An itinerary around Alfredo Oriani’s hometown, Faenza, discovering the sites that bear his memory.
Italian writer and poet (born in Faenza 1852 – Casola Valsenio 1909), he was the author of novels, political and social critiques, artistic and historical writings.
A few steps away from the Cathedral and Piazza della Libertà, it is in XX Settembre Road where Oriani was born on August 22nd 1852, third son of Luigi, a wealthy lawyer, and Clementina Bertoni. Oriani lived here for 10 years, when he left hometown to attend the prestigious San Luigi Boarding School in Bologna.
The house is easy to recognize because of a stone remembering Alfredo with the words of historian Piero Zama (1886-1984). Thanks to his in depth knowledge of Fascism and Oriani’s character, he wrote: “when alive he suffered isolation and loneliness, when dead he was loudly and deeply offended”, making a reference to Mussolini’s exploitation of Oriani’s writings, even elevating him to a pioneer of Fascism.
Between the 18th and 19th centuries, many were the cafès in Faenza were intellectuals and patriots got together.
Among these, Orfeo cafè, which moved from Ladeschi Palace to a new location in Loggia dei Signori, on the corner between piazza della Libertà and Mazzini Avenue, with an eye-catching ceramic sign designed by Achille Calzi.
The cafè was often visited by Oriani, coming from Casola Valsenio with his buggy or riding his bike. In the fresh rooms of Orfeo cafè, on a Sunday in July 1897 Oriani awaited in vain his friend Aldo Orlandi before leaving for his cycling adventure in Romagna and Tuscany, described in his book “La Bicicletta”.
This deed made him the first “cycling tourist in history”: a journey of a month from Faenza to Siena and Pisa, among dusty roads and taverns, without a planned destination but guided by the pleasure of travelling. Oriani’s bike is exhibited in his House Museum in Via Cardello, 15 in Casola Valsenio.
Inside the Council Room of the city hall, a bronze altorilievo representing Oriani’s face, by Domenico Rambelli (Faenza, 1886 - Roma 1972).
The artist is considered one of the most significant Italian sculptors of Century. The bronze portrait stands on a marble plaque surrounded by bronze “flames of passion”. One rare copy of the piece is visible at Oriani’s House Museum Il Cardello.
When leaving the city hall, it is worth a visit to Salone delle bandiere (flag room), where the five banners representing the Rioni of Faenza are exhibited: every year, the 5 neighborhoods relive the Medieval challenge of the Palio del Niballo.
The origins of Faenza library, so called Manfredian, date back to the end of the 18th century. Opened to the public in 1818, a couple of years later it was moved to today’s address, Via Manfredi 14, in a former monastery.
The library was enriched by manuscripts, books and documents thanks to the work of many directors, among them Piero Zama. Remarkable is the Ancient section, enclosing beautifully decorated rooms, ancient codes, medieval manuscripts and the richest and oldest musical collection (XIV and XV century).
Here, the documentation about Oriani is very rich: non only his most famous pieces are kept here, but many essays and papers on his writings and his thoughts, along with many unpublished letters. Donated to the Library in 1934, a bronze bust by Pietro Fabbri is exposed in the consultation room. It is possible to have a look at a digital version of a section dedicated to the Oriani portrait by Rambelli.
Located on the South side of Piazza del Popolo, Palazzo delle Poste was designed and carried out by architect Cesare Bazzani, on order of Mussolini.
The palace features a tower with a roof terrace, used by the Fascist regime to celebrate Oriani with a lunette in Istrian stone by Giuseppe Casalini and a plaque with some verses taken from “La rivolta ideale” (1908). It was in this harsh and contradictory piece, Oriani’s spiritual testament, that Fascism read a prophecy of the regime.
Built in 1796, the Municipal Art Gallery is the most ancient museum facility in Romagna and exhibits more than 200 art pieces.
It preserves a fragment of the great altarpiece by Guido Reni, with Holy Mary and Saint Francis and Catherine, made in 1613 for the Franciscan monastery and destroyed during the 1944 bombings.
A rare copy of this piece is visible at Cardello, located over the door leading to the noble floor.
In the Municipal Art Gallery there is also a series of drawings by Domenico Baccarini, portraying Alfredo Oriani. Some portraits of Alfredo on his inseparable bicycle are kept at Cardello as well, by Calzi and Giuseppe Gheba.
The most significant sculpture dedicated to Alfredo Oriani by Rambelli was made with gypsum but never transformed into bronze by the artist.
Only after his passing, in 1990, the piece was molded in two copies: one of them was placed in Largo Loki by Faenza Municipality in the same year. In this sculpture, which took over 10 years to finish, it is possible to identify the robust and synthetized sculptural solutions typical of the artist’s best period. The first drawings date back to the ‘20s, modified many times until the end of the ‘60s. A creative path, documented by drawings and photographs talking about the evolution of the style through the progress in the art piece: starting from Oriani represented with a long beard transforming then into a very emotive figure, without any details. Most of these drawings are kept in the Manfredian Library.
At the back of the building is the eye-catching Rossi rotonde: built in 1830, it was made to be an ice-house and a panoramic point.
Not far away, the bronze monument by Angelo Biancini represents Oriani holding the handlebars and wheel of his beloved bicycle.
The sculpture was made in 1958 and inaugurated on October 11th 1959 in Casola Valsenio, during the 50th anniversary of Oriani’s passing. The monument we see today is actually a copy that Biancini made for his personal collection, donated then to Faenza Municipality. It was placed here in January 1988, a few weeks after the artist’s passing.
Last suggestion to enjoy Faenza: do not leave without a visit to MIC International Museum of Ceramics, the greatest collection of ceramic art pieces in the world.