Today we are in Radicondoli. It’s pretty late in the afternoon and the little town is populated by a quite and vivid happiness: we are surrounded by the typical village’s chatter. Or, at least, the typical chatter in a “back in my old times” village like this one.
Sure thing is that today is a celebration’s day in Radicondoli and, perhaps, the fuss is a little more emphatic as it usually is, but there are things that never change like the old ladies chatting and gossiping about the village’s business sitting in circle in front of the church, the kids in the square, the music that plays softly in the street, coming from some opened windows. We meet Ron at the main bar with a coffee and a beer, and then we start talking.
So, Ron, an American in Radicondoli! Why are you here? And how did you arrive in Italy?
That’s an interesting story. A nice one.
My family has Italian roots, my grandparents left Italy in the first decade of ‘900 and they established, at first, in Toronto. They came from a little town in Basilicata, Pisticci. Their children were all born outside Italy and, since their emigration, they never got back to Italy.
Mine is indeed the third generation, my family was by all means completely American. Then, in 1975, while I was attending the University of No. Colorado and I won a scholarship to study art in Italy. I was very young, and all my life was in America until that point, all my interests were there and so I almost gave up, but everything was ready so…
I remember one thing: at the Denver’s Airport when my dad accompanied me, he warned me to be careful. My dad was so American! He knew that my intention was looking for my family’s members, “They are poor” he told me “and you don’t know what they could think about the American Boy or what are their expectations for you” but I felt grown up enough, I thought I knew everything and I told him not to worry about me.
I stayed in Italy three months and at the end of my school session, I took a train to Basilicata to look for my family.
I didn’t know him, I didn’t know any of them, I knew nothing of them, but I discovered that they knew me! My grandmother, through all those years, had sent them pictures and news about us. I was surprised to know that they kept a photo of me with the other photos of the family’s members. Those people, even if they were so far away, followed and watched over me and my life. They treated me like a beloved nephew.
The day I left the whole family joined me at the train station, in order to say goodbye. We hugged and we kissed one with another and then I felt hands in my pockets: they were putting money inside my pockets for me.
In that moment I thought about my dad, at the airport, I recollected about what he had told me and what I thought I knew. I knew nothing. But now I do.
Even today I get emotional when I think back to that story.
That moment changed my life for ever.
Such a beautiful story! A story about the real value of things.
Yes, that’s right, they taught me to search the authenticity in all things. They taught me the difference between cost and value.
Since then I came back often in Italy, then in Siena and then here, in Radicondoli. But this is another story.
I see. You say about yourself that you are a Storyteller. This passion for Stories is, somehow, connected with your family history?
Sure, my passion was born there. There is a project that I am developing about searching and narrate the stories of old artisans and farmers, about their work. I think it is important not to lose the wisdom of the past, the beauty in these people, that connect us to the learnings of the past.
For me is very important the bond that we can create between Italy and U.S.A., between the big history, all the Italian traditions that can be linked with United States. We have a very recent history and new roots but offer a real propension to modernity and the capacity to develop their own ideas.
So, Ron, who are you? An American in Italy or an Italian in America?
I think I am both.
I always say I feel I live on the a bridge between Italy and America, looking in both direction, helping other cross the bridge and learn.
I have two lives: there is a Ron that lives in San Diego, California, he work as a designer and sculptor and teach design at the Design’s Academy of California. And then there is the other Ron, the one who lives in Radicondoli, that travels through all over Italy looking for stories. I love Italy, I come here every time I can. It is my refuge, my haven. My friends here are also my family now.
Today I am an happy man because, after a lot of hard work, I do exactly what I want to do. I have a lot of challenges to face but they are inside me. And I understand that we cannot control everything, as I thought when I was younger.
I never stopped to be curious: curiosity is important, fundamental and is even more important if you do the job I do. Curious people never grow old.
Forgive me, Ron, but I don’t understand. You say that you love Italy and anyone can feel it when you talk, and yet you don’t live here. Do you ever think about moving here?
Oh, no! – he smiles – No, no, no, I tried, really, I did so but it was a year full of hardships! You see, I love Italy whole-heartedly but I also think that my relationship should be simple as it is right now.
If I will start living here I will also start seeing all the things that do not work, the problems and this will ruin all the magic. I guess I can say that Italy is my lover but if she will become my spouse the relationship will be ruined forever.
It is already so late and we have to say goodbye to Ron.
It is such a pity, there are so many things that I’d like to discuss with him, about America and Italy, other questions, other stories and then, surely, about his job, his thoughts about it, all his projects in San Diego.
When we talk with people like Ron, so full of interests and thing to say, time surely is not enough.
So, thank you Ron, I hope in new chance to see each other again and continue our talk.