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The other side of the coin: tourism seen from another perspective

The other side of the coin: tourism seen from another perspective

Idyllic and romantic tales by tourists and travelers who had the chance to visit the lake are not certainly lacking. Famous politicians, sovereigns from all over the world, artists, writers and musicians have written about their blissful summers spent in Tremezzina. They certainly enjoyed the boat rides, the silence of the gardens and the comfort of hotels and villas.

Little is told about the lives of those who ensured a comfortable holiday experience to the privileged few. Laura is 82 and in the 1950’s she was working as a maid in one of the manifold villas overlooking the lake. At 14 she had already left her mountain village in Valtellina to work as a maid in a family in Milan, then in a hotel in Pontresina, Switzerland. So young and unequipped to live in a big city, from her mother she has only few precise instructions: “be wise, obey and stay away from men”. Why a girl should keep away from men is not clear to her, but she obeys strictly: when she is sent to do the shopping at the market, as soon as she sees a man she runs away. She will discover soon what that mysterious advice means.

It is by chance that she ends up in Tremezzo: a family from Como, on holiday in Pontresina, needs a maid and in 1951 she joins the domestic staff composed by a cook, a chaffeur, a nanny, a laundrywoman and a chambermaid. No electrical appliances to help in the housework in those days, only the laundrywoman can count on a strange machine with a crank handle to do the laundry. In the summer the family moves from Como to a villa in Tremezzo, where Laura is housekeeper and in charge of serving the meals. She runs from one dining room to the other – one for the children, the other for the adults – and in special occasions, when guests are invited, sheworks from 7am till midnight. No free day, only a couple of hours of rest during the day.

A demanding work, though in a serene atmosphere: her “masters” are kind, “democratic,” polite and respectful. And as it happens in the dreams of so many young privileged girls, the villa in Tremezzina offers Laura the chance of a romantic encounter that will change her life. To find way into her heart is a local young man who go fishing and provides fish to the family on vacation in the villa where Laura works.

A rather special man, capable of giving up smoking for one year in order to offer her an engagement ring and willing to share with her a new, different life.

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