Lalla Romano

Writer | Brera – Garibaldi | From the 1960s to the end of the millennium


Lalla Romano was born in 1906 at Demonte (Cuneo). After taking a degree in Letters at the University of Turin, she began to study painting with Felice Casorati. For twenty years she was both a painter and a writer, as well as a teacher. Encouraged by Montale, she made her debut in 1941 with the poems of Fiore. In 1947 she moved to Milan, and stopped painting. In 1951, for Einaudi, she published Le metamorfosi, the first of many narrative works, including: Maria, La penombra che abbiamo attraversato, Le parole tra noi leggere (Premio Strega 1969), Una giovinezza inventata, Nei mari estremi… Though nearly blind, she continued to write until she died (in Milan, 2001).

As if just one life was not enough for you. And in fact you lived two lives, Lalla. Both of them lavish. You were Occitan, from Demonte. Your father was a municipal geometer with the soul of an artist. He was a skilled painter and photographer. Your maternal uncle was Giuseppe Peano, the great mathematical logician. Life, since childhood, provided you with all the people who would always know how to guide your passions, over the years. But it is not enough to meet the right people. You also had a talent for recognizing them.
Lionello Venturi was your mentor of taste in the university years, in Turin. He sent you to Felice Casorati, master of art. You became an engaged painter, under his watchful eye. This was your first life, made of art, painting, exhibitions, events. And trips to Paris, to update your pictorial language, where you met Venturi, defector from the regime, one of the 12 in the entire national academic world (1200 in its ranks) who refused to swear allegiance to the Fascist Party, opting for exile. With such examples of dignity, it came naturally to you to enter the Resistance, in the movement Giustizia e Libertà.

0.29 Lalla Romano nella sua casa a Milano, (foto Vincenzo Cottinelli - attenzione ai diritti)You knew how to recognize the human qualities of those who crossed your path. You loved Innocenzo Monti, a simple bank clerk, and married him in 1932. In those years Raffaele Mattioli, “the humanist banker,” decided to cultivate his intelligence and his abilities. Cenzo, as you called him, made great strides, even becoming President of Banca Commerciale Italiana.
You designed the furnishings for your home (Casorati wanted his students to be artisans as well as artists), while Cenzo saw to finding the carpenter to make them. Piero, your only son, was born, and Turin became your city.
Writing was still a private, almost secret activity for you. Ardengo Soffici invited you to Forte dei Marmi, where you went to paint. It was there, amidst the table of a cafe, that you met Eugenio Montale. He was intrigued by the fact that he’d been recognized. He certainly didn’t feel like a celebrity. He asked you to read him your poems. You brought them, longhand, the fair copies, in a circumstantial envelope, but the door to the hotel room was opened by Alberto Moravia. You were always much amused, recalling that episode in later years.
Montale penciled notes on your papers, and he liked your verses. He may have been your first official reader. He remained attached to you throughout his life. You thus began to write about art exhibitions in Turin for him. As a painter, though perhaps you were already a writer. A poet, to be precise. Who in 1941 published her first anthology, Fiore, with Frassinelli. You gave a copy to Giulio Einaudi, with a prickly dedication: “to he who did not want to print this book.” That was how your friendship began, Lalla. Einaudi was your publisher, for a lifetime.