It was my 2nd year at the Mantua Literature Festival and the Festival’s 20th year Celebration. An onslaught of ideas and reflections on world issues and individual journeys in a fabulous Renaissance setting. Record Summer temperatures continued and the ancient buildings and garden locations provided welcome relief as brains ticked over at each presentation.
Carlo Petrini founder of Slow Food is convinced food is not just about calories but a cultural activity that binds us together, involving billions of workers, creating climate change and affecting our biodiversity. He discussed this with economist Pavan Sukhdev who believes our Economic model needs to be broader to include human, natural and social capital not solely financial and to identify the links between immigration, climate change and terrorism.
A panel of English writers – Jeanette Winterson, Howard Jacobson with Hay Festival organiser Peter Florence debated the English ‘malaise’ of Brexit with that touch of English humour that made the argument seem less tragic than it is.
And our Italian Bob Dylan – singer songwriter Francesco de Gregori reflected on life’s journey, the characters behind the lyrics and his storytelling that continues to touch our hearts today. It was a delight to shake his hand and exchange a few words as he wrote my book dedication.
And there was more: an eclectic mix from – The life of Bees, the dangers of Internet data, a black Milanese comedy, the importance of bloggers for political resistance and social change, to e-italian and the speed language changes with technology. Bouncing from one queue to another and juggling the frustrations of coinciding events was challenging although it was not all work and no play!
The city is delightful, as I had discovered last year, unique and captivating, glorious piazzas framed with fluted palaces and street porticoes shading elegant shops. A bikers paradise and a high heel nightmare of cobblestones!
Little kids splashed paint on wolf stencils after listening engrossed to the fable while the blue T shirted bigger kids were the team of volunteers essential to the smooth organisation of the Festival.
Workshop areas were in tune with the ecological issues espoused – recycled cardboard benches and very cute egg cartons offered comfy seating in the book sharing area.
The local speciality of ‘sbrisolona’ cake was everywhere and hard to refuse when it was offered in bite size takeaway cones – essential sugar for the brain as there was no time to doze off. A quick make-up refresh was on hand and the dog could get his fix just across the way. Book readings in the park, a special immigration info point with all the latest updates, and a mix of movies even one retracing Hemingway’s steps in Sardinia.
All inspiring and stimulating!
And as the sun set on each day, it was time to drift to a new location for a well deserved spritz before dinner exchanging workshop details with friends before parting ways again to the evening presentation. Newly dedicated books underarms, and another queue that offered new conversations with strangers who were keen to share their experiences.
A surprise Tango lesson at our restaurant on the last night and we were ready to say goodbye to this magic city of Mantua…..until next year!