latin. Then unfortunately I had to stop in the second year, I could no longer continue because the work was too demanding.
Between the age of eleven and thirteen, Gianluca enjoyed playing soccer, long games with Pokemon cards and, and always music! No surprise he loved soccer. Listen to what he had to say about his passion for soccer….
Football has always been a great passion of mine. This too, like music, is a family passion.
My father is a big fan of Pescara, as is my grandfather. They were also big fans of Vialli, no matter which team he played on because he was a myth for my father. And because Vialli also had a name that appealed to both my father and mother, when I was born, they named me Gianluca. Let’s say that name aside, my father gave me a piece of football culture. I am a big fan of Roma football, before Il Volo, more so. I watched all the games, I did not miss one, and every time Totti beat a penalty, I covered my head with my arms and, if I heard the scream from the television, I screamed from home. But now there are work commitments and that prevents me from following my favorite team. Even now, despite the commitments, I continue to play football as soon as I can.
When I go back to Montepagano I always try to organize a game with old friends with whom I trained in the youth teams of Roseto.
How did I play soccer? I was good, come on, I did not like losing, I wanted to score goals by force, I never passed the ball, and when I had the ball, I scored. Let’s say that I was a bit “instinctive” even on the football field.
Once when I was playing in Pescara there was a score of 4 to 4. I had already scored two goals, but the draw was not enough for me, I wanted the win. Only the field was difficult, it had rained, so there was a lot of mud. What happened? I pull, huge slide and I fill myself with mud, from head to toe. What do I do? I start shouting, ‘I got dirty!’ In all this, it must be said that the game was true, even if we were very young. There was the championship, with the ranking and everything else, it’s not that you could take and do what was going on in your head. The referee shouts, ‘Get up, what are you playing ball.’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I’m leaving, I’m all dirty!’ He shouts, ‘get up and go to the locker room.’ Not for nothing, they don’t call me the ‘little Cassano’ (famous Italian soccer player) for nothing. Cassano was so good and, he was so restless!
Another time we were at the Borghesiana in Rome, at a national tournament. The Roseto was also in series C2 and even in the very young there were good coaches, competent, good, that when they told you one thing, that was that, because they knew what they were talking about. In that game at the Borghesiana, I do not even remember, against who we were, I did not score goals, the coach takes me away from the game. At the beginning I came back on the bench nice quiet, but after a moment they did everything to restrain me. ‘I want to go in! I want to score!’ I was shouting. I kicked the coach. Now obviously, I would not do it again, even if football is still my passion.
This actually is Gianluca’s childhood story but let’s think about this for a moment. If Gianluca didn’t become a singer, would he have become a soccer player? He was, real, good!
Now, I will let Gianluca tell one more story. This was the soccer game that the guys played for charity. I’ve written about this before. It is a story that I truly love. It shows the guy’s teamwork, not in song, but in soccer! Let’s listen to Gianluca…
You cannot imagine the happiness of playing in the “Partita del Cuore,(Match of the Heart) a Telethon for Charity on June 2, 2015 at Juventus Stadium. The stadium, in fact, made Ignazio happy more than anyone, because he is a huge Juventino (a big fan of Juventus). I was more excited about having been called up for the first time in the National singers and even more for being able to score.
The match was against the team of Champions for research, all great sports champions and big names in the show, from Alex Del Piero to Pavel Nedved, from Jorge Lorenzo to Liam Gallagher of Oasis. What a dream it was! The stadium was full of people cheering crazy. My team was losing, when I came in, we were 3 to 4 and not being able to do anything, apart from shouting directions to my team-mates on the pitch, it made me feel even more strained. It’s like, I know how to play football, you see the others, think about what you would do for them and tell them. No, you scream it, otherwise they will not hear you. Ignazio and I shrieked like crazy to Piero, and then Piero and I shrieked like crazy to Ignazio, but ‘my legs are trembling’, I had to run, enter the pitch, I wanted to score. The coach made me enter in the 83rd minute. We were, as I said, under a goal, but I do not like losing football. So, I took the ball and I scored. What magic! The stadium was screaming, the guys ran to hug me, it was almost like winning the Sanremo Festival again.
Ignazio & Fabio Ingrassia
Piero & Dario Mirabile
Gianluca & Giuseppe & Eraldo Di Stefano
So now we have a better picture of our guys. A picture that doesn’t include music, but it does show how they grew up and developed their personalities. And we come to understand that as children, “It Wasn’t Always About Music,” no it was about being normal children who loved to play and share their lives with their family and friends.
Of course, I added videos because I knew you couldn’t get through a story without hearing their beautiful voices!
Before I close, I would like to dedicate this story to their three moms, Elenora, Caterina and Elenora! In this video the guys show their great love for their moms.
Join me next week as I go back Through the Fields of My Mind and get the guys back on track with their singing and begin their journey all the way to stardom!
If you would like to share a story with me, please email: email@example.com
To read more Il Volo stories visit us at www.ilvoloflightcrw.com