There are men who leave the deepest footprints on the ground where they softly tread and others that leave them only in the hearts. Antonello Ruffo di Calabria has changed the history of Paliano building a nature park dedicated to birds at a historical moment in which all others were building industries.
The overwhelming story of this visionary prince was told by Giusy Colmo in the book ‘The Prince Who moved Hills’ a book that collected directly from his voice his incredible stories and transcribed them in a thrilling fashion. The presentation of the book in Paliano discovered some sides of the prince unknown to many that make him a ‘modern hero’.
Stories of his father’s friend aviator Dannunzio, a childhood during the bombing of San Lorenzo, the sweet Roman life, the many trips but, in the background, always La Selva of Paliano and the idea of turning it into a nature and cultural centre.
His goal was thus to modify the landscape effecting a transformation of the horizon from countryside to a park. For example he created inlets for events and hills to hide natural places to discover, he planted millions of trees and, above all, created ponds and lakes to support birds for the Park La Selva.
It was a real landscape, its marks were always soft but they were recognizable at a distance and from above. His vision of the environment has never been that of a gardener but a ‘prince’ who modelled his kingdom to make it enchanted. And this kingdom was to be recognized from a distance and with the 5 senses. Thus were born the millions of mimosa trees and cypresses (whose scent wafted throughout the valley of the Sacco for weeks each year), bamboo fences, tree-lined parks with soft lines and ponds.
The cultural soul of the park was animated by painters, sculptors and writers who made La Selva their reference point. The park is crowded with some sculptures which reflected the irony and the rebellious spirit of Don Antonello such as the large tufa scarecrow in whose hat was the food for birds.
I was lucky enough to work for the Prince for a period of my life and it is through this bond that I came to live in Paliano. The occasion of the book by Giusy has rekindled an interest in a great many people whose lives were affected by Don Antonello. In virtually every Paliano family there are episodes about La Selva and the prince and time transforms these into ‘unforgettable memories’.
On my way to the presentation of the book and I was shopping in the fruit shop and small alimentary, everyone spoke of Don Antonello: those who had written a letter to Fidel Castro to get the first flamingos to the park, those who did not understand his prohibition of Coca Cola restaurants in the park, those who had picked the grapes in the vineyard and those who had taken part in one or more of its many manifestations. Old friends came ‘out of the woodwork’ to share their pleasure in having known Don Antonello.
The presentation of the book and brought to each of us memories we wanted to share with others and from these has been born a proposal that we would like to share and realize: naming the park at La Selva the “Prince Antonello Ruffo di Calabria” and dedicate May 31 to a ‘Spring Festival’ to be celebrated every year at the park. May 31 is his birthday and my memories go at an incredible party organized by his children on his 60th birthday in which nature and culture were integrated perfectly.