Other stories of the medium's life
The end of the medium's activity
During the last recorded sitting, on March 28, 1952, Mariòl said: "I feel, but I would not say, with great sorrow on my part, I feel that we will be together like now only for a short time". When Silvio Ravaldini asked her if she would cease performing her role as a guide, Mariòl answered: "I will cease, I will cease but I will not cease to pray for all of you even when you will no longer hear my voice...". However, even on other occasions Mariòl had announced that sooner or later she would stop showing herself, but at each subsequent séance she had promptly intervened. Instead, here is the chronicle – quoted from Realtà e Mistero – of what happened after the last sitting: «The week after the sitting on March 28, 1952, we met as usual. The medium placed himself on the usual armchair in the room reserved for him. The black curtains were open; the red light was lit in our room. After about ten minutes of waiting the medium's legs lifted off the floor and assumed the stiff aspect of his normal trance state. There was some hint of raps, but indecipherable. Then, after another ten minutes, passed without anything happening, the legs of our friend bent and his feet fell on the floor. Little by little he woke up and came back to consciousness. We were all amazed by this failure. Not knowing what to think, we hypothesized that the medium was in a physiological condition not suitable for the sitting. But he stated that he was fine and told us that he had lost consciousness as always happened at the beginning of the trance state he periodically subjected himself to. The gradual return of his consciousness had occurred like other times and he believed that the phenomena had occurred as always».
After many other attempts, always without any result, Ravaldini and the other sitters had to give up: «We were waiting for another guide and did not want to believe that the door which had remained open for so many years on such a strange, controversial and incredible dimension, had suddenly closed. As time went by we had to give up, also because the needs of life scattered our family...». In asking himself reasonable questions on the reason for the sudden interruption of all mediumistic phenomena, Ravaldini believed he could exclude any feeling of hostility or intolerance by the medium, with whom at that time relations were cordial and affectionate. Fontanelli went on lending himself without complaining to the many attempts to establish again a contact with the entities, and even later his relations with Ravaldini and his family remained fraternally friendly. Always on the pages of Realtà e Mistero, Ravaldini listed a series of possible reasons that could have inhibited the mediumistic faculties of Urbino Fontanelli: for example, it seems that at that time the medium suffered from a serious ear infection, that significantly reduced its auditory capacity. Whatever the reasons for the fading of Urbino Fontanelli's mediumistic faculties, it is certain that from 1952 onwards he no longer took part in any séance: indeed he did everything possible so that his activity as a medium would be forgotten over time. He continued to live modestly, working first as a salesman and then as a manager of a wine and oil shop in Florence, a fiduciary task entrusted to him by some associated producers, as he was highly respected in any environment he worked for. In Ravaldini's memory, he was very close to his mother but he always remained a free spirit and did not create a family of his own. He died in Volterra in 1995, at the age of 82.
A short story
During his life, even after 1952, there were some episodes that deserve a mention. First of all, this short story – written by Fontanelli himself – may be of some interest: I was waiting for number 19 tram on the Lungarno Diaz (in Florence). I turned my back to the river and, leaned against the parapet, I could hear it flowing. I turned to look: water was a green opal colour and foamed where the obstacles of the bed and the old Ponte alle Grazie, destroyed by the war, contributed to disrupt its placid flowing. The sun, shining at times on the flow, marked it with reflections of molten silver. I contemplated it like as ecstatic: nature, even in fleeting moments, is marvelous! The rattling of a tram distracted me from that simple contemplation. I turned: it was number 9. It stopped: two elderly ladies got out. When it left, I noticed at the corner of a street, on the other side of the Lungarno, a man not so old and with long hair, those who brush the collar; I also noticed that his dress was worn out. Under his arm he held a painting. I figured he was a street painter or something. I crossed the street and approached, trying to peek at the panel. He noticed it and then placed it in full light. It was a painting that depicted Ponte Vecchio, and in the foreground the glimpse of Arno's right bank did not cut a poor figure. He smiled, and looking to the right and left, he came towards me, saying immediately: «Do you like it? Do you want to buy it?» and showed it to me again. I smiled. «I like it». I had not stopped replying that he insisted again: «It's a good opportunity, you know! I finished it yesterday and was about to take it to a store, but if you are interested in it you can do a good bargain», and laid it on the parapet.
The water was running gurgling and up in the sky a few soft flakes of cloud moved slowly westward. Again I looked at the man fleetingly; I confess, I felt sorry for him; I almost regretted wearing a new coat, while my interlocutor did not have any, and it was a cold day. In a moment a thousand things, examined by my conscience, swirled in my mind, and I bought the painting for a little more than one thousand lira. He seemed satisfied, but I was even more than he did because I realized that I had brought him some joy. Sometimes, when I am all alone, face to face with my inner self, I ask myself: why do not we help each other, to get small and great satisfactions? Earthly life – this passage – is short, then why do we act to deceive ourselves and make hate generate hatred? Everything is beautiful here; everything is made available to us; everything is enough for everyone. Ansd so?... So I think we really do not want to understand each other.
«Are you from Florence?» he asked. «No». «I thought so». «Why?» I asked, curious. «You can see it at once... Those who live here have an attitude, like someone who knows enough about everything around him. I would say that they have become accustomed to their environment and do not care about what is placed in front of them. Do you understand me?». I agreed. «Instead, you see, one like you reveals an attitude, please do not misunderstand me, quite different. It is obvious that you are interested in everything here, even the flow of this river under this sky. Is not this true?». Right, I thought; then I said it in words. His voice, warm and heartfelt at the same time, harmonized with my soul; it became sympathetic to me. I offered him a cigarette. «Yes, my dear sir – he went on after inhaling a breath of smoke – those who are born and grown here end up ignoring and forgetting all which is great and beautiful, and arouses other people's admiration». Now in turn I asked him: «Then you too are not from here?» «Yes, I'm from here, born and lived until the present, and I hope to close my eyes here». Then he leaned with his elbows on the parapet, putting his hands to his temples, and staring at the flow of water, he went on: «I've only been away for seven years, and they have decided a lifetime».
I was curiously moved by his heartfelt, almost religious, way of expressing. He inhaled more of the smoke, which he let out with a deep sigh from his nostrils, and looking at me he smiled a half smile and said: «But I, sir, am boring you with my whining». «No! No! Please go on if you want». «I was away seven years because of the war. I worked in a workshop and lived with my widowed mother». He smiled again. «I bet you had taken me for a born painter! Of course not! I had a passion for drawing and in my spare time I enjoyed doing something, but, as I said, I was a mechanic of those with overall and a good caliber, measuring every piece on the lathe. The war tore me, so to speak, to that job, to my mother and, of course, to a pretty little girl from here, because I was engaged». He inhaled the cigarette again and dropped the ashes beyond the parapet. «In short, I will tell you that I left to Africa with a motorized unit. I took part in fierce fighting, and say nothing on these, because now everyone knows something about what war is. We went as far as El Alamein; then, I don't know how, we went back on our steps in a disastrous retreat that I will never forget. I was lucky to be among the prisoners. Concentration camps; barbed wire; lack of mail and so much nostalgia for my mother's soul, for Titta (so I called my girlfriend) and for this city».
I heard the streetcars passing by behind me, but I did not turn around, as I was so taken by his way of telling; his words were well tuned and pleasing to my ear. «Time passed, but you can imagine how I anxious I was when I heard the bulletin announce that the allies had landed and were reaching Florence; my heart was beating hard, almost breaking; I was afraid of not enduring it. When they announced the bombings here, it seemed to me that everything crashed inside me as well. I always had my mother and Titta before my eyes; now they seemed to smile at me to hide the terror, now they seemed to call me with their faces terribly transfigured, holding out their hands as if to ask me for protection. Believe me, I thought I was going crazy!». He kept silent, but I noticed his eyes were bright with tears. I sighed too. The suffering of others make us feel sorry. He threw his cigarette into the Arno, and we followed for a moment its ride in the current. I realized that there should be something more sad in the vicissitude of my casual interlocutor. I realized this from how he was disclosing his memories, and this made me more curious, because I thought that in the end I could tell him a few words of relief and comfort. «How long did your imprisonment last?» I asked. «Five years. Now it no longer matters to me to remember the dates. I only remember my mother's sad date, because when I came back she had passed away. I had left her crying and I thought that one day I would embrace her again in tears for the joy of my return; instead they showed me her grave. I assure you, however, that I did not cry or despair at her cross. But I am a sensitive being and that hard blow – for those who know what a mother is – hit my heart hard». He was silent, and his gaze was blank.
«Did she die because of an illness?» I asked. He looked at me, and in his way of looking he now had a strange light. But I noticed it was not wrath. «I know she died as a result of a retaliation. She was evacuee in the countryside. A guy shot a German and killed him; in retaliation, the murdered soldier's comrades are said to have taken a certain number of people, as they were, then closed them in a room and from the window they threw several bombs, which exploding, you understand me, made a slaughter». I made myself serious and looked at him to show him, without words, that I fully understood him. «I'm just sorry about something, you know? That of not knowing who that guy was that shot that German soldier. Not for nothing! Now everyone keeps their pains and believe me there is no one else who takes the trouble to alleviate them, but I would gladly have known him, I repeat, to look a little into his eyes...» Mechanically, slowly, I slid my hand into my pocket: I took the National cigarettes and offered them to him. He accepted again. «Yes, my dear sir, since then I had my nervous system shaken so that I can not say. I was irritated for nothing and did not realize that I was becoming apathetic. The workshop in which I worked no longer existed. I knocked for work: nothing. I started to make some paintings that I sold here and there, and I decidedly dodged all the companies. My life goes on like this, a bit like the wandering Jew, and when sad thoughts assail me I try to think of something superior to everything: I think of God. And to those who say: "If I do not see I do not believe", I wish I could say: "Do you think there is so little to be seen around you?"».
He turned and pointed to an incoming tram: «Is this yours?» I looked: it was approaching, and it was mine indeed. I was thinking that this guy who was standing in front of me – almost a drifting wreck – had neglected, in his story, to tell me what had happened to Titta; but I was convinced that more than neglected he had dropped it, perhaps because it had been the most salient cause, that is, the final blow on his weary heart and on his way of life. The tram was almost in front of us and its brakes could be heard in action. I took the painting by wrapping it in the newspaper. I gave him my hand to greet him, and while I shook his hand, in a more heartfelt voice, as if he were taking his leave, he said: «Titta was beautiful, you know, and I found her married». I got on with others, and while the tram was again in motion, I looked at him again from the windows. He walked with his head bowed, his hands in his pockets and with his solitude, along the Lungarno's shoulder. I was still absorbed in his case when the conductor's voice called me back to reality: «Ticket please?».
Regardless of whether this story refers to a fact that actually occurred or –- as is more likely – that it was written by Fontanelli, perhaps reworking stories relating to episodes that occurred in the war or post-war period, it contains elements that reveal the psychic tunings of the medium, who was inclined to a contemplative joy of life, based on the wonder for the creative play of nature and the enchantment of art, but at the same time he was pervaded by a profound melancholy for human dramas and misfortunes, towards which he felt an intense compassion even if naively inclined to a certain almost nineteenth-century dramatic attitude. Perhaps, he identified himself with the romantic personality of the artist misunderstood and marked by destiny.
Other significant episodes
Fontanelli told more than once the following episode to Ravaldini, who reported it in the unpublished volume La macchina meravigliosa (The Wonderful Machine): «(At the time when he worked as manager of the Florence store, Urbino) used to be a commuter, and went on foot, making the shortest route, from the Santa Maria Novella station to the shop where he worked. Sometimes he slightly lenghtened his walk along another route. Making this walk, one day he stopped in front of a clothing store, as his attention had been caught by three ties exposed in the shop window, with very beautiful patterns and colors. The desire to have them crossed his mind, but it was for a few moments: the work could not wait, and he went on without thinking of it anymore. Time passed and one day, while doing his usual normal route, when he arrived in the only point of the city where there is a portico, Piazza della Repubblica, with the famous cafe that many years ago was called Le Giubbe Rosse, he noticed that from a garbage can, placed behind the newsstand in front of which, from the side of the square, the Fiorentina fans were always animatedly talking, a brand new tie, still in his cellophane case, was protruding. There was nobody under the portico. He approached the small can, but at the same time he noticed that a few meters away there was a man, short in stature, poorly dressed, with the somatic features of an Oriental, who looked at him and smiled. Urbino thought: "Perhaps he saw the tie first and wanted to take it. I take a little walk and then come back to see what happened"».
«He came back, but he saw again the same scene as before: the tie still protruded from the garbage can and the little man was still there, smiling. Then he thought of approaching the can with the intention of picking up the tie and say to that gentleman: “Do you want it for yourself?". But while he was formulating this thought, he realized that the man had disappeared. Under the portico there were only a few passers-by, because all the people were still arguing on the other side of the newsstand. Urbino took out his new tie, but he noticed that another new one was knotted at the end of the first, and this second one was followed by a third one, also new: they were the three ties he had seen long before in the clothing store placed on that route that he rarely walked. He was amazed and thought that someone, maybe a clerk, had put them there by mistake, and with the three ties in his hand he went to the shop with the intention of returning them. But when he reached the place, he stood there astonished: the clothing shop was gone, it had been dismantled and the masons worked inside it to prepare a new shop». Fontanelli always kept those ties in their cellophane, closed in a drawer, because – he said – they were too beautiful to wear them.
And here are the stories of some other episodes, always taken from Ravaldini's unpublished book: «Regarding the medium's role of manager-salesman, a nobleman, Marquis Gondi, who owned an agricultural estate and was associated in the sale of wine and oil, also owned a palace in the historic center of Florence, Palazzo Gondi. So great was the confidence that the landowners had in Urbino that Marquis Gondi, when he was absent with his family for a few days, gave the palace keys to Urbino, aking him to live there, especially at night. That's why they had reserved a bedroom for him to sleep there. That palace was so old and so noble, that Urbino wanted to visit it from top to bottom, and not only once. Every now and then he seemed to see a nobleman of the past, with clothes of the time, wandering in the halls of the palace, but – not at all impressed – Urbino did not give it much importance. But one day, while he was doing one of his usual exploratory walks, he came across a painting that depicted the very noble he had glimpsed in some room. Urbino stood there a little disturbed, but the disturbance did not last, because he then said to himself: "That's who he was!"».
«It was an autumn day: the rain fell abundantly and Urbino was on the train to go to work. As all the seats in the carriage were occupied, he had remained standing in the space near the door. At one station two young girls got in, of those like there are many, who always want to laugh and joke. Of course they had an umbrella. One of them said: "But look at that! Just today, when it rains, my umbrella broke". And she made the act of opening it to show it to her friend: but a rod was broken and pierced the fabric. At a certain moment – said Urbino (telling the episode to Ravaldini) – I felt the urgent need to take that umbrella in my hand. I was ashamed, but I could not help it, the impulse was stronger than me. I turned to the girl and told her as if it were a prayer: "Please, let me see it, will you?" She widened so much her eyes to that request of a mature man whom she did not know. In silence she handed it to me. I took it and opened it. The broken rod was gone. The girl looked at me in amazement and said, almost without voice: "Yet it was broken"».
«Another fact, occurred at Castelfiorentino station. Almost each of the commuters who went to work had a bag with his midday lunch. On one side of the platform where people stopped to wait for the train there was a long hedge, about a meter high, and all the commuters lay their bags over itbecause it was easier to grab them when the train arrived. That poor hedge was partly broken or had its branches torn and Urbino suffered from it. One day he said to himself, perhaps even with a little anger: "But is it possible that they do not notice that they are damaging nature, which is so beautiful as it is? Why don't they lay their bags on the platform?". On the following morning, as if there had been a secret agreement between the commuters, so that Urbino was very amazed, all the bags, none excluded (and they were not few), were leaning on the platform in a single row. The fact, of course, did not occur again».
«It was summer. Urbino had arranged for the window door that opened on the terrace, on the outside of its frame, a curtain, made of vertical plastic strips, which, in addition to repairing from the sun, also prevents flies from entering. He was really happy with that purchase and how well he had managed to mount it. One day a storm shaked the curtain on all sides, some plastic strips broke and some of the hooks that held them up were torn. When Urbino came home from work, he was annoyed, very annoyed, because he did not know how to repair it. But... the miracle happened in the night. The next morning, before going to the station to take the train to Florence, Urbino noticed, amazed, that the broken curtain was intact again, still new as if the accident had never occurred».
A telepathic event was directly recalled by Fontanelli in the recorded conversation of 1973. While he was going to the station in Florence, he suddenly thought of a man shooting anothr person with a revolver, in front of a dairy. Fearing of arriving late at the station and losing the train to go home, Fontanelli paid no particular attention to this thought and continued on his way. But the next day he read in the newspaper that a man in a dairy had shot a woman just at the time when that unexpected thought had crossed his mind.
A serious train accident
In the writings by Fontanelli a railway accident is recorded which has no paranormal element, but which shocked the medium for its dramatic implications. The fact occurred during a train journey (probably in the '70s) to see again those places in Croatia where Urbino had been a soldier during the war: «I leave from Florence central station at 17.05 in a car that will take me directly to Zagreb. I asked for a first class ticket: so, I think, I will be more comfortable and I will also be able to sleep a little. I think I will have to travel for more than 15 hours. In an hour, or a little more, I'm in Bologna. Here I am made to think of Silvio (Ravaldini) and mentally I send him a warm greeting. After a good quarter of an hour's stop the express takes back its run through the plains of the Po valley, almost interminable. At 20.00 I am in Ferrara; then in Padua. At 21.00 I'm in Mestre: here it stops and after sometime I can take a look at the lagoon of Venice, illuminated. Still a long stop... we leave more than 40 minutes late, we return to Mestre and from here... we travel fast towards Trieste. Meanwhile it starts to rain and the heat increases. We get to Trieste at 0.30. Another stop. Four peopleget out of my compartment and I remain momentarily alone, until an old lady comes in with some packages. Se looks at me and goes away looking for another place, then she comes back, smiles at me and says: "Perhaps I'll be more comfortable here". I help her to arrange her packages, while the express resumes its route. At 2.20 we are at Sesana customs. Here we stop for passport control and enter Yugoslav territory. At 4 a.m. we are in Postojna, where the famous caves are. Here I change the hour back to the solar one: therefore it is 3 o'clock. I get up and go to the toilet, so to stretch my legs and cool my hands and face: I stay a little in the corridor and then return to my seat».
«Meanwhile, my occasional companion has fallen asleep and only the rest light is turned on in the compartment. There are only the two of us, and so I take off my shoes and stretch my feet on the seat in front, so I will have a little rest and try to sleep. I close my eyes as my thoughts wander here and there in search of things and faces dear to me, and already I foretaste my arrival in Zagreb, the city that saw me so much younger. Already in my mind everything is fading, when a terrible crash throws me forward while the lady is banged on my side. The wagon jumps back and forth like crazy and this is terrible, even if it does not last long, while screeching and metal and plates bumping, bending and breaking make us realize what is happening, and we think that in a moment it will be the end. Taken by an unspeakable scare, I shout to the lady to hold on to something. Finally a tremendous final crash makes me guess that everything is over. My thought immediately goes to God, thanking him because I am safe and without contusions. Even the lady, whose eyes are out of her orbit (and perhaps so she will see mine), touches her whole person, and appears to me as dazed; and when she realizes that she is unharmed, she has an impulse towards me, embracing me and crying nonstop. I try to calm her and free me from her grasp, but she is like nailed to my body. Finally I succeed in persuading her that by now it has gone well and that it is necessary to give help to others who will have had the worst. In fact, we immediately hear cries for help and complaints that make our heart freeze. I go to the corridor, but I realize that our car has taken a slanted position so that in the corridor we can walk badly and the two platforms have been literally crushed. And to think that a few moments ago I was at the toilet...».
«The complaints and desperate calls for help increase. It is not day yet and it seems to me to live like a scary dream and my hands tremble. I understand that now everything has passed and that there is nothing else to fear, so we have to react. Meanwhile, local people are starting to arrive (we are at Preserie station, in the open country): farmers who have heard the crash; we see them here and there with lights and now the scene takes on an almost unreal aspect with those flickering flames that move in the night like will-o'-the-wisps. This scene is so impressed in my memory that I will never forget it. With another gentleman – a Somali, who studied in Perugia and went to Bulgaria to find some friends – I do my best to improvise a stretcher with a seat, where we lay a lady in a compartment adjacent to mine, who certainly has some fracture in the chest, because she screams and compresses the painful part with her hands; we make her pass through the window, the only way out. Meanwhile, some light in the east begins to announce the day, showing us even more an apocalyptic scene: wagons overturned (the consist had fifteen), some even put across the remaining rails, wagon carts spread here and there, sections of rail wrenched and twisted like simple wire and high tension wires in an incredible tangle. The wagon where I was traveling, it seems impossible, had even jumped over another, and that's why at first I did not realize its oblique position. The other, remained below, was crushed in half. What made the whole thing more disastrous were the wagons of a freight train at the station, which, embedded in ours, made everything worst. I still do not realize what happened. Of course, the crash of the whole convoy, with its wobbles, was terrible! The cries of pain and invocations of help continue and their effect is painful to the soul: it is like feeling the heart pine».
«Meanwhile, the first rescuers from Ljubljana are arriving and the ambulances start their carousel of goings and comings. I see some workers intent on working with the blowtorch to cut the sheets of a wagon reduced like a bellows. A middle-aged woman is pulled out with her legs literally cut off and a fairly young man already dead. All these awful scenes besot me because I'm thinking that I'm far from home and my loved ones and that I too could already be a corpse. I would like to cry like many others who do it and pray, but I can not. The rescue activity becomes more feverish. The technicians arrive for the first investigation that will explain the dynamics of the accident: it was a derailment due to high speed. Me and other not injured people are gathered in front of the small station. They try to comfort us and ask if we have any damage to report. We are all sorry and saddened, and no one wants to comment, even if we managed to get out safely, although with great scare. Our thoughts go to the dead and the wounded. After a while, some buses arrive which take us to Ljubljana station. From here, after a half-hour stop, you leave by train for Zagreb. I stay a few days in this city and, I confess, I can not wait returning home, because the memory of what has happened concurred in saddening me a lot. I still thank God. It's a bad memory I'll never forget».
And with this memory we end the story of the life of this man, gifted with extraordinary mediumistic faculties, who always lived simply, making his living from his honest work, who willingly agreed to submit himself to the trance so that others – not him – could experience significant phenomena, and never took any economic or reputation advantage from the gifts he was endowed with, but rather had to endure the hostility – if not the persecution – of the authorities of the time and of a part of the public opinion of the town where he lived. Urbino Fontanelli was a simple person, of a sensitive and good character, who patiently and humbly devoted himself to the tasks that life had assigned him, fleeing – until his death – from any form of publicity and notoriety. And that's why his life deserves to be remembered.