“Those children, who were looking at me smiling cheerfully, hair hurriedly tidied with a wet comb, were beautiful, because emanating from their carefully patched clothes and scarpets came a kind of quiet dignity that sparkled from their eyes and spread like an aura around them.”
It is 1956 and, as his first assignment, a young teacher is sent to Moggessa, a little village high in the Pre-Alps of Carnia, in far north-eastern Italy; a village with no roads, no electricity, and not even a priest. The small mountain community, although largely self-sufficient, is already aware of the signs of its imminent demise in the face of an advancing outside world. Yet, it is still governed by its collective needs and the natural rhythms of the seasons. Each time our teacher climbs the mountain trail he pauses at a ridge. At first, he needs this pause to catch his breath, but then it becomes a ritual, a purification of sorts, whereby he frees himself of his city “baggage”, his cultural and political activity, and the famous educationalists who have so inadequately prepared him for the children who are eagerly awaiting him. The ritual is his way of asking permission to enter the “magical circle” that the village represents. The villagers, and especially the children, welcome him as one of their own. The experience is formative and the memory unforgettable.
Tito Maniacco (Udine, 1932-2010) was a teacher, historian, writer and poet, visual artist and curator of exhibitions. He was deeply connected to his homeland, Friuli, the subject of much of his writing. He began writing at an early age and first published poetry in the magazine Momenti in 1953. Highlights of his literary career include: I senza storia, Storia del Friuli (1977-1979), L’uomo dei canali (1993), Patriarca nella nebbia (2004), and Figlio del secolo (2008). He was awarded the Premio Epifania in 2003 and the Caterina Percoto literary prize, for Mestri di mont, in 2008, the same year in which he received the sigillo della città, equivalent to the keys to the city, presented by the Municipality of Udine.