People seem frail compared to the majestic, abiding Apennines. They spend their lives looking up at the peaks, changing and understanding. Nadia’s story is reflected in the motionless mountains. It reveals how much she has changed and matured, while they have always been there as a landmark and a source of strength, waiting for her, staying with her and helping her through the different stages in her life.
My parents decided to leave the Apennines and live on the plain. They went all of the way down there from one of the hamlets closest to the very edge of the province. Cecciola also has strong ties with Tuscany, but they chose to live in Emilia-Romagna. They moved to Reggio Emilia and my earliest conscious memories revolve around life in the city.
We always had a very strong bond with the mountains. Going to see our grandfather and the rest of the family always felt like the perfect holiday for both me and my sister, especially in the summer. It was a kind of wonderland where the grown-ups let us go wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted. We could set our imaginations free among wildlife and endless woods, in spellbinding surroundings.
There’s a public holiday in Italy on 15 August every year and we used to have huge lunches, with timeless tales being told as we ate. The adults would take charge of the table and hosting duties, leaving us children completely free to run around the squares playing countless games and getting all dusty and sweaty.
We were hit by a number of family tragedies over the years and they brought us even closer together. We became a tight-knit extended family and the way that we welcomed each other into our hearts and homes at tough times forged even stronger bonds between us.
It’s hard to find a sense of balance when you’re a teenager and these ups and downs had a big impact on me. My visceral feelings for these places and the people in my family made me recoil from everything and everyone. I wanted to get as far away as possible, both figuratively and literally.
Those enormous lunches on 15 August meant that I had to spend endless tedious hours with everyone. As an adolescent girl I began to find them irksome and interminable, but I had no chance of getting away or getting out of them.
The birth of my children brought about a real return to my roots. The Apennines have always had a place in my heart. There’s a strong identity there that’s been a common thread throughout my life.
My children are now old enough to look after themselves. They still go to Cecciola with their friends and one day they’ll probably take their own children there.
We should always show great respect for places that are so fragile, although in actual fact I’ve come to realize that us human beings are the frail ones. Meanwhile, the mountains might be different every time but their essence remains the same and steadily true to itself over the years. I appreciate that my take on the landscapes, environment, customs and rhythms of the place depends to a large extent on how I’ve changed and matured.
In adulthood, I understand how important this place is to me and how it helps me to find a fresh sense of balance as I unwind and take it easy. I feel that I owe it to the place to use my know-how and make a contribution that will enrich it in some way.
As we get older and grow up, we always see things from different perspectives and feel about them in different ways: we’re the ones that change and give new twists to a place that remains true to itself.
Now I’m the one that organizes those wonderful lunches on 15 August when we all come together. I oversee everything and invite our family and friends. There’s a lot more to it than just eating together: it’s all about the importance of the circle of life.