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

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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