It began almost a year ago. A man was visiting a mutual friend of mine in Orvieto and took a picture of an elegant, solitary gentleman sitting on the bench across from the Duomo. Several months later the photographer wrote to ask if I knew the gentleman’s name or how to contact him. He thought the man and his family might like to have a copy of the portrait.
Although I’d passed him many times on the street, I didn’t know him personally. Naturally, I turned to social media for help, posting the above photo on my Facebook page with the following caption:
“This is a beautiful photo shot by a friend while visiting Orvieto last spring. I have seen this man around town but I’ve never formally met him. Does anyone know him? If so, perhaps he might like to see his portrait – it’s stunning.”
Responses poured in.
Signor Lollo (affectionately known simply as “Lollo”) was a beloved mathematics professor at the high school. They say he is sweet and gentle and that I might find him walking along la confaloniera (the promenade on the edge of town) in the mornings. In any other circumstance I might have staked out the confaloniera at dawn, bounding up to him in my overly perky American style, but in this instance I thought better of it. Something told me he was a private person and maybe a bit shy as well.
It wasn’t long before fate stepped-in and I found myself alone on the street with Lollo walking towards me. I politely stopped him and asked if I could show him something? He said yes, so I pulled up the photo on my iPhone. “Carina, la foto”, he said and told me he had remembered the day it was taken. I asked if he had email, but of course he doesn’t. Then he said “Grazie, Cara”, turned and went on his way.
I’d been carrying around the 5 x 7 print in my purse for weeks, waiting to see Lollo again. Finally I spotted him down on the Corso and after greetings were exchanged, I handed him the beautiful photograph and said it was his to keep. He seemed pleased and touched by the gift.
Nowadays, whenever Lollo and I run into each other on our walks, we always stop and have a little chat. We’ve even developed a “secret handshake”.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the connection it formed with a stranger that turned into an unlikely friendship is priceless.
Photograph by Win Sargent