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Fenoglio’s stories

When we approached words like "atavism" and "ancestral" at school, the heart and mind immediately flew invariably to the cemeteries in the Langhe.

Beppe Fenoglio, Ma il mio amore è Paco

The high valley of the Belbo River was one of Beppe Fenoglio’s favourite places. A renown Italian writer on the rural society of the Langhe and Partisan movement, spent much of his childhood here. Between Cravanzana and San Benedetto Belbo, weaving through Feisoglio, Niella Belbo, Mombarcaro and Bossolasco, this valley was indelible to Fenoglio’s mind and imagination as a writer. His works captured the soul - the hard but rewarding life - of those who lived and continue to live in the hills of the Langhe.

Pick up a copy of Tutti i racconti by Beppe Fenoglio and read through the section Racconti del parentado e del Paese, where you will find the stories Un giorno di Fuoco, La sposa bambina, Ma il mio amore è Paco, Pioggia e la sposa, La novella dell’apprendista esattore, Il signor podestà, L’affare dell’anima, L’addio and Il Gorgo. Tales of this beloved valley. While visiting, open the book at random and any page will recount Fenoglio’s vision of his kinsfolk shaped by the landscape of the Belbo Valley; he writes of villages suspended between “grass and the sky,” stone houses that sit “low and crooked, as if they had been slapped hard on the roof,” windy cemeteries, black and blue forests with a dangerous attraction, taverns full of smoke and human life and the brothels were hazards were gambled and fortunes were lost.

This is Paco’s, one of Fenoglio’s esteemed characters, deep Langa that stands much the same today; the omnipresent force of the Belbo River, embedded deep in the valley and hidden from most by patchwork thickets of woods. The Belbo is a fetish, irresistible and yet a symbol of the rural hardships of living in the Alta Langa. It is benediction, giving life to the fields and the flocks and yet is fatal temptation, its whirlpools and dark waters an easy escape for those, who like the protagonist of La novella dell’apprendista esattore says, “if you have had enough, such as I, you would do the same.”

San Benedetto Belbo, Niella Belbo, Mombarcaro, Cerretto Langhe, Bossolasco.

La Censa di Placido

Among all of Fenoglio’s places, Censa di Placido in San Benedetto Belbo is unmissable. It is a historic building, a typical stone dwelling of the Langa, with a flagstone roof, wooden floors and plastered walls. La Censa was a trading post and general shop, selling salt, tobacco and stamps. It was also used as a tavern, with a bread oven built into the back wall. Beppe Fenoglio was a frequent visitor of La Censa and it is a frequent backdrop in his works. La Censa was recently restored by the Cassa di Risparmio di Cuneo and the Fondazione Bottari Lattes.

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