Abruzzo in love
This is the title of my photographic story, because after travelling through these ancient places and stacked stones that create sculptures in the shape of houses, streets, fountains in contrast with the lush and unspoiled nature, the silence of the valleys and the howls of the wolves at night get you to “fall in love with the place”, as English people say.
These ancient villages will enchant you slowly, it is not an immediate passion, but a delicate path of discovery, the place that takes care of you, caresses you and then leaves you surprised and in love.
When we arrived in Fontecchio, Stefano and I with our children, Leonardo and Marcello, it appeared to us like a deserted place, a square to welcome us in white and light-yellow stone due to the effect of the scorching sun and the roaring sound of the water and our desire to fill the bottles with cold water … Silence and no one around.
The ancient village is accessed through an old door, leading through an arch, and then a long climb across a stone covered path.
Before entering the village there is the door of a noble house with a large handle in the shape of a woman’s head … outside four comfortable wooden chairs and a coffee table … someone will sit down, I think …, the stone path leads upwards to other stone houses, on the sides, open doors, some with dark depths from which the typical freshness and the armoa of an abandoned cellar comes wafting out; in an opening one you can see photographic images set up perfectly illuminated, a few inhabited houses to show you flowers and benches …, a black and bald cat wanders about for whom someone has left some milk and water.
A concrete mixing machine and barriers to indicate unsafe passages ahead, above this stands the tower with the town clock and an even more mammoth “Crane”, … below walls and walls that approach each other in perspective. creating the appearance of stage wings when the sun shines down upon them .
Leonardo runs quickly up and down the climbs and decents, so very fast that you can hear his pounding beats, he stops in front of the cats, but the cats do not run away, they observe one other, we are arriving at our B & B.
We meet Alessio, owner of the B&B Torre del Cornone, beautiful, well-kept rooms and a garden that overlooks an incredible spectacle, the valley of Fontecchio, the eyes and the heart open breathing in something fresh, but at the same time ancient as the valley, that calm that embraces the chest and comforts the resting soul.
They are renovated, reinvented houses, where gardens become havens for breakfast with natural products and the cellars are welcoming kitchens and the wood caves have become cellars for fine wines and vintage furniture …
I send a message to Todd, I had met him in Naples through Annalisa, Stefano’s sister, an excellent American artist painter, who lived in Naples with Annalisa in Piazza Cavour and sometimes in Procida, now he has chosen to live in Fontecchio to start a community of artists, his house is right where those four chairs are, an ancient house where the rooms open onto other rooms with vaulted ceilings and a large staircase leading to the upper floor where there are other rooms full of light and many small balconies where you can hang white sheets to dry in a short while …
Stefano is engaged in a long online meeting and sits in the kitchen of the B&B next to the extinguished fireplace and a small balcony overlooking the garden, wooden table and headphones … the two children and I set out in search of Todd …
Leonardo and I equipped with our cameras and I also with a pushchair, … the climb from the hotel to the square is tough, but after a few days we will get used to it, in short, we will get used to everything a little …
A black-eyed, raven-haired boy in comfortable clothes opens up, it’s Patrick, we’ll get to know him better in the following days, after a while Todd appears, speaks Italian, but slowly, he has slow and thoughtful times, he moves with a light energy as if gliding over the houses delicately touches the places with the fingertips to give them color, thus moves in the stone streets and shows us the places where a few days ago artists from all over the world and from Abruzzo created some art installations. When we enter, he moves objects and takes boards, he is at his home, in these places that at first glance appear abandoned.
Leonardo climbs everywhere and takes a nice portrait of Todd with his small camera, I shoot with difficulty since I have to extricate myself between the difficult passages, Leo’s climbing, Marcello’s pushchair and the weight of my Canon reflex camera with a 28 / 70mm lens , but I pull something out …
Todd’s house is actually a real home gallery, a house of artists, which hosts artists and works and is in fact the headquarters of “Fontecchio International airport”, the name that Todd has given to this project, and communicates this impression, of a port for artists with wings that alight there to create.
I would be part of it, closing my eyes ,relax my heart at the mere thought that I could take the time in a different way, slowly to feel, observe, create and give.
Stefano joins us, we take the car and begin to explore the nearby places …
We have an appointment with Raffaello and our whole family for dinner, a restaurant in a nearby village next to a church hidden by cypresses and an open space where campers are parked.
The day ends, the children fall asleep and we cross the streets immersed in the valleys with our car, the lights of the cars illuminate the wolves, or the foxes or other animals that Stefano indicates to me with enthusiasm, and actually leaves us intrigued. The idea that something can live wildly in the forests and we can find them in their nightlife and listen to them, reminds us of something ancestral and ancient.
There in Fontecchio, I had discovered from facebook that a dear friend of mine Stefania whom I had not seen for years had moved, right to the next village, San Pio
When I meet her again she appeared to me as a light noble woman of Venetian origin with saffron red hair, thinking about it she looks like an explosive and precious saffron flower, (a typical Abruzzo flower) and with great pleasure I noticed her with a small belly.
She and her husband also manage a widespread hotel “Alle Vecchie Querce”, a new hotel, small houses that are rented out as rooms in a single hotel that refer to a single reception.
In addition, Stefania is always involved in projects in the social field, in this case of international artistic residencies in Fontecchio. We have always met in wonderful places, but always with great contrasts, such as Reggio Calabria we both collaborated with the Andragheta museum, I gave her my book “Criminal Architectures” dedicating it to our meetings between Paradises and Purgatories.
Abruzzo is like this too, it lived in the Hell of the earthquake and lives in a slow Purgatory and now, through people and nature, the earthly Paradise is emerging again, and we both are here together again in the middle.
In the village of San Pio Stefano and children take a beautiful bath in a plastic pool in the middle of the fields while we chat and enjoy our meeting.
In the following days we visit the village of Santo Stefano with the tower rebuilt after the earthquake, we meet tourists, we buy lentils and ceramics, then we go to the lake of San Demetrio, we visit the village of Castelvecchio Calvisio still under reconstruction which has the shape of a turtle when seen from above, and further on in the distance we see Castles, Abbeys, Strongholds, and Belvederi on the hills.
We turn in the mountains, feeling the scents and the wind in the trees, and return to our village Fontecchio which has already become ours.
It’s hot and cold in the evening, a beautiful young Italian artist with a gypsy / French appearance invites us to an aperitif at the Kap, an association of young artists who have decided to move and live within this atmosphere of art and nature, there I recognise Patrick ,he is in charge of the organization and communication of “Fontecchio airport” together with Todd who in the meantime has left for a few weeks for America.
Patrick is always dressed like a dandy of yesteryear, he walks with elegance in these places and speaks to me with serenity about the activities that they are carrying out.
Fontecchio is an elegant place, not of the elegance of the rich, but of the elegance of souls and ancient lovers of beauty and shades.
La Kap is a white house on the top of a hill with terraced gardens where readings and concerts are organized, but it is above all a place to meet, to create community and pleasantly drink a glass of wine, chatting and enjoying the view at sunset.
Raffaello Fico is the director of the reconstruction works of these villages hit by earthquakes, not only in terms of construction and safety, but he is enlightened because he has a clear idea that what needs to be rebuilt is the community and people’s lives, re-inhabiting the places and involving the resident community, a thought shared with the mayor Sabrina Ciancone who strongly wants all this to happen through art, art as an instrument of care and beauty.
Art is understood not as something to be observed and distant but to be fully experienced … art as the feasibility of working, the art that lives and unites.
The last meeting of our journey takes place in the same square that welcomed us and where the project of international artistic residency entitled “Lab8-rehab with art” will be presented … (the beginning of what could become) … gathered together are artists, hoteliers, citizens, me, my family, Stefania, Raffaello, and many red chairs in a circle.
Artists from other worlds (I don’t like to say “foreigners”, because it reminds me of someone strange) present their projects. There are those who dedicate themselves to embroidery with the ladies of the villages for a huge canvas of Penelopi, those who have an apparently scientific approach but with the typical madness of art and those who instead build small cranes in the houses as if to exorcise the totem that stands on the village.
Everything is full of golden energy … everything continues …
Leonardo calls us, he discovered something, a family of large purple fish lives in the Fontecchio fountain, … this surprises us … because the fountain that seemed empty and ancient instead has beautiful inhabitants who magically appeared to greet us … but not for forever.