ELIO (Stefano Belisari)
Milanese from Milan, 54 years old, singer

THE OUTSKIRTS, THE LOST SOUL AND THE SICK CITY THAT IS HEALING

by ANDREA SCARPA - Photo by ANDREA COLZANI

ELIO

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MILAN’S STRENGTH
It’s always been the same, I think, for thousands of years. It is a center, a large crossroads where everybody meets. I am probably one of the last specimens of a Milanese born in Milan and raised in Milan. But if we go back to my grandparents, they came from central Italy. The people whose grandparents and great-grandparents were born here, are perhaps only four or five. But if you are looking for the people who have made the city great, only a few were born here. Most came from outside and then they fell in love…

HERE THERE IS EVERYTHING
Even if in recent years they attempted to massacre it all, here there still is everything: commerce, culture, industry… Lots of work… Everything.

NICE PEOPLE
Lots of work and a lot of nice people. Although in recent years we tend to think that the Milanesi are always angry, nervous, stressed, and in a rush, the Milanesi are actually the ones who have always welcomed everyone.

LEAVING
The fact that they are still here now is a sign, for you but also for me, that it is very difficult to leave because in fact this is a city of great charm.

NOT ALWAYS AS IT SEEMS
Of course, we must also say that it is less beautiful and efficient than other people, those who live outside, think. I see friends who come here and think everything is great and so I have to tell them, ‘Look, it’s not all that great…Look, that stuff doesn’t work….’

SOULLESS CITY
The main problem is that in recent years the city has lost its soul and now it definitely must regain it.

MILAN IS NOT AN OFFICE
One thing that happened in the last fifteen years is that the city has been seen as a huge office where you arrive on Monday morning, angrily get things done, and then wait for Friday at five o’clock to run away. The Friday night stampede… All queueing up on their way out. Now I think things have slightly
improved.

FATIMA, MY MILAN
My sites are those of my childhood, thus not very beautiful places but I like them. The neighborhood where I was born and raised. I’m speaking of the south side, an area that is called Fatima, which takes its name from the local church of Fatima. There are some meadows, some houses…

WHAT ARE THE MILANESI LIKE?
They seem a bit unpleasant, however, they are sensitive and very anxious types. They are like those cats that seem assholes at first but then come and brush up against you. They mostly don’t learn from past mistakes.

THE CITY OF SKYSCRAPERS
It has nothing to do with our city. Absolutely nothing. In fact I haven’t seen any rush to get the apartments in the skyscrapers. The Arabs and Russians go there, if they will ever get here, because I haven’t seen them yet.

THE MOSQUE: YES OR NO?
I am fatalistic and I think also realistic, meaning that the changes are so enormous that it is not that one can think: ‘No, it can’t be done’. It will happen as it happened in the past. This is why I say that we never learn from our mistakes. Studying history makes you realize that what is happening today actually happened a thousand times in the past, it is the base of our habits. If you study you realize that these habits are not ours, they are customs, attitudes or ways of doing things that we got centuries ago and that we incorporated in our culture. Exactly what I think we should do today.

A WHIM TO SATISFY
I performed on the stage of La Scala, what more can I want? Celebrating Mass in the Duomo?! I’m already satisfied.

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OUTSKIRTS BOY
I was born in the Corvetto district, but when I was little my parents moved to Vigentino. However, still in the southern outskirts of Milan. When I was nine, maybe ten, in fact when I was in elementary school…

THE MUSIC DISCOVERY
…The Scuola Civica established courses in the outer areas of the city, I guess because there was someone intelligent who thought: ‘Let’s educate the kids that grow up out of the center’. And I seized the moment because I was very attracted to music, I really wanted to learn.

COURSES DOWN THE ROAD
I initially attended the music courses of the Civica near my home, then after a few years – let’s say when I was around 14 years old – these courses moved to the main buildings, which back then were in Porta Vigentina, not very far from where I lived.

MILAN AND THE LITTLE ELIO
That Milan was clearly filtered from the eyes of a 10-year-old, 7-year-old, even 12-13, so everything was beautiful: the policeman directing the road traffic, who greeted all the children…

FREEDOM IN THOSE YEARS
What I remember is that from 2.00 until 7.00 pm we were out without dads and moms around, we were free, something that seems impossible today.

MILAN TODAY
It is like one who fell ill with cancer, who recovered, and now is slowly and painfully trying to get back to normal life. I hope that the city has learned from its mistakes and that won’t repeat them.

THE WORST MISTAKES
Those of the era of the post-PSI mayors who, seen through the eyes of today, look like cultured monsters although they were certainly corrupt. Even those who came afterwards were corrupt, and were even more ignorant and less interested in the city and citizens.

TODAY IT IS A BIT BETTER (MAYBE)
In recent years the mistakes committed at a time of havoc in the city today will not be committed again. It seems to me that we’ve seen small signs of change in the past four years.

THINGS TO CHANGE
I would act for what concerns the culture, because it is my field and also because it is much more important than what people think. Let’s say that the city was Italy’s cultural soul. It was, now it is no longer so, even if it certainly has the means to return to play this role.

STOP TO CLOSED THEATRES
It would be enough to start from awareness… If citizens were aware that it is important not to close the theaters, the cinemas as happens more and more often.

MILAN 2016, WILL YOU VOTE?
I always vote even though with more and more effort because we have to swallow always bitterer mouthfuls. I continue to do it because I’m aware of the the efforts, the blood that it took to get here today, free.