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evasio mezzapiotta

Sometimes, fairy tales disentangle themselves from the captivity of the books and find their place in reality. People who we usually ignore or even look at with suspicion become a kind of visible point of reference for us, an opportunity to find a moment of serenity in the middle of the worries of a life in which it seems to have become impossible to stop and reflect. And looking at them, their simplicity and humility, we learn the most important lesson: happiness lurks in little things. More than a century ago, the famous Roman dialect poet, Trilussa, taught us and today this lesson is offered to us also by those who manage to break free from weights and status symbols, those superstructures that give us ephemeral security: smartphones, tablets, the latest model of shoes. Objects, pieces of plastic and electrical components with which we try not to not feel isolated from a world that creates unnecessary needs, forgetting the primary ones: affection, love, solidarity. So we get surprised when those who have nothing can still gain benevolence. Like Evasio, a tramp by “profession”.

We are in Rome, in the Monteverde district, an area that stretches between the Janiculum and the trullo, and connects center and periphery, rich villas and public housing, nightclubs and bars where one can still play cards. This world is a handful of kilometres long and Evasio, called ”Mezzapiotta” in a friendly manner, as the old 50 Italian lire, knew and drove every day on his wrecked Vespa. A kind of roaming myth in a zone that has progressively lost its rural vocation, transforming gradually into a shopping area. Family-run shops have given way to franchised dealers which sell make-up and mobile phones and the ancient Portuense cemetery (the first cemetery in the capital, according to some people) now shares a few meters of space with a McDonald’s and the pylons of a bridge. Almost everything has changed, except him.

Some people remember him in front of the churchyard of Our Lady of Coromoto, the main parish of Viale dei Colli Portuensi, asking very discreetly for help and those who saw him half-asleep on the boxes carefully placed in front of a supermarket’s entrance. Many  people came close to give him a few coins, buy him a sandwich, or to chat with him. Mezzapiotta was a man of few words and the few words he pronounced were almost incomprehensible. But he generated sympathy and curiosity. A slap in the face of those who marginalize the poor, forgetting that wealth is primarily an inner factor.

Behind every symbol hides a legend and the same is true for Evasio. The most widespread one envisaged him as a brilliant mathematics professor who, at some point, perhaps because of a tragic event, a disappointment in love, due to losing his job, or out of his own will, decided to change his life. In his history there are only three certain things: Monte Cucco, the green hill overlooking the second stretch of the avenue Isaac Newton (“the big street” for Monteverdinos), from which he came, his characteristic vehicle, and his death on December 2nd. Messages of condolence arrived instantly from the citizens and local institutions. Above all, as usually, on social networks and in particular on Facebook , where there is a fan page with thousands of followers dedicated to Mezzapiotta. “We will miss you,” “You’ve never asked for more”, “You were a friend to everyone,” “I remember how we rode our wrecked scooters uphill, RIP” and many other expressions of esteem and affection.

There was also a moment of reflection. On Saturday, December 5 about two hundred people, invited by the Community of Sant’Egidio, gathered to pray for him. Young and old, traders and clerks, ordinary people and representatives of territorial administration wanted to greet him this way, looking for inspiration in a passage from the Gospel of Matthew, commented by Father Luciano of Parrocchietta (one of the churches that provided assistance to him). On Thursday will be held his funeral at Coromoto, one of Mezzapiotta’s many houses. And maybe someone at the end of the celebration, will put a wrecked Vespa near the coffin. To invite Evasio to take the road to Heaven, where many Monteverdinos who had preceded him, cannot wait to see him whiz again.

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