I took a break from Manifesta when through the graces of a good friend I was able to spend a few hours with Gioacchio Lanza Tomasi, one of the models for Tancredi, the soldier who is ‘adopted’ by Don Fabrizio, the Prince in Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s Il Gattopardo.
A recent Film Society tribute to Visconti shows the enduring admiration of the film version of the novel—it was their most well attended retrospective ever.
Tomasi, himself from an aristocratic family, inherited the last remaining palazzo of Lampedusa’s. Though it now houses the cooking school of his wife Nicoletta, and a B and B, its major floors and reception areas have been lovingly maintained and replenished. I felt as if I had entered into the film as I follow Tomasi down its grand balustrade, trod its polished marble and parquet flooring, looked up at its elegant chandeliers,and out its grand windows overlooking the Mediterranean,and gazed upon its many leather bound books in the library, and family paintings and drawings by artists as well as manuscripts of the novel in vitrines.
Tomasi has had a distinguished career as a musicologist, opera administrator, professor and writer. His Biography Through Images of Lampedusa is a trove of unpublished photographs of Lampedusa’s very interesting lineage and marriage, as well as a few gems of Tomasi in intense conversation with Visconti as the film was in production.
I think however that my tour of the palazzo guided by Tomasi says more than any words could. I recommend also a reading of The Leopard and of Tomasi’s biography as they are very good records of the Sicily which once was, and still exists in pockets in Palermo and cities like Ragusa, Noto and Scicli.