See how elegant their livery is: they are harmless creatures, and very useful. Too bad that people disgust them, and sometimes persecute them ». They were the salamanders who when I was a boy, practically in another life, lived in the manholes near the mountain house in Valle Pellice: slow and shiny, the black back flecked with yellow and orange. Same attention for the lizards that in more recent years terrified my mother, along the perimeter of the house in the hills, for their unpredictability in darting everywhere, without a precise direction: with the risk, not so remote, of slipping into the house. Valley to find, then. “But go, they are critters that don’t hurt anyone”, he intervened, capturing them with a consolidated technique: he threw a handkerchief on the raider of the moment, then he extracted it slowly and showed it to me, the head held delicately between his fingers, before free her in the garden. “See, it looks like a little dinosaur: it tries to bite but it doesn’t hurt.” As his father had taught him. As he had learned as a boy, in the countryside, where he and his family were displaced by the war, during jokes with his peers alternating with lessons in boarding school. He knew how to be objective even with snakes, when the house dog found some: he made them dislodge, but without fury.
Lorenzo Mondo, the man of the hills
Write a piece about your father, they tell you: not about the journalist, or about the literary critic. But precisely on the father: «A piece for a son». One word, remember and try to line up 55 years of memories, there are so many, running the risk of falling into amarcord. Or worse still, in the self-celebration of a father who was important to his children, on a par with many others for their children. What I can say is that as if I had two fathers: the one known to those who appreciated his career path, his career, and the more intimate one, unknown to most and yet an integral, complementary part of the first. The city and the countryside: the first came later, the second took it with him for the rest of his life. Never forgotten. He oozed from his whole being. The big hands, of those who for a certain period had more to do with the earth than with the pen. Love for animals. The knowledge of the trees and the essences grown behind the house: rosemary, thyme, marjoram, basil … When I was little he tore a leaf, rubbed it between my fingers and made me smell it, so that I could learn to distinguish. The love for nature, which first of all coincided with his Piedmont: the Langhe in particular, relived and told in their rural dimension as well as the scene of a partisan war made up of ambushes, shootings, sometimes unpronounceable names of gang leaders hunted for years by the republicans, the latter confined to urban centers, and especially to Turin. Because outside the inhabited areas the occupation was reduced to bloody attacks against the partisan bands, never decisive. He also told me the story in this way: a story that he had lived live, and that in my boy’s eyes seemed the Far West. The city came later, with everything he represented in terms of accomplishment, and career. But the countryside has always carried it with it, with its smells, colors, flavors. Deep roots, never failed. As for Turin, he made me wander it far and wide in search of its beauties. More often, his curiosities: the parade of ex-voto at the Consolata, for example, the traces of the French siege of 1706, the galleries of Pietro Micca. But also the big pieces: the Galleria Sabauda, the Armeria Reale, the Gam, the Egyptian. Long Sunday walks, when excursions outside the city were not possible, to explain, without arrogance. And transmit to me the amazement, the passion that he himself had felt, many years before. Even when he left Turin, it was never so much an exit: there was always a small church, a mansion, a castle, maybe a simple aedicule dedicated to some saint who was worth reaching. Accompanied by a good lunch, of course, by a proper bottle and a half Tuscan: “This is also culture”.
Write a piece about your father … He loved Turin but he taught me to know Rome, the destination of the first trip done alone: he and I, a week of wearing our shoes to try to see as much as possible. And then Tuscany, and Umbria. He loved Piedmont, he introduced me to mainland Greece: by car, back and forth to temples and necropolis. And the former Yugoslavia. And the soaring cathedrals of France, and Paris. You didn’t need a guide: you followed him and just listened. Like when he talked about the Galapagos tortoises, the farthest point he had gone to.
Write a piece about your father … My father was all this, and many other things: a profound man, who knew how to remain simple. He was, in particular, an avid book hunter: for himself and for me. He started early when I was little. I remember a distant Christmas, with three volumes strategically positioned in the midst of toy soldiers, toy cars and the electric train: The boys of Via Pal, Treasure Island, the adventures of Salgari. Then the bets on the stalls along via Po and in corso Siccardi. Where, however, there were also antique bookshops and art galleries. Countryside and city, books and paintings, Piedmont and the world, in all its forms and with all his potential adventures. In short, to Salgari. Not long ago he confided to me that he had reread them, Salgari’s books: “Always enchanting, even to an adult’s gaze.” But the last book, read several times and restarted before admission, was The Betrothed: “It is a work of extraordinary richness – he repeated to me in the last days, when he talked about everything so as not to talk about the present in which it was -: a real treasure, you reread it a thousand times and you always discover something that had escaped you ». It stopped at the eighth chapter. Hi Dad. –
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