Call me Nicolussi, just to avoid confusion

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The Independent Online
One thing is certain about the village of Luserna in northern Italy: its next mayor will be called Nicolussi.

Not Gianni Nicolussi, the outgoing mayor who resigned in a huff recently and does not intend to stand again. Nor even Luigi Nicolussi, his predecessor, who is also sick of politics. Nor yet Urbano Nicolussi, the venerable councillor who is graciously keeping the village hall ticking over in the run-up to the elections.

No, the race on 27 April will be between the ambitious young Flavio Nicolussi and Beppino Nicolussi, a retired health worker.

Standing with them on their rival slates will be a whole bevy of Nicolussis: Nicolussi the hotel keeper, Nicolussi the banker, Nicolussi the postman, Nicolussi the bar owner, Nicolussi the mushroom seller.

In fact, only four of the 30 candidates standing for election are not called Nicolussi, and they - two Pedrazzas, a Serafini and a Baldassari - are reckoned to have little chance of winning a coveted place on the village council.

Why not? Because Nicolussis have occupied the mayor's seat and all 15 council posts in Luserna for more than a century. Strangely enough, most of them are not related, or at least not directly. Of the 280 inhabitants of this tranquil mountain village on the edge of the Dolomites, 200 are called Nicolussi.

The name derives from Giovanni Nicolucius, a 15th-century notable who drew up the borders of the Seven Communes of Vicenza on behalf of Count Trapp of Caldonazzo. Nicolucius was given Luserna as a reward for his efforts, and the villagers, most of whom were originally settlers from Bavaria, promptly changed their names to his.

The origins of Luserna come out in the local dialect, an extraordinarily unblemished version of medieval German from around the year 1200. Italian is spoken only to visitors, usually to answer inquiries about the whereabouts of Mr or Mrs Nicolussi, a subject that understandably leads to rather lengthy conversations.

Indeed, the grimmest time of year for the good citizens of Luserna is when the postman goes on holiday and his substitute, sent in from a neighbouring village, is suddenly swamped by piles of letters and packages all addressed to people called Nicolussi. Even the addition of a first name is not much help. Giorgio Nicolussi, for example, could be any one of five people.

Why doesn't the village go the whole hog and call itself Nicolussi? First because the confusion at that point might just get out of control. And secondly because there already is a Nicolussi just over the hills.

Strangely, the village of Nicolussi doesn't boast a single person called Nicolussi. They all live in Luserna.