Many people have written articles about artist Alberto Bellini, and they say about him what, I’m ashamed to admit, I originally thought myself. He has been described as a Medieval man, a throw-back from another era, a Renaissance man – summed up as an almost mystical figure. But in reality he is of this world, of this time, modern and free-thinking and I’m lucky to have seen beyond his “persona” to catch a small glimpse of the person behind the myth.
I met Alberto the way I’ve met most of my friends in Orvieto…in a bar. We started a conversation while taking an afternoon coffee side-by-side. He invited me to stop by his workshop (located around the corner) to see his terracotta sculptures. Sometimes his bicycle is parked outside, which means he is probably inside and working. We began chatting about lighthearted subjects – he told me about his work and recounted stories about tourist visits that were comical or maddening.
I remember one day in particular ,near the end of my 4-month stay: I was sitting at the Blu Bar and he stopped at my table and could see I was sad about my impending return to San Francisco. I was teary-eyed and he said something comforting to me (although I don’t remember exactly what it was), then he went around the corner to the counter, bought me a “Bacio” (chocolate kiss), placed it in front of me and left. It was a sweet gesture that I appreciated and, though I’m not sure why, made me feel better.
Each year I return to Orvieto and often walk by his workshop. I wave, or stop to have a chat. I don’t know a lot about Alberto other than he was born and raised in Orvieto, that his art is his passion and also that he seems to be a man who knows who he is and what he was meant to do. On my most recent visit, we discussed his views on social media and the effect it has on human contact – or rather the lack of it. He says he isn’t comfortable owning a computer – too afraid his curious nature might make it difficult for him to resist spending all his time “online” instead of “in the moment”. He prefers to hold a book in his hand, feel the paper, smell the ink, and use his imagination to form ideas about the world. He owns a cell phone, but it’s a model so basic that it performs almost the same functions as a land-line. I think Alberto chooses “real” over “virtual” and I admire his resistance to progress. As much as the flow of information can be an asset to human beings, it also changes the dynamics of who we are as a society.
I happen to think he’s right – ultimately we are nothing without the “human touch”. And in a world where “friends” are made with a click of a mouse, I find that my friendship is developing very slowly and deliberately with Alberto. Each time we meet I learn another small, intimate detail about him – forming an impression of a man as he is – no more and no less. He isn’t anything but Alberto – a self-described “strange man” – and you know, that’s what I like most about him. Terrecotta Artisan Alberto Bellini can be found in his shop, La Corte dei Miracoli, p.zza Ranieri, 13 – 05018 Orvieto. by Toni DeBella