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Don’t turn screws into olive trees

Di Antonio Caneva, 8 dicembre 2016

I live in Milan, near Via Fauché, where a large and lively open market takes place twice a week, occupying the whole street. I have always been impressed by the evening cleanup operations, when the municipal trucks come to reopen the street: sweeping machines, street washers, refuse compactors, local police placing their cars across to stop the traffic, the beep-beep of garbage trucks when they go into reverse. In a matter of few hours the area is made passable again and, unless you know it, there is nothing left to make you suspect the intense commercial activity going on a short while before.
While crossing a suburban street, I recently noticed a worker with a blower which moved the dead leaves out from under the parked cars, while a special van collected them.
These are scenes from ordinary everyday life, which however testify to a great commitment devoted to keeping the city orderly and livable.
I reflected on the complexity of public space management procedures, and compared them, in my mind, with the operation of large hotels, where a complex mechanism is set in motion daily to maintain the functions of the entire facilities.
It definitely takes extraordinary commitment, because hotels themselves are extraordinary, each with its own history and message that has to be preserved. I am thinking of the lemon trees just outside the charming Hotel Vittoria in Sorrento, which are so well tended, or the park of Beau Rivage in Lausanne, overlooking the lake, which in the past (at the time when I used to work there) also included a dog graveyard for the hotel guests’ faithful companions. These are outdoor spaces, but there also exist unique architectures to be preserved intact, such as Parco dei Principi in Sorrento, designed by Gio Ponti in its entirety, indoor and outdoor areas. Some time ago I talked with Ezio Indiani, the General Manager at Principe di Savoia in Milan, and asked him about the pendulum clock I remembered from the time when I used to work for that hotel, which had become a familiar object. We took it to be repaired, he told me, and lo and behold, on my next visit it was again functioning in the hotel hall.
So much work just for the purpose to keep everything in order and efficient. Sometimes with some funny entr’acte.
At Hotel Cervo, in Porto Cervo, there was an olive tree in the patio (might it still be there?) and we suddenly heard a cry: “Mais vous êtes mattò, mettre une vis dans l’olivierò”. In this macaronic language, the French interior decorator – a distant relation of the Aga Khan, who was then the owner of the Costa Smeralda, was shouting at the serviceman who had fastened a wire into the olive tree with a screw.
So many different situations and peculiarities which give lustre to our business!

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