The myth at auction: the parable of the White Mill – Chronicle

The myth at auction: the parable of the White Mill – Chronicle
The myth at auction: the parable of the White Mill – Chronicle

Mulino Bianco ends up at auction. This sentence is enough to start a current of memories, suggestions, perceptions, images of a particular Italy, that of the nineties. Quel Mulino is a ‘Proustian madeleine’ in many respects, also for its combination with sweets. He was able to contrast the American myth of greedy and unscrupulous finance, in the style of Gordon Gekko, with the quiet strength of a happy family in the countryside of middle Italy. It was one of the most famous ‘non-places’, sublimated in a small Camelot thanks to the successful Barilla commercial, the birth of a trio of geniuses such as the creative Armando Testa, the director Giuseppe Tornatore and the maestro Ennio Morricone. It will be sold by the Judicial Sales Institute of Siena in October. The base price is set at just over one million euros, the minimum offer is …

The Mulino Bianco ends up at auction. This sentence is enough to start a current of memories, suggestions, perceptions, images of a particular Italy, that of the nineties. That Mill is one ‘madeleine proustiana’ in many respects, even for the combination with sweets. He was able to counteract the American myth of greedy and unscrupulous finance, in the style of Gordon Gekko, with the quiet strength of a happy family in the countryside of middle Italy.

It was one of the most famous ‘not places’, sublimated in a small Camelot thanks to the successful commercial of Barilla, the birth of a trio of geniuses such as the creative Armando Testa, the director Giuseppe Tornatore and the teacher Ennio Morricone.

It will be sold by the Judicial Sales Institute of Siena in October. The base price is set at just over one million euros, the minimum bid is 831,204 euros and 89 cents. Very little for a place dreamed of by millions of Italians. Become a farm with restaurant, swimming pool with solarium and changing room, a dozen rooms and several bathrooms, even a tower and a museum part where the tools to produce electricity thanks to the mill wheel and the millstones for processing cereals are kept.

We need to loot literature, improvise anthropologists or semiologists, mimic the late Umberto Eco and Omar Calabrese to try to tell those who are twenty today what it meant that spot and that place discovered in the middle of nowhere by Armando Testa, an advertiser for Barilla. Was a mill in ruins, a short distance from the sublime Abbey of San Galgano, the one that has the sky as its roof, and next to it the rock in which Galgano set his sword. Perhaps it was thanks to these ‘magical neighbors’, more likely it was the fruit of genius of Tornatore and Morricone, but that place became a cult destination, like Neverland for Michael Jackson fans, or more simply the villa of Inspector Montalbano in Marinella.

The commercial was so effective that it became a ‘tops’: there was the father, a journalist, who was returning to that country house after a day in the editorial office; the mother, of a simple beauty, with a string of pearls around her neck, a boy and a girl with advertising faces and also a wise and reassuring grandfather. Microstorie of adopted kittens and small dramas all solved with snacks, while the wheel of that mill, painted white to respect the logo, turned as quietly as the wheel of the world.

All the Italian families aspired to resemble that of Mulino Bianco, one left big hunt at the cottage in the countryside, in Tuscany or Umbria, where the hills resembled that set. And there, in the ‘non-place’ created by the three geniuses mentioned above, a pilgrimage that made an era. On weekends the winding road in the Val di Merse, in the province of Siena, which connects Chiusdino to the Maremma, which has become a snake of cars. Hundreds of people who embarked for kilometers to take the children to see the Mulino Bianco. Nobody went to San Galgano anymore or to see the Sword in the rock, everyone stopped at Molino delle Pile and expected Barilla to open a snack shop. The Municipality of Chiusdino it had to provide special signs, repair the roads, in exchange Barilla sponsored the local football team in the Second and Third Category, the ‘Cinghiala’.

After a few years it all ended: Barilla changed commercials, it never wanted to buy that mill in the Val di Merse, perhaps frightened by its success, perhaps because it didn’t know what to do with it. The pilgrimages were interrupted, the farm worked for some time. But if today it is sold at a judicial auction, it means that things did not go too well. And then we must resort to Don De Lillo, quoted by David Foster Wallace as telling the story of “America’s most photographed barn”. Dozens of people who take turns on a hill to photograph a barn like many others. And Don De Lillo-Foster Wallace who write: “We are not here to capture an image, we are here to keep one. It is an accumulation of nameless energies, being here is a spiritual surrender. We only see what others see. In a certain sense it is a religious experience, like any tourism “.

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