Afternoons in the gallery
TWO SICILIANS AT THE COFFEE TABLES
CURATED by Giovanna FERRANTE
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Two men, Giovanni and Luigi, seated at a table in the Caffè Biffi in the Galleria.
Both Sicilian literati; one, Verga, arrived in Milan in 1872, the other, Capuana, on the advice of his friend, three years later.
“Yesterday I ordered the house aperitif, the Melange, it is a non-alcoholic potion that they claim has infinite healing properties … I thought I would meet you, there was also the Treves …” “No, I followed Boito to Countess Maffei. It is difficult to give up a few hours in his living room, dispenser of intelligence, culture, art. ” “Yes, just say via Bigli 21 – second floor and the casket of knowledge and debate opens up.” “Remember instead that tonight we meet for dinner with Treves, Boito and Torelli-Viollier.”
A waiter approaches.
“I’m taking back a Melange, I recommend it.” “So be it, let’s try the news” “So, dear Luigi, your stories are about to come out.” “You know Giovanni well that I collaborate with Corriere della Sera because you need to have a profession and a livelihood, but being between your own words and your own fantasies is quite another thing. You will tell me what you think of my Profiles of women, I wrote them for me experiencing real sensations, real feelings, real pains.
But this 1877 also brought me another idea. At the end of the year we will celebrate the conclusion of this gallery with the arch towards the square and I, a Sicilian from Mineo, will dedicate a story to this magnificent work, a favorite place of the Milanese. It won’t be next year, maybe not even the other one yet, but it’s a project I don’t want to abandon. ”
“For me, on the other hand, the idea of a novel is in my head. I still don’t know, but … ”
Giovanni Verga. Virginia cigar between thin lips, deep gaze, reserved man park of words and gestures; women are fascinated by it, aristocratic ladies whose names are whispered have access to her apartment in Corso Venezia, sober and tidy rooms, paintings on the walls, a fireplace in the center of the room, a pendulum clock at the entrance.
Verga returns home. He begins to write a few sentences in his diary in his minute handwriting, dipping the pen in the purple ink.
The Gallery, luster to Milanese everyday life, the atmosphere is a dress of unforgettable elegance. Milan is really beautiful in the midst of this lively crowd that roams around you and you need a tenacious will to resist its seductions and go back to work. These seductions are also excitement at work, they are breathable air for the mind to live. And loneliness at home is filled with all the fascinating figures who have smiled at you and have become the heritage of your imagination.
And his imagination for a few days has been occupied by a boat that will be called Provvidenza, by the shipwreck of the same, and by different characters, Padron ‘Ntoni, his son Bastianazzo married to Mariuzza, their five children. And from a load of lupins, from the struggle for survival, from a medlar …
A thousand kilometers from Sicily, the Malavoglias take shape.
Milan 1881 Volume published on the occasion of the National Exhibition of 1881. Composed of various sections (Art-Science-Economy-Industry-Hygiene-Charity) illustrated by short essays on different topics. And from articles on Milanese culture, customs and social life.
Luigi Capuana dedicates his story to the Gallery.
“The Galleria is the heart of the city. People flock to it from all sides, pouring from its four outlets, I was about to say in the aorta and arteries of the great organism, so much resemblance to the functions of the heart. Its sumptuous coquetry dazzling with lights and colors, raising its immense arch towards the sun. On the large crystals of the shops and cafes there is an incessant reflection and disappearance of pretty young ladies, who smile at the flattering snares of some clerk, and this communicates something youthful and easy.
Hours go by. From corso Vittorio Emanuele, from piazza della Scala, from the outlets of via Ugo Foscolo and via Silvio Pellico, the crowd mixes as in an immense beehive, enters the shops, leaves the cafes, spreading a confused murmur of voices under the great vault, of footsteps, of rustles, such that it seems the continuous flow of the waters of a river … “