It was 1946 when my father, Alberto, 34 years old, returning home to the little village of Casalbuttano, was employed by Comit (Italian Commercial Bank) which in those days was based in Piazza della Scala. Due to the office hours, which prevented him from coming back home daily to Casalbuttano from Milan, he found accommodation in via Vitruvio, at a relative’s house. He was an old man, lonely and sad because he had recently lost his wife. He was called Riccardo and he worked as an illustrator for “La Domenica del Corriere” for his whole life. He did not have a pension, as it was in those days, so renting a room to my dad was a way to have fewer financial difficulties. It was thanks to Riccardo that my dad got to know the Madonnina, to love her and to pray to her. In the evening, when my dad came back from office, the old man would ask him to go and visit the Madonnina with him, and so my dad would accompany him to Piazza Duomo, whatever the weather. So many tears have been shed under that spire, so many prays offered and so many requests for help made. My dad would watch in silence, asking the Virgin for consolation for that sad and lonely old man.
Then my father got engaged to my mother, Lina, a girl 10 years younger than him, who he had met at one of those town dances that had sprung up everywhere to help people forget the horrors of the just-finished war. My dad fell in love with her, but she was young, shy and naive, so she could not make up her mind and say the famous “yes” that my dad was waiting for. Among the letters written to my mother there is one in which he wrote “I accompanied Riccardo to Piazza Duomo this evening too and I asked the Madonnina for a grace: “Dear Madonnina, help my madonnina to say ‘yes’”. Then my mother’s “yes” arrived, thanks to the perseverance and the love of my father, and so my parents got married.
Riccardo’s present was the parchment (illustrated here) that he painted for them. They always kept it close to their bed, and it is still there, even if the room is now empty.
My father died 15 years ago and my mother just a few months ago. In the past 15 years, every time I accompanied my mother to Milan for her medical appointments, she asked me the same thing: to go up to the seventh floor of Rinascente. Then she went to the terrace to admire the Madonnina in silence.
Now it is I who, when in Milan, cannot help but to go up to Rinascente’s terrace.
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