I’ve been slightly obsessed with fairy tales lately. Seven years ago when I moved to Piemonte it felt like one. Not that I was expecting a happy ending; that would be asking for trouble.
But fairy tales and folklore are ever present. They aren’t just in the stories Piemontese share when I interview them for my next book; they’re literally everywhere.
For example, if you driving through Piemonte to France, just before the border, heading towards the ski village called Limone, you’ll travel through a charming town called Vernante. This village became famous for its murals depicting the history of Pinocchio. Attilio Mussino, the most famous illustrator of the character of Collodi nicknamed the “uncle of Pinocchio” spent the last years of his life in Vernante, from 1944 to 1954.
There are dozens of murals painted by the illustrator of Pinocchio and it is a delight to drive through this town. Piemonte’s land is not only magical, it’s very much alive. Not necessarily with the sound of music but once upon a time their forests were full of witches and shaman. They’re still there, you just have to look, or talk to a local like I do.
But there’s 19 other regions, and they vary in their own tales, up and down Italy and across the peninsula, not to mention the influence of immigrant cultures. Italo calvino did his homework and wrote a collection of a 200 folktales. Calvino being Calvino, the son of two scientists, used ethnographers and combed the regional libraries and rewrote them. He dug deep into the various cultures and Italy is a collection of thousands of societies, or so I’ve been told. And living here, I believe them. Calvino played with the originals He suspected they wouldn’t work on the page. Oral transciptions can lack life and energy so Calvino’s written a collection of over 200 Italian folktales.
Calvino’s tales are filled with kings and peasants, saints and ogres. My book is filling up with witches, shaman and healers and they are still around; you just have to look for them…and it’s charming…