In this in depth interview, the author talks about the new light she has recently been giving to the Monumental Cemetery of Turin. A taphophile who wants to accompany us in the discovery of famous personalities and – through her pieces of writing – towards unusual and apparently forgotten stories, too.
I would like to start by asking you about the genesis of your accurate research into the history of the Monumental Cemetery of Turin.
It was 2011 and I was walking through the most ancient part of the Cemetery of Turin, surrounded by magnificent works of art by important names in Italian history. I started wondering why there was no one else but me. Superstition? Fear? I thought it would be nice to let others know about this rich and important place. I started looking for books and documents about the Cemetery and I spent many hours inside it to observe and study tombs and monuments. I collected so much material that it allowed me to open my blog, lead guided tours, and write a book, too.
Were there stories that particularly caught your attention?
The stories that struck me the most refer to almost unknown personalities. The young Virginia Bordino, whose father invented the steam coach we can still admire at the Museo dell’Automobile. Or Giuseppe Gentil, the owner of a cafè in via Po during the Risorgimento. The story of the Bollito sisters (which isn’t mentioned in the book, as I discovered it when it was already being printed) who were international short-hand champions in the middle of the last century. Famous people aren’t less interesting, though… let’s think about the lives of tenor Francesco Tamagno, soubrette Isa Bluette or poet Annie Vivanti? Remembering these people right in front of their tombs, to me, is like giving them a new life.
You organise different types of visits inside the Monumental Cemetery. In your opinion, which are the most popular tours, and why?
“Curiosities and famous personalities” is the most sought after tour for those who do not know the Monumental Cemetery, or for those who have never seen it from a touristic and cultural perspective. Such names as Silvio Pellico, Fred Buscaglione, Erminio Macario or Edmondo De Amicis, are very well-known and people are very curious to see their final resting places. “Memories of Women” is one of the tours I feel a strong bond with and I am happy it is popular with the general public. The history of women is very fascinating as, maybe because, unfortunately it isn’t often in the spotlight.
I presume your interest has led you to visit different cemetery sites both in Italy and abroad. In your opinion, which places are most remarkable and can be considered as open air museums?
Each time I travel, I always try to visit a cemetery. Each cemetery is worth a visit, in my opinion. Even the smallest mountain cemetery guards precious memories. I have been particularly fascinated by English cemeteries: dark stones and crosses, with no photographs and fewer monuments, immersed in nature. People walk their dogs there, they go jogging or spend their free time on a bench reading a book… Highgate in London inhabits a special place in my heart, as well as the Acattolico in Rome: a sort of fairy garden inhabited by such immortal poets as Keats and Shelley… In Italy, we have the incomparable Staglieno in Genoa, Milan, the Verano in Rome, the Certosa of Bologna… I hope I’ll be able to see them all one day.
Are there aspects of the book you would like to delve into further, and are you planning on writing new books?
While I was writing “Torino silenziosa” I told myself I had to stop, but I would have liked to write a lot more! Therefore, I’m thinking about a second part for the book, there is plenty of material (in the meantime, I keep my blog up to date). I’m interested in recreating the lives of the grave owners. I’m working on a new volume linked to the places and personalities of Turin according to my ‘funerary’ point of view. Then I write articles on my blog and in the Savej magazine published by the Fondazione Enrico Eandi.