Why the Internet is Super Cool

Ever since my first Internet download back in the nineties on dial-up in our house in Umbria (time taken: 3 hours, result: half a photo of a Hurricane Spitfire), I have been totally hooked on the Internet. Well, not so much the Internet per se but rather what it offers, particularly for writers and researchers. Let me illustrate this with a little story that happened on Sunday. Look out for all the Internet references!

I love metal detecting. I find it relaxes me and switches off my all-too-busy left brain after a few hours at the computer. I have a Garrett Ace 150 and often go on a useful site I found on the net: Gary’s metal detecting to pick up tips.

As our house is a stone’s throw (if you have Popeye-like arms) from a rare Etruscan altar I am convinced that one day I will unearth a valuable Etruscan artefact, but so far I have had to content myself with a lot of nails, assorted tractor parts, a horseshoe and an 1861 coin. (Which is quite nice as it is the date of Italian unification and I found it at the start of 2011 – it is Italy’s 150th birthday this year!)

I discovered by looking online at the historic land registry  that the house’s land used to be called La Vigna (The Vineyard) and so I always concentrate my search around the area I imagine these people worked, vividly visualising them dropping things for me to find!

On Sunday I got the sound for jewellery on the detector and so, surrounded by three patient dogs all sitting looking at the hole I was digging, I found a little medallion covered with soil. I raced back to the house and cleaned it up with a toothbrush in best Time Team style and could just about make out a Madonna on one side and a figure on the other.

The mysterious medallion I took a digital photo and uploaded it then used photo enhancing software to enlarge it. I printed it out but I still couldn’t read the reverse of the medallion. I was pretty sure it said Giuseppe something. I trawled the net using any combination of Italian terms I could think of: medaglie devozionale, Madonna e Giuseppe (yep – Mary and Joseph, not too successful that one!) and finally chanced upon a forum for Italian numismatists, La Moneta.it. I quickly registered, posted my question and a photo and then while I was waiting, took another look at the blown up photo. I was fairly sure it said LABR- something after the Giuseppe bit  so Googled that and came up with San Benedetto Giuseppe Labre, the nomad saint. I read all the references to him, including his saint day, when he was canonised and a map of his birthplace.

I logged back in to my numismatists site to find a kind soul had answered my question. He confirmed that it was indeed San Benedetto Giuseppe Labre, that the medallion dated from 1880-1900 and was copper or brass. Perfetto!

I danced into the living room with the medallion, my bits of paper, photo and information and regaled Alan with the story. ‘Remember the Spitfire?’ he said.

‘God, yes, the Spitfire!’ I replied. ‘Can you imagine how long it would have taken me back in pre Internet days to find all this out? Instead of just a morning? The Internet is so fab.’ I zoomed out of the room again and went back to my metal detecting. And all the while I was thinking I wonder who wore this, I wonder who dropped it? And never in a million years would they ever have imagined that over a century later I would be blogging about it.

Don’t you just love the Internet?


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