The Antica Torre Tornabuoni is a large “extended” family, with many, many sons, all loved for their qualities and also for their defects (because in a family we always love each other, right?).
And someone special, but really special, celebrates 90 years on March 6th. And what a life! Maria Grazia Cecchi has many stories to tell. At fifteen, due to the war, she went to Turin to help the injured and the needy. Later, she met the nuns of the convent where she lived for 39 years. And later, in 1983/1984, she began her story in Florence together with the Antica Torre Tornabuoni, where she found not only a house, but a family for which she nurtures an immense love.
A love that is mutual, as well as the admiration that everyone has for Mrs. Maria, who gave us this wonderful interview.
Can you talk a bit about your love story with the Antica Torre?
I’ve always loved the Tower and I’m sorry that sometimes I’m away, I’m 90 years old, my feet hurt, but my heart stayed here. I’ve been here for over 30 years, I was here to assist the owner of the building. The Antica Torre started with an idea of making a hotel, having these two beautiful terraces. We made the first coffee with mocha, and slowly the Tower grew.
And how was your relationship with the Tower in all these years?
The best time of my life I spent here, because this is a beautiful, peaceful environment, and everyone loves me and I love them, from the employees to the doorman, in short, everyone. Actually, we are like a family. Even families have difficulties, but they are surmountable.
I tell you only one thing, when I’m away and I’m a bit melancholic, because old age brings melancholy, not depression but a bit of sadness it brings, I have to come here to get oxygen. It’s a place that’s good for me. I would not have other places, I did not raise a family, I didn’t marry. I have my nephews, but if I have to get oxygen, I have to come to the Antica Torre. It is an affection.
And before coming to Florence, what was your life?
I went to Turin in wartime and I worked at the Maria Vittoria Hospital, I went there very young, at fifteen or sixteen. Then I met the Cottolengo nuns, who gave me not only confidence. I’ve been there for a long time, 39 years.
A whole life dedicated to God…
I can say that despite being in a house of suffering, they gave me more than I gave them. The sick, of all kids, in the head or other things, really give us more than us to them.
But you were so young!
During the war it was bad, people were starving. I felt good there and stayed, until one point, like all the people in crisis, I had the crisis too, despite always keeping my faith especially in Divine Providence. Down there is written Little House of Divine Providence.
Then at some point, as with all things, both in the family as in all places, there is a doubt, it comes that feeling of saying: I want to try to change. But can I tell you something? We do not always have to comply with these things. Not always. To me it went well, I found another family that is in every sense good, but, thinking back, I could have fought that crisis and have tried to win it and stay.
And how old were you at this point?
I came to Florence in 1983 or 1984.
But the doubts were about what?
There were also doubts about faith. For the fact of cohabitation, I did not find the difficulty. There were doubts of faith, sometimes even the bad example is bad for you. The bad example affects a person who is sometimes a bit ‘sensitive and asks itself: “but what am I doing here?”.
Luckily it went well, and you found a family at Antica Torre…
Yes, I found this family, I was really lucky. I found everything in here.
You will celebrate your 90th birthday on March 6th. What are your expectations for the coming years?
In the coming years I only ask God to give me so much peace, so much serenity. I am very calm and serene. Let’s hope that the Lord still gives me the strength to be calm and not to fall on myself, to react. When I feel a bit like that, instead of crying, I come here and go to the kitchen to cook something.
And is there still something that you haven’t done and still want to do? Is something missing in your life?
No. I think I was happy where I was in Turin, I’m happy where I’m here, so I do not have any regrets. I did not want to do many things, it’s nice to be like we are, love each other, respect each other, this is the only thing that we can do well. I never wanted anything, just to have so much peace around me, just a little serenity and that’s enough.
A happy life…
I had a happy life. But this happy life does not come effortless. We must conquer it!
And how do you do it?
Doing good, with rectitude and always having that understanding and respect for others even if sometimes they do not deserve it. Even if a person does not deserve it and you feel like beating it – let’s put it this way – if you do not beat it, you win, you’re victorious. If not, you’re a loser! However, it is not an easy thing. Many do not give importance to meditation, but we should, in the evening, meditate on the things we did during the day. If there is something to remedy or even to do better. But if I talked to young people, they would not know what meditation means. Not meditation, but meditating a little, having a moment to say “but today I treated bad this or that other”. It is not bad to make a reflection. Because at a certain moment this reflection you make moves the good will to do good, to improve. And life improves.