Romagna in the art of Tonino Guerra, the poet Fellini loved

Author Silvia Novelli contributor
Amount of Images 5 Immagini
Calendar 15/04/2020
Time passed Tempo di lettura 6 min

There is a parcel of Romagna that is steeped in poetry.

It is a strip of land that caresses the Marche region, fondles Tuscany and seems to want to soar as far as the sea of Rimini – but stops just short of it: its nature is more bucolic, more reserved. It is the valley traced by the Marecchia river, where Tonino Guerra’s literary and poetic universe found inspiration and life.

Born in Sant’Arcangelo di Romagna, not far from Rimini, on 16 March 1920, he died there, in March, 92 years later. Guerra was a poet, writer, screenwriter and in his late life also a landscape sculpture artist and painter.

After having experienced labor camps in Nazi Germany, he studied pedagogy in Urbino, worked in the Cinecittà (where La Dolce Vita had come to life) and made Russia his adopted homeland, thanks to his second wife. In the 80s Guerra returned to Romagna and settled in Pennabilli, a village of three thousand surrounded by woods and hills.

Let’s stop here, because Pennabilli is a name that feels like poetry.

It could be the name of a fairy tale town, the place where a princess waits to be woken or where elves live. The “pen” part actually has nothing to do with writing but comes from the Latin word “pinna” (“summit”). But we like to see a correlation – predestination – with the art of Tonino Guerra, who made narration his work all his life, ever since he returned from the Troisdorf concentration camp and began studying, teaching, writing poetry and screenplays.

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Poetry, beauty and optimism were his values: it is no coincidence that in the early 2000s he was chosen to represent the Unieuro brand in commercials that became iconic thanks to the unforgettable claim “Optimism is the scent of life”.

After returning to Romagna, Guerra gave life to artistic installations in Pennabilli that form what is now called “The world of Tonino Guerra”, a “widespread” museum, a living place where people meet and exchange views. Somewhere you can find inspiration by exploring the “places of the soul” created by Tonino’s visionary imagination.

The Garden of Forgotten Fruit

Among the most significant “places” – as well as the first to be created – there is the garden created with the help of nurseryman Carlo Pagani, which houses extinct wild plants from the Apennines. A true magical garden that brings to light scents of the past.

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Among other installations with evocative names such as “The Arch of Fairy Tales”, the “Enchanted Wood” or the “Mulberry of Peace”, planted by the Dalai Lama during his visit to Pennabilli in 1994, we arrive at the “Encounter Sundial”, with two bronze pigeons on a stone, which between three and four in the afternoon reveals two profiles of lovers kissing: these are Federico Fellini and his wife Giulietta Masina.

With Fellini, at his creative side

Fellini also came from Romagna. Fellini, like Guerra, was born in 1920. A lifelong friend and a working and creative partner.

Tonino and Federico began working together after Guerra had already worked at Cinecittà with directors as great as Antonioni, and together they wrote the history of cinema with works such as “E la nave va”, “Ginger e Fred” but above all “Amarcord”, a film that won the Oscar for best foreign film in 1974, directed by Fellini and written together with Guerra (the film was also nominated for best original screenplay).

A work of total syncretism in which the two artists, united by a poetic, oneiric, visionary vision, brought together their popular roots, memories of childhood and adolescence, the epic of the “village”, of a province that cannot be precisely identified. A universal province.

Another place of the soul is dedicated to his friend Fellini and Giulietta Masina: the “Field of names” in Petrella Guidi, in the village of Sant’Agata Feltria, a silent witness of the days spent by Federico and Giulietta observing the panorama.

The “Fountain of the Snail” is also in Sant’Agata Feltria: made with about 300 thousand mosaic tiles, it reveals Tonino in a nutshell: snails are the symbol of slow constancy, opposed to the growing frenzy of the modern world – very distant from Guerra’s life.

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Un post condiviso da Tonino Guerra (@nelmondoditoninoguerra) in data:

And then there is the “Sundial Road”, with shadows reproducing famous paintings, the “Petrified Garden”, with seven ceramic carpets made by the sculptor Giò Urbinati (from Rimini) and dedicated to personalities such as Ezra Pund, Giotto and Dante, the “Sanctuary of Thoughts” with its seven stones, emblem of Tonino Guerra’s spirituality, and the “Refuge of the abandoned madonnas”, a collection of the sacred representations that populated crossroads in Valmarecchia.

In Santarcangelo di Romagna, in the footprints of the two artists

But the place of the soul par excellence for Guerra is probably Santarcangelo: it is no coincidence that he returned here when he knew the end was near. The Tonino Guerra Museum, inaugurated and set up by his son Andrea (a well-known composer of soundtracks) is in Santarcangelo.

In the village, visitors must stop at the Restaurant Enoteca La Sangiovesa: a corner where you can breathe and taste pure Romagna. Located in the central Palazzo Nadiani, La Sangiovesa was born in 1989 when Guerra met the entrepreneur Manlio Maggioli: both were worried about the lack of taverns in the village. Spending an evening in this place means undergoing a journey of flavors and memories in the most authentic Romagna, thanks also to the poet’s many “leftovers”, such as the beautiful tiled stoves that Guerra had local artists create, after having seen them during a trip to Leningrad. And it could not miss one Fellini-esque detail: the tavern logo drawn in the plaque at the entrance – a curvaceous female nude – is signed by great director, who began his career as an illustrator.

For the pics, thanks to DONATELLO BROGIONI/CONTRASTO and to MAXXI museum.

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