Liberty style, developed in Europe during the Belle Epoque, has involved every artistic and artisanal field, from architecture to home design, from graphics to performance art, from stained glass windows to illustrated postcards.
It’s the triumph of the curved, serpentine, elegant and plant- and floral-inspired line.
Liberty-decò aesthetic taste in Salsomaggiore Terme left its mark not only on the thermal buildings but also on the most prestigious hotels, private houses and many other buildings built in the city until the ’30s.
The entire city with its signs, railings, gates, balconies, canopies, billboards and decorative elements of buildings, took inspiration from the plant kingdom, transforming itself into a marvellous “man-made park”, in perfect harmony with the architecture of the town’s parks and gardens and the decorative elements of the flowerbeds.
The Tour begins in piazza Lorenzo Berzieri. In front of the majestic thermal spa building there is the Scotti Well Cage, an old artesian well of bromo-iodine-salt waters, whose cage is made of wrought iron with braids of branches and leaves, clearly a Liberty style example. Opposite is the noble Liberty Lorenzo Berzieri spa building, dating from 1923.
The imposing Palace is one of the most complex and interesting buildings of the city, a symbol of European thermalism and of the city of Salsomaggiore Terme, and it is a unique example of thermal Art Deco style. The painter and decorative artist, Galileo Chini, was entrusted with the building’s decorative features, which reveal elements clearly borrowed from oriental culture.
The Liberty building is registered in the Cultural Heritage of Emilia Romagna and inside you can visit an exhibition of artistic ceramics, produced by Chini furnace in Borgo San Lorenzo (Florence), used for the building’s decorations.
Next to the Berzieri spa stands the Warowland Building, in neo-medieval style, built in 1914 as a project by the architect Orsino Bongi. The customer, count Ladislao Tyszkiewicz, resident in Milan where he already managed a thriving modern art gallery, used the location as a prestigious branch of his gallery. Today it houses the IAT Tourist Information Office.
Leave Piazza Berzieri and continue towards Mazzini Park (1913), a historical urban park registered in the Cultural Heritage of Emilia Romagna. In the past, the park was known as “Regina Margherita Park”, in honour of Queen Margherita of Savoy, once a regular visitor to the town. The green area preserves a typical Italian garden, a lake and many of the trees date back to when the park was originally planted. A botanic route called “Gli Alberi della Regina” lets visitors discover the most important trees. The original design of the park was drawn up in 1912 by the architect Giuseppe Roda, heir to the famous Turin-born landscape architects dynasty, who for the creation of this garden was inspired by the typical canons of the Liberty period.
The tour continues with a visit to the historical building of the Railway Station (1935) in white and pink travertine. The station was designed by the engineer Cervi, who took his inspiration, in reduced version, from Milan’s Central Station. The Station has remarkable arched windows, adorning the two main facades, one facing the square and the other the platform. Of great interest the large coffered ceiling in the atrium, in Art Deco style, and the fountain with five spouts on the railway platform which, with other decorative elements, allude to the theme of water.
Going up the avenue in Mazzini Park, you will meet the Luigi Zoja thermal spa, of modern imprint, and Corazza Park, which before being turned into a lush park flanking the popular promenade of Viale Romagnosi, it was an expanse of lawn used as a drying green by the adjacent Dalla Rosa thermal spa complex (which no longer exists) for their bath sheets and towels. Renovated in 2007, today the park is home to “The Witch” (La Strega), a sculptural work by Cristoforo Marzaroli. The statue depicts an old lady sitting on a chair, leaning forward with her elbows resting on her knees. A number of elements indicate that she is probably a witch or a sorceress: a wand and the book she is holding in her hands, plus a toad, a snake and a cauldron at her feet. Initially made in plaster (the original is now housed in the plaster casts gallery of the Paolo Toschi Art Institute in Parma), it can now be admired by the entire town thanks to the “Marzaroli Committee”, which commissioned the sculptor Gianantonio Cristalli to produce a copy in bronze. The statue was cast using the lost wax method at the Caggiati Foundry in Colorno. Its installation in the centre of the park and the subsequent unveiling took place in March 2006.
The last stop of the tour is the Conference Centre, going up viale Romagnosi. The palace was known as Grand Hotel des Thermes (1901). The historical building was originally a magnificent luxury hotel. Hotel management was initially entrusted to two known hotel entrepreneurs: Cesare Ritz and baron Pfyffer, who already boasted a portfolio of prestigious hotels in various European cities, which played in their favour, allowing them to attract an elite international clientele. After First World War, the building was enlarged with the creation of a new extension, comprising the Moorish Room (Salone Moresco), the Red Tavern (Taverna Rossa) and a loggia. The renovations were directed by Ugo Giusti and Florentine artist Galileo Chini. The latter is responsible for the pictorial decorations of the interior rooms, inspired by the Moorish style, and the reconstruction of the dome of the Caryatids Room (Sala della Cariatidi).