Route 77 three years later. By bike on the via Emilia with Giovannino Guareschi bis
Curated by Egidio Bandini
Images graciously provided by Eredi Guareschi
Organised by “Gruppo amici di Giovannino Guareschi”
Three years after ‘Route 77’, that is on the eightieth anniversary (skipped due to Covid and moved to 2022), we retrace the very personal ‘Tour of Italy’ that Giovannino Guareschi made by bicycle, limited to the North and practically all along the Via Emilia and the Po (although he started from Milan, as is clear from the picture he took of himself – which today we would call a ‘selfie’ – at the start in Piazza Castello). After this journey, from which he had returned with some very important discoveries, the father of Peppone and don Camillo explained precisely where to place his very famous ‘Mondo piccolo’ stories: ‘The setting is a piece of the Po Valley: and here it must be made clear that, for me, the Po begins in Piacenza.
The fact that from Piacenza upwards it is always the same river means nothing: the Via Emilia, from Piacenza to Milan, is also always the same road; but the Via Emilia is the one that goes from Piacenza to Rimini. You cannot make a comparison between a river and a road because roads belong to history and rivers to geography. So what? History is not made by men: men are subjected to history as they are to geography’. In these few sentences one should note the different treatment, by Peppone and don Camillo’s father, of the Po river and the Via Emilia: while the Po begins in Piacenza, but only according to Guareschi’s own vision, for the ancient consular road Giovannino has no doubts: he simply says that the Via Emilia is the one that goes from Piacenza to Rimini. Full stop. And it is from here that we too move, in telling you this new, but centuries-old story: the story of a road that, in reality, is destined to become, along its course, much more than a communication route.
The Via Emilia is a symbol, a legend, a myth and, for this very reason, it is exactly the way of life that characterises our and Giovannino’s region: Emilia-Romagna. A region made up of many souls, many hearts, and much magic. A region that Edmondo Berselli described as ‘a land of communists, engines, music, good fun, fat cooking and classy Italians.” In short, the portrait of a dream, of a utopia, of an idealised image that, as in a mirror, is reflected, all of it, on the black asphalt of the Via Emilia. A dark ribbon which, however, in the eyes of those who live along this fantastic road, becomes as transparent as the water of the river, with the many vehicles travelling along it forming a veritable current, to which they abandon themselves in both directions: from the river to the sea and vice versa. They are accompanied by the waltzes of Cantoni and those of Casadei, by Salame Felinese and that of Romagna, by Fellini’s Amarcord and Verdi’s Rigoletto, by the roar of the Ferrari and the caressing sound of the backwash waves, by the blue of the sky reflected in the Great River and by the wild Adriatic that is as green as the mountain pastures.
All the while, from Piacenza to Rimini or vice versa, they follow Guareschi’s tales: to read but also to seek out, to find and to relive under this immense sky above the Po plain where, Riccardo Bacchelli wrote: “Nature spreads, lingers.” A world unlike any other, that of our region because, as Guareschi said, “In that slice of land between the river and the mountain, things can happen that do not happen elsewhere. Things that never clash with the landscape.” Things like the Via Emilia, along which, from Piacenza to Parma, to Bologna, to Cervia, we called five priests to tell us about ‘their Christ’: the ‘Christ of the Via Emilia’. The Christ of the ‘Little World’ of don Camillo and Peppone, who came from the big heart of Giovannino Guareschi.