Article by Andrea Vitali
The confinement, lockdown for those who prefer English, restrictive measures, the suspension of the most varied professional activities: I do not take long but in short, all the more or less drastic measures with which we are and we are dealing with in recent months, they allowed me to reconnect with an old friend.
The friend found, one might say, but without any hint of tragedy as in Uhlman's novel. On The Contrary, because I shared the best years with him, and also a bit stupid, of youth, those in which a residue of the sense of infantile omnipotence still remains within us and having to descend into reality seems to be a secondary issue. Then life divided us, a somewhat emphatic sentence but I don't know how else to say that we drifted apart having to reach our respective goals.
It is his that matters most in these lines, because he wanted to be a photographer but not of weddings or passport photos. Photographer of major events, sports and not. Among the first, sailing. And he gave us so much that he finally succeeded, so that he is now one of the most sought after photographers in this field.
But the virus also prevented him for long months from going here and there, confining it to the village and thus allowing me to find it again. Even if it seems trivial to say, the spirit of those silly but funny times jumped out instantly, like one of those little games that, pushed by a spring, they peek out as soon as the box inside which they were closed opens. A youth bath with some negligible difference which one, applies to everyone, the hair a little white ( more hers than mine ). The parenthesis has closed, temporarily I hope, a few days ago when he left for New Zealand, country that I would struggle to identify even with the world map under my eyes, where he can finally resume his work.
Of course he must comply with the rules of the moment: swab and quarantine. The latter made an impression on me: fourteen days locked in a hotel room, alone and with an hour of air available to be spent practically under escort. I do not know how, but when he informed me of what awaited him, I remembered what I had read in the book by Pietro Dettamanti, published by the Interuniversity Research Center on "Journey to Italy", entitled “Journey to Lake Como- Nineteenth-century writers and travelers on Lake Como ".
It concerns the adventure that occurred to Mark Twain in 1867 when as a correspondent he embarked on a cruise that was intended to introduce travelers to the old continent and the Holy Land. Among the many stages of that journey there was also a small stop by the writer on Lake Como and specifically in his "pearl", Bellagio. Now, as reported by the author of the volume, good Twain arrived there already in a bad mood, or in any case not exactly well predisposed towards us if it is true that he notes how "deformities and bearded women are too common in Italy to arouse attention".
But he still doesn't know what awaits him in Bellagio, sort of ante litteram quarantine given that in that year the Larian area was affected by a form of Asian cholera that had already caused hundreds of deaths. When ours goes down to the shore it is immediately taken over by cops and, as he himself reports, locked in a stone cell together with the other traveling companions. Closed in that hole without light and windows, where not even a breath of air circulates, he and the others undergo a fumigation process in order to eliminate the possible presence of the deadly bacterium.
When it comes out, alive but smelly, Twain is very irritated and his pen becomes even more scratchy against the Italians. Why not pay more attention to the hygiene of places and of the person in order to avoid cholera, you ask ? Because, writes "several members of the humbler classes would rather die than wash ...". Luckily the next hotel stay, the view of the lake, mountains and villas, they reconcile it with the place. When I told this anecdote to my friend we had a November sunset of rare beauty under our eyes. I wanted to make him smile and instead we stayed there, just watching.