Moonlight visions

Arnaldo Colombatto, Pian Balaur (particolare)

Arnaldo Colombatto, Pian Balaur



Mondovì, Saturday afternoon, Piazza Adua. Spring is at its fullest but the mountains are still white. We, the people of the refuge, are ready to get on our Vespa and Lambretta scooters.
Half an hour later we set foot on Baracco’s little square.

In this season, the meadows are full of flowers and the grass is green. Skis on shoulder, we go up, steadily, through the steep meadow of the Marzolere. Shortly after we reach the Pino pass, leaving the spring behind.

by Renato Dadone

by Renato Dadone

Ahead, the white purity of Pian della Tura. On the left, His Majesty the Mondolé that, in its winter coat, resembles a Himalayan peak. The snow of the grove is dotted with flowers of hazel: surely due to a gale of wind. We climb, light as air, in an enchanted landscape.
Real winter only begins at the Selletta.
At the refuge it is now evening and cold. Everyone is clogged inside, smoking, stretched out on benches.

A little while ago, someone went out to get some fresh air. Coming back he spoke excitedly: it seems that behind the Mondolé a moon has risen that no one has ever seen before.
I went out too: the moon is a glowing giant. It must be fabulous up there, on the Trucca.

The Trucca is a large ridge that dominates and protects the refuge. From the refuge, count one thousand steps uphill, one thousand snowy steps that we always walk in silence, waiting.
At the top, we sink our hands in our pockets and little by little we open our eyes. One would need enormous eyes to see everything. At first, what you see is a great void. There is nothing in front of the Trucca and the mountain sinks under our feet down to the plain, fifteen hundred meters below. Then, on the left, one after the other, the Alps unfold, just like on a map: a circle of white teeth planted all around to crown the plain. No doubt: she is the true queen of the mountains, the magic of the Trucca, the spell of every night. It is the whole Piedmont that shivers at our feet like a shining spider web blown by the wind. It flares down there: Peveragno, Boves, Cuneo, Mondovì a bit more distant. Entire cities float in the air carried by arcane optical phenomena, supported by invisible turbulences. Miles of enlightened straight roads flap like ribbons tossed by the wind.
This nocturnal mirage has the power to pull us out from the refuge and stay here, in silence, watching the Earth merge with the sky.

by E. Billò

by E. Billò

Down the Trucca, we put on our skis, we cross, almost running, a vast, dazzling plateau, and then, through cliffs and shimmering bumps, we vanish into the white belly of the Pian della Tura. We move, scattered, in a rustle of untouched powder snow. The twin peaks of Cima Durand are getting closer and closer. Curvy and white, they resemble two huge breasts.
It’s cold up here. It must be two o’ clock and a wind gust has got up: at times it raises reels of snow that create pale rainbows. We ski down as in a dream, in a landscape without shadows, without dimension, with no reality. The plain now seems a rough sea with millions of lamps for night fishing. Were it not for the great moon planted there in the sky, all the rest would be completely deprived of reference points.

Gregoli Rifugio illuminato

Now the light of the refuge grows larger again. Already we see the image of the window projected  on the snow of the little square.
We come back in silence, nauseated of moon, nauseated of glitters, of transparencies. Ah, what a relief the wooden, dirty floor, the black stove, the table in disorder, the dull dormitory, the dusty blankets, the darkness finally conquered!
From the window of the dormitory, through a crack of the shutters, sneaks a blade of light. The moon pressure must be enormous, out there, but overall the refuge holds, even though the blinds groan and creak. In the darkness of the big room our duvet jackets, all drenched in moonlight, continue to issue dim phosphorescence. And it is useless to close our eyes: the entire Milky Way is nested down there..

Gregoli VanGogh Starry Night

It is always like that when you go on the Pian della Tura during a night of snow, under a full moon. While you wander, ecstatic, in all that whiteness, there is always a fragment of light that sticks to your brain. And it does not dim out, be it twenty years that you live in a foreign country, grey, flat, with no wind, no sun, no moon, no snow, no snowy mountains under the moonlight…

Two earlier versions of the story appeared in: Silvano Gregoli, E laggiù, Mondovì, Edizioni Il Belvedere, Mondovì 1990 and id., Alpi Liguri primo amore, CDA & Vivalda editore, Torino 2004

Silvano Gregoli, 1940, grew up in Mondovì. At the age of ten, coming down from the Mondolé under a hailstorm, he fell in love with the mountains. An addiction was born. In 1966, by mistake, he quitted the homeland and got lost in the vast world. For decades he suffered from severe syndromes of homesickness and withdrawal from mountains. As a remedy he started writing novels. In 1990 he published E laggiù, Mondovì (ed. Il Belvedere, Mondovì), where he grieved for Mondovì and its beloved Ligurian Alps. In 2004 he published Alpi Liguri primo amore (ed. Vivalda, Turin) where he grieved on a larger scale but always for more or less the same thing. In 2010 he published Xeno (ed. Mursia, Milan) a techno-thriller apparently globalised, but actually as mountain-centered as possible. 
The same year, finally, he returned home in Mondovì. Through the windows of his house, he keeps watching the same mountains he was used to watch when he was young. They have not changed…


HERE the Italian version

HERE the French version

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