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Calcagni’s Memoirs. A sudden Twist in Agnese’s Life (16)

A building in piazza Trilussa, Lungotevere Sanzio, Rome

Piazza Trilussa, Lungotevere Sanzio, Rome. Click for credits and to enlarge

16th excerpt [Italian original] from the memoirs of Carlo Calcagni, 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, Carlo’s sister and my grandmother, meets her new life [this excerpt is a conclusion to the previous one.]


One morning Beppe appears in my office on Lungotevere Sanzio. As usual I welcome him very warmly and fraternally because you must know that Beppe had a special charm, with his open and serene face, his sly but good eyes, his ways so candid as those of a child to the extent that, among us in the group, he was called ‘the pure fool’, like Parsifal.

I tell him:

“How come you’re in Rome?”
“Right, I’m in Rome.”
“To do what?”
“Yes, right, I have to do something. Come on, let’s go out”.
“But I can’t right now.”

He stays there with me and we finally go out together and, while he is talking to me about lots of things not related to the reason of his trip to Rome, he says point-blank:

“How’s your mum? And your brothers and sisters?”
“Everyone’s fine, thanks.”
“And Agnese, what is she doing?”
“Well, I think she went to Countess Guglielmina Campello’s for matters related to a clinic.”
“Right, because I’d like to propose to her.”

We keep walking and walking – he now and then stopping, as it was his invincible habit, and pinning you in a way that was only his – and we head towards Piazza Colonna and then via del Tritone [see below] while speaking about Agnese and the proposal he had made.

Halfway we stumble right upon Agnese who was coming down towards home […].

Beppe tells me:

“Shall we stop Miss Agnese?”
“Ah yes, let’s stop her” I say being on tenterhooks since I was unable to inform my sister in advance.

Via del Tritone 1890

Via del Tritone in 1890 (a bit earlier than the facts narrated). Click for credits

Then Beppe, an expression on his face that I now still see, rather clumsily begins:

“Miss, are you free?”
“How do you mean free?”
“Well, free.”
“At this moment at least, yes.”
“Because I’ve come to Rome to ask for your hand … and I will not leave Rome until I get a definitive answer, whatever it is”.

All this right in the middle of via del Tritone, at a time of maximum crowd, around one pm.

All disconcerted Agnese says to me:

“But, did you know that?”
“No, I have known just one hour ago. I tried to take time to see you first, but Beppe kept a hold on me, sticking to me as a stamp to an envelope.”

There we are, the three of us, crestfallen, without being able to exchange any thought, walking back towards home. Finally, God willing, Beppe leaves us but says he’ll return in the evening for an answer.

So, without any notice or any preparation, our family and especially Agnese found ourselves fully launched into this new, strangest and almost neglected-by-us subject: marriage.

For my sister Agnese I couldn’t hope for a better match under every aspect: good social status, good economic condition, but most of all, intelligence, unflinching honesty, a truly superior spirit with the goodness of an angel.

But what about the feelings side of it? Agnese and Beppe did not know each other and love between them could not arise like that, as with love at first sight.

View of Montalcino, Siena, Tuscany

View of Montalcino, Siena, Tuscany. Click for credits and to enlarge

I was much perplexed but even more perplexed was Agnese, who kept repeating:

“… since for a husband one’s got to have love feelings, it’s the only thing that counts.”

“All right – I said – but love may come and it will come once you’ll get to talk, to frequent, to know each other.”

“Well then, well then, what do you advise me to do?”

“I? I can’t advice you on such a critical matter. Quite the opposite. I do not want to advice you. All I can say is that Beppe has all the good qualities one may desire in a man, at the highest degree. But that he also has two faults at the highest degree: he’s long and boring; and he has a peculiarity that is located between, so to say, faults and virtues: he’s pigheaded.”

“But that’s not all!”

“I know it’s not all but it’s already a lot and it is what I can honestly say being sure not to be wrong. If you say yes you will have a reliable, clear, serene man who will love you forever: if you will be able to love him … provided you don’t feel revulsion for him …”


No way of beating about the bush with Beppe. In the evening he returned and got engaged to Agnese, amid mum’s surprised contentment and mine, more tranquil and peaceful, since I knew what kind of a treasure – it is the word – she had found. […]

Marriage followed at a few weeks’ distance. Agnese left for Montalcino [see image above.]

She lived happily with Beppe and with a crown of 7 children, 4 males and three females.

Original text in Italian

About Man of Roma

I am a man from Rome, Italy. I’m 60 and a Roman since many generations. In my blog,, I’m writing down my meditations. The idea behind it all is that something 'ancient' is still alive in the true Romans of today, of which few are left.

14 responses »

  1. Beppe sounds like my Albino Ex — if “prone to repeat stories” is boring, and pigheaded for sure, but a man of sounder character you could not hope to meet often, so now I am on pins and needles for more.

    The Parsifal translations I digested all used the phrase “pure fool,” which has a much different implication than “madman” in English, although I know in French one says a person is fou, folle, out of his wits, but it is the same root word as foolishness or folly.

    Parsifal is meant more as a simpleton, and the dear boy speaks the language that Eric Berne calls “Martian,” meaning that he says exactly what he means and feels, asks exactly what he wants to know and describes exactly what he sees. Was Beppe like that (it seems so)? If so, I’m beginning to like him.

  2. @Sledpress

    The Parsifal translations I digested all used the phrase “pure fool”

    I’ve changed ‘madman’ into ‘fool’. Thank you.

    I never met Beppe. Grandpa died in hospital after being hit by a bus. At the time of this writing (1946 or ’47) he was already gone, leaving Agnese like crushed. She had soon learned to love him because of his qualities.

    But his faults were also big. From what I know, he could have perhaps been the good simpleton in the ‘Parsifal-Martian’ sense. But he was VERY pigheaded, nit-picking and slow-minded – though profound and a bit of an orator. If he grabbed you and talked to you one never knew when he would stop.

    So, stuffy and boring, yes, but with a charm. My mum took a lot from him. Also the talk-and-stop thing: during a stroll her brain couldn’t just walk and speak at the same time. So she continuosly pinned you on the spot (she was strong) obliging you to stop too. It got on my nerves a bit, poor mum.

  3. Well, Roma, from my experience with you in Montréal and in Rome, I can vouch that you can walk and talk and also drive and talk. So you are a multitasker.

    • Ah ah ah, well, Paul, at least compared to my mum, yes.

      Your new blog, la plaine liberté de la langue maternelle, n’est pas? Je voudrai en avoir un en Italien aussi. On va voir. But are you Paul? Hope you are going to keep both blogs in any case.

      Mes meilleurs salutations à Thérèse et à toute la famille.

  4. I am indeed Paul. The new blog is a collective creation. I manage it but 8 people publish on it. Thérèse edits the texts and I put them on line. It’s a ten week experimentation that may be repeated in spring. The current period ends in 7 weeks.
    It’s fun but also much work.
    Somehow when I comment on a WordPress sites, it gives my blog name, not so on Blogger. Strange.
    Paul Costopoulos

    • Great idea. A bit like a magazine, where the experience of writing is more collective. I’ll have a read at it.

      In order to manage your WordPress blog you have to log in as imagenmots, a WordPress account. Once you’re in any WordPress site will ‘feel’ that accounnt, thence your identity. Try to log out first (see a panel below), and then comment.

  5. MoR – I just wanted to say that I do rather enjoy these tales. May they long continue.

  6. I prefer reading the posts right here, rather than by email,btw. What plans do you have for the memoirs? I imagine there might be great interest in capturing the cultural mores of the period, as well as the intricate goings on of the Vatican.

    A delightful read!

    • Grazie Rosaria. As I said somewhere else I have no special plan at the moment. I’d just be happy if I were able to continue posting them since a wave of changeability is hitting me hard these months.


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