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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

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.


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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