It’s been almost two years since I started writing my stories about Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca. The stories begin where they began, the day they were born. The source for many of my stories is their book “Un’avventure straordinaria, la nostra storia,” (An extraordinary adventure, our story). Extraordinary is an understatement. The story tells of three teenage boys who came together in a talent competition and went on to become an extraordinary trio, super stars, known worldwide and loved by their fans, all five million of them. How it happened and why it worked has to be seen as a plan, not just a plan by the people who saw the potential in these three teenagers but a higher more important plan, one that began where they began, one that was touched by the hand of God.
To understand how they came together, we need to understand where it all began. Over the next four weeks I will revisit each of their stories so when they open at Radio City Music Hall, all the new fans will have the back stories.
This is my story of ThreeOrdinary Boyswith extraordinary voices!
In these stories, I did not change the thoughts or feelings of any of the guys, in any of their stories. All the Italics are their own words. You might say I’m relating their story as seen through my eyes.
In the early years each one was raised in a different way but the role that music played in their lives is similar in the beginning years, different in the middle years, remarkable in their teen years and absolutely amazing in recent years!
I begin my story as I begin most of my stories with Piero….
Piero is a great storyteller! When he tells a story he recalls every detail. He makes you feel like you’re a part of his story. When the story is over you know the event as it happened and there is nothing more for you to know. He’s told it all. He is very sensitive and very emotional when he speaks about his childhood and his family.
So, without further ado, let’s meet Piero in the courtyard of the town square of Naro.
The heat of the day has passed and, the time of rest is over and its’ time for people to come out into the square. On the bench some old men are talking. Piero is playing soccer with his friends. They are playing with his SUPER TELE (a plastic football). The ball flies off in the direction of the old men and they shout, “slow with the ball or we will cut it.” The old men frighten Piero with their threat….
My name is Piero Barone. I was born on June 24, 1993, in the Sicilian city of Naro.
What can I tell you about Naro? For me, it is the most beautiful city in the world! There are dozens of baroque churches and above the city the Chiaramonte castle. Below the castle is the beautiful Valle del Paradiso with its’ green pastures and the green sea that separates Naro from the real sea… and there’s the Spring Festival Narese!
Piero would gather with his friends in the afternoon and usually they played until ten in the evening but there was always the fear that the old men would pierce the ball.
Five or six years have passed since the old men scared me. The old men are still on the bench but now when they see me, they come to meet me, to greet me. Before, they scared me, and now they hug me and have that look of being proud and moved. It’s too strong for me! Yet, I still can’t explain why I become ‘weak inside’ when I see them.
The truth is, I’m still that kid with his SUPER TELE.
Piero continues…. I think it is an effort to remember when we were young. We were young the day before yesterday. In fact, all three of us feel that time has run too fast. Yesterday we were children, and, in a moment, we found ourselves grown up with a great job to carry on. Its’ the most beautiful job in the world, what we dreamed and desired, but the truth is that none of us really imagined what would happen.
What I’ve done in the last five or six years, I tend to forget. Not because I’m not happy to have done it, on the contrary, I am, very, happy. Its’ to have the life I have and have a dream come true: living with music was all I wanted.
Piero recalls a special day in his childhood.
When I was a child, I visited my father’s body shop. The shop was, very, big and was full of cars and lots of noise. This was my “first stage.” I was not yet four years old, and I was starting to sing. My father lifted me up and placed me on the hood of a car that was jacked up and I immediately began to sing. The people in front of the shop looked out. Slowly one after another, they came out. I remember them, they stood there listening to me, their heads popping out of the door and, I sang and, it was the most natural thing in the world for me!
But it didn’t start in the garage, no it all began in the garden of Piero’s grandparents’ house.
There was a Mulberry Tree in the garden and hanging on that tree was an old-fashioned swing.
As was his custom, Piero’s grandfather Pietro, would come out on the terrace every morning and find a cool place to sit. Pietro always had a recorder with him. He has been blind for many years, and he uses the recorder to record music, recite poetry and compose songs.
Piero continues…. When I think back to the, first, images I have of him, he is sitting on the terrace in the country, with a stereo in his hands.
On this morning Piero is on the swing and, on the terrace, Pietro is preparing to record a song. It’s just a little song. The song is only two lines, and it is pure Sicilian. Pietro begins to sing. E lu suli talia, talia, talia. Sopra ‘sta petra luci ci duna. (The sun, look, look, look, to this stone gives the light.)
Piero recalls…. I was swinging on the swing, I was about four or five years old, I was really, very, small. I listened to him a little and at a certain point, when he stopped singing, I started: E lu suli, talia, talia, talia. Sopra ‘sta pedra luci ci duna. What can I tell you? It just came out like that.
His grandfather turned off the recorder and called his wife. Rina came out on the terrace, and he asked her, “Unni è Piero?” (Where is Piero?)
She replied, “In Altalena” (He is on the swing)
Pietro asked, “Ma cu cantava? Iddru?” (But who was singing? He?)
She replied, “Eh, si.” (yes)
He told Rina to call him.
So, Piero got up and went to his grandfather. Pietro lifted him up and put him on the table next to the recorder and told him to “sing the song again.” Piero sang the song exactly as his grandfather sang it. He listened to Piero sing the song and then he made the decision to go to his friend Antonio’s house to record it.
Antonio was a friend of Pietro, and he shared a passion for music with him. Antonio had in his home what was called at that time a “recording studio”. It was not very big but, it did have a bigger stereo and a microphone. So, that afternoon they recorded Piero singing his grandfathers’ song in Sicilian. But it didn’t stop there!
The next day they went to the countryside to the Riolo’s house. Piero’s grandparents had a country house and the Riolo’s were their neighbors. Pietro had a good relationship with Mr. Riolo, because he had worked for him in the past and they were family friends. So, Pietro and Piero went to visit Mimmo Riolo. They all sat together under a carob tree because the air was always fresh under that tree. While the men talked, Piero ate prickly pears.
Pietro said to his old friend, “You know, Mimmo, yesterday I discovered that my grandson has a nice voice.” Mimmo thought about it for a moment and came up with an idea. “I want Piero to listen to one of my favorite singers.”
Piero recalls…. And this is how I listened for the first time to Un Amore Cosi’ Grande by Mario del Monaco. And I learned it right away, but right away. (Piero has a photographic memory when it comes to songs. He only has to hear a song once or twice and he has it.) My grandfather was very proud. And something told me the next day we would go to record Un Amore Cosi’ Grande at Antonio’s house.
The day after they visited Mr. Riolo, they went to Anotonio’s house to record Un Amore Cosi Grande.
So, let’s look at where it all began for Ignazio….
Piero and Gianluca dictated their stories, but Ignazio wrote his story. Ignazio is an amazing writer as is obvious in the fact that he writes such beautiful lyrics. Ignazio gives you the facts in his story and I follow him by giving you information that is important to the story.
This is a very, sensitive and sincere story! So, let’s begin, in Ignazio’s own words!
If a life is a story and, if every story needs someone to tell it, here I am to tell you mine, all of it from the beginning.
My story is not a fictional story even if it seems to be one of those dreams that you never want to wake up from. My story is sincere. It is the story of my life just as I experienced it before Il Volo and inside Il Volo.
My flight (every reference is purely coincidental) starts with a Christmas Letter.
It seems Ignazio’s mother, Caterina, and his father, Vito, were thinking about expanding their family. It is Christmas time 1993. Ignazio’s sister Antonia, who everyone calls Nina, is at school and the children are told to write a letter to Santa and the Baby Jesus. What Nina writes is a miracle and the beginning of one of the most beautiful and sincere relationships between a brother and sister. Nina, 7 years old, writes:
Dear Santa and Baby Jesus,
I do not want any presents for Christmas. Give my gifts to poor children. I want a baby brother for Christmas.
Ignazio continues…. Said and done!
Shortly after New Year’s Caterina discovers she is pregnant. When Nina is told she wants to confirm that her request has come true. Nina asks her mother if she can join her for her first ultrasound. During the checkup, Nina asks the doctor, “May I know what it is?”
“What do you want, honey?” the doctor asks.
“I want a little brother.”
“Then come, I’ll show you the string bean.”
Nina’s first wish is granted but her second wish, not exactly! Nina wants her brother to be born on October 1st, her birthday. It seems Ignazio had another idea.
My name is Ignazio Boschetto. I was born on October 4, 1994, in Bologna, Italy.
No, I didn’t make it for Nina’s birthday. I was wrong. What can I tell you? When they brought me home, I was better than any doll to Nina. Everyone was happy but soon, there are some worries. During the first visit, the doctor found that I had a strange kidney malfunction. After several checkups, they found I was born with a single kidney, but the one kidney I had was larger than normal and it works as if it were two kidneys.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, I was born with the squint of Venus, but I was fine, a Bolognese, brand new. The truth is, I could have been born Sicilian – Sienese. How would you see me with a Tuscan accent?
Ignazio has a deep and abiding love for his parents and all they did for him, as is evident in his memories….
Is it the same if the images that I will never forget are … the memories of my parents? It’s not that I’m crazy or strange, it’s right that my story would never have existed without my parents.
In 1990 when Nina was four years old and before Ignazio was born, his parents made the decision to leave Marsala. They left with the hope of a better life for their family. As Ignazio says, The family they had only begun to create. Things were not going well in Marsala, and it was difficult to make a living for a family. They decided to go to Siena because a good friend of Ignazio’s maternal grandfather, who was a building contractor, offered Mr. Boschetto a job. Ignazio’s parents would do anything to make the families’ life better. Ignazio says, of the sacrifices they have made there were many and big for me and for my sister, I do not spend a day when I do not think about how proud I am of them.
On arrival in Buoncovento, Mr. Boschetto worked as a mason. Mrs. Boschetto did many different jobs. By 1992 they realized they did not earn enough to keep going. And, Ignazio would say, that’s why I was born in Bologna. They made the decision to move to San Martino on Agrine near Bologna. Upon arrival, Mr. Boschetto, being a mason, immediately found a job. Mrs. Boschetto was always a determined person who had a great desire to keep busy. She reinvented herself. She was a good cook and she found herself a job as a chef in a restaurant not far from home.
Within a few years they managed to achieve economic stability and decided to move into a house. Finally, a house just for them in Guarda di Molinella. Ignazio says, the house was very small, but it was my first house, the one in which I was born.
By far, Ignazio was the most pampered member of the family. He was a lively child who laughed all the time. Ignazio says….I never stopped laughing.
He learned very quickly to talk and walk. He was never silent.
Ignazio continues…. When I was three or four years old – I played with the piano my parents had given Nina. My mother says I was one years old when I played. Nina taught me to play Happy Birthday with one finger. I was a happy child. My mother told me, ‘You’ve never been a child,’ in the sense that I was always quite serious and responsible. I ask you, ‘Would you ever say that?’ In all, I was a happy child. It seemed the situation started getting better. It wasn’t all roses and flowers but in four years it had changed a lot and so the moves were not finished. The moves were always to make a better life for me and Nina. The moves continued even after my birth. When it seemed that we were fine, it was always time to leave.
Of all the houses I lived in, one particular address remains in my mind: Via Marconi 94 in Molinella. It was a big and very beautiful house. We moved there just before I started elementary school. I do not remember the first day of school, but I certainly did not take long to get noticed. If you’re thinking of scenes of me being put in the middle of the class to sing, forget it. I had a passion for music but, I had an even greater passion for pranks. I tell you, since I started talking and walking, mine was an escalation of agitation. It was official I was not the most mischievous in class that would be my friend Nicholas. I was second. It was always an open challenge, a race to the red crosses.
Now the question arises: What are the red crosses? The teachers had a billboard and on it they listed all the students in alphabetical order. If you were good in your school and good in your grades, you got a blue cross, however, if you had taken an insufficiency or if you behaved badly, ‘evil was everywhere!’ Nicolas and I were the most popular! Our billboard line was a red fire specimen.
With the passage of time, I found something good to do at school, that is, an activity that was able to hold my interest enough to prevent me from slipping into some disaster. I joined the school choir. I always liked to sing, to be ‘in the middle’ of the music. And more and more passionately I began to understand how to make better use of Nina’s famous pianola. I learned how to start the musical bases and flip through them. And that’s when I discovered ‘La Donna E ‘Mobile.’ I liked it so much that I sang with the base and invented words. I don’t remember the words but, it certainly was a song about Pavarotti. Having seen Pavarotti on TV, I knew he always had a big handkerchief so I would invent text and sing on the air ‘La Donna E ‘Mobile.’ Now I would not want you to get the wrong idea of me as a child. A saint I was not, mind you, but thinking about it now if I was mischievous at school, maybe there was a reason.
Around 1998, when Ignazio was four years old and had just started kindergarten, the climate in his house changed. There was a problem in the family. Ignazio’s mom was diagnosed with facial cancer. For a child of Ignazio’s age, it was hard to understand what was happening. He realized that something was wrong when he began to see less and less of his mother. She was going back and forth to the hospital for months without finding a solution.
Ignazio said…. Mom did something she always did with us, for as long as I can remember, she explained the situation to us, speaking openly. This is a great merit that I must acknowledge about my family, but perhaps a little more to mom, because the fact of speaking clearly with us children and telling us the truth about things that affected our family and life in general taught us to face up to early adult conversations. With mom we always talked about sex, about society, a little bit of everything that life had in store for us as children.
Now, I’m going to step out of the story because there are no words that I can say that will express the emotion and the sensitivity of Ignazio words….
I do not even have to tell you that since my mother’s conversation, my life has changed. I was small, but I could not afford to think like the other children of my age. As for my sister the situation was even more complicated because since 1998, the year of our mother’s first hospitalization, until 2003, the year when all the bad story is over, my mother has become Nina.
For the first two years of elementary school, those dotted with red crosses, I have not often seen mom, a little because I went to school, a little because she had to return frequently to the hospital and stay there for long periods. Dad worked and my sister, despite her twelve years, had to be a housewife. She has become my biggest reference point. We had to grow both of us very quickly, without thinking about toys and different entertainment, and not so to speak, but really. The truth is that we were not interested in anything that usually affects two children of that age, because the only thing we wanted was to have mom at home.
It is difficult to say what was the worst moment because her absence was always felt. For sure, however, I was particularly impressed by a quarrel with my sister. I was four and she was twelve and I was playing with a toy, she was fed up because I made noise, she took the toy, and we had a fight. After responding badly to her, I immediately repented. For me Nina was very important, really like a mother. In the end I did not sleep for a week. But I never told her, at least until now.
After five surgeries and one hundred and fifty points in the face, mom has returned home. Too bad they did not leave me much time to enjoy her. I wanted to sit her on the sofa and, I wanted all the kisses, hugs and everything I haven’t had in those years. Mom is mine and woe to those who touch her! And instead, a few years earlier, mom had started working in a pizzeria and, not even the time to leave the hospital, she rightly started working again. What could I do?
So, we leave Ignazio with his mother back home and we turn to Gianluca!
As I said on many occasions, in many of my stories, Gianluca is very different from Piero and Ignazio. He had a calm and peaceful childhood. He didn’t have the challenges that Ignazio had or the intense classical education that Piero had. No, Gianluca lived a very simple life. Perhaps that explains why Gianluca is a romantic. With him, everything is about passion! Actually, four passions! Family, Country, Music, Soccer! Not necessarily in that order! He takes his passion for Abruzzo around the world. On tour he always speaks about Abruzzo. He loves his country and, he wants others to love it too!
So, let’s begin Gianluca’s story in a small town in Abruzzo…. Montepagano!
My name is Gianluca Ginoble. I was born on February 11, 1995, at the Atri hospital.
I am from the town of Montepagano, Abruzzo. To be precise, I grew up, in Montepagano, on a hill two hundred meters as the crow flies and ten minutes by road from the sea, and Roseto degli Abruzzi.
The accents are beautiful, the dialects are beautiful, but I can say what I prefer is the Abruzzese? I am, very, proud to be from Abruzzo. I love everything about this region. And I like to bring Abruzzo around the world and keep it high.
I am right at the sea. I’m relaxing, I’m calm! There is a sea breeze and nothing else. It’s Thursday and I am practically alone on the beach. I’m fine, from God! I’m fine because I’m home.
When I come home, I relax and I am calm, as I cannot be anywhere else in the world. And now, I can say I’ve seen a lot of places in the world. Coming home to Abruzzo, I feel like I am on vacation. Montepagano is right on top of the hill facing the sea, it seems to look like a postcard. It is here that I can get away from everything and everyone and stay in peace. Montepagano is a perfect place, a kind of paradise, but what concerns me is I see Abruzzo ‘emptying.’ The boys achieve a diploma and go to study in Bologna or farther. This is not new this is something that I have seen since I was a child.
My life as a child seems so far away. I remember, very, little of my childhood! It’s like twenty years have passed but, only five have passed. I’m not like Ignazio I was born and raised in Montepagano. I was traveling only with dreams. What made me dream? Music naturally.
Dad, Ercole and mom, Eleanora realized that I had something special in my voice when I started to sing at the age of three or four years. They tell me, when I was three years old, I sang ‘O Sole Mio’ in the town square in front of all the elderly gentlemen friends of my grandfather who were sitting around in the square. The town square was my first audience but, of course I don’t remember it.
I had a radio with a knob that turns to find the radio station. What am I looking for? The songs of Andrea Bocelli, my absolute idol. Or Domenico Modugno, or others of this kind. In the summer, I would take the radio along when I went with my friends in what we call la pinetina (the small pine forest), that is a park with wooden games and tables and with lots of green space. Like today I was looking for music, for songs that inspired me and made me dream. My friends would listen to my music but, they liked Eiffel 65 and music from the early 2000s, and so they would tell me, come on, change! What is this? I liked modern genres, I listened to everything, but what I loved was something else.
In November 2000, when I was five and a half years old, my brother Ernesto was born.
I was just starting to hum. A year later I started to get interested in Bocelli and Modugno.
So, Ernesto is in his cradle and he’s listening to me sing these melodies. The most beautiful thing I remember and, the memory I have printed in my mind is when Ernesto was big enough to come to the small pine forest too, I made him listen to these songs that my friends did not appreciate. We sat close together on the ground, and I placed the radio on my legs, or I sat on the swing with the radio resting on the ground and we listened to music that was so unusual for our age. I told him my dreams. I do not think I’ve ever had this confidence with anyone, and even today, it’s like that with my brother. The result is Ernesto has a natural talent for music. He has something ‘musically speaking,’ both when he strums the piano in the living room, and when he sings…. Who knows…studying? Today I trust him as I do not trust anyone else. After an exhibition I go to him for his opinion. Ernesto, how did I sing? Did you like the performance? He answers, well, yes, maybe you’ve been a little waning there. Ernesto always understands and gives me his opinion. He has never studied music, he has never studied singing, but he always knows how to give me the right advice, the right vision. It’s like when we sing together: I play the melody and he immediately makes harmony. At his age, I did not do that. I think the radio did well by him.
Gianluca compares their musical education….
We were lucky all three to have the families we had. Ignazio and Piero were able to study music thanks to the sacrifices, big sacrifices, of their families. I’ve never studied it, if I have to tell the truth, but the music at home has always been there.
As I grew older, I became more passionate about singing, including the great American classics, first of all Frank Sinatra.
My grandfather Ernesto has been a musician since he was a boy. He played the contralto flugelhorn in the band of the town, he toured all of Abruzzo doing performances with the band and has always been a lover of the opera.
My father Ercole, studied music, played drums and sometimes he still does. Let’s say he’s more rock than grandfather!
My grandfather was the first to think of bringing me closer to music. He had a classic taste, more ‘popular’ to say, he is one of those gentlemen who fifty years ago listened to Luciano Tajoli, but he is also an opera lover.
So, around the age of eight or ten, I began to listen to classical music, opera, especially Luciano Pavarotti, and some genre of music from the Fifties to the Sixties.
I took the tape recorder and put the cassettes in, my parents told me, it seemed like I was immersing myself in those notes.
My grandfather wanted me to study music, he always told me:‘Gianluca, study the piano, study an instrument. I’ve never done it. It would be a dream to sit down on the piano and start playing and singing. Let’s say it’s one of my next goals: learning to play the piano.
As you know, Gianluca has taken lessons and now plays piano.
While my grandfather made me listen to classical music, Pavarotti and music from the Fifties-Sixties, my father made me feel Fabrizio De Andrè, Francesco De Gregori, Giorgio Gaber, Antonello Venditti and, as I grew older, I became more passionate about singing, including and first of all Frank Sinatra.
So, let’s say that as a child I had a beautiful musical culture. What was left of that period? The classical opera no, because today I do not listen to it, it is not part of me and, I do not feel it particularly mine. The only opera singer I keep listening to is Andrea Bocelli, but I have come to him by another road.
If I have any regrets about my school years, it’s that I never studied music when I was ten or eleven. But there is still time.
So, we leave the guys just beginning to get their toes wet. They are singing but have no idea that this innate talent of theirs would bring them around the world!
So, this is where it all started. In 2015 after winning Sanremo the guys wrote a book, Un’avventure straordinaria, la nostra storia, about their lives. That may sound funny considering they were only 21-22 at the time, but in fact, what they did in six years most men will never do in a lifetime. The book is extraordinary because it is about Three Ordinary Boys who are extraordinary. If you can read Italian, you should read this book. An amazing read! It’s available on Amazon.
When I write about the guys, I always say, aside from loving them and their music, I can write about them because I have some things in common with them.
As to Piero, I connect with him in two ways. First, he was raised as I was. Sunday dinner at grandma’s house with the entire family. That was my Sunday too! After my grandmother passed, my mother took over and now that she is gone, it is Sunday dinner at my house.
The second reason is while Piero was swinging on a swing that hung from a mulberry tree in Naro, I was in New York writing a screenplay called, The Mulberry Tree!
As to Ignazio, we have a lot in common. I have an emotional attachment to him. We think alike and we express our emotions in the same way. I through my writing and Ignazio through his singing and writing! A lot of passion, a lot of emotion.
I can truly relate to Ignazio’s story about his mother. When I was five years old, my mother had a rare blood disorder. I remember looking in her eyes and seeing sadness. It seemed to say she was going away though I didn’t know why. I would awake each morning and hope she would be there. She was and she remained with us for many, many more years!
As to Gianluca, above all, it’s about being Abruzzese. I can relate to many of his traditions and his feeling for Abruzzo. My maternal grandparents were born in Introdacqua, Sulmona. Gianluca’s town is at the foot of the Gran Sasso, the highest mountain, our town is at the foot of the Maiella, the second highest mountain. My grandparents spoke Italian in their house but when the Abruzzese relatives came to visit, they always spoke Abruzzese! And Gianluca, the beauty of Abruzzo does not fail me!
Join me next week as I go back Through the Fields of My Mind and open the door to Part Two of our journey through the life of our guys!