Duke pedaluar, "pedaling", they sing Elsa lila ed Enrico Ruggeri in their touching duet in Albanian and Italian that is the soundtrack to Lindje - Perëndim - Lindje by Gjergi Xhuvani, the story of a group of cyclists who travel across Europe to represent the Albanian national team at the end of the 80 years.
On a bright autumn Sunday on the Ligurian Riviera, pedaling on the bike path between Sanremo and Imperia, about twenty kilometers between sky and sea, I saw with the corner of my eye a white writing on the green of a plastic container.
Moving on, those few letters I had just glimpsed came back to my mind, which I tried to make sense of.
I had caught only the beginning: TE DUA SH". How could he continue the sentence? Te dua shumë? A declaration of love in Albanian, here, on a lay-by in Sanremo? By now I was too intrigued. Reverse the direction of travel, and go back a few hundred meters to get back to the place.
And there, on the improvised green wall of a waste container, I reread the writing, this time in its entirety: ZAMIRE TE DUA SHUM.
The writing tilted to the right, with the last letters dangling on the ground. I just have time to smile, touched by the sense of the sentence and struck by the novelty (it was the first time I saw inscriptions in Albanian on Italian roads), when I realized that all around, a few steps away, on a low wall and a bench, the same writing was repeated several times, followed by the author's signature and, which made me immediately take the videophone out of my pocket, accompanied by the Italian translation: ZAMIRA I LOVE YOU ONLY TO YOU ERVIN.
Now, the fact that an Albanian boy (a very large community on this side of the Riviera) declared himself to the girl of his heart by writing in his own language in a public place, had already seemed to me a sign of the times, an expression of strong roots on the territory. But that then to the writing in Albanian had felt the need to support the Italian translation to let everyone know, it seemed to me more meaningful than many possible theoretical elaborations on concepts such as "integration", "multiculturalism", and so on.
In this regard, I apologize to Olti Buzi, editor of this newspaper, for not having kept his promise to participate in the forum in which he was asked to answer the question "What do you think of the prospect of a multi-ethnic Italy?".
I had never answered that question, and now reading those words of love in Albanian with a text opposite, I also understood why.
The fact is, what really means "multi-ethnic", I never really understood it. To begin with, what would my ethnicity be, if it exists? Born and lived in southern Italy, can I consider myself a native of Magna Graecia?
I would like very much, but where do we put generations of Lombards, Arabs, Normans, French, Spaniards, who over the centuries have stirred up lineages, traditions, dialects, customs and abuses of Southern Italy? Then I lived - very well - for ten years in Milan, before moving to Liguria.
By birth I am therefore from the South; but many of my dearest friendships, as well as the most important person in my life, my husband, are all born in the North, or outside national borders. In some things I feel "Nordic", but as far as family ties, affection, emotions are concerned, I consider myself much more "Mediterranean".
Now that I think about it, won't it be that I'm already multi-ethnic? Do I need to worry? To tell the truth, I am much more seriously concerned with the statements of those who, in search of easy consensus, say no to a multi-ethnic Italy. What is the point of such a statement in a country like this, where peoples and nations have merged and become confused over millennia?
And where does the richness of a culture come from, if not from the set of differences that give it life, color and taste? Wouldn't it be much more useful to say no to the Italy of crime and corruption, wherever they come from? I don't know what exactly distinguishes one ethnic group from another, but I think Ervin, who wrote "I love you" to his Albanian girlfriend (which the names suggest should be the original language of both) and then wanted to translate it into the language of the country in which he lives, and where perhaps he was also born, both the demonstration and the current society, with its variety of origins and cultures, it is already in fact multi-ethnic, and that throughout Europe thousands of Ervin, Zamire, Omar, from all over the Mediterranean, Latin America and beyond, are already communicating in the universal language of love.
It is the news these days that among the 15 Alfieri del Lavoro, the prestigious honor that the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano assigns every year to the best students of Italian schools, there is for the first time an Albanian high school student, nine years old ago from Tirana with his family. Now Henri Ibi, a worker father and a housewife mother, attends the Faculty of Jurisprudence in Rome, where he won a scholarship; dreams of becoming a magistrate.
I go back on my bicycle, while Enrico Ruggeri and Elsa Lila continue to sing: "And the border posts are wide open doors // To look into the distance // Parabolic antennas descended into the silence of a room. "