by Sam Di Bella

Bronte's City, together


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The strange diary of Sam

Memories, curiosity, reflections,.. by a young …nonagenarian from Bronte


The memory, O Rose..., Alfonsina, My cardia, The great Peppe Milazzotto, The Pinuccia, I love Summer, The small Lina, The joke, The first voyage, Aiuattist?, The sentence, The fruit shop, September 8, the armstice, Mr Talamo, The Liberation, To export democracy, Malthus theories, Floor tiles, The chess player, Pendle Hill, The “Di Bella Constructions Pty. Ltd.”, Fred Fitzpatrick, The decline of cav, The manager of Bondi Beach, The pick up truck, The Queen Elizabeth  in Australia, Antonietta, I was also a hypochondriac, My father in America, Trowels about 40 centimeters long, Cecily Freezers, Poor Italy!!!, My first job in Italy, Murray house, in Bronte, The segrets of lifeAt Sassuolo, The pitcher or Sicilian Bùmburu, The lieutenant Santangela, Imprisoned in Modena, In 1948 in Turin, A grand piano of Portland street, In prison at the Casa del Fascio, Angora goats of Burraga, The adorable Timmy, The house of Wallangra Road, The confusion, Exams of Private Law, My cousin the Baron, My first pair of shorts, English for children, At Anne’s wedding, Professor De Cavicchi, Carmelo Genovese, Mr. Yong’s large restaurant, Carmelo and me, Waiting for the summer, My brother Nunzio and not only..., Greetings to my readers

I - The memory

This is the usual story that repeats itself continuously. I say it every night and every morning: “I should begin to write all the stupid things that come to my mind.” And they are many...

My brain is like a volcano erupting continuously ideas, thoughts, memories and similar other stuff, but after a minute I forget what I was thinking of and find it hard to remember.

I do not think that it is Parnkinson lurking, but it certainly has something to do with my ageing process. When I was young, I had a formidable memory. I could read any triplet of the Divine Comedy, and, closing my eyes, I could read it again from the last to the first word.

It made me feel important with my classmates who did not understand how I could, closing my eyes, still see the triplet that I had just read, however, did not help me at all in my study.

In fact, I studied very little, even if I could convince my professors that I was always prepared because I could remember, for a few weeks, what they had explained. I realize that mine was a kind of a narcissistic complacency for my extraordinary memory that I had inherited from my mother. She was small and round like a little ball, but she was also infinitely more intelligent than my father.

I realized this when I was about 14 years old. My father had an extraordinary empathy. He liked dances, parties and he was a great one for telling jokes, but also had some strange peculiarities. When we had to decide something important, in the family, he claimed that the final decision was made only by him.

My father was the owner of the municipal slaughterhouse and some butchers had asked him to increase its space and add locals to be used solely for slaughtering pigs. He was not in favor of this idea.

Instead my mother wanted these additions. And so she kept saying to my father: “Do not get persuaded by anyone to do these alleged additions to the slaughterhouse ...”

And here is my father’s answer, “If I decide to do it or not is none of your business ...” and immediately decided to call the builders and begin the work.

I was 14 years old and realized then how my little mother could maneuver my father without ever offending his pride.


II -O Rose...

How many years have passed. I am now almost 93 years old. Really cannot believe it. My mind is full of memories .. millions of episodes of my extraordinarily long life crowd my memory to the point of confusion.

When I was young I used to write many poems:
Endless nights and brilliant of stars are these, Rosetta… Thus began a long sonnet I had written at 18 years of age when I was in love with a girl 14 or 15 years old who had come from Naples to study in Bronte.

She was extremely blonde and all high school students were in love with her. During that time it was enough to touch your hair looking at a girl and if she also touched her hair, indicating a response, it was enough to go into raptures.

I did not keep any of my poems. I don’t think it was a great loss. Only one of my old classmates, called Gigi Parrinelli, deceased long time ago, appreciated my poems and used to comment on them as works of great cultural value. Later on, he became a man of great culture and a principal at an important school in Reggio Emilia.

As a boy I had fallen in love with the communist ideology. At sixteen years of age, reading the manifesto of Marks and Engels, I had the impression that this was the true gospel, and for a few years, tried to convince my friends that communism was the only way to achieve true social justice and the coveted equality.

It took me to witness the many atrocities committed by the communists in Milan the 25 of April, 1945 to change my mind and convince me that that ideology, like all unrealizable utopias, is diametrically opposed to human nature, destroys in the workers the wish to work, or at least to work in a productive way, incites hatred and envy, impoverish the nations and opens the door to the most illogical and indecent protests.


III - Alfonsina

My first girlfriend was 5 years old, like me, and lived a short walk from my house. Her name was Alfonsina ... She was very sweet. We liked each other very much… but a sad day .. in spring .. it was the first week of May, 1926, with a friend of ten or eleven years old, she, climbed on a high cliff near her home, to pick flowers and prepare the small altars for the next Virgin Mary’s feast.

But she slipped and fell on the street from about 8 feet high. Falling, she must have hitten her head as she died instantly.

I happened to be playng close by when I heard women screaming and I went to see my little Alfonsina .. inert .. like a rags doll soaked in blood ... I went running to the Alfonsina’s house and told her mother that the child had fallen ...

I will never forget the desperation in the face of that poor woman ... however, I must have not realized the seriousness of the case and for months after it happened, I thought Alfonzina could come looking for me to play together as we always did ...


IV - My cardia

Today I was not able to eat. It seems that my cardia, that independent valve that doctors had defined incontinent, has gone completely mad.

I cannot even hold down water.

It seems that only rest calms it so I have to do that and treat my condition with care and respect. It became so touchy about three years ago, when I was only 90 years old. Since then I can only eat and drink what he wants and when he deems it appropriate.

I do not know how it could have become such a slave-driver. My cardia is a kind of esophageal Berlusconi.

For goodness sake, I don’t want to talk politics. The situation should not be worsened. We have a great president and a great pope. Let us settle for it!


V - The great Milazzotto

Beppe MilazzottoToday I remember Beppe Milazzotto. The great Beppe Milazzotto, the shoemaker who in Milan was the reference point of all chaps from  Bronte that, for various reasons, were there with no other acquaintances.

I met him during the war. That was one day which, for me, I thought could have been the last. I had escaped from a political prisoner’s camp in Tuscany and gone to a country town, called Merate, where one of my aunts lived, sister of my mother, married to a sergeant of police.

The Government of the Republic of Salò had issued an edict whereby cadet deserters would be shot, when and where found, together with their protectors. My aunt, soon after I had arrived at her home, told me: “My son, you have to understand me. I can not accommodate you. I can not risk the life of my husband”.

I saw, then, the melting of my only hope of salvation, and said, “Okay, Aunt, I’m leaving now” - and made my way to the train station still wearing the uniform of officer cadet sergeant which had been given to me when I was arrested and put into the prisoner’s camp.
I was desperate.

I had never been to Milan, and when I got off the train and went out from that ‘huge train station, I saw many trams with various numbers, which I imagine, represented the destinations. I chose the number 2. Not because it meant anything to me, maybe as it was the closest to me. The tram went on for quite some time and then began to cross an area full of many trees. Without knowing where I was, I decided to get off and walk for a while. The name of the street in which I was walking was via Panfilo Castaldi.

I felt empty ... numb ... and I walked like a zombie ...

In the entrance door of a building there was a man watching me intently.

I did not know him. But he kept looking at me and  when I got close, he asked me: “Excuse me, are you not the son of Don Alessandro Di Bella?”

I almost fell to the ground in amazement. I hugged him almost crying and I briefly told him what had happened to me, asking if he could help me to join the partisans in the mountains. He said, “Look, I would not know how to help you, but if you go up to the third floor of the first stairs you will find Mr. Milazzotto. I think he could do something for you.

When I knocked on the door of Mr. Milazzotto he opened and looked at me surprised. He was not expecting a visit from a soldier in uniform. I said, “Look, I’m Totò Di Bella from Bronte,” then everybody called me Totò.


Sam Di Bella

SALVATORE (SAM) DI BELLASalvatore (Sam) Di Bella was born in Bronte on De­cem­ber 9, 1920. He stu­died at the Royal Capizzi College and graduated in Political Science at the Uni­ver­sity of Catania.

He began working in Milan as a repre­sen­tative of a com­pany that dealt with building and in­du­strial sup­plies.

Later he was appointed dire­ctor of the Turin branch of the same company.

After working in Turin for about two years, now twenty-seven, he returned to Bronte and col­laborated with the prestigious fortnightly "Il Ciclope" (The Cyclops). He used to sign his articles with the pseudonym "sdib" and with this symbol we find a funny "Story of Bronte", from the imagination of Sam, published serially in three successive numbers during the months of October and November 1948.

His collaboration to the fort­nightly (director at the time was Joseph Bonina ) lasted only a couple of years.

Like so many other col­la­bo­ra­tors of the fortnightly, in 1950, Salva­tore Di Bella (pictured at right in a photo of the time), in fact, Bronte looking for a job.

At thirty years of age he flew to Australia (that he calls his "se­cond country "), where he lived for about forty years esta­blishing himself  as a remarkable builder.

There, having successfully star­ted several industrial acti­vi­ties, he founded the Di Bel­la Construction Pty Ltd, devo­ting himself succes­sfully to the construction of villas and luxury apartments in the best neighborhoods of Sydney.

When he stopped his building activity and hung to the clas­sic nail  bricks and projects, he preferred to return to his native country town, where, at ninety-three years of age, he now lives.

Sam Di Bella speaks and writes fluent English, and in this lan­guage he has translated many pages of our website. He was also one of the four founders of the Bronteinsieme web site and was also president of the historical "Cultural Circle E. Cymbals", the old Casino de' civili of Bronte.

This "strange diary", as Sam names it, is, in some ways, a return to the origins; a return to writing, digging in his memo­ry, taking back the pen left in 1950 to search for a job, then as now, that Bronte could not offer.

Today Sam wanted to give us some of his memories and that we share with all our visitors.

Grazie Sam

Nino Liuzzo

September 2013

Sam Di Bella, 94 years of wisdom



Sam Di Bella, at the ripe old age of 93 has decided, in line with the spirit that has animated all his life, not to put his brain to rest, and, like all great old men, has found for his days a new activity: write! Given the age, it is obvious that the choice fell on a memoir.

To be precise, it is not a vocation absolutely new, becau­se as a young man he loved to write poetry, receiving en­coura­gement and admiration of a future scholar, Profes­sor Gigi Parrinelli.
And this passion to write reflectively must’ve grown throu­ghout his life, albeit irregularly and without a professio­nal commitment. In fact, in his short work can be seen the richness of the interests and cultural knowledge, a remar­kable ability to describe and represent vividly.

Thing that can be found, for example, in the self-irony with which he speaks of his “nineteenth century despot”, his “ma­ster of the ironwor­ks”, that “cardia” that for three years se­riously affects his life, as he does with Italy - always adds with a lot of humor - the “Berlusconi esopha­geal... archene­my of the democratic Epiphany”.

For Di Bella to tell the story of his life, albeit succinctly, it means to insert it into history tout court, opening gashes that represent with few but essential features some dramatic sta­ges of World War II, followed by a post-war ravaged by pover­ty, which invited the young people to emigrate in precarious and poor conditions.
On pages in which we are told of the dangers immediately after September 8, stands the great humanity of Joseph Mi­lazzotto, who saved Toto (so Sam was called by his friends when he was a boy) at the risk of is own live. Di Bella still remembers him as the most generous person he’s ever met in his entire life.

Obviously, an important place in his story is occupied by lo­ve: from youthful adventures until marriage and separa­tion, con­sensual and civilized, in his advanced age.

His first girlfriend, Alfonsina, died after falling from a wall when she was five years old: a love child very remote, of course, but where Di Bella keeps alive a tender memory. On the other women (Pinuccia, Lina) he has, however, a memory that is associated with guilt, so that in his wri­ting, almost railing against himself, used the expression, “abominable act of cowardice” a strong condemnation of his youthful behavior, which wants to take the value of a moral compensation, even if only symbolic and too late.
Arrived to the age of which we have spoken, full of years and experience, Di Bella knows how to distinguish between real time and psychological time; difficult to see how in his youth, when he was anxious to assert himself and his soul was stretched in the future, the months and the years seemed en­dless, but now the seasons seem to vanish in a heartbeat.

For that he tries to stop this blessed time.


Writing to give new life to the past, even if only moral. And we wish him to continue his work, not to lengthen the stock, but to enrich and develop what has been written up to now, inve­stigating facts and thoughts that still seem mentioned.

Nino Russo

September 2013



He said, “Ah u figghiu ru zzu Lissandru” (Ah the son of uncle Alexander), and hugged me..  I was quite embarrassed and told him that I did not want to endanger anyone, that I had escaped from a military camp and wanted only to join the partisans in the mountains.

He looked at me for a long time and said, “You stay here with me. As long as we have a small loaf of bread we will divide it, half  for you and half for me and when the fascists or the Germans will come  to pick us up I’ll say: “Fire!”

I can not avoid becoming emotional when I remember these moments. I get goose bumps and the hairs on my neck stand on end ... I seemed to get out of a terrible nightmare that lasted weeks ...

I’ve never known a man more generous than Beppe Milazzotto.


(it follows)  


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