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My husband’s family comes from Erba, near Como. We still meet at their place on Christmas and on other institutional occasions and it’s always a great fun because we’re kind of a “peculiar” (and large) family, I dare say, each member being quite a character. Now, my youngest sister in law, A., (my husband has 1 brother and 2 sisters) is 22. She’s as pretty and witty as a young woman can be and she now has a fashionable but quite demanding job in Milan. So we suggested that she moved from her own to our place in Milan, but of course you may happen to feel lonely when you’re sort of a newcomer in town, in a house that is not your home, without the ruckus of a big family around. 

So I gave it a thought and, once I was in Milan, took my young sis to Carla at the Bar Jamaica.

jamaica bar 1957

 

The Jamaica Bar is a century old pub in the district of Brera that has always been renowned to be the place in Milan where all the most eminent intellectuals and artists have been meeting ever since its foundation. And yet the poetry of the Bar Jamaica is nothing I can describe nor something you can get just dropping by: you need to “live” the life it offers to be able to say that you really know it.

the owner Elio Mainini with the artist Aldo Mondino throwing an Arab party in the backyard in 1987

When I was about A.’s age I was pretty and witty myself, but also quite gloomy and, as an only child, I often happened to feel sad and lonely. Then one evening some friends took me to this (at first sight quite lousy actually) place, I met Carla who’s the soul and spirit of Bar Jamaica (as her granny used to be from its foundation back in 1911 to 1998. She died in 2002 and is still missed and so is her son Elio Mainini who died a few years ago) and basically moved there for approx the following 4 years of my life. And there I met any possible kind of people… Sods and soulmates, young and old, men and women, famous and unknown… I also met my husband there during a scuffle between two boys brimming with testosterone! And in this colourful mess of always changing and always different people, every now and then Carla picks somebody and kind of adopt them to be part of the family, which gives you a strong sense of belonging that allows you to go back after no matter how many years and to just feel comfortable with yourself, with all those you haven’t met for ages who still hang about and even with those new ones that you have never seen before.  

The other day, when I eventually took A. there for an aperitif, trying to explain her what it feels like, a friend said a thing that I definitely agree with: it’s like going back to the orphanage you (happily) grew up in and meeting all your fellows orphans, those who came before you and those who arrived when you had already gone your way into the world. You all are different, but you all were in pursuit of something that you found there. And Carla… Well Carla wouldn’t really appreciate to be talked about in my blog I assume, but she’s kind of Miss Peregrine of the orphanage for peculiar children: she can see the hidden beauty, the spark, the talent inside the most different people (who often strongly dislike themselves) and draw them together so that they can thrive.

I can’t wait to go back, sit down at the tables outside, have a dozen of aperitifs, tittle – tattle a bit and, eventually, let go of everything and be my peculiar self.