Returning from lunch on Sunday, we came across a film crew at the entrance of the borgo of Malgrate. Undeterred by the upheaval caused by the new paving works, they were making a film of the life of Giovanni Antonio da Faie, the famous writer and apothecary born in Malgrate in 1409. The film is to be shown in Filetto in August 2014.
We recognised and had a quick chat with one of the party – Riccardo from our favourite pizzeria in Filleto, Il Tempo Ritrovarto. He was taking the horse through its paces.
Some of the rumours earlier this year about George Clooney buying a house in Lunigiana mentioned that he was interested in making a film of the life of Giovanni Antonio da Faie, but I can confirm that, on this occasion, George was nowhere to be seen.
A brief biography of Giovanni Antonio da Faie
Giovanni Antonio da Faie was orphaned at the age of nine. He worked as a cow herder, a shoe maker, and a tailor before being apprenticed to Nicolò di Sacramoro, the well-known apothecary in Bagnone. Da Faie never went to school and learnt to read and write from his customers.
Da Faie led an eventful life, often surviving on his wits. After four years studying with di Sacramoro, he left for Sienna, but never reached his destination. After brief sojourns in Lucca and Pisa, Da Faie returned to Bagnone to open his own apothecary shop with capital provided by Giovanni di Berretta from Treschietto. At one point, disagreements with the Marchese of Bagnone forced Da Faie to flee to Villafranca. He eventually returned to Bagnone and became the sole owner of the apothecary shop after the death of di Berretta. Around this time he married Franceschina Rolando Manzi from Orturano. Despite his humble beginnings, Da Faie overcame the social barriers of his time to become one of the most prosperous people in Bagnone.
Later, he moved to Pontremoli and then, for health reasons, to La Spezia, where he opened another apothecary shop. However, he was drawn back to Bagnone, where he died in 1470 at the age of 62. He is buried in the old church up at Bagnone Castle.
Da Faie had two daughters, Diana and Guglielmina, and a son Raphael. Raphael was a notary and it is said that his descendants dropped the name Da Faie in favour of Raffaelli, a family name that is still familiar in Bagnone today.
It was in 1448 that Da Faie started writing about his life, and his manuscripts are now the predominant record of life in the Val di Magra in the 15th Century. His memoirs are preserved in the State Archives in Massa. There are various books and essays available about Da Faie and his work, written in Italian.
A film about Giovanni Antonio da Faie appeared on Ciao Lunigiana on 23 June 2014.