To welcome in the new year, we have a short extract from an Italian memoir about the bells of Filetto, Virgoletta, Malgrate, Orturano and Mocrone. Written over fifty-five years ago, it is a reminder that, while the world has changed, the bells remain timeless.
The sun, a radiant burst of gold, drops below the mountains of Mulazzo. The purple shadows turn an ashen grey as they descend to invade the valley and the plain. And the bells awaken. First those of Filleto. They start out slow and laboured, becoming chatty, then happy, before taking on the excitement of a military march. These are the most prominent of all the bells, and set the tone for the sister bells in the hills and pastures. Almost immediately, the formidable bell tower of Virgoletta awakens with a joyful peel that could be the the first verse of the leggenda del Piave* or the canzone del Grappa.*
The five sets of bells are in clear harmony, not something found among the villages, let alone felt in the mother city. And now Beppe, full of fervour, joins in making sure his bells are heard ahead of the advancing procession of shadows and the farmer returning home, bent over with the weight of his tools. It is the voice of Malgrate chiming a note of caution, calling for rest, peace and time to share a meal around the table.
And finally Orturano with its fertile vines, and Mocrone, lying in the dark green of the plain, send from their steeples, a salute to the day already departed and to the approaching night.
The translation is from Il Sabato del Villagio, one of the stories from Lunigiana – Visioni e Figure by Luigi Fugaccia, also known as Fra’ Ginepro da Malgrate. It was published in Bergamo in 1959.