After sixteen editions there’s a new, tangible emblem of what Montelago truly is: a utopia that over time increasingly resembles real life. Years ago Marco and Francesca met at the Festival on the alpine plains of Colfiorito. They came with two unconnected groups and ended up as tent neighbors. After three hours the barter began: charcoal in exchange for a tent peg. After two days, Marco knelt in front of Francesca: baptize me, he said, handing her his rubber sword. Still after five years the two cross the Italian peninsula to meet again in Middle Earth, behind them a thousand kilometres, more than three hundred days and thousands of messages, for those three magical days in the mountains.
Friendship is the foundation of the Festival, one that transcends borders, age and political belief, dazzling like a campsite brazier in the darkness amid the nomads and the tents they carry on their shoulders.
Fellowship, Tolkien calls it. In that case: "Say it, friends, and enter". Mellon is the elfin term for friends to throw open the doors of Moria to the Fellowship of the Ring. In one of his ingenious exaltations of everyday life, Tolkien leaves Frodo with the task of deciphering the riddle. It’s the little Hobbit that suggests the solution, not Aragorn, for too long a lone wanderer, nor even Gandalf, whose mind is so occupied with the great things of the world that he does not grasp such a banal, trivial word: friends. Long-time friends, new friends, friends yet to meet.
In a world in which value is merely an economic principle, time can only be bought, and the individual feels like they’re at the centre of everything, friendship is the bedrock of nostalgia. Zuckerberg understood the concept, and cunningly portrayed it by sharing Likes. Politicians understand and misuse it to create an illusion of intimacy. Advertising companies, serial exploiters of the mythology of friendship for commercial purposes, understand it. But friendship is somewhere else. In these times which permit no gathering without a project, no favour without a price, living in a space of friendship is a revolutionary act.
Friendship that, even if you do not know it, clears the way when the path gets darker.
For three years darkness has covered this tortured valley, the most beautiful in the world, with its villages and pastures. Thanks to friendships and all of you, the utopia of repopulating it for three days is once again realized and takes off on a grander design. Chasing dreams has been our only belief: that the barter goes on and rubber swords baptize friendly shoulders. Some signs, after all, are auspicious.