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Wisdomless: tattoos, cocktails and time travel

By Tommaso Lavizzari
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13 min read
Fabrizio Ghilardi and Whiskey Bulleit, Wisdomless Club

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Fabrizio Ghilardi is the Manager of Wisdomless. Wisdomless is an idea, a project, a whole world, born probably from one of his headaches, and shared with a group of very close-knit friends. 

“Wisdomless is a Cocktail Club, Tattoo Parlour, and Art Gallery. There is no other place where you can lose yourself, like you can do at the Wisdomless Club. You enter a world suspended in time, from day to late night, in an extraordinary setting in the center of Rome: the Foresteria of Palazzo Boncompagni Duchi di Sora. The travel context is the Roaring Twenties, among alligators, sports memorabilia, and historical and artistic relics that capture you like in a Wünderkammer”.

Wisdomless

We are in Rome, more precisely in Via Sora at number 33, the home of the Wisdomless Club, which used to be in Copenhagen and that tomorrow could be in any part of the world, just like Fabrizio Ghilardi. 

Wisdomless is an art gallery, but it is also a refined and welcoming place where you can satisfy your cravings for beauty and for excellent cocktails and spirits, a place where the tattoo art is represented by a team of great artists, ready to decorate you in an unforgettable way. The drink list changes periodically, according to the season, particular events, or just the desire for experimentation. Wisdomless is an idea, and like all ideas, it was born to travel, in space and in time. 

Wisdomless

I’ve known you for over ten years when you were still a writer, and I wouldn’t know how to define you today. So I leave the burden to you. 

“Hmm, it’s hard to give your own presentation. I’d say it’s all right to call myself a chrononaut, with a marked tendency towards slacker and flâneur. Other times when I was asked this, I cut it short and said that I’ve been doing porn for years because no one would ever admit to having seen pornographic films. Actually, I should have become a scholar of medieval Swedish food history, you know, those things from the school of the Nouvelle Histoire, the expression of the École des Annales, the French historiographic methodology… Well, I made different choices in life. Although maybe I should have continued that line of study.” 

You see why I preferred to leave it to you? If I might add: a manager of a Club and the soul of Wisdomless, flâneur by vocation, and the profession you have already explained it. 

How did you personally experience this period of quarantine? 

“When the media started talking about pandemic, contagion, patient zero, death, I just wrote a laconic comment explaining how this new-imposed truth, the pandemic of the new virus, was experienced as an epistemological obstacle. As if to say, something new has been established, and without any critical examination, everything has been closed down, we have been locked in our homes, and even the Mass has been banned. And as long as they ban post-conciliar Mass, that’s fine with me. But it was impossible to oppose the single thought with a conceptually different vision. Therefore, I claimed my right to lightness (Wisdomless, without the weight of judgment, thus with lightness, Editor’s note) and idiocy. As Boris Vian said: 

“…talking nonsense, nowadays when everyone is thinking deeply, is the only way to prove one’s freedom and independence of thought.”

Boris Vian

And, being a chrononaut, I’ve traveled through time and space. Xavier De Maistre traveled in his room; I walked in the – cramped – rooms of my brain and in my bookcase. I made intellectual flannels. And I wrote. Soon some of my short stories will be published by Idrovolante Edizioni”. 

Wisdomless

Today no short stories; we must concentrate on Wisdomless. Things are already complicated enough… Tattoos, cocktails, art, antiques, clothing, music, literature: 

Wisdomless isn’t just a club. It’s a whole world. How was it born? 

“Wisdomless was born from my desire to live intensely the personal relationship I have with Beauty, with antiquity, with travel, with Faith. Darwin Pastorin, a dear friend of mine and above all an excellent journalist (he has been a sensation in these days, Editor’s note) talking about me wrote this: 

“Fabrizio Ghilardi is not merely a writer; he is a rebel, a dreamer, a fugitive. A storyteller, a poacher of memories, one who faces the present recovering confetti and the afterglow from the past”.

Darwin Patorin

I think this is the foundation on which Wisdomless was born. Without judgment, also with lightness. That is the meaning of Wisdomless; it doesn’t necessarily represent something wrong. Drawing inspiration from Eichendorff, who in his tale Life of a Wisdomless narrates fairytale adventures and nature walks, as by the French surrealists of the 1920s who organized the mundane and disorienting walks of the Parisian flâneurs, the fortunate gentlemen of Wisdomless seem to have stepped out of Hugo Pratt’s shoes. 

Elegant, tattooed, bons vivants, we narrate of pilgrims with tattooed arms and Wunderkammer suspended in time, in an enchanting place, the Foresteria dei Boncompagni Duchi di Sora, in the Parione district in Rome. A place full of wonders: a cross between Jules Verne’s inventions and a cabinet of curiosities, where among bones and alligators, ancient engravings and daggers from the Far East, we do tattoos, drink classic and original cocktails, dream and travel in the rooms of the Club. 

A bit like De Selby, the character created by Flann O’Brien, that traveled with his thoughts, challenging common conventions, a glimpse into the canvas of established beliefs, a defiance of the dominant scientific and social paradigms”. 

Just like Wisdomless, without any judgment and with lightness. First Rome and then Copenhagen, the theme of travel is at the base of Wisdomless: was it born from the passion for tattoos? 

“For me, Copenhagen represented a temporary reunion with Northern Europe, where I had already lived for a long time, especially in Sweden. The tattoo studio we had in Denmark is currently closed: not being a tattoo artist myself, I found it difficult to deal with something that required kind of expertise from mine. My passion for tattooing was born from what is represented in the past. It was a sign of freedom, today it is much more widespread, and it has partly lost a part of its symbolism and meaning. But not for everyone. It was not a farewell to Copenhagen, I’m waiting for different scenarios.” 

I know you have plans concerning a journey, a particularly evocative one involving the Orient Express. Do you want, and can you talk about this, or you prefer something else? 

“No, right now, I want a Campari. But the journey is the deepest motive that moves Wisdomless. Orient Express and Trans-Siberian Railway are two of the projects in progress, and we’re working on them. We also had other projects planned with Diageo, after developing the theme of tattooing and travel through some cocktails mixed with bourbon whiskey Bulleit.

Wisdomless

Now I’m going to have a drink and then I’ll decide if I want to tell you about it. For example, now I would like to talk about how beautiful Rome is, even the one that has disappeared. For instance, I’ve traveled a lot in this period, in the Borgo thorn (the houses demolished to open the street Conciliazione in front of St. Peter’s, Editor’s note) and in the Alexandrian Quarter (the area that made room for the excavations in front of the Arco de’ Pantani, the Forums, Editor’s note). And when I travel, the projects become so many…”. 

How did you cope with the lockdown? From both the tattoo parlor and the club’s point of view? 

After all the whoppers told about the virus, and after the fear with which they fed the Italians, we closed down and dedicated ourselves to the improvements to the Club while waiting for a reopening that I see quite far away, I would say directly in September. In ancient times, when there was the danger of contagion from diseases, it was said: 

Mox yields (leave as soon as possible), Longe recedes (refugee far away), Tarde redi (return late). 

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Our Prime Minister is truly a great interpreter of Surrealism: he puts the mask on, he tells us how far we have to stay away, he organizes informers and social distances in the street and on the premises, he threatens with fines. Well, that’s not exactly what it takes to start again, but I guess he can’t say: “Ladies and gentlemen, we were pulling your leg, you can go out, we were all wrong, the numbers we told you and everything we told you was a joke.” So they’re going to hold on, cling to their seats, and I hope that by September they’ll give us a normal life back before we decide to do it on our own”. 

Wisdomless

I take it you can’t wait to get going again. However, you have decided not to reopen until September, a very responsible and courageous choice. A solution that I would call pataphysics (Science of Imaginary Solutions, by its creator Alfred Jarry, Editor’s note) like your Monday night drinks between jazz music and elegance, which I know you have become a reference point in the Capital, both for the people of Rome and for a wide international public that often comes to your place. 

I understand that there are no conditions to recreate that atmosphere at the moment, is that the reason? 

“A club like ours is the antithesis of social distancing. It’s a very large club, but to bear its fruits, even in terms of costs/revenues, it has to make money. With thirty people a day, all separated and with masks, I can’t reopen, it’s too expensive. And what’s more, people are afraid; they read the news that without any foundation feeds terror. I’ve seen guys go around in masks even on their bikes or during sports activities. The situation is dramatic. When we’ll reopen, we’ll go back to music and live shows. Not just magic.” 

Wisdomless

Are you worried about tourism in Rome? How do you see the city, a city that you know it like the back of your hand? 

“We’ve overcome some more severe problems, from the sack of the Goths to that of the Lanzichenecchi; we’ll overcome this too. Rome is beautiful. Since when Conte from the height of his paternalism, advised by his court – the task force allowed us the Romans to go out, I’ve walked around a lot. The beauty of Rome is touching. Sometimes without tourists, it’s even more beautiful, but I hope Conte won’t notice it; otherwise, he’ll close it to tourists forever. 

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You are a fantastic cook and an ambassador of traditional Roman cuisine in Europe. I remember the dinner that you prepared in Sweden where some locals wanted to teach you how to make Carbonara… and you had to explain to them in Swedish, which you speak fluently, that what they are used to is the Carbonara they eat abroad, not in Rome. 

Will Wisdomless make new developments in the kitchen too? 

I genuinely love tradition. It has been slightly more than forty years since La grande bouffe (1973), a cult and controversial film by Marco Ferreri, where the protagonists decide to commit suicide in an orgy of food and sex. Together we have often reflected about radical chic food, pre-cooked food for unsuspecting tourists, binge eating, and, why not, greed and deadly sins. 

Because there is a difference between eating like a radical chic, like an unsuspecting tourist, like a greedy person and then a like Wisdomless gentleman. One creates halls of taste, places of culinary excellence, places for the most refined of palates, but local traditions die, restaurants disappear, taverns leave their vests away, and transform themselves. 

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The radical chic will always be happy to eat anything with an inspiring name, as they’ll never understand anything about cuisine anyways, they will never understand anything, actually. Then the tourists, who know how it is possible that they always choose restaurants that look like canteens of charities and manage to spend as if they were at Bulgari, will always be satisfied and understand less than radical chic. Finally, the greedy ones will continue to eat just to fill their stomach and will be ready to manifest all their stupidity with bloatedness. 

Sons of hedonism, of the consumer society, capable only of destroying and bringing destruction.

The excess that hurts to the point of killing. The sin of gluttony that kills the body and the soul, the deforming greed. Evagrio Pontico, an oriental monk of the fourth century, called it gastrimargia – the madness of the stomach – one of the principal deadly vices, the unbridled gluttony. What Basil of Caesarea – also a friend of Evagrius’ – called the mother of all passions

Eating is one of the primary needs of man, but the nourishment is combined with pleasure. One must eat to live, but one must also enjoy good food, as Saint John Cassian used to say to his monks: “since the pleasure comes naturally from eating, it is not a bad thing.” 

To eat yes, but eat well. Food should be considered for what it is: an expression of joy and thanksgiving for the goodness of the creatures given by God and transformed by that refined cultural form and language of love that is the cuisine. 

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This is practically the message of Wisdomless.

Its associates will not end up at dinner with the radical chic who eat anything with an exotic-weird-traditional-fun name or well-decorated but tasteless foods, nor with the tourists who wander around Rome like troubled souls in search of a classic restaurant for tourists. And above all, they won’t end up in Hell like the greedy ones, who in the sixth canto of the Divine Comedy are forced to swallow slush produced by an incessant cold black rain. 

But what we will eat at Wisdomless will be something completely different. If the theme is travel, we will also travel with our palate. But we are always taking into great consideration the culinary and cultural traditions of other countries”. 

Fabrizio Ghilardi, Wisdomless Club

We’ve known each other for a few years. I share your not-so-subtle disappointment with the devaluation of Italian cuisine at home and abroad. This, however, is a long discussion that we will go into elsewhere. If I ever go back to being a host, we may do something together… 

Freeing the writer in you: what are the city and the historical period that you would like to bring to Wisdomless? 

“I would keep it in Rome. To invite all the artists and men of culture from all ages and from all over the world. I would like to see Seneca chat with Alfred Jarry. I would like Seneca to say to him: “It’s not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we don’t dare that things are difficult!” and I would like Jarry to answer him: “Courage is a state of calm and tranquility in the presence of danger, a state strictly similar to that in which one is when there is no danger.” Just imagine how drinking together would be like. 

Written by
Tommaso Lavizzari
Tommaso Lavizzari. Freelance Journalist, author and content creator. He was director of Sport Tribune and Soccer Illustrated. He speaks and writes about sports and lifestyle for various magazines, newspapers, radio and TV. He creates editorial content for different brands and companies. He published with Francesco Aldo Fiorentino "SURF. Big Wednesday 40 years later" for Mondadori and "SURFPLAY" per Passamonti Editore.
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