Reading “Le stanze del tempo” (The rooms of time) by Piera Ventre means entering a microcosm inhabited by spaces and stories, objects and memories. Houses as an extension and projection of oneself: at times they embrace, at others they disturb

A novel composed of short stories, interspersed with short chapters dedicated to water, infiltrated everywhere, but also by air, earth, fire, light and dark; to sew together the red thread of the houses and rooms, to which are added walls and cracks, windows and gardens which, with a myriad of objects and memories, trace sentimental floor plans.

Le stanze del tempo (The rooms of time) by Piera Ventre, published by Neri Pozza, is a refined and soothing book, punctuated by a dense and polite prose, embroidered with lace and retro flourishes, sometimes nostalgic yet concrete, focused on tiny attentions, those full of emotional references , mixed with smells and flavors.

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The relationship between the house and its inhabitants

The protagonist of the stories is always different but could also be the same person in different ages, places and homes: the temporal leaps are barely perceived, drowned in a freaked time. If the equivocal identity is desired, the unique element that emerges in all is the house experienced as projection, extension and expansion of oneself.

Does the house embrace or suffocate?

Keeper of rooms, trinkets but above all memories, it is a house that sometimes embraces but at times restless: refuge or trap? A den in which the walls breathe: envelop or suffocate? Regulating the house is expression (d'antan) of care and cleanliness or rigor aimed at a maniacal order, towards spaces (and towards oneself)? There are many issues addressed by the book, less immediate and obvious than one might think.

Houses as emotional snapshots

Located between volcanoes and castles, narrow streets and alleys, clinging villages and countless steps to climb, d explained in a story that does not follow a temporal order and gives no name to any place, the different houses narrated emerge among the objects, inherited or purchased, collected, found or lost, and the memories of which they are custodians: what what matters is not their value but the role they play for the protagonist and the people around her. The result is a novel that takes and links snapshots - analogical, sensory and emotional - that are imprinted on the mind.

The osmotic relationship with spaces

Different from each other but united by an osmotic relationship with those who live in them, some houses are linked to the family of origin, those of the mother, grandparents, cousins, others are passing through, one literally, since placed above a station, others still seem to harbor ghosts. Often the presence of animals, cats but also insects that, insinuating themselves minute and silent, make the spaces teem with life, as well as figures of elderly, relatives or neighbors, not always protective and maternal as one is led to think.

A den house ...

"What is a house? How do you get attached? How do you recognize it as your own?". And more "What is a house? A geography from which we have departed, of course, but which does not cease to exist, ghost, and that unspeakable grip that stings us and continues to hurt us when we continue to imagine it". The book asks questions from the beginning, and the answers unfold in a fragmented but sutured path by a fil rouge. "There was something that settled where we lived, a cocoon of sacredness that had to be protected and kept".

... which materializes concerns

But the house is not always painted as a refuge, several of the houses narrated convey the sensation of something sinister, which disturbs and conditions the life of those who live there. "Home: a place that can be said to be such only if I look at it from outside, if I don't worry it with my restlessness". As if the place chosen to live absorbs and amplifies the inner restlessness, to the point of making them concrete and tangible in something that breaks or in out-of-place details. The four natural elements - air, earth, water and fire -, for example, are always present, but they are experienced in a very different, if not opposite, depending on the emotional state of the inhabitants.

Wild or domesticated gardens

In the narrated houses the outside is a living part and coveted . The windows, the views and the landscape that can be glimpsed are integral components of the house as well as of the mind of those who live there: "The balcony of my apartment leaned over that greenish view: I rested my eyes on it undisturbed, it was the garden of an empty house and, therefore, a little mine. A panorama of adoption". C as well as gardens, whose appearance, neat or slovenly, wild or tame, often reflects the character of the owners. Like the neighbors who lay long strips of turf on their land, suffocating the plants and insects that live there. "The ivy on the walls its plant siege - single flicker of  an untamable wildness" observes the protagonist.

The water and the cracks, in the walls and in the mind

The most common natural element is the water, mirror of a discomfort, sometimes unaware, that from the environments infiltrates the body and psyche of the protagonist. "I bitten the walls, made them sick. She also clung to the bones, clinging to a lagoon cold that persisted in remaining unchanged. It was living matter, ungovernable". "The solid brick walls gave off an organic, sanguine dust". "An abyss capable of sucking up what little good I was trying to hold on to".

Memory and loss

With a liquid and accurate writing , with elegant and obsolete charms, le stanze del tempo deals with various themes, often specular, domestic warmth but also anxiety returned by daily gestures and movements, memory but also loss. "I know that things are lost and that when it happens you have to resign yourself to abandonment. Perhaps this is what the home wants to teach us a little. Even in our kindergarten, the most intimate one, with lights on and nooks in which to take refuge, and kitchens full of warmth and comfortable beds, it can happen that you get lost, and get lost".

Dreams and attics

And it's a book in which you imagine (and want) a lot. "The house that is not I have is the one I would like to remain alone in my dreams because of my theory according to which the dream is beautiful, and remains beautiful, as long as it never becomes reality". In wandering the 'house that has no' in every space and decorative element, even if functional, the nameless protagonist points out "The attic is necessary for a house since dreams develop in height".


In the images, the widespread and authentic hospitality proposed by Sextantio in the village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio, in the province of L’Aquila, and in the Sassi of Matera where the Grotte della Civita hotel is located.