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PAPA IN VENETO

From Venice to the peaks of Cortina

 

The Cipriani inn in Torcello, the Harry’s Bar in Venice and Valle San Gaetano in Caorle, where Ernest Hemingway used to hunt the ducks, but also the beautiful mountains of Cortina, the World War I theatres he visited in Fossalta di Piave, Schio and Pasubio, Bassano del Grappa, Verona and Valpolicella became heart beats, life paths colouring the emotions which followed the writer forever. He stopped his heart voluntarily, taking up for the last time the hunting rifle he had since his adolescence, the weapon whose roar failed to interrupt the echo of the song that, his wife Mary said, they were singing the night before he died, one he had learned many years before, in Cortina, an Italian song that said “Everybody calls me blondie, but blond I am not…”. It is said that the song was taught him by Fernanda Pivano, friend and translator of his works, almost all of which became successful films.

The Nobel Prize winner in the lagoon of Caorle

 

Papa dedicated to Caorle and especially to its lagoon some of the most beautiful pages of the book Across the River and Into the Trees, published in 1950 in America and only in 1965 in Italy. Hemingway arrived in Caorle for the first time in winter 1948 and was hosted by Baron Raimondo Nanuk Franchetti, who shared with him the passion for hunting and a deep friendship. The writer visited the baron several times until 1954.

 

The old people of the place still remember this big man who arrived with a huge car from which he threw candies to kids, the same children he did not escape from during his visits to the town centre of Caorle, where he caressed their head tenderly, though vigorously, telling them a few words in a quite ungrammatical Italian.

 

When Pope was in Caorle with his wife Mary Welsh he stayed in a country house in San Gaetano, while when he was alone he stayed in a hunting lodge in Valle Grande.

 

Hemingway thought he found in Caorle and the whole Veneto all of what he had been vainly looking for in his world roaming, including happiness and love in the joyful relationship with Adriana Ivancich, the Venetian maid described in the pages of the book Across the River and Into the Trees, the young muse he met in Caorle, in the house of Baron Franchetti. During this affectionate relationship with the young lady, as colonel of the US army, he paid a memorable tribute to Caorle, describing its places, landscapes and atmospheres:

“Four boats went up the main canal toward the large lagoon to the north… It was daylight before they reached the oaken staved hogshead sunk in the bottom of the lagoon…The shooter… climbed down into the barrel and the boatman handed him his two guns… It was getting lighter now and the shooter could see the low line of the near point across the lagoon… far beyond it there was much more marsh and then the open sea…He watched the sky lightening beyond the long point of marsh… and saw the snow-covered mountains a long way off… The Colonel heard a shot behind him, where he knew there was no other blind and turned his head to look across the frozen lagoon to the far, sedge-lined shore… Mallards… and pin-tales… were flaring up into the sky……a grey mullet that darts here and there at half-air and falls back in the water from the reeds towards eternal spaces, where ducks lose themselves in games of wings and lights.”

These are the most beautiful passages of Papa’s life, moments he spent in an uncontaminated environment where loneliness leaves room to nothing but the deafening silence of nature. The lagoon seemed immune to a world that was trying to get back on track after the tragic events of World War II, a noisy world that did not befit the peace of the valley, where birds wave their wings in a blue sky which mirrors the uncontaminated lagoon of Caorle, a unique landscape where the writer recovered his free soul.

 

Source degree thesis “Ernest M. Hemingway: a journalist and writer, citizen of the world”
by Luca Tarable, finalist of Papa Award 2015

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THE HUNTING LODGE IN SAN GAETANO

Still green and uncontaminated, Valle San Gaetano is the smallest, but most enchanting district of Caorle. A land with a noble historical past, since the barons Franchetti chose this isolated corner of the Caorle lagoon to create a “self-sufficient” centre, inspired to the autarkic communities that had flourished in the 19th century, and Baron Raimondo Franchetti turned the place into a vast agricultural and farming area.

This lively place was visited, in the 1960s, by the international and especially American jet set: along with Papa, the Franchettis’ manor and especially the hunting lodge hosted Henry Fonda, whose fourth wife was a Franchetti. Today nothing has changed, from the slightly crumbling manor house to the farm houses, the stretches of water of Valle Franchetti, as well as the rural buildings which – despite the recent restoration made by the Poja family, owner of the area – still keep their original aspect.

The valley is overlooked by the former house of Ernest Hemingway, a red building on the lagoon, few steps away from the cavana (the typical boat shelter) where boats still land as they cut through the water of Valle Grande to go fishing and hunting. In the house, which used to be the hunters shelter of Baron Franchetti, where women could not enter, nothing has changed: the 19th-century furniture marks the passing of an age and a majestic embalmed bear indicates the staircase to the floor where Hemingway used to stay. Hunting trophies and safari pictures of the Franchettis, but also of Papa and his wife Mary, are all around the place.

Each year, during the festival dedicated to Ernest Hemingway, Matteo Poja, owner of San Gaetano hunting lodge and member of the Papa Award Honorary Committee, opens the doors of the hunting lodge to many enthusiasts of the US writer who arrive in Caorle to follow the events of the Papa Award.

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ARRIGO CIPRIANI
Arrigo Cipriani is the owner of Harry’s Bar in Venice and of the most valued Italian restaurants in the world. In 1948, his father Giuseppe, founder of the empire, invented the Bellini cocktail, now worldly famous. His memories about Hemingway were collected by Luca Tarable, finalist of Papa Award 2015, in his degree thesis on Ernest Hemingway

You were studying at university when you first met Ernest Hemingway. Do you remember that morning, when you were pretending to study and he appeared on the balcony of the Cipriani inn?

 

To be honest, I didn’t meet him directly, I saw him. He usually stayed at the Cipriani inn in Torcello: it was the winter of 1948/1949 and he greeted me from the terrace as I passed down below, what’s more I still didn’t speak English at the time. Anyway it’s true, I was a university student, I had just started the academic year and I was preparing my first law exam.

 

Your aunt Gabriella knew him as well, she was the heart of your inn on the island of Torcello. What did she say about him?

 

My aunt Gabriella, the sister of my mother, was the heart of Torcello. She wasn’t married and basically she lived in the inn. She always told us he was a very simple man, who loved hunting in the morning with the boat of a certain Emilio. The boats used to go hunting here in Torcello are called “s’ciopon”, though they were not always used as such… do you know what s’ciopon is?

Arrigo Cipriani
Read the interview

Don’t hold it against me, but I don’t think so.

 

It’s a kind of sandolo [a kind of gondola] with a very low bow where you can put a real gun full of nails and powder to shoot the ducks. But the s’ciopon was also used for rifle hunting: since the boat was very light it could pass above sandbanks and shoals and it was very convenient since outboard motors still didn’t exist or rather existed but nobody had them.

 

Did your aunt say anything else?

 

Well, for example she told us he used to write in the night, never in the day. That’s why they put red wine bottles out of his door and if they found them empty the next morning it meant that he had been writing the whole night, while if they were full it meant he had been sleeping. I don’t know if this is true or just a legend, but it’s certainly an intriguing story!

 

Hemingway loved Valpolicella and not Whiskey, as many people have wrongly said. Is it true?

 

Yes, Valpolicella, but not Amarone! There was some Amarone, very few bottles actually, but it wasn’t a table wine, it has always been an afternoon or after-meal wine. Now people drink it also during the meal, but I think it’s too strong. Back then, instead, there was Valpolicella Valpantena, produced by Bertani. We also used Valpolicella at Harry’s Bar, it was kind of a house wine.

 

To stay on the topic, what were his favourite drinks?

 

I can’t tell you this, but I can say he loved to eat, though not in large quantities. He was fond of risotto. Have you ever read the tale The Good Lion? There he mentions it more than once. The tale is about a winged lion who is denigrated by his fellow lions in Africa because he eats risotto and drinks americano. Thrown out, he goes back to Venice, where he finds his father in San Marco square, who tells him, if he goes to Harry’s Bar, to tell the Ciprianis he would go there one of those days and settle the bill.

 

Do you also remember how high the bill was? All jokes aside, what did your father say and remember about Ernest Hemingway at Harry’s Bar in Venice?

 

Look, I can tell you an anecdote that links a memory to an icon. We still have a photograph of my father and him: Hemingway wears a big Mexican sombrero and they are sitting at a table in Torcello with many empty glasses in front of them. You can imagine the following couple of days of my father. You know, my father was a very simple man and he never talked about his job, he never acted as a boss, he always behaved like a host, he never got too familiar with guests, he only gave them the kindest welcome. This is what people likes, the “secret” of our places, one we still keep on handing down.

 

Let me take you back for a moment to last summer: in July, the memory of Ernest Hemingway was celebrated in Caorle with the Papa Journalism Award, an event you were involved in, which drew attention to Veneto. Would you like to talk about it?

 

Yes, of course. As you just recalled, I had the pleasure to participate as guest to the award final phase. In my opinion, prizes related to great personalities of literature, as you know well, are always important, as they stimulate research and provide a fundamental basis for the development of culture. This year I also had the chance to meet John Hemingway, the writer’s grandson, an extremely nice person, who visited Harry’s Bar. So I confirm my great pleasure in taking part to the event and the great quality of it.

UNA STRANA TRIBU’

Vitale Onlus, the Papa Ernest Hemingway Journalism Award and the publisher Marlin Editore, organised in 2018 the transfer to Italy of the writer John Hemingway, grandson of Ernest Hemingway, for a tour of presentations of his book “Strange Tribe: A Family Memoir”, with an introduction by Roberto Vitale and translated by Maria Grazia Nicolosi.

 

The launch took place in Milan, on 19th October, at the Feltrinelli bookshop: alongside John Hemingway, there were Marisa Fumagalli and Paolo Lepri (Corriere della Sera) and Stefano Polli (vice director of ANSA)..

 

The journey to Italy of John Hemingway, who travelled through the places where his grandfather Ernest was, continued on Saturday, 20th October, when he was guest of the Rai 3 prime time program “Le parole della settimana”, hosted by Massimo Gramellini. Then he had a few stopovers in Bassano del Grappa (21 October), Cortina d’Ampezzo (23 October), Caorle (25 October), Trieste (26 October) and Venice (27 October).

 

In Caorle, in the municipal “Ernest Hemingway” conference room, John Hemingway got a chance to go back on the island he had “met” in 2015, year of the first edition of the Papa Award.

INTRODUZIONE LIBRO

by Roberto Vitale

 

The stories of all families come from uncomfortable truths, whispered events, murmured circumstances. Situations that leave the mouth with the bitter taste of an unfulfilled idea, a reality that is different from what we thought or maybe just hoped for a long time. Hemingway is an important surname. One that carries the burden of expectation.

 

Hemingway is the surname the suburban boy dreams about while playing with his friends in the garden outside his house. Hemingway is the suit that was tailored on an adventurous life, made of courage and great stories to tell.

 

But things are not always what they seem. The expectation we can read into the eyes of who looks at us does not always slip into the coating of our indifference and we inevitably risk to remain stuck between two completely different and paradoxically indivisible worlds.

 

affectionate name given to Ernest Hemingway by all of his children and the one he used to sign his letters to them. But “Papa” identifies above all a man who, in the collective imagination, after many years and new truths, is still a symbol of strength, passion, courage and freedom.

 

He represents the mythological and extraordinary image of a man who never compromised, who loved life, women, adventure, Cuba, Amarone and Veneto, which had seen him as a young volunteer of the American Red Cross during World War I. And he couldn’t have been anything different to his children, the children of his children and the generations to come. But behind the myth there is the man, with his vulnerability, insecurity, diversity, paranoia and weakness.

 

John Hemingway is able to show the human and real side of a man who used his appearance as an armour to protect himself from troubles and from an everyday life that was hard to face. He tells about his life, digging into the uncomfortable memories of an imposing and fragile surname, of a difficult and tormented childhood and of a redemption, through writing and words, which allowed him to make up with the spirits of the past.

 

John Hemingway, son of Greg, grandson of Ernest. But who is John? Who does John want to be? Can we choose how to live and who we become? According to John, everything is possible, even with one’s feet stuck in a morass that seems to leave no way out.

 

John has chosen the truth, he has chosen the lightness of feeling like a man with no ties, unbound from the expectation of others. He has chosen to dig down deep, showing pictures that are sometimes uncomfortable, but always real, pictures that get to think and show how, after a long time, it is still possible to break chains. A schizophrenic mother, a father in search of a balance he never found and, in the background, a child looking for a bit of affection.

 

The book is an accurate reconstruction of the life of Gregory Hemingway, indissolubly and desperately tied to the figure of his father Ernest. It is a profound story, with no “discounts”, showing how the slaps of life can leave marks and how a parent can inflict pains that never heal completely and humiliations that do not reconcile with life.

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Genre experiments, one might say, probably produced by genetic elements or family features unconsciously passed down from father to son. This, at least, is what the author wonders in the critique of his memoir, which depicts a father who challenged the fury of the sea and lived to tell about its emotions. A man who inherited more misfortunes than he deserved and lived in the shadow of many ghosts that haunted him for most of his life. A father who suffered from manic depressive psychosis, who was a cross-dresser and ended up with undergoing a surgical operation to change his sex. A man who was not able to stay away from trouble: he used to drink to efface the obsession of the heavy presence of a father he missed terribly. Greg loved to drive at full speed with a fear that often came back mercilessly: the fear of life, of loneliness, of abandonment.

 

John detects faded resemblances between his childhood and Greg’s. A deranged mother who even abandoned him, with his brother Patrick and his sister Maria, in a Catholic church in order to become a nun. An insane, John says, to the point that he developed the firm belief that he could count on no one but his father Greg, a doctor he got to know as he bumped into his breakdown for the fist time in 1985 when, at the age of 24, he went to Montana to spend some time with him. In front of his eyes there was a man who was living in a messy house, where the leftovers of several meals were on display next to medical texts and newspapers, with the kitchen sink full of filthy forks, knives and beer bottles.

 

A condition Greg ignored, blinded by depression, but which was an alarm bell to John. Perhaps others had rung many years before, when he had been moved around from house to house and from kin to kin along with his siblings, ending up with tattooing the mark of abandonment onto his skin. John’s destiny, written in the history of the Hemingways, has been similar to that of Greg, who had been entrusted from his mother to the care of Ada Stern, the family governess, a woman the author describes as alcoholic and cruelly manipulative. John asks himself what kind of man his father would have been if his grandmother Pauline had taken care of something more than his education. It is clear that the relationship between the grandfather Ernest and his wife – but most of all the stress his father suffered during his childhood – marked Greg deeply, even though the marriage of Ernest and Pauline was one of the most productive periods in the literary career of Papa – although he never forgave his wife for being richer than him. An economic inferiority that raises belated shame in someone who is seen as the real “macho”, the great hunter, the warrior, the man who had four wives.

 

Greg, like his father Ernest, got married four times too, tormented by the fear of remaining alone, eternally trying to find a balance between the male and the female side of his personality. While Greg lived it first-hand, Ernest experienced sexual diversity through his writing: sexual metamorphosis was actually a subject of interest for many intellectuals at the beginning of the 20th century. For sure, just like Greg, Ernest was not able to find the key to happiness, perhaps because both lacked certain motherly attentions. And maybe for this reason, according to John, Greg was the living picture of his father: two people obsessed with women, who concealed unspeakable secrets.

 

Secrets John ran away from for long, suffering the pressure of his family name, the burden of being Greg’s son and Ernest’s grandchild. He needed to save himself from something his father would have escaped as well, if he had been able to. The wound of an uncertain family situation, with a subsequent emotional detachment, is at the basis of the father-son relationship that has been passed down from generation to generation in the Hemingway family, but which the author has sworn to break in the relationship with his son Michael, born in 2000 in Italy.

 

With this book, John gives back to his father part of the dignity his manic depression, his unstable health and the expulsion from the medical profession had deprived him of. But John also tells about Africa, the land that was much beloved by Ernest and Greg, the continent that had to and could be the altar of John’s consecration as a writer. A place to inspire his writing and the creative flair of the Hemingways.