The son of a chemist had gone abroad to study. On his father’s death, the son returned home to look after the pharmacy, and took over the business in a small village on the outskirts of Viadana in the province of Mantua.

Word of his great learning had spread to the surrounding countryside: people spoke of his huge library, his prodigious remedy for earache, his entirely new method for irrigating the fields, and his mastery of twelve languages. Among other things, so the rumour went, he was translating the Divine Comedy into German.

The owner of a cheese factory in the region made up his mind to employ the scholar, by now a grown man, as private tutor to his daughter. She was doing rather badly at school. Although she excelled in sports, she hated books, Latin and good Italian prose. The chemist accepted the post, more out of a passion for learning than any need for money, and so for a whole summer he went to the young athlete’s house every day to give her lessons. One day the young athlete happened to fall in love with him – so much so that she abandoned all her sporting activities, and began writing poetry, Latin verse and, of course, long letters. Even today people still speak of the trips they took far into the countryside, and of the car he bought specially for these occasions, and even of their nightly trysts in a barn.

From Lab To Writing Desk
While Waiting for a War