Antonio was an eclectic person, with many interests, among which he favored bridge, the mountains and good food.
It was always a pleasure to meet him, you knew he would tell funny life stories that, thanks to his great oratory, managed to capture the attention of all bystanders.
If the Bisbino had seduced him as a young man, teaching him the love for the mountains, Bormio and its valleys were the holiday destinations most dear to him and of which he knew every corner and ravine.
You could tell from that light that came on when he spoke of Val Viola, Val Zebrù and the Cancano Lakes.
I remember it a few years ago when, having reached the Forni glacier refuge on foot, he said loudly “I’m back” in a tone of voice that clearly indicated a reconciliation with that enchanted corner of Valtellina.
During lunch, rigorously with polenta and eggs, he said that a few years earlier that climb had hurt him (to the heart) and reaching the refuge again had strengthened that long and old friendship that seemed lost.
His motto was “It’s all flat!” and he often used it to convince people less accustomed to alpine trails to reach challenging destinations. He rewarded the winners by telling historical anecdotes about the place while they tasted typical dishes of the upper Valtellina.
He was certainly a good fork, his stomach allowed him to digest any dish. He said that if he had a heart as strong as his stomach he could live for another 100 years.
Seeing him then choose dishes from the menu was a real pleasure. He opened the menu, read it carefully (even if he preferred the places where the menu was told) and as if he were already savoring the dishes, before communicating his command, he rubbed his hands asking for some confirmation on the preparation of the dishes.
He was also an authority on the choice of wines, he always knew what to combine with what he ordered, always favoring the cellar over the name of the wine.
Perhaps not everyone knows that Antonio was also a fruit specialist. He knew all types of pears, apples, black cherries … and his true passion was cherries. In years of work, he had discovered and mapped all the “free” plants of the upper Milanese area and often stopped to pick the delicious fruit during his return trips.
His humor was enhanced in situations that seemed complicated.
With the group he had chosen to spend a few days in Tuscia. We had the first dinner in the farmhouse where we were staying, which had meat as a specialty.
While not great, most of us ate our portion.
When the hostess asked for an opinion, one of us criticized the dish by correctly indicating its limits.
Antonio took the ball, got up and with the excuse of wanting to know better the type of wines, he started talking to the owner of the farm.
Arrived at a safe distance, he began an intense conversation of which we did not understand the meaning.
After a few minutes, he returned to the table while the again serene lady headed into the kitchen.
To the mischievous question about what he had promised to make the lady happy, Antonio replied: “I simply said that our diner is a very rich duchess accustomed to fine cuts of meat and who sometimes honors us with her presence”.
As long as we stayed in the farmhouse, the owner always asked Antonio for confirmation whether the Duchess liked breakfast or lunch and we, like restless students in the classroom, barely hid the laughter.
On Wednesday afternoon he had a fixed appointment: the Bridge tournament in Mendrisio.
He was particularly fond of that event and the people who frequented that club. He felt honored to be part of that group and grateful for his friendship with President Luciano. He also often won there and used the francs he won to organize and pay for dinners in the Swiss crotti for his playmates.
In bridge he was well known not only for being a winning player, but above all for his cordial manner.
To those who asked for advice on how he should bid or play a hand, he always gave a detailed answer precisely because he knew that in order not to make the bridge disappear it was necessary to share his knowledge.
He threw himself into every event with the ardor of a twenty year old. Always sitting strictly in the North or in the East.
With the group, we took short and long holidays around our beautiful country, which Antonio defined as extraordinary, beautiful, and wounded by an atavistic inability to make it even more receptive to tourism.
The evenings ended with a game of Burraco where he also played with his daughter Bibi and inexorably won those who at that moment had the luck in favor. The teasing of the next day was to tell the miraculous catch that had allowed that illogical game to be a winner (classic in burraco).
Raffaella has been her playmate for the last 11 years and if we have met this wonderful character we must say thanks to her who immediately made him join a heterogeneous group of people united by a passion for the bridge (among other things, before starting the partnership asked me, like a man of yesteryear, if I agreed).
After a few years, I asked Antonio a simple question: he, a great player, how did he manage certain “illogical” plays by Raffaella?
He replied with a maxim that will remain with me forever: “Gabriel, save your breath, you’ll need it.”
Bye Antonio, I know that you will find your old bridge friends at the table and that you will continue to delight them with your true self.
We will miss you.