From Italy to Finland

I have always been concerned with spatiality. Space around me has always been a fundamental component of my life.
Having spent the early years of my life in a suburban neighbourhood of a small Italian town, I can remember a certain feeling of inadequacy, of longing for more colourful and lively places.

Later on, travelling around Europe and going to movies and art exhibitions (in the early ’00 internet was still expensive and somehow out of reach) has been a key to balance the lack of visual inputs in my everyday environment.
My father was quite obsessed with architecture books at that time. Magazines with beautiful interiors and vibrant city-scapes would pile randomly in the living room: and I could have stared at them for hours, desiring to live, one day, in a place with a similar vibe.

Magazines and photography books were indeed my first source of inspiration but the desire for novelty and urbanity, even though I wasn’t aware of how this would have influenced my life later on, still couldn’t find real outputs. My education focused on humanistic subjects, and I can still say that high-school years slowly brought me into the world of design. Indeed, I often used to spend my afternoons at a friend’s, whose house, beautifully arranged by her mum, was such an inspirational place to me: design classics were just standing next to second hand market finds, made over with excellent ability and brilliant solutions.

I decided to attend architecture studies not because I dreamed of being an “architect” or because I wanted to design spaces for other people, but rather because I felt an urge to learn more about art and architecture history, and because I loved the idea that this profession brings together such a wide range of knowledge. Slowly sneaking through mathematics, computer programs, hand drawing, and architectural composition, I started fitting all these bits and pieces into a bigger frame and found out, eventually, that the “city” itself, with its landscapes, social relations, and contradictions, was such an interesting field of action that it could have taken most of my attention. Now indeed, as an architect, I am trying to concentrate on the project for urban spaces, at a bigger scale. I consider it an extremely difficult and complex task: recognising its deep social and also political implications and thinking about its impact on other people’s lives makes this job highly risky, but at the same time emotionally and spiritually rewarding. At the moment, I am still learning and studying hard, so who knows where will I get in the future.

In a way, photography (or photographic impressions) I started to work on in 2007 is a medium between my rather technical and precise professional assignment and my longing for poetry and everyday beauty. As you perhaps realised going through my portfolio, I have never even tried to go for the descriptive and impersonal photography of architecture. The camera is for me a tool to fix important or visually interesting moments of my everyday life. In this regard, being sometimes naïve or repetitive or not technically perfect (because I am not a “Photographer”) makes sense to me, as much as a written diary is not supposed to have literary ambitions. However, my humble and sometimes overprotective attitude towards photography didn’t stop me from participating in a quite interesting selection of websites or publications and taking part in group exhibitions. Back then, Flickr was an excellent starting point to get connections with physical realities, and perhaps I was just lucky to fit well into an increasingly wide scene of beginners and amateurs who were starting to abandon digitalised and impressive shoots, taking a step back and returning to a more qualitative and poetic approach that considered film as a privileged means of expression. Somehow, sharing a platform with professional artists and photographers has been very challenging and important, a way to approach my “hobby” in a much more concerned way and to get serious comments and feedback on it.

 

Last summer, my husband and I moved to Finland. This country has always been a meaningful one to me. Somehow it is my second home, for strange reasons. One of my longest-standing and best friends is a Finn and our bond has pushed me to get to know the place and its people quite well. My whole family has been dragged to visit Helsinki and Central Finland every now and then, and this had quite an influence on our way to live summers, plan travels, meet other friends, compose music (check my brother’s solo project thesleepingtree.com).
Moving here felt just natural at some point. For professional reasons, we are not based in Helsinki, as everybody supposes, but we found our place in Vaasa, a small town in Ostrobothnia. Being quite dry and having a milder climate, compared to the rest of Finland, this area is characterised by less forests and lakes and more fields and agriculture. The horizon is wider and the sea, with its adventurous archipelago, will surely be our summer playground.

After years spent travelling back and forth from Finland, I guess I took over the typical stereotypes that foreigners get hooked to and started to know better the good and bad sides of the country. I like underlining this aspect, because I don’t want to be compared to a certain little group of people from the Mediterranean countries who are just obsessed with Scandinavia and went to Stockholm only once during their sunny summer vacation.

Finland has an extremely fascinating natural environment, not because it varies a lot or because it is diverse, but simply for the fact that it is massive, continuous, predominant, in its presence. With a tiny population on a vast land, Finland turns out to be the perfect place where to find silence and concentration. People I meet are extremely reliable and trustworthy, so that friendships -difficult to start and warm up- are also impossible to break. And despite the freezing temperatures, lakes and grounds offer very good produce you can combine into delicious traditional recipes. If the winter -long and dark- wears you down with its oppressive darkness, the summer pays you back with its eternal and clean light. If people don’t start a conversation on the train, they will surprise you with good and bitter jokes, which will cheer you up with a wide laugh. If Finns are not well known for their everyday elegance, Finnish design is so remarkable for its pragmatic and functional beauty you can buy from almost any small shop. Should Finnish language appear impossible and hostile, locals will welcome you with excellent English conversations.

 

But –‘cause there is a “but”, after all- I suffer from a minus aspect which lies in distance. Being used to crowded towns and landscapes, living in a place where emptiness rules and the possibilities of binding social relations are indeed rare is having a strange effect on me. Feeling distant, this is what I call it. Distant from my hometown, from my beloved but also from the familiar and sometimes comforting crowded streets, buses and trains. Being asked what is “home” to me, living in a condition, which is simultaneously very dear and very bitter, is not an easy task. Probably, the condition of feeling in your own nest is firmly tightened to the possibility of being with the person you love the most. Define me predictable or over romantic, but I surely think that my nest is where my man is. My husband fully defines my desire for feeling at home and for making it more comfortable and more “us”. Our little family of two is my nest, would it be close, far or -one day- further. I love a sentence I had found on a little publication of Heinrich Böll, affirming that considering “how” is the only important thing, the “where” is not that important, after all. Spaces and places surely are precious components of our everyday life, but maybe people inhabiting them are even more important. Our routine, busy and compressed, is made day after day of little rituals we always repeat enthusiastically. The repetition of everyday simplicity makes our hearts closer and our house our home.

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