Friday, August 1, 2014

Chasing a mansion on a lake

Thursday 31st July

Humbling is perhaps the best way to describe it. The place we have found ourselves, and the stories attached to it have been humbling. 

Perhaps I should be careful not to assign my own internal experience to everyone on the team, there has however been a unique shared experience here on Isla de Giulio. 

In the foothills of the Italian alps there is a rolling green country. This country is interspersed with high jagged peaks and low lying lakes. Large still lakes with beautiful homes and lovely little towns hugging their banks. This is the land we have come to play frisbee in, Lecco on lake Como is our final destination. Yet we are not quite there, lake Orta with its clear cool water, picturesque townships and stunning central island hold our attention for a moment longer. 

There has been some direction from the team's leadership in the last few days about shifting our focus out of the spectacular European and mountain environments, and towards the task we set ourselves months ago, World Club success. 

I was going to write that this final incredible stop has made it difficult to remain focused on frisbee however I'm not sure that is true. We have been exposed to some wonderful history and stories which are certainly attention capturing. There has also been opportunities to compare and reflect, and perhaps in this the team has been able to add value to our own goal, dreams and our shared endeavour.

In 1942 a girl and her family were forced to leave Milano as it was sucked into the carnage of World War Two. Through a series of events the girl's father decided to make a desperate attempt to purchase back his family home. A magnificent house on Isla San Giulio, in the middle of lake Orta. This small island has been a refuge of sorts for people since the fourth century. The basilica San Giulio with its ancient foundations dominates the island, however there is space remaining for a few private homes.

When the young girl's father returned here he staked all his moderate fortune, and with the help of the chaotic war time upheaval and seemingly a generous and persuasive serving of wine, he convinced the incumbent owner to sell the large and emotionally significant home back to the family. 

The father was a master piano technician and craftsman. He was vastly committed financially to this rambling and spectacular home, and so he set to work. Forming magnificent musical instruments, almost works of art by hand. Tallone pianos are beautiful objects of music, and in the words of our host can be like a companion and a comfort. The grand piano that stands in the concert hall inside the house is a forty year old masterpiece, and when played by our host and our team elder Sacha, this family piano sounds like time and history and triumph. 

The family grew up here as Europe rose up from the disaster of the war and they struggled like many people to find happiness and achieve their goals. Beautiful pianos continued to be made, and the dream of this island home persevered.  

Now in 2014 that 11 year old girl is a warm hearted Nona called Elisa who welcomed us into her ancient house. She shared her story, and along with her son in law Jean-Philip and his children they opened their island home to us for a night. 

The house is a true mansion on an island in the middle of an Italian lake. Multiple rooms, stacked levels, internal landings and external walkways. A large garden, a four hundred year old kitchen, paintings on every wall of serious brooding intensity and a private stone boat slip. Think 'mansion' and your image my not be far off, the place has a well inside it, yeah, like a stone well with a crank handle. 

It is a grand old living antique building, and it shows the signs of time and wear in every facade, floor board and vista. The mansion is a glorious relic of another time that has been constantly lived in and loved for generations. On a stone wall with a large cascading crack there sits fresh summer drawings by the children who stay here. The precious open space of the private garden is flanked by tall stone walls and arches, and it is littered with snorkels, soccer balls and for this unusual day a team of Aussies.

There is a melancholy here, a fleeting sense of the burden that must exist to be responsible for this spectacular family heirloom. Elisa's father toiled for years crafting spectacular musical pieces to retain this place, and now Elisa struggles with her challenge of retention and care. It feels to us as visitors that this family home of classic community value is a major part of the legacy of these people. Their hope, and their goals have revolved around living on the Isla San Giulio and sharing their story with others. 

I mentioned earlier that the tale of World War disaster and intergenerational perseverance through struggle was in some way humbling. Maybe even that it cast a perspective on our own lives and the highly joyful and care free journey the team is currently on. In some ways that is true, it is not the only experience though. Sitting and listening to Elisa recall a time long gone, and staying in her physical piece of history is informative and influential.  

The message to the team is possibly that struggle and perseverance is universal, and that your best effort in pursuing a dream or a goal is a worthy endeavour and a quality use of your time. 

We arrived on the northern edge of Milano today, the tournament is upon us and our tour is over. We are here together with a goal to pursue. The time together on a rampaging journey down through Europe has been fun, stunningly beautiful, moderately controlled, inspiring and I think significantly informative. 

We know more now than we did a week ago. About each other, ourselves, this historic part of the world and about chasing dreams. It feels to me like the Colony team is ready, ready to strive together and to struggle for a goal. It will be a spectacular experience for us all to find out.

A special thank you from the team to Jens, his international frisbee network of friends and our wonderful hosts on San Giulio.

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