Walking along the steep way to the Piagnaro Castle in Pontremoli, people may notice this bench, nicely decorated with a quote from Italo Calvino’s masterpiece “Marcovaldo”:
“C’era, in un angolo della piazza, sotto una cupola d’ippocastani, una panchina appartata e seminascosta. E Marcovaldo l’aveva prescelta come sua. In quelle notti d’estate, quando nella camera in cui dormivano in cinque non riusciva a prendere sonno, sognava la panchina come un senza tetto può sognare il letto d’una reggia.”
The book is translated also in English, and this is the same quote:
“In one corner of the square, under a dome of horse-chestnuts, there was a remote, half-hidden bench. And Marcovaldo had picked it as his own. On those summer nights, in the room where five of them slept, when he couldn’t get to sleep, he would dream of the bench as a vagabond dreams of a bed in a palace.”
Marcovaldo is a poor rural man, unskilled worker, living with his family in a big industrial city in northern Italy during 1960s (the years of the economic boom). He seems having an affinity with nature, with an evident distaste for city life: in each story, he succumbs to something that appears natural and beautiful but actually disappoints him. Common themes in the stories include pollution, appearance vs. reality, failure, poverty and consumerism.
For this reasons, I found this quote (and this bench) perfectly contextualized with this corner: everyone can see in it the the beauty of small, rural villages; the calm of simple life; the pleasure of sitting here, reading a book and disconnect from the rest of the world. Probably, we all should be a bit more “Marcovaldo” sometimes: am I wrong?