Forio and the Bolivar Palace

portone-bolivarI always thought that the closed gates of the old buildings in the historical center of Forio, if on the one hand gave me the sense of limit and impracticability, on the other hand have made me fantasize, stimulating thoughts and imagination.
When I was child, I sensed that the locals felt an integral part of those buildings, belonged to the tradition, culture, history that stones yet tell, for the characters who had lived there and had left their imprint.

Many had never crossed those massive doors behind which there was a whole world apart. People commented and lived from the outside events that happened within those small kingdoms, mostly impassable for difference of caste and culture.
I heard people say: “that one is the Pezzillo Palace”, there is the Tower of Mr. Luigi Morgera, and beyond is the Palace of Don Luigi Patalano".
The huge door of that building I remember in a special way because it opened every morning, almost at the same time.
The character that trod it was spectacular not only in appearance, but also for its unique gait.
His name was Don Franco, brother of Bolivar, the son of Don Luigi. He was senile, he had a long white beard and wore a long coat off patched and frayed.
He walked, if I may say so, with crutches and his movements were so slow that he took the whole morning to get up to the Raggio Verde and come back home. For those who watched him closely, it seemed that the poor man had to expiate in this life as some kind of guilt or penance.
His walk seemed an ordeal, but he was clear in his eyes, his voice was slow and quiet.
He looked like a very old man, one of those who were there for centuries and would live for many hundreds of years.
But he could also give an idea of those characters that appear suddenly, after a spell, ready to disappear as soon as the spell ends.
To give the impression of an antique sculpture, carved by a whimsical artist, one of those that come alive suddenly because of their immobility, but must learn to take their first steps.
When Don Franco, after his daily walk, closed the big door behind him, seemed to be swallowed by the hall of the house, dark and deep.
During Carnival a few years ago, walking Forio, I saw the two wide “doors” open and the hallway slightly illuminated. So I went inside and I started to look around, even with the little light, heading to the right, just where artist Bolivar lived for thirty years.
I then remembered his many paintings stacked in every corner, stacks of newspapers and magazines made in bulk, bottles and glasses on a rickety table, with his meals, stools
where many years ago, very young, I was sitting conversing with him after he posed for yet another picture.
At the bottom of the hall, near the iron gate that communicates with the garden, now in a state of neglect, I imagined as if everything had remained as it was then, the cans of paint scattered on every side, cardboard, canvas, hammers, nails, glue. In that space, especially in the days full of sun and light, Bolivar frantically, apparently absent and distant with his eyes and mind of the person who posed in front of him, gave life to his art.
Not much has changed since then, missing only the characters, meanwhile, the state of neglect and decay progresses.
The plasters are falling apart, the doors have rotted, and loose wires of electric current spoil the aesthetics. There is desolation and anguish in that building that had once had its own special glow.
We have to hope, if it is restored, the restoration will be respected taking into account the original architecture and avoid wasting so, its primary identity.
I later learned that a few years ago, the good was put on sale and, in that circumstance, the municipality of Forio lost a unique opportunity refusing to make purchase request.
In the center of Forio, apart from the "Torrione", marginalized and exploited at all, despite being just a few steps from the main course, the purchase of the "Patalano Palace" would be revealed as a unique opportunity to restore the ancient architecture and make it accessible to the community. Creating in many places the ground floor and the upper floor, of various sizes, reading rooms, tea rooms, music rooms, exhibition halls for sculptures, paintings, ceramics, he could give luster to the history of the place and perpetuate culture and traditions.
The hall would have been the ideal place to organize exhibitions, conferences, meetings, and a "museum room" for some works by Bolivar.
That "complex", open to the public, would certainly have enriched the historical center of Forio, the more intimate, the more harmonious and large of the island.
Although I am realistic, I still like to dream and imagine, like when I was child, that beyond those thick walls, there are still lawyer Morgera and Don Luigi Patalano, sitting behind their desk, with shelves full of old books by the smell of mold.
In dim light of the kerosene lamp they, now old and bruised, but with a clear and fervent mind, would be waiting to be called by the governor to go to dinner and sit at the head of a long table, around which there would still be children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The massive gates are closed now on the main street, where people are moving and busy with the usual problems.
I like to think Don Franco while, after his walk, entered the dark hall and seemed to be swallowed up in the vast womb of the Earth.

* For some years the hall of the Palace of Bolivar was entirely restored.

See more pictures of the main street of Forio and the Bolivar Palace

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