MY DEAR TULLIA

Issue 36 of Mediterraneo, the magazine of AMAB (Associazione Mediterranea Agricoltura Biologica, or
Mediterranean Organic Farming Association) directed by Gino Girolomoni, is a monograph dedicated to
“40 years in Montebello”. Girolomoni has dedicated this issue of the magazine to his life partner Tullia,
who championed Montebello’s “proposal” alongside him and who passed away before her time in 2009.

Almost two years have passed since you left us without anyone’s consent. We were confronted by an
interlocutor to whom only God can say “no”, and in your case, He told us that He “could not”. A vast
emptiness remains in your stead—life is hard without you, and I will never forget the question you
asked me when you were yet well. After an umpteenth undertaking at Montebello, Guido’s eightieth
birthday party, for which you had invited one hundred guests to dinner, including a number of
intellectuals you couldn’t stand, several women among them in particular, you said to me seriously:
“Listen, Gino, you have dedicated so much time to Quinzio, Ceronetti, and Illich, to thank them for their
commitments to Montebello, but why haven’t you done anything for me? Might I not be the person who
has done the most for this place?” Darling soul, you struck me down with your words because you were
right, but unpardonably, I did not reply to this immensely important question which you asked me in
earnest. It is true, Tullia, only you stood beside me for forty years, always there to face down every
calamity that befell us after our inherently absurd decision to begin, that is, to invest two billion lire, with
forty-five thousand lire of joint stock, in a difficult land, long abandoned by everyone else. When I say
the ‘calamities’ that befell us, I’m not referring to tsunamis or earthquakes or floods, but to the State, the
archenemy who declared war against us for over twenty years, through its Institutions. Seizing our
whole-wheat pasta for seventeen years, with the crappy/bullshit claim that it was damaging to our
health due to its fibre content, and because we stated that our wheat came from organic farming at a
time when the Institutions pretended not to know what that meant. Our pasta’s seizure meant that
clients who bought it wouldn’t pay for it because the State had seized it from them, too, and they
wouldn’t reorder it until the case had closed, always with an acquittal.
We also had to sell Canavaccio’s only irrigated lands, which we had bought; (why don’t the Agnelli
sell their property to support the company, instead of always asking us for money?). Then, to cap it
all, in 1999, the Italian finance police arrived, with their submachine guns aimed, to stay with us for
an entire year. When they left, they left us an unforgettable memento: three billion in fines. For twenty
years, you and I alone performed an arduous nightly ritual: the task of coming up with the money the
next morning. Our young friends from the cooperative went back to town each night; Sergio didn’t have
much experience with business affairs, on the contrary, he saw them as a theft to the calling. Instead
of retiring, your parents came to help us: Gigi worked well in the fields, and your mother is still here,
crying for having had to see her daughter go before her. Children, children—only mothers understand
what they represent; the artwork of every era knew this, filling the world’s Churches with images of the
Saint cradling her child. Reinforcements also arrived in the form of my brothers and Francesco, and
then serious, skilled managers in the cooperative who never tired when there was work to be done, who
laboured even when it was wearing; then our children, who made our work their own, and who now try
to comfort me in your absence. One day, when I’m old and decrepit, that enemy State will want to grant
me Knighthood, and I will say, “No, thank you; I’d prefer 3 million Euros for the damages you caused

me and for how much more difficult you made my life”. There are enough Knights already, those of the
Republic and of the Holy Sepulchre and of the Government—I’m satisfied with the title of Abbot, which
Peter gave me thirty years ago, and of Petrarch, which Montebello’s friends gave me when I turned
sixty. My dearest Tullia, the day of our last farewell, I confessed in Church that I owed you a debt of
infinite gratitude, and in what remains of my life, I will try to repay it. For now, I dedicate this issue of
the magazine to you, which great affection and devotion, and I thank you for your “presence”, which we
feel to this day: I agree with those Australian aborigines Emmanuel told us about—some deceased are
more alive than the living.