14 Apr Mario
“I was born in 1928. In the village I am the only one left from that year but He knows it, He has not called me to heaven yet because I work for him.
In my life I did a little of everything. I played the accordion on the Grimaldi Brothers' ships but that's when I discovered that I suffered from seasickness.
Those long waves, they are nothing like the ones you stumble upon while on a little boat.
Right after that I started working as a hairdresser. Later on, even though I was no longer particularly young, I was hired by the national railroad and I worked there for 36 years. The day they hired me was the best day of my life. Maybe not so much for me as for my parents, it was lovely to see them happy and relieved. It was difficult to earn a living playing the accordion and hairdressing.
For me it was amazing because they gave us free train tickets and I could finally travel beyond Genoa and even into Tuscany. I was hired as a diverter at the Genoa Brignole station but the cost of housing and the cafeteria were too high so I opted to work as a laborer instead so that I could come back to this place and dedicate myself to my project. What do you mean, what project? The nativity scene! The most beautiful nativity scene in the world.
It all started at the hill shed. Until the early 1960s there were 3 wooden crosses there that represented the last stations of the Via Crucis. My father died in ’61, and asked me to replace one of them. I made an iron cross and illuminated it with a car battery. It was a success, for believers and non. The old ladies complained though, because they remembered three crosses. So you know what? I added two. And I kept on making them. Today there are 250 figures with over 15,000 light bulbs. We have an association now that works on maintenance, there are some nice guys that help me out. This year I added only 9 new figures. Everything is made with recycled materials. This dairy sheep comes from a plastic tank that I found in the marina.
Now with LEDs it’s much easier.
You know, once we were all so poor here. I spent every spare moment working on the nativity scene.
It’s a pact I made with Him. The day I can no longer make new figures for the nativity scene is the day that I will die.
All of the big Italian politicians came here to see it. D’Alema, Occhetto, they all praised me and talked about support and funding but only Berlusconi actually financed the project with a million and a half lire (which would be around €750 today). I’m the only person in Italy who managed to have Berlusconi keep a promise [laughs]. This is also a part of the pact with Him, I know.”