Sometimes to understand what joy really is, you need to go find it in the most unusual of places, in forgotten corners, far from frenetic life which has been irreparably devoted to consumerism. And so one morning I decided to spend a few days between the mountains of alburni and the valleys of paestum, Precisely in roscigno vecchia, an abandoned town where only one inhabitant lives and resides, Giuseppe Spagnuolo, nicknamed “libero” (freedom).
The roads that lead to Roscigno do not entice you to travel, you have to untangle your way through collapsed roads, scarce road signs and sudden narrow bits. Once in the small town, it all becomes surreal: ramshackle homes, propped up so as not to collapse and it is there, right beside a gutted house, where “libero’s” abode “leans”.
I meet him, he smiles at me. He understands right away that I am one of the many curious people who pass through those parts. I still don’t quite understand why his look and his proud posture transmit positivity, not exactly joy, but something similar, something that, with the passing of time, I have been able to decipher better. It wasn’t just his calmness, his chuckles after my astounded questions about how one could possibly live there, in a house held up by little, alone, without a family that could reassure him about doubts that inevitably arise in life. I tried hard to look beyond, to put myself in the shoes of a man who chooses silence, who has learned to room with just himself.
I had dinner with him at a little lucky table. a frugal meal, a bit of cheese, a few cold cuts and some local wine, good and full-bodied, perfect for observing better what is around me. A mess, but not only. Looking again at that hutch with its hanging cupboard is like looking at a “cézanne” painting.
Giuseppe is free, the next morning he offers to show me what remains of the little town, he moves around with the surefootedness of someone who knows the place very well. He climbs up what once were stairs, which today are only pieces of worm-eaten wood. He wants to show me his place in the countryside, outside the town. He used to sleep here, the clock stopped at 7:29 of who-knows-what year. Then he sits on the sofa and explains how you can live on 2 € a day.
Before saying goodbye, I ask him if he has any regrets. He looks at me with a smile and replies: “that's water under the bridge.” I say goodbye when it is already night time, the lights of his humble abode turn on, I leave, I reflect and for a moment think I have understood the meaning that Giuseppe gives to joy: follow the inclinations of one’s own being without ever judging them. but who knows if it really is that way…