The place we went to live
The world is strange, but our lives can be even more. These images are
from Saronno, the place where we opted to live or, as I should better
write, "to survive". My opinion about this small town some twenty miles
north of Milan has indeed slightly changed since we got off the train, for
our first time here, seven years ago. Soon after settling, a close friend
of my father warned me about the ugliness of this place. He had lived
here during a massive migration of the sixties, coming from a rural
village of central Italy. I stiffly answered I had to wait and see before
deciding. Now I'm pretty sure he was right.
Saronno is a post industrial town which lately converted itself into
a rather good and convenient place to live for those working and
operating in that big furnace of Milan downtown. The remains of
its past splendor are facing everyone and summarized in a cleverly
organized museum where I like to spend some of my spare time
together with my son. There are no historical witnesses, here.
Nothing comparable to the splendid roman and renaissance ages
sites of the small town where I grew up. Old barns and farmer
houses are slowly being converted into extraordinary and expensive
real estates, for the enjoyment of few lucky and well-off professionals.
The ghostly – but maybe I’d better write “gothic” – aspect of this place
comes out when I stop looking at the images I’ve always taken around,
trying to discover its intimacy, as well some signs left by past generations.
If only there was a collective soul, a connecting tissue, some fertile humus
for growing and improving ourselves, then it must be well hidden behind
the walls of these buildings absent-mindedly placed side-by-side.
There is, I feel, a sense of sadness and, at the same time,
disconsolate admiration for a place which has nothing else to
offer than the vestiges of its recent industrial past. All those huge,
grey, empty productive structures with their tall brick-chimneys and
rusted machineries, inevitably destined to demolition or to the natural
destructive effect of time; all those industrial-design cult objects, so
carefully collected and exposed in the halls of that local museum and
the disheartening and bare ugliness of the meadows surrounding the
town itself don’t let me trust there’s a single good reason for keep living
here and growing up our sons.
I know I’ll go away from here one day. I can’t say when but, today
more than ever before, I keep warm a sense of gratitude for that
friend of ours, who tried to open wide my eyes before coming here.
It’s never too late.
pictures and text by Tiberio Fanti