They say everything about Liguria.
They tell you that, we, hailing from these shores, are grumpy and stingy. That our sea is magnificent in some areas, and raped by eco-monsters in others. That pesto in our kitchens tastes like nowhere else. That Genoa is exquisite and that we walk in caruggi.
However, a dream takes form in Liguria every August.
A little village called Apricale can be found at about 700 metres above sea level. Apricus means exposed to the sun in Latin. Apricale looks like a cascade of ancient stone houses stretched along the ridge of a steep slope dominated by the rise of the Castle,and is one of the villages of stone that poets and artists have sung about for centuries.
Apricale takes travellers to a foregone world. It is the embrace of the countryside to the terraces supported by dry stone walls, which over the centuries have torn the mountain plains to precious handkerchiefs of land. It sends silvery reflections of olives groves and green dark masses of other crops towards the dense chestnut and pine forests on the mountains, up there, a lot higher up.
Watch carefully while you walk in its caruggi: you will spot a sign saying “1764 fame ubique” which means “hunger everywhere in 1764”. A reminder of long periods of famine.
For about 30 years, Apricale has been turning into a huge open-air stage every August: squares, houses, streets open up and let the Teatro della Tosse Company in. They will tell you about the Tarots, the Aura Legenda, the Amor Cortese, Boccaccio’s Decameron, and Ulysses’ wanderings. People joining this fantastic group of actors get to Apricale by car, motorbike, bicycle or they trek to this incredible place. After their arrival, they get divided into smaller groups and they then can spring the anchor of reality, abandoning themselves to stories to long-gone eras and heroes.
Last year, a night-club called “Sogno” opened in Apricale: it reminded of Berlin, in the Thirties. In a truly unforgettable midsummer night, the Teatro della Tosse actors tracked the lives of the main characters of a well-renowned masterpiece by a very well-known William S.
Pollicina and I walked around their mature memories: an elderly Oberon, wrapped in a strange Nazi uniform, told us of his love for Titania tired but still charmingly reminding us of Marlene Dietrich. We then touched Lysander, Hermia, Helena and Demetrius who have lost not only the way back from evanescent woods, but also immense opportunities: they talked to us about their bad choices, hoping that something can still happen. We have tried, in vain, to separate reality from illusion when we met Bottom.
One character shone among them, though – Puck – he that opened and shut our eyes to this illusion. I thought for a second I was falling for Pietro Fabbri who gave Puck some flesh and bones and tragically reminded us that the gates of sleep could be a channel of communication with another reality, where you are still young, the war has never been and maybe you are a happy man.
Of that night, then, I remember the lengthening shadows on abandoned bottles, and a magic bike that climbed the bell tower, on the notes played by Juliet The Chansonnier.