Our vendors: Castrenze Maggiore (Scarp de’ tenis, Milan, Italy)

By Giorgia Fedele and Alessandro Cascia, Scarp de’ tenis

What’s never missing on Castrenze’s face is his smile. A smile that conquers and makes you understand it belongs to a man that really knows what suffering means. Castrenze, whose surname is Maggiore, well-aged at 65, comes from the district of Palermo, but he feels like a Milanese at this point.

“I moved to Milan in 1997 to work as a bricklayer. I have never had problems. I worked and it was enough. Then, in 2010, things changed. There was no more work left for me. I was too old; no one asked for me. So I moved to Piedmont to work in my relatives’ company.”

The crisis, however, came there too. “For a short time I lived on odd jobs,” he says. “I accepted everything even with half pay. But then I had to give up. I couldn’t pay rent so, in 2012, I moved back to Milan.”

Photo by Ettore Sutti

And this was the beginning of the end. “Since the first evening I slept on the street,” says Castrenze. “At first in the Central Railway Station and then in the park in Boeri street. I lived this way for two years. I got by thanks to the help of Opera Cardinal Ferrari [a shelter and kitchen that helps those living in poverty].”

Sleeping on the street, however, is not easy and Castrenze agreed to be helped and hosted at first in a refuge prepared by the Municipality to fight emergencies brought about by the severe cold, but he wasn’t comfortable there and, as soon as he could, he flew away. He arrived at the “Casa degli amici” in Carbonari square, where he lived for a year and put himself back in order. Then, in 2016, he became a vendor for Scarp and he moved to a flat with a friend. “It’s an odd pairing,” admits Castrenze, “but we are fine. I have got a home, a job and a lot of friends. What more do I need? Really I don’t miss anything. I have also received a job offer as a night watchman.”

He doesn’t say this explicitly, but the smile on his face lets us know how much he would like that job, because it will help him not only from an economic point of view, but also from a human one. And Castrenze keeps on smiling.

Translated from Italian by Federica Frisiero