Reassuring Familiarity

Massimo Vitali’s photographs convey a feeling of reassurance, painting a picture of ordinary moments that resonate with our own experiences. Amidst the hustle and bustle, Vitali's lens uncovers the profound beauty found in the simplicity of everyday life – thus the beach becomes a vibrant place of cultural encounters, reflecting our collective identity.

I met Massimo Vitali when I was still in my mother’s belly. We were in Milan, in a house downtown when the Cinque Vie was still a neighborhood and there were still real stores like Eliseo’s, the produce seller who wrapped vegetables in lead-laden newspaper pages, or the salumiere Aldo with a pencil behind his ear to do accounting. Massimo was our neighbor along with Giovanna Nuvoletti, his wife back then, with their children Leone and Viola, my buddies for a long time.
Then that core group of people, which also included such personalities as the famous Corriere della Sera journalist Guido Vergani, dissolved.
Everyone went his own way, took new paths, found new neighborhoods, apartments, neighbors.

Years later, at a gala dinner in a theater in Florence, I found myself sitting next to Massimo who (sorry) came across as a bit gruff and did not seem to want to start a conversation. Then I told him who I was and I found a friend, indeed more, a family member. Then I got to know more about his work.
In a super cool hotel in Miami, at the André Balazs’s Raleigh, I had already seen a mega photo of his of the Italian beach. It was wonderful, sparkling.
In the years that followed I often crossed paths with many other images featuring groups of vacationers that revealed a kind of diffuse ordinariness of the popular, at the same time reassuring, aesthetic and fabulous.

“On Vitali’s beaches just the megaphone thundering in search of the lost child is missing, then it’s all there.

These photos remind me of a summer a few years ago with my son Leonardo in Scopello, Sicily. The towels were brushing against each other on the beach, that was actually made of a slab of stone. Leonardo walked on everyone’s towel and nobody complained, in fact they reassured me: «Ma lasci signora, è picciriddu» (don’t worry madam, he’s a little kid) And then the luke warm water to drink in the bottle; the chatter of people sitting on the folding deckchairs; the rhythm of the paddles in the background; the sandwich that we never bring out of laziness and then we envy our neighbor’s at all costs.

These are the places of our summers crowded with such human humanity. On Vitali’s beaches we’re just missing the megaphone thundering in search of the lost child, then it’s all there. Some of his pictures depict a river course or lake shore, less crowded or popular, with uncomfortable rocks suitable only for real beach addicted.
When good weather arrives, these beaches become places of cultural gatherings and represent the essence of who we are.

Maddalena Fossati, “Vacanze Italiane” in Condé Nast Traveller, n.96, Estate 2023, June 2023, pp. 38-43.

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