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Calcagni’s Memoirs. Agnese Calcagni and the Blue Sisters (15)

Basilica of Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome. Click for attribution and to enlarge

15th excerpt from the memoirs of Carlo Calcagni – original Italian text -, a true Roman born almost one and a half century ago. Read all excerpts posted so far in English or in Carlo’s original Italian text.

Here Agnese, my grandmother, is mentioned for the first time.

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For my sisters, despite their being quite pretty, no suitor was around [one sister, Elvira, was already a nun, MoR.]

All right for Maria who was extremely young but Agnese had already passed the right age and no one showed up so it could represent a little bit of a worry.

Not being a fool Agnese was thinking about organizing her life not around a wedding far to come, but around a job that would both interest and occupy her in a worthy manner.

She became a nurse at the Blue Sisters’, in Santo Stefano Rotondo [see the Basilica above and below.]

She proved very good, attentive and intelligent. Prof. Margarucci was enthusiastic about her, and so were the patients; much less the English nuns on account of her very frank and independent behaviour.

After several small frictions here we are with a decisive, conclusive one.

A Drop of Cognac

S. Stefano Rotondo. External view

S. Stefano Rotondo. External view. Click for attribution and to enlarge

One night she was on call and had a patient seriously ill whom we knew and who at one point asked for a cordial, for something – since he felt like fainting. Custom of the house was that the stewardess shut everything during the night so that no one could take anything out of the pantry.

My sister races to the pantry and finds the stewardess, a nun, who, like every good English, is calmly sipping at her tea. She asks her for a drop of cognac for her patient but the nun, on the strength of her charge, does not even reply.

Then Agnese, with an authoritarian voice, asks her for the keys and after several refusals manages to get them, to take what she had to take and to get back to her patient.

All hell breaks loose. The nun writes up the minutes and the next morning my sister is called by the Direction for a dressing-down.

“In disregard of any regulation … she had dared to insist, better, to force the stewardess to open the cupboard …”

My sister at this point can no longer resist. She takes off her cap and veil and calmly lays them on the table in front of prof. Margarucci, saying:

“We cannot get along with these English nuns’ methods. If a patient, entrusted to me during night-time, needs some help I open all cupboards, I even smash everything, but I seek a way of helping those who are suffering and perhaps dying.”

Margarucci tried to settle things but, while thanking him very much, my sister was unshakable:

“If not this time it will certainly happen another time. It’s a question of mentality.”

Thus ended her first attempt at finding an occupation, a job.

Countess Campello & Beppe Tamanti

Beppe Tamanti was from Montalcino, Siena (Tuscany). Click for credits and to enlarge

Another opportunity soon arose in the same sphere of activity. Countess Guglielmina Campello, lady-in-waiting to Queen Elena, was looking for a young lady, good, capable and of civilised condition, who could take care of the direction of a new clinic that the Queen was creating for children predisposed to tuberculosis. The Countess turned to Agnese, who went and returned to her several times to discuss and see, before making up her mind.

During such circumstances the extraordinary fact of her engagement to Beppe Tamanti took place. Beppe Tamanti was one from the Chorus Misticus [a catholic private group of young men, MoR], but had never come to our house and knew Agnese only for having seen her a few times in passing. Agnese had never been mentioned in our talks.

One morning Beppe appears in my office on Lungotevere Raffaello Sanzio …

Original text in Italian

Related posts:

The continuation of Agnese’s episode:
Calcagni’s Memoirs. A sudden Twist in Agnese’s Life (16)

An excerpt where Elvira, the eldest sister and nun, shows a temperament similar to Agnese’s:
Elvira, the Eldest Sister, Makes Someone Behave (5)

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