Ghosts in Love

INTRODUCTION

It’s good when people read your blog and put a “like” below a post.

It’s even better when readers put a nice comment too.

But it’s wonderfully unexpected when someone reading your post actually gets inspired to write a short story about it. This is what happened to us when we visited Pontremoli, described in our post at:

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/on-or-off-the-rails-to-pontremoli/

and where we entered, quite by accident, into one of the most beautiful abandoned palazzi we’ve ever seen in Italy.

Maurizio Bardi is a writer, journalist and publisher, passionate about saving Italy’s beautiful neglected princesses of palaces from complete neglect and decay. We consider ourselves privileged that he wrote this short story after reading our post. It’s not just a ghost story or a fairy tale: it also carries a particularly strong punch regarding some local political situations in present day Pontremoli. We’ve translated his evocative Italian prose into English. Thank you Maurizio! Read on and enjoy.

PREFACE

They visited Pontremoli. They entered into the Palazzo Damiani. They took some photographs and asked themselves some questions. Then they posted their thoughts on their internet blog. And if Alexandra and Francis were ghosts returned in search of their home after nearly three hundred years? Maybe…, Everything else, however, is true, including the history of the theatre curtain.

On July 11, 2014 an English couple, Alexandra and Francis, on a visit to Pontremoli, entered by chance into Palazzo Damiani and published their disenchanted thoughts on the internet. This event inspired the following short story.

Maurizio Bardi

GHOSTS IN LOVE

We felt a great wish to return to our room, in our building. Dozens of palaces, monuments of great beauty sited between two rivers, were built in eighteenth century Pontremoli.

Our building is open and unattended. Outside in the street some young people playing football, a strange game involving kicking a ball, shout and break the silence. They upset us. Farther along the horn of an iron wagon they now call a car is booming.

Nearly three centuries have passed. Why has the pleasure of silence disappeared? We are no longer able to listen. Where are those friends who frequented our palace, those intelligent souls who told us about new ideas from Paris, who spoke about the Enlightenment wandering from one place to another? Did they disappear along with Nicolò Contestabili’s frescoes, along with the collapsing walls and windows, along with our conversations in front of the fireplace?

Alexandra, my beloved, says to me: “Look at our ‘Dawn’; the fresco is now unrecognizable because of its abandonment. Remember when, under ‘Dawn’, Stefano Bertolini read us his preface to “The Spirit of Laws,” which had been requested by Montesquieu? Or do you recollect when he told us of his commitment to the legislative reforms of eighteenth century Tuscany?”

“Do you recall how the Pontremoli nobles criticized my ideas about the Enlightenment? They called me the revolutionary, the Palazzo Damiani revolutionary.”

We look for our room in the twilight. Its alcove is crumbling. The frescoed ceiling is collapsing. The walls and the plaster are collapsing. The world is collapsing. How painful! Even we, ghosts, grieve and suffer!

Francis is lost. Pleasure, which was the basis of his philosophy of a carefree and light-hearted life, has been stolen from him; that philosophy emanating from the works of Natali and Contestabili, those eighteenth century painters who gave Pontremoli its splendour.

“What can we do?” Francis asks Alexandra.

“I’ve already done something, but it was useless!”

“I don’t understand.”

“I’ve been to the mayor’s office and I made a painting fall down …”

“And the mayor?” Was she scared? “

“No. So I made it fall down again.”

“And what did she do?”

“She thought it was an attack by her political enemies. She called in a security guard and ordered him to stand still, fixed in front of the painting and guard it, day and night. I made the picture fall down again. Then the guard understood. He started talking about ghosts, but no one believed him. The guard is the only one who understands but just as he starts talking about ghosts they tell him to stop drinking. “

“So?”

“So”, continued Alexandra, “I went to the Town Hall, in the room of a type of foreman. He’s the person taking care of the city’s palaces. I looked for the file on Palazzo Damiani and upset the sheets of paper on his desk, just to make him irritated.”

“Very good!”

“When he returned and saw the papers scattered everywhere he began to shout. He yelled at his deputy foreman in the room next door. He screamed that he must stop touching his documents when he wasn’t there! His face reddened, he took all the files and began to throw them about. Gradually every space in the room was filled with white sheets. He looked like a ghost! “

“Leave it well alone. If we get involved, it could also happen that the whole building collapses. Definitely.”

“Why do you say that?”

Francis’s voice saddened: “Do you remember our wonderful theatre by the river, the Rose Theatre, also built with funds from our family? They renewed it. It was he, the master builder, who was works-manager. I was happy, so I went to have a look. I looked for the terracotta floors hand-made with Terrarossa clay. I looked for the walnut doors of the master carpenters behind which we hid during the festivals. I looked for the painting before which guests arriving at the theatre remained enchanted. They are no longer there. Now they are elsewhere. But where?

I then looked for the vast theatre curtain painted by Contestabili whose creation we saw being completed day by day – a great work of art. I looked all over until I flew up into the attic. I found the curtain there in the corner, huge, curled, dying, and rotting. A great masterpiece that once had enthralled audiences was now abandoned, and before long it will be completely decomposed. “

“I can’t believe it.”

Perched on the alcove railing, exhausted, Alexandra falls asleep. I gaze out of the window that looks over what was once a small pleasant, gentle garden surrounded by arches and think about our longing, our desire to create a world which is, however, beyond that barrier that we ghosts cannot surmount.

“Let’s go”, Alexandra whispers in a soft voice. “We can’t do anything and perhaps it’s better that way.”

Then, suddenly, as if it is resurrection night for ghosts, she confronts him: “Francis, wake up! There’s no time to lose, you must tell. It’s true we are ghosts, but with the internet we ghosts can become something else!

Maurizio Bardi

Alexandra and Francis’s blog is at:

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/on-or-off-the-rails-to-pontremoli/

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4 thoughts on “Ghosts in Love

  1. it seems that ruined buildings , of which there are so many around us here, are so much more evocative of past lives than those buildings which have been restored or kept in order and are now used or inhabited by the living of today.

  2. How beautiful and something that everyone who passes through this region must feel. So many empty buildings that we can all let our imagination run riot. Oh to see them as they once were – again filled with love, life, laughter, tears, sadness. If only the walls could speak.
    Love your post Francis.

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