,,Fai buon lavoro per Natale…’’

In memoriam Giuliano Berno

Giuliano (in the blue shirt, right) sitting at the steps of San Rocco Chapel, 16th of August 2010.

Very bad news reached us last week during our stay, our neighbour Giuliano Berno (76) the last permanent resident of San Rocco passed away. We felt like orphans last week. Finally he didn’t recover of a severe heart attack during the olive harvest the last week of November last year. Already last August he was not attending the San Rocco  patron feast, suffering of a bad stomach. I’ll remember the man of his repeatedly welcoming message when he saw me struggling with my motor saw cutting wood behind the house, always passing there on his way to feed the  chickens or water his cherry tomatoes. ,,Fai buon lavoro per Natale,’’ was the only statement of him I could understand, because the rest of the time he mostly jabbered some Ligurian dialect that unluckily never in my life I’ll be able to understand.

Giuliano was single and the living example of the pure Ligurian ,,contadino’’ of the mysterious entroterra, introvert and closed, sparse in comments, and always slightly worried about something to happen, his universe  oriented to the North, where the mountains are marked off; preferring the local bar of Testico to the busy tourist coast of Andora. That universe were the valleys around  San Damiano perhaps reaching unto Pieve di Teco, but he never left the place Guagnolo. Summer and winter there was always smoke coming out of the chimney.

Totto in full attack of the green leaves of Enrique's fruitgarden.

If you heard him sometimes, he was commanding Totto, the likewise aged snowwhite goat-with-the-dragging-leg behind, always breaking out to attack Enrique’s neighbouring fruitgarden. On his white vespa you could run into Giuliano on the narrow mountainroads; his speed wasn’t moderated. So you always  had to be careful in the turns. In the summer of 2010 he got already involved in a serious  accident running with his scooter on an unmarked narrowing  road. Three broken ribs and several weeks of sleepless hot summernights because of the pain were the result, but no way of leaving the house or a retreat.  For weeks his three beloved and friendly nieces had to come over and they managed to undertake an overall cleaning up of the place armed with vacuum cleaner, brushers and dusters and fresh paint. Day after day we saw them passing with sacks full of garbage, while Giuliano was despondently condemned to undergo the situation, stuck to his ,,poltrona’’.

Anyhow his local zoo continued to flourish that disastrous year, with at least fifteen cats that we counted from our terrace during the summer of 2010. One spring later the cat population was decimated by… a local fox family in search for food. But don’t worry, there were still chickens and rabbits all over the place.

Giuliano's ,,Contadinocats'' in better times: 50% of the total population in one image!     Giuliano's chickenpark

One of those well kept secrets of Giuliano’s place is that he should have pressed his own olive oil by means of an ancient horse mill, somewhere hidden in one of the numerous ,,cantine’’ of his place and driven by himself, but no one ever saw him doing it in recent years. It is one of those mysteries, Giuliano probably has taken with him.

“Dietro la Liguria dei cartelloni turistici, dietro la Riviera dei grandi alberghi, delle case da gioco,del turismo internazionale, si estende, dimenticata e sconosciuta, la Liguria dei contadini.” (Italo Calvino, in: “Liguria magra e ossuta”).

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