Tenuta Il Corno

by Vins Gallico  ♦

It’s not true that everything can be measured. It depends on who establishes the unit of measure and the element to be measured, who defines the parameters and even the aims.
This is why I trust vagueness, I trust those who look at content rather than form, who practice meditation. Every day, I do light gymnastics, which constantly changes name based on a wrong oriental pronunciation, which follows fashion and seasons. I made up my own diet without having any knowledge of calorie components and I never check the labels on clothes. I just look at them, pick the one I want, try it and then I see how it feels on me.
I even bought my motorcycle jacket like that.
“Are you the expert on multidimensional energy research?”, asked the voice coming from behind a dust cloud.
I had just taken my helmet off. My Aprilia Pegaso 650 was still revved up, the muffler was scorching. I hopped off, imitating Calamity Jane jumping off her horse, and leaned the bike, counterbalancing it with all my weight, to put it on its kickstand. My legs were still stiff from the trip. On the last few curves, the ones that ran along the hills of Chianti from Florence to the slopes of San Casciano, I actually couldn’t feel them anymore.
It was an odd trip, through a Middle-Earth, between beauties where I thought, even here, in Tuscany, between a jewel like Florence and the olive groves, there are industrial and forgotten outskirts, non-places without a soul. But then, I’d find myself once again surrounded by beauty.
“So, are you the expert on multidimensional energy research?”
Once the cloud of dust dissolved, I saw that the voice that was asking me this question came from a little girl who couldn’t have been more than a ten years old.
I smiled at her. It didn’t surprise me that a little countess could speak like that.
“I would say yes, even if people often call me something else: ghostbuster, ghost catcher, witch. Actually, I can perceive how much magnetic energy there is in the air… and right now, there’s a tiny bit. Where is your mother?”
“She’s at the farmstay”.
I turned my back towards the country house that was dominated by a tower that looked like it had been there for quite some time. I also noticed the rustic but elegant structure on the other side of the olive grove. The country road cut the property in two. This wasn’t the original entrance to the house.
Before I reached the road, an ethereal woman with Botticellian hair was already coming towards me.
“Mrs. Savoldi?”
We greeted each other, each from our side of the road.
The Countess gestured that she would cross over. I adopted the usual policy “the client’s always right!” and waited for her on my side.
“You can call me Maria Giulia,” she said shaking my hand.
“You can call me Giulia, too!”
The Countess, actually Maria Giulia, was perplexed for a second.
And then she pointed out the tower to me.
“Come with me”.
When Little Countess understood what was on her mother’s mind, she tried to tag along, but Maria Giulia scooted her back to her nanny.
We found ourselves in a small court, impossible to see from the facade, but that I somehow guessed was there. A strong smell of ashes, humidity, and wood lingered.
From the bottom, I looked up the tower, with its 5 holes for windows. The top part was closed, with gigantic rusted staples. Maria Giulia went ahead of me up the stairs that were made of stone, up to the second floor, without a railing, and then of wood. They were wobbly. I was worried because her puffy skirt didn’t seem like the ideal clothing for our ascent. I remembered Hitchcock’s movie, the one with the woman who goes up the bell tower and the protagonist can’t follow her because he’s afraid of heights.
Once at the top, Maria Giulia looked me up and down with pride, it wasn’t pure and awry chauvinism. She indicated Florence and then Siena, Pisa and Lucca, the slopes of Chianti, the cypresses towards San Cascino and the ripples of the Apuan Alps. And then the olive groves and the vineyards that belonged to the Frova family.
“My ancestors struck it rich with the railways and silkworms. Our origins are from the regions of Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia. The Frova family moved south to Tuscany in the 1800s.
They bought this home and piece of land in Val di Pesa directly from the heirs of the Grand Duke Leone Strozzi who had, previously, bought the farmhouse (which became the Grand Duke’s summer home) from the ancient family Del Corno, in Pistoia.
I am telling you all this because it might be useful for you to know…”
“It’s not a matter of knowing. Even if sometimes having background information helps. Anyway, don’t worry, I studied it all before coming”.
I had mostly studied the battle of Semifonte, Florence’s rival city, that in 1202, after 4 years of sieges, was razed to the ground. Such a mount of distressed souls. And then there’s the legend of Santa Cristina in Salivolpe, whose remains peregrinated at lengths from one crypt to another.
And if we go even further back in time, it was an Etruscan area. The Etruscans knew a lot about death, necropoles, and otherworldly dialogues.
In fact, I felt something. Nothing really important. But I got a kind of shock, a slight tremor, especially when Maria Giulia brought her hand to her chest to cover her blueish charm.
We went back down to the ground floor and in one of the wings the smell became stronger. Maria Giulia showed me the furnace, with an intertwining system of pneumatic conductors, and the wine cellars where the Frova family crest, with its blue and yellow metal tinctures, reigned over the white and red crest of the Del Corno family and over the yellow one belonging to the Strozzi family.
“I haven’t seen it for quite a while now. It wasn’t a disturbing feeling, it actually gave me a sense of serenity,” said Maria Giulia while she showed me the barricaded room. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a Templar crest.
There sure were ambiguous and mysterious artefacts in those little tunnels.
I waited until we were outside to ask where I was going to sleep. Maria Giulia wanted to give me the room where the ghost used to appear to her for years, but that for a while now, had vanished, to the point where she couldn’t even describe it to me anymore.
“Do you know that people usually call me for the opposite reason?”
Maria Giulia smiled and she poured me a glass of wine.
“Bring this with you during your inspection”.
I allowed myself to take a tour of the house. An embalmed deer head watched me from atop the stairs and in the large central living room, next to the kitchen, the piano echoed the notes played by Little Countess. I realized that I felt a tremor, that I couldn’t really distinguish, especially when I was in the presence of mother and daughter.
Maria Giulia continued telling me about the land, the ghost (this time she specified that it was a woman) and an ink-like, dark and dense wine that her family produced. Its colour was so intense that they named it Colorino.

That night, I fell asleep really late. I closed my eyes at about three in the morning, after having stared at the canopy above my bed.
I didn’t feel anything anymore.
No tremor.

The following morning, Countess and Little Countess had already left. The nanny informed me that I could go back home and that if I had any news, I could contact the Mrs.
Well, I didn’t have any news, but I traveled there and back, and the gas in my Aprilia was not free.
I tried calling Countess Frova in the days following my visit. She didn’t answer her phone, nor her emails. I tried calling the country home “Il Corno”, her farmstay on the other side of the road.
When someone answered, they would never put me through to her and they would mumble something I couldn’t understand.

I believed in meditating, in light gymnastics, in the harmony of the cosmos, in the deep communion in souls, but my landlord expected his rent at the end of each month.
I mailed the invoice a week after I returned from Val di Pesa.
I received no reply, except for a lapidary email in which the staff of “Il Corno” informed me that they had no idea what my statement of charges was about.
Nobody takes Giulia Savoldi for a ride, I said to myself.
I hopped onto my Aprilia Pegaso, headed towards that swath in Tuscany. Some things are better dealt with in person.

As I turned into the lane, I saw the tower at the end. The roar of my 45 horse-powered motorbike caught a woman’s attention.
“Excuse me, I’m looking for the Countess”.
The woman wiped her hands on her apron and came towards me. Before I could reach her, she flashed me a brisk smile.
“Well, you found her… And who are you?”
I introduced myself and told her the reason for my visit.
The woman looked at me and then said, “That’s me, Maria Giulia Frova and I haven’t the faintest idea who you saw here. I’ve been living in this house practically ever since I was born. Here, come in…”
She lead me to the dining room of the farmstay, a massive wooden table was lit up by a beam of light that cast the shadow of a futuristic contraption onto the floor.
This second Maria Giulia Frova that I happened to meet in this place invited me in for a glass of wine.
It was then, face to face with her, that I saw the same charm that I had seen on the neck of the other Maria Giulia.
The Countess noticed my stare.
“Do you like my diadem? It’s a miniature of my family crest”.
“I know,” I said nodding.
“Look, even my grandmother wore one,” and she indicated the picture frame behind her. It was of the woman that I had met the first time, with the same charm that now shone bright on the neck of the Countess standing in front of me.
I allowed myself to ask, “Did your grandmother pass away?”
“Yes, quite some time ago now. Actually, come to think of it, she always used to show up in many of my dreams. But as time passed by, she appeared less and less”.
Right then and there, one of the Countess’ children joined us. He was an older boy, lively-looking, with kind eyes.
“Is she the ghost catcher?”, he asked.
“To be more precise, I am the expert in multidimensional energy research. In brief, if there’s a ghost, I can usually sense it. And I can barely sense anything here”.
And right at that moment, a new sensation ran through me, like an earthquake shake.
In a small piece of mirror on the frame, I saw a reflection of myself.
“What era is this picture from?”
“End of the 1800s,” replied Maria Giulia, “it was probably made by using the wine, Colorino, as paint”.

It’s not true that everything can be measured. It depends on who establishes the unit of measure and the element to be measured, who defines the parameters and even the aims.
And suddenly, I closed my eyes and tasted the flavor of that wine in my mouth.
The sense was not finding an explanation, but rather merely enjoying those moments.


Translation by Julie and Nick Porcellato