The Wisdom Circle

By Pierangeli Fontana, director of the municipal library of Santarcangelo.

 

“Toh, e circal de giudeizi!” [“Wow, a club of the wise “] That’s how some jovial Santarcangiolese, with Romagnole sarcasm, began to call a group of young and restless intellectuals from Santarcangelo; a group of friends who after the war started to meet together, first in the home of Nino Pedretti and then in one of town’s cafes. They used to meet at the cafe Trieste (then owned and managed by the parents of the poet Raffaella Baldini), where they would talk about everything and anything: politics, literature, painting, music, cinema, to organise a film club, or even just to play pinball or table football.

At that time there was a particular atmosphere of intense passion and high hope. It was possible to get to know authors and books that had hitherto been unavailable or banned: there were new music styles (jazz) and new trends in film (chiefly Italian neorealism).  This fostered the emergence of a group that was “noisy, pugnacious and uninhibited and noticeably disturbed the leisurely pace of the town’s life” (Gianni Fucci), and inspired it to take a particular interest in the new and experimental developments that were then taking place, both in Italy and abroad, in various cultural and artistic fields.

The group was initially formed by Flavio Nicotine, Nino Pedretti, and Raffaello Baldini: it then expanded thanks to the stimulus of Tonino Guerra who had just returned from a German detention camp. The latter brought to Santarcangelo a group of artists from the Roman working-class suburb of “Portonaccio”; Renzo Vespignani, Graziella Urbinati and Marcello Muccini, supporters of  neorealism in the visual arts. The local artists Federico Moroni, Giulio Turci and Lucio Bernardi became involved straight away.

The young Rina Macrelli and Gianni Fucci also join the group.  Every now and then Tito Balestra would cycle to the meetings from Longiano and Alberto Sughi would come from Cesena. The presence of Augusto Campana, during his brief but frequent trips back to Santarcangelo, was also important.

From the late 40’s and especially during the early 50’s, the group slowly started to dispese; some of the leading lights began moving to big cultural cities. “Then” – Flavio Nicolini  remembers – “ the group broke up: the poetic experience of anguish and despair changed us all. Lello Baldini went to Milan, Nino Pedretti remained in Santarcangelo but had already begun searching for new experiences and places. Tonino Guerra moved to Rome. And it was there his cinematographic career started […].  I come and go between Santarcangelo and Rome”.

Thus the experience of the “Wisdom Circle” came to an end, but the more mature and significant work of its members was just the beginning to develop. “The story of this unique episode still has to be written” Stefano Pivato noted a few years ago. There are still some important questions that need be answered. Why, in a town that in 1951 only had twelve thousand inhabitants, was there such an artistic and literary explosion? And how did Santarcangelo come to have the simultaneous presence of artists, who, in their own way and in different fields (literature, film, television and painting), had such an influence in the national culture? And again: what were the stimuli that arose during this experience and how did they subsequently influence the mature work of these artists?

 

Bibliography:

– E circal de giudeizi: un ricordo di Nino Pedretti – Gianni Fucci (Longo, 1987)

– E circal de giudéizi: Santarcangelo di Romagna nell’esperienza culturale del secondo dopoguerra. Catalogo della mostra: arti figurative (Simonetta Nicolini), letteratura (Manuela Ricci), cinema e televisione (Gianfranco Miro Gori). Santarcangelo di Romagna 16 dicembre 2000 – 7 gennaio 2001. (Clueb, 2000)

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