No 11    June 1991   page 8

 Interview with Antonio Piccone Stella, Director of Journalistic Services at Rai until 1962

“I’ve lived in Rome for 60 years but I still feel Torricellan”

By Gabriella Porreca and Bruno Gentile

Interview with Antonio Piccone Stella [1], Director of Journalistic Services at Rai until 1962

Q: Professor could you give our journal dates and places regarding your childhood?
A: I was born in Torricella on 12th December 1905 to Camillo and Rosa Piccone (she was a cousin of Silvio D’Amico, whose commemorative plaque is mentioned in this same issue of Amici di Torricella). The village then was very different from today because the ancient medieval suburb still existed. My family lived on the “Coste”.
Q: Which people and which authors contributed most to your development as a person and culturally?
A: My first teachers were Mr.Verna (Elementary School Teacher in Torricella for very many years and Podestà during the period 1936-1944) and Mariannina D’Annunzio, who came from Rome and was the only person to speak Italian in Torricella. She introduced me to poetry in the Fourth and Fifth Elementary classes, reading an “ottave”[2] of T. Tasso, which I learned off by heart and I still remember it. I continued my studies first at Lanciano and then at Chieti, where Professor Rosa Borghini was my teacher both of the curriculum and also about life (how wise people behave, how to treat other people, how to live as a gentleman). But the person who most influenced my development was Benedetto Croce[3], whose texts I began to read when I was sixteen. Later, at University, I was taught by Professor G. De Ruggiero, holder of the Chair of History of Philosophy. Equally important to my development as a person, was Silvio D’Amic0[4], who apart from being a critic and an author, was a man of very high moral standards.
Q: Did being born in a small mountain village have more positive or negative aspects?
A: Early on it is greatly disadvantageous, especially for studying. As time passes it becomes an advantage because in life one continues to adopt for guidance those yardsticks learned in early childhood, for example the sense of parsimony which enables us to appreciate that which we ourselves have conquered.
Q: What do you remember about the house where you were born?
A: It was a house like all the others, on several floors. It was blown up by the Germans in 1943. It had a huge cellar, a stable, for the horses (cars), a storeroom and three rooms on the ground floor, in one of which I used to play with my friends Camillo D’Anunzio and Carmine and Mingo Testa. On the next floor there were the kitchen, the dining room and another room in which I used to spend a lot of my time. On the top floor there were three bedrooms. It was a true patriarchal house, it lives on in my memory and I still dream about it, for the sense of magic that was there and that permeated all my mother’s stories.

Q: How did you pass the time of day in Torricella?
A: I used to study all day long, from morning until six in the afternoon, when I would go out for a walk or meet up with my friends at the House of Conversation, called the “Casina” by Professor Di Paola[5], (Headmaster of the High School at Matera when Pascoli[6] went there to teach Literature). Another meeting place in Torricella was the “Equality” Club, situated in the building which today has the wall- plaque to Bellini. These two institutions were very instructional for me; I was able by going there to read reviews such as “Nuova Antologia” (New Anthology), daily papers such as “Avanti” (Forwards) and the “Tribuna” (The Tribune) which contributed to my humanistic development and also to my growth as a journalist.
Q: Which year did you settle in Rome and what made you go there?
A: I finally settled in Rome in 1928 in order to carry out my profession as a journalist.
Q: When did you first meet the lady who became your lifelong companion?
A: I first met my wife, Maria Aruffo, in 1927 at the School in Rome, and to have married her was my greatest good fortune. I became an inconsolable widower last year. Maria herself requested to be laid to rest in the cemetery at Torricella.
Q: Would you say your life has been a happy one?
A: As I have also recalled elsewhere, according to an old saying, one’s life can be said to be happy, however long or short it may be, if during its course one’s childhood dreams are accomplished successfully, and I have fulfilled more than I ever dreamed possible.
Q: What do you think of the Amici di Torricella association?
A: It is the most serious thing that there is ion Torricella. I would never have thought that such a wonderful cultural initiative as this could ever have been realised.
Q: How do you see the Association’s initiatives to rebuild the links between Torricella and the illustrious personalities who were born there?
A: In every place the sum of the cultural experiences of the people who are born there become deposited, so that to rediscover the beautiful and important things that some of them have achieved, is the best thing that one can do for the good of the community.
Q: Apart from “filius temporis” do you feel you are “filius loci”, as per the phrase from Croce?[7]
A: Each person should feel he is both “filius temporis” and “filius loci”. I still think of myself as a Torricellan even though I have lived in Rome for the past 60 years and I have travelled widely around the world.

Translator's Notes:

[1] Antonio Piccone Stella - Link

[2] Ottave – (octave rhyme) - in Italian metre, a stanza (strophe) of eight hendecasyllables, of which the first six rhyme alternately and the last two rhyme with each other; characteristic of narrative poetry: e.g. the ottave of Ariosto; a poem in ottave;
Sicilian ottave, an ancient form of ottave, used in Sicilian poetry in the 1200’s, with all verses rhyming alternately.

[3] Benedetto Croce – 1866–1952, Philosopher, historian, and critic; born at Pescasseroli in Abruzzo.
The Croce family were on the island of Ischia during the earthquake of 1883; although buried in rubble, Croce was rescued, but his parents and sister died in the disaster. He studied at Rome, but lived mostly in Naples, devoting himself at first to literature and antiquarian studies, founding the review, La Critica (1903, Criticism) and making major contributions to idealistic aesthetics in his Estetica (1902, Aesthetics) and La Poesia (1936, Poetry). His thought centres on his doctrine of ‘absolute historicism’, i.e. identity between life, reality, and history. In 1910 he became a senator, and was Minister of Education (1920–1) when, with the rise of Mussolini, because Croce was a staunch opponent of Fascism and held left-wing political views, he had to resign his Professorship at Naples and then lived in retirement until 1943. after the fall of Mussolini (1943), opposed to totalitarianism, Croce helped to resurrect Liberal institutions in Italy and became President of the Liberal Party.
Croce held that an artist’s mental images, communicated by physical artefacts, constitute works of art. Viewing history as an interpretation of the past, he argued that history is not only a form of thought but the culmination of philosophy.

[4] Silvio D’Amico - 1887 – 1955 Links :-
 Notable Persons; and for a biography in Italian see :-
Il Fondo D'Amico EdS-Silvio D'Amico  

[5] Professor Di Paola – a Notable Torricellan – see :-
Notable Persons;
- When Giovanni Pascoli Was Broke
- Knights of the Crown of Italy

[6] Giovanni Pascoli –
29 December 2000 - from IL CENTRO –
- Torricella Peligna - School Principal from Torricella lent money to poet G. Pascoli, by Walter Teti.
Giovanni Pascoli, a poet and teacher of Italian, often short of money, wrote for help to the headmaster of his school, Vincenzo Di Paola (1833-1917) of Torricella Peligna. Pascoli often visited Torricella Peligna to thank Prof. Vincenzo, a great friend and a very patient creditor
See :-
When Giovanni Pascoli Was Broke

[7] “filius temporis” ..... “filius loci” (Latin) – today this has become an almost axiomatic phrase – meaning “a son of time”... “a son of the place”. Benedetto Croce coined the phrase, using it in a philosophical sense to try to explain as citizen of the world his passionate feelings about being an Abruzzan, explaining “Maybe man, rather than being the son of his people, is a son of universal life, which renews itself from time to time: so rather than being filius loci, he is filius temporis. Croce thought we should all be sons of time. He did not mean to deny man’s relationship to his own lands and people, but rather offered a recognition of the time factor, the epochal nature, of man’s formation; an existential peculiarity that the diversity of historical eras has brought and still brings to the path of civilization.

Translation courtesy of Dr. Marion Apley Porreca

Back to Index