Don Lorenzo Milani
A special bond with a land that protected and raised him
Don Lorenzo Milani (Florence 1923-1967) is closely linked to the history of the Italian school system but also to the Municipality of Montespertoli. In fact, he spent much of his life, before and after his conversion, in this area of the Chianti.
In 1914 Don Milani’s grandfather, Luigi Adriano Milani (Verona 1854-Florence 1914), bought the property of Gigliola, a couple of kilometers south of Montespertoli. He died only a few months later and in his will he entrusted his eldest son Albano (Florence 1885-1947, father of Don Milani), with the management of his assets. Albano soon learned to love the estate very much and took an interest in the results of the agricultural production. Don Milani, therefore, spent a lot of time in Gigliola with his parents and from an early age he loved learning the names of all the plants that surrounded him. The family lived in Florence but could often move to the countryside because they owned a car. Gigliola is about thirty-five km from Florence.
The arrival at Fattoria di Gigliola
Lorenzo used to play with his older brother Adriano in the villa’s garden and took long walks and bicycle rides throughout Montespertoli’s area. The Milanifamily, well known in the area, had enlarged the property by purchasing other land and farmhouses. After high school Lorenzo wanted to be a painter and for the next two years he spent long days in the countryside painting, in the company of his father Albano who loved to draw. After his conversion he moved to the seminary and decided to let the kids living in the vicinity access the farm so that they could play on the tennis court; he helped the children of Montespertoli to finish school; he took one of these boys, Franco Bini, known as “i’ palle”, on holiday in Trepalle (Livigno) at his priest friend’s house. He was a very active person, he would refuse to confine himself behind the garden’s walls of villa Gigliola. Don Viviani (? – 1944), priest of the parish church Pieve di San Piero a Mercato, near the Milani family’s property, was a family friend and soon became a point of reference for the young Lorenzo. As the frontline was moving north, in the summer of 1944, after the closing of the Cestello Seminary in Florence, the young seminarian reached his parents and his sister Elena at the Gigliola where he immediately put himself at the service of the elderly parish priest and of the many evacuated people who had found refuge in the Pieve.
A bond to discover
Walking or cycling across this area can give the impression of accompanying Don Lorenzo Milani in his initial journey of observation of the beautiful nature but also of the living conditions of those with lower incomes.
Valeria Milani Comparetti, Don Milani’s niece and author of the book
Don Milani and his father, CARESS YOURSELF WITH WORDS –Unpublished testimonies from the family archives
Conoscenza Editions, Rome, 2017.
All photos are kindly granted by Valeria Milani Comparetti from the family archive