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Having a chat for free

Del: 21/05/2007

Let’s take a break…and have a chat, it’s free.
In short, this is the original idea by Sergio Napoletano, an engineer from Pescara, who has thought of winning loneliness and the lack of communication that embraces the contemporary age and the big cities that represent it, making himself available to listening to others. The only investment was a table and two chairs. Punctual on the job site, the engineer sits every Sunday in Piazza San Babila in Milan and listens to people, who curious approach him and confide their thoughts, reflections, fears, secrets and indiscretions, freeing before a stranger hesitations and suspicions. Young and old, in love and retired, bankers and painters: the thousand faces of a city unknown to most people, where, for once, the differences of genre and class are annulled before the common need to find oneself in a pleasant chat.
“Duechiacchieregratis” is a non-profit association, that has already gathered its first followers all around Italy: a lady from Rome has set a table and chairs in the street, ready to listen to whoever wants to stop and speak to her. Walking around Milan, attracted by the enormous communicative strength of a handwritten sign, that invites people to sit down and open up, even we have decided to “have a chat” with Sergio…

“Duechiacchieregratis”: a nice and original initiative. How did it come to life?

Coming from Pescara I have personally experience the difficulties of human relationships in a big city like Milan. Then looking around I realized that this thing is very diffused and I got the idea of overcoming my difficulty helping others to do the same. There are so many people that have a lot to tell/give to others, but they have no one that listens to them, I’m thinking of older people, but there are also many young people, more than you can imagine. And this is a pity, because they are full of stories and experiences that unfortunately they have to keep inside until one day they will disappear forever. For me listening means above all sharing, putting in common, a way of “growing” together. And then there are problems, that if are kept inside grow more and more. Unfortunately I don’t have a magic wand to solve them, but I think that talking about them can certainly help coping with them better. I have seen people arrive at the table sad or angry with the world and leave with a smile. It’s not much but it’s already something…

Which cities have welcomed this initiative?

Now the association is starting to grow and there are some forty members. Lately a lady has started in Rome and there is hope to start in other cities shortly (I received some requests from other cities, even though I know that starting is not easy. When you sit at table in a square, you need to overcome your own fears of being able to face the looks of the people that go by looking at you suspiciously and incredulously).

Paradoxically in the age of global communication the need of sociality gets greater and greater. Who are the people that stop at “2 chiacchiere gratis” to chat for free?

In some cases they are lonely people (widows and widowers, pensioners, people from other cities that find it hard to fit in); in other cases, instead, they are people who want to understand what it’s about and that find a pleasant way to exchange a few words with a stranger. The subjects treated are of the most diverse: from history to philosophy, from social problems to spirituality. Some people tell you their life story or their problems. However, in almost everyone there is the conviction, that I personally share, that loneliness and the lack of communication are more and more becoming problems of our society.

Which is a story that has particularly given you emotions?

I would have many stories to tell: from the lady that has spent her whole life helping others and that now is alone because with the passing of the years she has lost all her loved ones (she told me her life story, I pleasantly remember the Napoletan poem that made her fall in love when her companion recited it only for her), to the gentleman who in Sardegna, right after the war, started the broadcasts for the first radio station using the earphones and the microphone recovered from a fallen American bomber; from the boy who Saturday nights leaves Apulia to meet his girlfriend Sunday afternoon, to the one that quits his job and faces a tough life just to pursue his passion for painting, from the girl that decides to spend new year’s eve at the canteen for the homeless, to the person who tells me that in her children’s school they carried out an opinion survey with the classic question “what do you wish for?”, and the most frequent answers were “talking more with mom and dad/ that mom and dad speak to each other” and many other similar answers.

                                                                                          Serena Poerio


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