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«After becoming part of the Albo d’oro of the City of Perugia, I want the grifo symbol of Perugia, to accompany me in my climbing. I want to bring the spirit of Perugia through Italy and beyond».

With these words Luca Panichi, born in Magione 49 years ago, he proudly explains the importance of the recognition received. He is a sportsman, a cyclist, a climber. A person who has never surrendered, not only after the incident in 1994 when he was 25 years old: he was doing what he loved most, the time trial of the International Amateur Tour of Umbria, when a car ran over him. Today with his wheelchair – tailor – made for him – he climbs mountains and he brings around Italy the message that the limits can be overcome. He presides over associations and is the vice president of the Paralympic Committee of Umbria. But above all he managed not to abandon his passion: cycling. Passion that is perceived chatting with him, so much that he asks me: «Do you have a passion for cycling?» I admit that I do not know much about it, but that I prepared to interview him. The first question is almost obvious…

 

Luca Panichi

How did you think of climbing the mountains with the wheelchair?

Good question! Immediately after the accident I went to a rehabilitation clinic in Germany, where I used to go up to the near village – which was on the hillside of the clinic – pushing the wheelchair with my arms. In this way I realized that I could continue to be a cyclist even if sitting in a wheelchair. When I lived in Florence, I went around the whole city and I went back to Careggi without ever taking a vehicle. The same situation in Perugia: I attended the university and never parked in the reserved places, I used to park the car in via Ruggero D’Andreotto – near the Giò hotel – and I reached the Headquarters of University. I have trained a lot until it  has become a sport for me.

What was your first climb?

In 2009 I climbed the rise of the Blockouse in Abruzzo, arrival of one of the stages in the Giro d’Italia: few meters from the arrival I was intercepted by Cassani and Bulbarelli, who made live the chronicle of the last meters. From this episode, every year, I organize a cycling stage with the arrival to climb. In this way I can continue to live my passion, cycling and bring my message: «Breaking the sense of limit».

Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Zoncolan, Stelvio and Gavia: there is a mountain that you would like to climb, but that you have not climbed yet?

La Marmolada and Passo del Mortirolo, but also the Colle di Portet-d’Aspet, which is a stage of the Tour de France. At that place, Fabio Casartelli died in 1995, just a year after my accident. I am very close to the Casartelli Foundation and every year I participate in the Grand Prix of Capodarco, a community that has helped me in my rehabilitation process, delivering the prize to the most combative athlete of the day.

What is your feeling?

I still feel like a cyclist when I climb up the hills. For me there was not a rift, it is a continuity of my previous sport.

What do you think when you are there and things get hard?

When I train I often say: “But who made me do it!” But then I think of the people who follow me, they are always an incitement. Honestly, for me it would be a sacrifice not to do what I do. It is a true passion!

Next goal?

In August I will take part in the Grand Prix of Capodarco, then in October I will try again the climbing of the Zoncolan, but in different climatic conditions compared to the first time.

Let’s talk about Umbria: what is your link with this region?

I am really in love with this region. Thanks to the bicycle I have known many villages and experienced many landscapes. It is wonderful to know other communities and discover places that you might not never visit. There is a bucolic environment that blends with the story, so as the characters who lived here. I think not only to St. Francis, but also to Fra Giovanni from Pian del Carpine, who was born in Magione just like me, a forerunner in the field of travels and Marco Polo too. Few people know them.

Walking around Perugia or Umbria – for a disabled person – is not like climbing a mountain?

Definitely. The Umbrian villages have their own configuration, but over time, some improvements have been done, in order to make these towns more accessible, such as Perugia itself. However, there is still a lot to do. The disabled people should maketheir own contribution, explaining what  has to be improved.

Why is it so difficult, in your opinion, to make everything accessible?

It is a cultural problem, but I think that a more balanced approach is necessary: the obstacles must be removed but the disabled people should help to improve the situation. The public institutions should be involved too, and, above all, the general attitude should be changed thorough dedicated projects, starting from the world of Education.

How would you describe Umbria in three words?

Romantic, charming and peaceful.

The first thing that comes to your mind thinking of this region…

Home.

(Monte del Lago 1854[1] – Rome 1910)
Son of the patriot Giuseppe and of the countess Giuseppina Becherucci, Guido studied first in Perugia, then he attended the Law Faculty in Bologna. He never got his degree although he achieved, with the highest mark, all of the eight exams he did.

Later he focused on literary studies and German language: when he was young he translated and commented on Van Plener’s Storia della legislazione inglese sulle fabbriche showing great proficiency and depth of judgement[2], and wrote about Ernesto Renan[3].

His political-administrative activity started early: in 1876 was appointed supervisor of the schools in San Feliciano and Monte Fontegiano, two years later he became councilman of Magione. In 1879, succeeding the baron Giuseppe Danzetta Alfani, he became part of Provincial Council and the following year he was asked to preside over the Congregation of Charity of Magione. At this time, already dense with activities, he began to collaborate with certain local periodicals such as «L’Unione Liberale» and «La Favilla»: his way of writing was «original, strict, very effective, the thought is clearly, no frills, mirrored in it, concise, without emptiness»[4]. In 1884 he obtained the delegation at the Administrative Commission of the University of Perugia from the Provincial Council. He held this office for the whole life. In 1885 he founded in Perugia the People’s Bank and the following year he was elected for the first time at the Chamber of Deputies. In 1896, thanks to his appointment of President of the Consortium for the Recovery of the Trasimeno Lake, he inaugurated the works for the new effluent. The 14th September 1897 he was elected President of the Provincial Council. He held this task for his whole life.

But not only local or national issues increased the thickness of his public figure. In 1899 he is sent as an Italian Plenipotentiary at the Peace Conference in The Hague and the following year is Undersecretary for Finance in the Gabinetto Saracco. In May 1906 he became Undersecretary for Foreign affairs during the government of Giolitti and the following year he represented again Italy at the second Peace Conference in The Hague[5]

He recognized in the poet Vittoria Aganoor, his life partner, his perfect completion: a woman with a strong character, strenghtened by great ideals, by a fervid intellect and by the goodness of her heart. Their union represented «the intimate fusion of the complex discretions of two exalted souls»[6] and that is why he couldn’t find enough energies and reason to outlive her. In May 7, 1910, following the news of Vittoria’s death, Guido committed suicide by shooting himself through a temple. This was the last shout of a wounded lion[7].


[1]The birth date has been recently corrected by the studies published in M. Chierico, Guido Pompilj statista del lago, Perugia, s.n., 1996, pp. 13-14.
[2]E. van Plener, Storia della legislazione inglese sulle fabbriche, Imola, Galeati, 1876.
[3]G. Pompilj, L’eau de jouvence di Ernesto Renan, Perugia, Boncompagni, 1881.
[4]G. Muzzioli, Guido Pompilj e Vittoria Aganoor Pompilj. Commemorazione popolare, Perugia, Guerra, 1910, p. 6.
[5]The informations on the tasks performed by da Guido Pompilj are taken from M. Chierico, cit.
[6]G. Muzzioli, cit., p. 22.
[7]Pompilj ordered the engraving of the motto “Ut Leo” in his villa in “Monte del Lago” that represented the brevity of his life in all its essence.

 

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