Romagna land of Spungone Route of Personalities
Maybe not everyone knows that Bertinoro is linked to the memory of some great personalities of the past, from the great theatrical actor Ermete Novelli to the poet and senator Aldo Spallicci.
Following their traces could be the chance to discover some lesser-known aspects of the “Balcony of Romagna” and its surrounding area.
Aldo Spallicci in Santa Maria Nuova
The route begins on the plain, in the hamlet of Santa Maria Nuova, which extends beyond Via Emilia.
This is where Aldo Spallicci, a leading figure of the intellectual world of Romagna, was born in 1886. A doctor by profession, he was involved in politics from a young age, in the ranks of the Republican Party (for which he was elected first to the Constituent Assembly and then to the Senate), Spallicci also enjoyed an intense literary and cultural activity focused in particular on the identity of Romagna. He wrote articles and historical essays, founded and directed the cultural newspapers "Il Plaustro" and "La Piê" and was the author of poems that elevated the Romagna dialect to literary language. He is credited with the verses of 'A gramadora', one of the most famous songs of the local tradition.
To remember him, a monument signed by the Roman sculptor Sandro Pagliuchi stands in his native town.
An interesting fact: in the 16th century Villa Cavalli - located in the countryside of Santa Maria Nuova. Here - is supposed to have hosted the very young Aldo Spallicci who lived here for a while and Lord Byron during his stay to Italy.
Ermete Novelli in Bertinoro
From Santa Maria Nuova climbing up the hill of Bertinoro, on the traces of Ermete Novelli who at the turn of the19th and 20th centuries was one of the most well-known Italian theatre and cinema actors. He was accidentally born in Lucca, where his father worked with a theatre company, but his roots were set solidly in Bertinoro: he descended, in fact, from one of the oldest and noblest families of the town, who also owned one of the rings of the Hospitality Column.
The bond with Bertinoro was so strong throughout his life, that in 1902 he gifted the town with a theatre (destroyed during the war) and bought a house in front of which there is a commemorative bust located in the square dedicated to him. In 2002 a prize was established in his honour, which is awarded every two years to great interpreters of the Italian theatre; It has been received by Mario Scaccia, Arnoldo Foà, Franca Valeri, Glauco Mauri, among others. Some memorabilia belonging to Novelli are kept in the Town Hall.
Giosuè Carducci in Polenta
The thousand-year-old parish church of San Donato, in the hamlet of Polenta, is linked to the memory of Giosuè Carducci. The poet, in fact, often visited it during his walks around Bertinoro, when he was a guest of Countess Silvia Pasolini Zanelli in her villa in Lizzano di Cesena, and he dedicated to this church the famous ode "The Church of Polenta”. Probably built during the 8th and 9th centuries by the Longobards, despite the various renovations over time, the church still retains many elements of the original building of Romanesque style with a basilica plan of three aisles. And probably inspired by the inner atmosphere Carducci wondered “Did Dante maybe kneel here?” A plausible theory, since the immortal author of the Divine Comedy during his stay in Ravenna was hosted by the da Polenta family which originally came from here. Carducci's presence is now remembered by a bust, placed in the churchyard. Every year some events such as the Carducci gathering and Dante's cycle of lectures are also held at the church.
Hesperia between Bertinoro and Meldola
Among the first divas of Italian cinema at the beginning of the 20th century, was Hesperia, the stage name of Olga Mambelli originally from Romagna. She was born in Bertinoro and raised in Meldola. Between 1912 and 1923 Hesperia rivalled stars of the calibre of Francesca Bertini, filming about seventy films, most of which have unfortunately been lost. And there is practically no trace of her in the two towns where she spent the first half of her life. However, the Hesperia Arena, an elegant four-sided portico dating back to the second half of the 19th century where the silkworm market once took place, is dedicated to her memory and was named after the diva of silent film in the nineties of the 20th century. However on entering the delightful theatre Dragoni di Meldola, built at the beginning of the 19th century and still open today, one can imagine that here the young Olga assisted her first plays and decided to become an actress.
Felice Orsini in Meldola
The most famous citizen from Meldola is undoubtedly the patriot Felice Orsini, who was among the protagonists of the Roman Republic and was executed in France for attempting to murder Napoleon III. Orsini was born in the imposing building that stands on Meldola's main square (now named after Orsini) and that belonged first to the Borghese Aldobrandini family and then to the Doria Pamphili princes; after being used, in later eras as barracks and even as a prison, today it houses municipal offices and the painting collection by Maria Giuditta Versari .
On the opposite side of the square stands the 18th-century Town Hall, with the typical Clock Tower on which the municipal coat of arms and a bronze medallion that portrays Felice Orsini stand out. while a headstone recalls the figure and the resounding gesture of protest with which he claimed the right of the Italian people to have a united and free homeland.