S. Giovanni Bianco

SAN GIOVANNI BIANCO - SUMMER '45. - "There he is!" As the comrade exclaims, our faces jerk in unison in the direction of the voice. Blimey, at the pier on the opposite shore the "Masked Man" stands upright. And who has ever come across a diver other than in comics? Not even the author of these lines has ever seen anything more than the port dock diver, despite his extended residence in San Remo due to his father's work. We recognise that young man with the chestnut blonde goatee by his athletic figure and his blue shorts. The same man who walked past us not long ago as he played with the little blond boy splashing about a few steps away. Now he is talking to him from the pier on our shore. Cautiously, we move towards the bridge. Rather than the strange goggles that almost cover his face, his enormous webbed feet and the equipment of that mysterious character, we are more intrigued by the object he is holding. It is certainly a weapon, but we have never seen anything like it before. And I must say, that after meeting the German Army, various militants from the Social Republic, partisans and other soldiers, we were used to seeing rifles and machine guns. This one, on first glance, reminds us of a machine pistol as it is longer and more slender, but it does not have
a charger and features a kind of "fork" at the barrel end.

The man breathed out and in deeply then lowered himself into the water. Moving his arms in a perfect "crawl", greatly admired by us since we can hardly manage a "doggy paddle", he dived in and started swimming in the direction of the "Orobica" dam. Following up the gravel bed with no further hesitation, we watched him as he moved against the tide together with the little blond boy. We got a glimpse of him stopping for a moment and rapidly manoeuvring his crossbow/musket. Then he re-emerged and we were suddenly surprised by the view of a nice trout dangling from the forked dart that went through it. Returning to the water, he soon had another catch. As he got back to the shore, one of the spectators from our gradually expanding group suggested that he should try in the deep pond underneath the spillway. Smiling, he replied that he caught enough for that day.

Some of my friends, who where present at the event, later told me that he went back and dived into that same spot a few days later: so that he could gather half a dozen trout and graylings, which were stranded in a ravine in the rocky seabed, whipped by the explosion of a carbide device (some think it was actually a hand grenade). It was one of us who threw it, one of the strongest of our gang. After re-emerging, the magnanimous harpooner approached the bomber holding the fish pierced through with a small willow branch and said "Here you go, take them to your mum". The young man left ecstatic with his wonderful treasure: food rationing still persisted at the time, and it was strict. It was only years later that they learned that the "Masked Man" was Luigi Ferraro, the Lieutenant Commander. The Italian Army grapevine circulated word that he was a secret service officer, an ace in the submarine war. Well, that wasn't all that far-fetched. He used to live in Villa Alexandra, with his young son and his wife, a pretty lady, and this was a fact. During his explorations in the Brembo area, he noticed that the seventeenth-century pillars were dangerously deteriorating. He warned the Council, who saw to it immediately. Maybe, if the charming Ponte dei Frati is still standing, we owe it to the sinker from Iskenderun.

Taken from “Le trote del Vescov dopo le navi di Winston” - by Bernardino Luiselli – Ed. 2005 Yearbook by the Italian Alpine Club of the High Brembana Valley.