Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
*Pietrasecca (pee-eh-trah-SEHT-chah). Remote Italian village nestled in the hills of Abruzzi. Pietro Spina, a communist agitator, retreats there disguised as a priest seeking the mountain air for his lungs. Silone’s depiction of the poverty, superstition, and isolation experienced by the local cafoni carries the social message of the novel. The locals are depicted in many ways as grotesques, even though Silone clearly feels compassion for their plight. Here, Pietro discovers the futility of his quest to politicize the country people as their subsistence living precludes them from any activity that does not directly contribute to their survival. Politics, he says, is for the well fed.
*Fossa (FAHS-sah). Town closest to Pietrasecca. Despite its small size, Fossa is the “town” in the novel. Silone uses it to contrast with the village, where living is on the most basic level. In Fossa there are the markers of civilization: a doctor, lawyers, civil servants, all of the accouterments of the modern state. There, also, Pietro Spina would be recognized even in his cassock, for readers learn that he is a famous local son. In this town Silone dramatizes the effect of the newly formed Fascist government in Rome as the residents are being forced to compromise their political and social beliefs in order to retain their jobs and gain preferment. Unlike many of his former friends, who have caved in to the pressures, Pietro has remained true to his youthful ideals.
*Rome. Capital and largest city of Italy. Don Paolo travels there to reconnect with his communist group. After shedding his priestly clothes in a bathhouse, he emerges once again as Pietro Spina, and although he is careful about his contacts, he can once again walk the streets without disguise. It is in Rome that his political commitment begins to change as a result of his experiences in Pietrasecca, which have helped him to recognize some of the silliness propounded by the organized left.
*Orta. Another of the small towns spotted throughout the hills of Abruzzi, Orta is the ancestral home of Pietro Spina and where his grandmother still lives in the family home. The family, well-to-do and conservative, would seem to be an unlikely source for a revolutionary like Spina.