Literary Walks – Meetings, readings and exhibition

It’s 8 am. Gaetano and Luca are already on their way to Matera. In the afternoon, they will start preparing the exhibition “Portraits of Humanity”. Ylenia and Rosita are in Latronico to take care of the organisational work. Later, Gaetano will tell about today and the story of our missed coffee break on the 106 Jonica highway: Marco was about to come, and they were late. The morning could not have started better, thanks to the muggy air and the unbearable heat! Marco Cazzato, a well-known illustrator who boasts collaborations with La Stampa, Einaudi, Il Sole 24Ore, Slow Food, Linus, Corriere della Sera and various works in the music and film-making industry, arrives in Matera after having spent the night in a bunk of an Intercity Notte train. He is tired from lack of sleep and wants to rest a little bit before lunch, which today will be based on a typical dish: Fave e Cicorie, a fava bean puree with chicory. In the afternoon, Pier joins the rest of the team at the Casale; then everyone gets to work to set up the exhibition and prepare the boards. Marco's anxiety about the big event that will be held in Matera next Monday is clear and palpable; among other things, the frame-maker, who must deliver the thirty boards, does not answer the phone. Finally, the boards are delivered: they are beautiful! One look is enough to appreciate the great work done by Marco together with the whole team. Pier works silently; he is nice, patient and respectful of other people's work. Even if some of us are in Matera and others in Latronico, we stay connected until late and we all work to achieve the same goal: to ensure the smooth running of the events taking place in the coming days. Suddenly it’s night and most of the work is done; we are tired, so we go to dinner at Donatella’s. A table laden with food will give us some relief from the fatigue and the heat.

Once the final details for the exhibition have been settled, a promotional campaign is launched: Marco and Francesca, a member of the Circolo dei lettori of Turin (Turin Readers' Club) who yesterday came to visit us again, are distributing flyers on the street to inform the locals, and the many tourists, of the event. Our lunch today has a fresh salad as main course and good laughs throughout the early afternoon. It's really warm outside and Francesca tells about the plants that she left in Turin and the burdensome task of watering them, which she entrusted to her neighbours. While we are waiting for Elvira Dones to arrive in Matera, Marco and Francesca decide to visit the Museum of the Peasant Culture. Gaetano and Luca, instead, stay here and admire the colours and reconstructions in the Sassi. Elvira arrives around 6 pm from Bari and she immediately sets off for Latronico. Usual dinner at Francesca’s and Valerio’s and then a quick stop in the square. The guests feel exhausted and go to bed early after spending some time chatting.

In the morning, Gaetano picks up the van that we will need for the group trips and sets off for San Severino Lucano for the last site visit at the Palafrido, where tomorrow the storytelling in two voices will take place. The rest of the group meets up at MULA +. We spend the morning pleasantly, chatting with each other and coordinating the afternoon schedule. It's 5.30 pm and everything is ready for the public meeting + reading. Annalisa and Enrico arrived from Potenza. Annalisa is the social media communication specialist of the Ka art project; Enrico is a wizard with new technologies and the creator of our website and those wonderful animations that are arousing everyone's admiration. We are happy to have many friends and collaborators around us at this very important moment. We placed a few bales of hay, which will serve as seats, at the bottom of the steps of the Earth Cinema, the artwork made by Anish Kapoor. Tonight, here, we will meet the Pollino’s community to give them a feedback on the work made with Elvira and Marco and listen to some excerpts from the stories of Elvira Dones told by Eva Immediato. In October, we started our project right here, from the Pollino and its inhabitants: that’s why it is here that we want to start telling our journey. Earth Cinema is a 45m long and 7m deep cut into the landscape; people can enter the installation and view the earth void within it. It is a symbolic place for us of ArtePollino. We like to think of it as the womb where our association was conceived and given birth eleven years ago, the womb where we were born to start the journey that has led us to Matera 2019. We want to remember and tell that once again tonight. That’s why we are here. The stories collected and written by Elvira are stories of women and their sometimes difficult lives, which inevitably reawakened in the writer memories of her own life. These are the stories of Flora, Maria and Misses Grezzi. "Be able to find light in the dark and create something good starting from that": this was her purpose. Isn’t she absolutely right? Besides, "happy things can be seen by everyone!” Elvira Dones is a writer, reporter and screenwriter of Albanian origin. While she was writing about these women, she tried not to seem like a journalist to them, but to write about their experiences with extreme sensitivity and no entertaining purposes. She is the child of a painful experience, of an Albania that was ruled by a dictatorship, and she really empathised with the women she was telling about, always identifying herself in them. Eva reads for us, and the emotions of the wide and attentive audience can be felt and almost touched. Among us, all from Basilicata, a group of about thirty people from Turin, who came specially for these events, thanks to the Circolo dei lettori that organised their trip, is following the discussion with great attention and wonder. We are really happy to find Elena Notarangelo among them. Hidden in the audience there is Flora, who came from San Costantino Albanese, together with Pina and Mimma, because she really wanted to be here tonight. She wanted to greet Elvira and listen to her own story, which, on a rainy night last October, in front of a cup of Albanian tea, she had generously entrusted to this writer, who shares her roots. Then it’s time for Marco Cazzato to illustrate the exhibition, which can be visited from the 1st July in Matera. Marco has meticulously depicted on canvas all the details of our land that have drawn his attention and the encounters he has made here. At the end of the event we leave the Terme Lucane park and have dinner with Antonio Pascale and Amedeo Balbi, the main characters of the journey we will take tomorrow, who in the meantime have arrived at Latronico. What have we learned from this meeting? First of all, we have learned to give space to other people. And to open ourselves up to new people and never refuse contact.

We arrive at Piano Ruggio, which is located at about 1,500 meters above sea level, at around 10.15 am. We are surrounded by immense green fields, where horses graze in every corner. The day is beautiful and up here it is not too warm. Some people are waiting for us, some of them will take part in the last literary walk, together with Antonio Pascale and Amedeo Balbi. We wait for everyone to join the group and then we leave. Our two authors, perhaps intimidated by so much beauty, decide to postpone their presentation until the afternoon, when we will arrive at Palafrido. For now, they remain silent and listen to our expert guide, Gaetano, who tells us about the centuries-old beech trees, the large road that was used to transport the trees to the sawmills, the ancient arboreal rites and many other things. After a quite long walk, we arrive at the Belvedere del Malvento (panoramic viewpoint). From here, we can see high peaks and tiny villages merging together within endless natural landscapes. In front of us there are some Bosnian pines. Looking downwards, we can see the Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway. We are admiring the landscape that is unfolding before our eyes, when Paolo and Elga, who work for the Matera Basilicata 2019 Foundation, join us, together with their respective partners and barefoot little Agata, on her first trip. For a little while, Agata draws all our attention to herself, distracting us from the view. The lunch break at Mulino Iannarelli helps us feel refreshed. We sit in the garden around a long table filled with vegetables and mouth-watering delicacies of every kind, but the peppers continue to be the undisputed stars! Even those who used to hate peppers have learned to love them here. Antonio, the boyfriend of Agnese, our social media manager, was one of them, but tonight he will have to cook the peppers for her! At 5.00 pm we are all at the Palafrido, where we are greeted by the mayor Franco Fiore, as well as other representatives from the administration and the organisation's staff. We listen to the story told Amedeo Balbi, an astrophysicist, and Antonio Pascale, a journalist, writer and blogger. The picture they show us depicts a group of people observing the stars, thinking and asking themselves questions. Time and Chaos are the two topics of the discussion. And this is the conclusion reached: what happens on the Earth is linked to the Universe, we are inevitably children of the stars, made up of the same substance. Once again, no one is isolated, and everyone feels connected to each other. And Ka art reminds the importance of that to all of us.

We leave at 1 pm. The exhibition’s opening is scheduled at 6 pm, but we decide to leave early as we are afraid of being stuck in the traffic: tomorrow, like every 2nd July, the celebrations of the Madonna della Bruna, patron saint of the city, will take place in Matera, and this year we expect a great participation and a massive tourist presence since the celebrations’ eve. Once there, we take Elvira and Francesca to the hotel and go to the Casale, where Marco is waiting for us. We take care of the last details: the arrangement of tables and chairs, information brochures, etc. Then we are ready to start. The works are opened by Paolo Mele, who today represents the Matera Basilicata 2019 Foundation. After an introduction on the Ka art project by Rosita, Marco and Elvira speak once again about the experience. We had previously decided not to drag the explanations out but focus on the illustrations instead, giving people the possibility to walk around them. Let's start then! Cheers! Visitors walk around the rooms, amazed by so much beauty. We glimpse Flora and Pina in the group: the 130 km that separate San Costantino Albanese from Matera have not stopped them from being here, once again, to share this moment with us. Flora is visibly moved. Marco was able to capture the spirit of the places, especially the details that sometimes are not noticed by most of us. It was hard to get this far, but we really like this exhibition and feel proud of it. The activities behind the scenes, from the journey, the meetings, the months spent studying and thinking, up to the search for suitable frames: all this led us to a very high-quality work. We are proud and grateful to our two artists and the Circolo that has recommended them. Marco describes, one by one, the twenty-five boards that are accompanied by the five excerpts of Elvira’s stories. We stay here talking until late. We are about to close but we can’t, we have to wait for Maria to join us. She is the main character of this exhibition and, like Flora, she travelled from Chiaromonte to be here. The boards where Marco has depicted the details of the cave where Maria puts the cheese to mature are among the most beautiful. The event ends with a bang, with a group picture in the courtyard and one last toast. We thought we would be back early tonight, as tomorrow we are going to start early again, but Marco's words and expression make us change our minds: after so much work we must have one last dinner together! He is right. So, we all go to Donatella’s and we wish each other good luck, enjoying together some focaccia, vegetables and brasciole (which in Basilicata are different from the usual chops, that in Italian are known as “braciole”, but as some tourists still don't know it, they end up being shocked and protesting with the waiters ... when will we learn to travel!?!? ), and the company of a gecko, which seems to want to throw itself on our table but will remain firmly on the wall throughout the dinner. After dining, we go up to Piazza Vittorio Veneto, which tonight is packed with people admiring the lights show. We decide to stand there for a while in open-mouthed wonderment, looking skywards. Then we say goodbye and hug each other right there in the crowd. Tomorrow our guests will take the shuttle to Bari and fly home. We pick up the van at the parking lot instead and get ready for the almost two-hour journey. During the journey we talk, make jokes and help keep Gaetano awake while he drives. Whoever lets himself go and closes his eyes (Luca) is immediately and jokingly reprimanded. We look more relaxed, but we know that a challenging and eventful month awaits us. There are so many things to look after, but we will do our best to enjoy the new experiences and bring them to our places, as a breath of fresh air in such scorching hot summer.