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Magreglio and the story of a house

Let me tell you the story of a house in Magreglio, a little village in the north of Italy.

I practice Linguistic Empathy and I expect you to do the same. Please bear with me if my English is not perfect.

This is the story of a house where I was taken when I was 10 days old, and where I spent all of my summer, Christmas and Easter holidays until I was 17 and my parents sold it.

I did not make a fuss at that time because I was starting my adult life and was all launched towards new things – the house in Magreglio represented a part of my life I was growing away from.

As time went by, though, I found myself going back to it in my memories more and more. The vividness of them is stunning. With no other house on earth, even with those where I have lived more recently, have I such clear recollection of sensations, feelings, noises and even smells.

If I close my eyes and remember how it was, I can really feel into the moment. I can see myself as a little child arriving in Magreglio, jumping out of the car and running through the green and black gate – I gently touched the lilies of the valley in the stone flower beds, ran to the three birches that gave the house its name, just to make sure the trunk was still black and white, and the soft skin would peel off when caressed.

Then I rushed on the big stone steps, surrounded by hydrangeas, in a feast of pink and blue, and I got to the main door. It opened onto a small room, with a red wood bank where my mother and aunts used to sit on rainy days. On the wall was a souvenir my father had taken back from Thailand, I believe – a combination of blue, yellow, pink and light green bamboo disks that produced the sweetest sound when shaken by the light evening breeze.


Me with my mom on the terrace which has been closed later on


The house was always cold when we got back to her, but I rushed from one room to another with uncontrollable frenzy.

I started from the kitchen. I opened the cupboard where my mom kept biscuits and Nutella, to see if something had been left behind from the previous stay. The pungent and humid smell that hit my nostrils when I opened the cupboard wooden white door was a promise of days to come, of bread, butter and sugar and chocolate eaten with friends and cousins after playing for hours in what seemed to me as the most marvelous of gardens.

I then moved to the bedrooms, touching the beds one by one. The furthest room opened onto the garden, and I was back outside, to the tree I so much loved to climb and the three pine trees on the back, whose trunks were covered in resin, and forced us to get back inside and wash our hands with chilly water if we touched them.

But the house was much more than this. It was the gathering of an enlarged family for the summer. My sister and her books, my brothers and their motorbikes and music band (with concerts in the garage – this is one of the songs they used to play 🙂 ), my mom always cooking, playing cards or knitting and chatting with her sisters in law and aunts, my father working in the garden. And all the cousins, uncles, friends who passed by. It was beautiful and cheerful. Or at least, this is how I remember it.

The house today

I went back to Magreglio to see the house when my first son was a few months old, that is to say 24 years ago. By watching it, and the changes she has undergone, I was gripped by a deep saudade.

I never went back but my cousins did. And here comes the big scoop: I was told a few days ago that the house is on sale!!! This set an emotional earthquake in motion – I started dreaming of buying it back, of bringing back the few pieces of furniture my mom still has that used to be in the house, of testing myself in the new place and the old environment.

I reasoned, even if they have closed the beautiful terrace where I spent long hours playing, I can still see the Crocione (big stone cross at the top of the mountain) right in front of me.

Even if they have cut the three birches, I can still walk on the stone steps and maybe even replanting the hydrangeas! Of course all of this could not really happen – even if I had the money to buy it, when would I find the time to go and who’d come with me? My husband and sons are certainly not interested in Magreglio!

Anyway I called the real estate agency, only to find out that the portion of the house they sell is the second floor, the one that belonged to my aunt and uncle, and where I rarely went – to me it was like entering an alien environment, and I felt intimidated by it.

I felt disappointed and relieved at the same time. And I asked the guy of the agency to keep me posted on the future of the house. You never know, the family that now possesses the first floor might decide to sell it in the future. Or maybe they’ll read this post and invite me to the house, maybe even rent it to me for a little while…what a treat that would be!

Claudia Landini
October 2015
Photos ©ClaudiaLandini

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