ONCE UPON A TIME…
My origins, relationship with my parents and life up to age 18.
I was born in Bologna in 1967 into a very close-knit family. My parents’ relationship was wholly traditional, with my father apparently in charge, and my mother nevertheless having an undeniably fundamental role. We were a well-off family, but certainly not “rich” in the true sense of the word. Our fortune had been built on the work of my grandfather a generation before, however it hadn’t been stabilised as it should have been and, as a result, things didn’t go as we’d have liked. The large number of relatives involved had hugely divided our shareholdings so that each family member could boast a comfortable situation but, at the same time, couldn’t describe themselves as truly rich.
Nevertheless, as a child it hadn’t been easy to place myself in a specific social strata; in some ways I felt privileged compared to my classmates, as I had no financial difficulties at home and could afford many more things than them, but I definitely thought my family was much wealthier than it actually was. When we’re small it isn’t easy to fully understand our social status. What I can be sure of is that who I was at that time has nothing to do with who I have now become, and everyone can see this for themselves, although I was probably a bit conceited because of it. This is the first step to debunking the myth which claims I have inherited or easily obtained everything I have today.
MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MY PARENTS AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF MY “ANTI-BOURGEOIS” THINKING
As I was saying, my family was very close-knit and my parents saw to it that I never lacked anything, neither love nor support. They were very close to one another, perhaps partly due to the fact that my father worked for a company that was 200 metres from our house, and never moved around or travelled but remained glued to the family unit. He was a very authoritative person, who seemed strict on the outside but was incredibly kind. For me and my world, he represented an example to follow from the very beginning. Every action, since I was a child, was done to gain his approval, to please him. In truth, he was always sparing with his approval for me, but with hindsight I think that he was trying to constantly raise the bar for my achievements, having glimpsed in me the extent to which I would hit the big time. I owe him my persistence and my desire to compete and excel no matter the cost. My mother was a determined, ambitious woman, who was however able to leverage one’s sense of duty and guilt trip others, an attitude which is very common in the modern world and which I never really approved of. Although I grew up with this concept of a close-knit family, I must admit to having later developed an idea that is the complete opposite. The contrast between my view of life and my mother’s way of doing things generated in me a strong “anti-bourgeois” feeling from the offset; a desire to rebel (perhaps to an excessive degree) against all kinds of constrictions and unwritten obligations to meet pre-established standards imposed by society. This feeling is often experienced by children; I was no different and from that point on I turned this anti-bourgeois sentiment into a kind of “life mission”.
The contrast between my vision of life and my mother's ways of doing things immediately generated a strong sense of “anti-bourgeois”
It is from this background that I have formed my not entirely positive opinion (re-enforced over the years) of family, in its broad sense. I always considered the relationships and bonds formed out of choice to be better than those formed because of blood. What I mean is I don’t feel the need to spend time with my brother, for example, just because he is my brother, although I do of course love him. This is perhaps why I never felt the need to make my own family. Who knows, maybe in the future…
MOVING TO CORTINA AND MY SKIING CAREER
I spent a happy childhood here in Castenaso, in the villa where I live to this day. In those days, it was a country house; my father had it built straight after I was born. The tradition of the day dictated middle-class families from Bologna spend the summer in their so-called “beach house”, and the winter in their “mountain house”. It was a kind of unwritten rule, one of those so-called “standards”. So, my earliest years were split between Castenaso, Riccione and Cortina.
It was precisely in the latter that at four years old, pushed by my mother’s strong ambition, I started to ski. My innate sporting ability and talent were evident from the outset: all I had to do was watch the teachers’ and instructors’ movements, and then easily put them into practice. At age seven I started to win my first competitions, becoming one of the best budding Italian champions in the field. This takes us to the first decisive event in my life: my permanent move to Cortina together with my mother and the resulting pseudo-family-breakup with my father and brother, who was four years younger than me. We gained permission from the school I was attending to spend the whole year in Cortina, on condition that I take a mini exam upon my return. My mother thus acted as a “legitimate substitute teacher” and supervised my education in the months away from home. My father would come up and visit us at the weekend. This was only the beginning of a competitive way of life that would continue into adulthood. At that time, skiing was the reason I lived. I want to make this clear because it was just the first of many reasons to live that I would have throughout my life. This is how I have always made sense of things: through objectives. When I pursue something, that’s all there is for me; no distractions, no hobbies in the background. The only other thing I might have is some kind of framework. I aim straight for the target and am only worried about improving myself and obsessively preparing (with all the necessary determination, of course) for the achievement of my mission.
Going back to skiing, over the years I achieved fantastic results, such as winning the giant slalom in the Italian Championship, first place in the Youth Games and seventh place in the World Student Championship. I was really going strong and I ended up being without a doubt the most accomplished sixteen-year-old sportsman in Italy. And then what happened? I lost the will and with it the results. I felt it wasn’t my vocation, that the ski slopes were not the place where I could best manifest my talent. I could have pretended that nothing was wrong, but I’d have been lying to myself.