He died last December, having headed Pirelli’s Press and Advertising Division for eighteen years. Regarding his untiring activity in that period, we recall on the Magazine that he directed for 12 years his most significant moments through some testimonials of colleagues and friends […]
In what clinic is Don Arrigo?, by Enzo Ferrari
It was a Saturday morning, in autumn 1951, when my friend Lombardini called. “Let’s meet tomorrow at that little tavern in Fidenza” he proposed. “I want you to meet the new colleague in charge of propaganda and advertising.”
This was our usual custom, meeting halfway between Modena and Milan, and our exchange of opinions and technical discussions were long and frequent.
This is how I met Arrigo Castellani, who succeeded Roda, Bernasconi, Perego and many other colleagues who worked for Lombardini. He was Roman-born, vivacious, with a dark-olive complexion and an almost constant frightened look in his eyes. This is how I remember Mr Arrigo, that day when the seeds of friendship were sown. We immediately embarked on unending discussions on the utility of racing and opposing views on the validity of technical advertising. I felt him immediately biased against my ideas, and since then, we continued to nurture our amicable differences which in time would be resolved.
An avid skier, twice I found him in a resting home recovering. An “absent-minded” driver, he suffered the consequences, and every time I met a colleague from Pirelli, I would ask of him with the witty jibe: “In what clinic is Don Arrigo this time?”.
His work soon took form: the tone of his advertising improved with striking innovations and magazines that became ever more interesting: the Pirelli Magazine, “Vado e Torno”, and many others. One day he told me: “I’m going to come and see you with my director”. This is all he said, and then he arrived in Maranello with Leopoldo Pirelli, known only through what Lombardini had told me over the years. Our differences did not in any way obfuscate our reciprocal fondness, indeed they helped us respect each other.
I remember one of his visits to Maranello. We had a sort of “confession-like” breakfast in a restaurant near Abetone; hanging on a wall was an old mirror framed with oleographs that could have been from sixty or seventy years before. He noticed it and he confided to me: “Those are the things that I really like; they say a lot to me”.
After some days I bought that mirror and I sent it to him. He wrote me a first-class letter thanking me, but adding that he would only have accepted the mirror if he paid for it. I responded dryly that I had paid 16,000 lire, to which he also had to add on the cost for packaging and transport. My next anecdote is more recent. It was 7 September 1968, and I was in the box in Monza watching the trials of our team preparing for the Italian Gran Prix.
He approached me with a wide smile and introduced me a young man he was supposed to train. I immediately launched my attack: “Oh, so at Pirelli everyone prepares for the worst!”. He embraced me: “You never change!”. This was how our relationship was; what else can I add? Don Arrigo, as I called him, was a rigid and convinced executor. His work was infused with as much inspiration as the adversity that he encountered daily; loyal in his hostilities, unpredictable in his reactions, but perhaps not unlike me; lukewarm friendships did not exist for him. A sad vein was always perceptible in his exuberant smile and his gaze. I never found out why, even if I had often asked myself the same question. He left us unexpectedly, as unexpected as he was in his affection and friendship, and this is how I remember him.
Different: difficult and easy, by Giovanni Pirelli
Arrigo Castellani died before becoming old. I am not saying that this was an enviable end. However, the fact that his life was interrupted before suffering a trauma is, if not uncommon, particularly relevant. If it is true that we plan for our old age during our middle age, and in a certain sense our middle age already encompasses our old age, then I believe that from this perspective Arrigo’s middle age was inadequate.
I would even say that in this matter he was and remained ambiguous, he never quite fitted in. He was never able to truly profit from the benefits that his experience, his corporate and social duties brought him. He never let himself be completely institutionalised. When carrying out his directive duties, when participating in work-related functions, in his way of expressing himself through facial expression, signs, reflections and impulses, he behaved rather like an eager youngster. This was like a call in his defence, an alibi for his still incomplete characterisation, an attempt to reconfigure his own existence – yet too caught up in an unending sequel of one-way roads, firmly entrenched in a grid of conventional relationships –, in order to back off, take his bearings and start out again with a new perspective. Is this only one connotation of his personality, a marginal aspect?
Perhaps, but in my opinion, this is what made him a different man in the context he was dealing with, like a picture hung a little lop-sided in a gallery with all the other portraits perfectly aligned.
Different: difficult and easy day-in day-out, event after event, sometimes peremptory, overwhelmingly, sometimes ductile, problematic and even defenceless, sometimes irritating and other times captivating.
His relationship with work – I speak after many years by his side in the editing staff of the Pirelli Magazine – was always “a surprise a day”, a relationship that necessitated continual reinvention, without any fixed, consolidated o truly acquired truth to rely on.
He could appear unbearable but instead, as the relationship grew, he became more and more likeable. And he had a talent which nowadays is more and more rare, especially in Milan: he knew how to be joyful, and also how to be melancholic. Never grey nor boring; but melancholic.
If there was some magic key to interpret a person, then for Arrigo Castellani I would say the following: he managed to conserve a true taste for life during his entire existence. Well, even if this is an unlikely true key, this observation cannot be considered marginal.
When behind his desk, at office lunches, during business trips or when speaking to colleagues – almost always connected to his duties – the corporate man is still able to kindle that taste for life, to savour true existence, it is no mean feat. Going back to where I started, I believe that Arrigo would have had a very difficult old age. He was not the person to accept regression serenely or whole-heartedly; he was not the person to renounce alternatives or unexpected things for this sad but general norm: to live poorly to survive longer.