Discover how Gallarate became an important cultural hub in the early 20th century reflecting the cultural new ideas from nearby Milan.
Culture is nourishment for the soul and has various functions, including facilitating the union between individuals, conveying a sense of identity and belonging, and lastly, defining rules of professional and human interaction. In the aftermath of the unification of Italy, the city of Gallarate, which had about six thousand inhabitants, was caught up in the fervor of national rebirth and was eager to appear on the new Italian scene by offering proposals of high cultural, artistic, cinematographic and musical value.
The presence of a new theater with a casino and gaming room was the means to become a cultural center of particular importance in the new united Italy. It was decided that the new Teatro Sociale would be built where the previous theatre had stood in 1785, near the square that was soon be be named after Giuseppe Garibaldi.
Work began in 1862 and the new theater was inaugurated on 7 December 1864, the day of Sant’Ambrogio, the patron saint of Milan, a date chosen with the intention of favoring a union with “La Scala” in Milan. At the Teatro Sociale in Gallarate there were performances of opera, prose and operetta, and light theater, in particular with the works of Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti and Giuseppe Verdi. Important singers of the time also performed on stage, such as the tenor Augusto Scampini and the soprano Toti dal Monte in the role of Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto performed in 1920, following the classic Milanese performance.
It is no coincidence that the links between these two theatres were very close and the interiors very similar; in the stories of Victor Piceni, one of the most important historical witnesses of Gallarate, the two are described as sumptuous and in the Belle Époque style, with much emphasis on the description of the luxurious decorations, the enormous chandeliers, the white lacquered walls with gilded stuccos and the red velvets of the armchairs and curtains.
Center of the social life
The Teatro Sociale became the center of the social life of the high society of Gallarate who were intrigued by new faces from other cities and thus bearers of novelty and attention. It established itself as the right place to socialize and became the meeting place for nobles: among the first guests were King Umberto of Savoy, politicians, wealthy industrialists of the time, traveling businessmen and high-ranking soldiers from the large nearby military training camp on the moor, now the location of Malpensa airport.
The officers were welcomed into the stately homes of the time and also frequented places of culture, cafés, restaurants and the theater which had become a place promoting cultural awareness. The acting academy was created along with the Bianchi music publishing house, and a periodical of worldly information called Il Cavalier Cortese was founded by Giannino Antona Traversi, where articles discussed the clothing and love affairs of the people who frequented the Theater.
From these publications we read, for example, that the Neapolitan Vittorio Imbriani, a member of Garibaldi’s 5th regiment, met Luigia of the noble Rosnati family from Gallarate, who would go on to become his bride. Even women made their mark in this new cultural scene with the creation of circles dedicated to charitable works and welfare.
The Theater also had a strong patriotic significance. The admiration and respect for the great musician and composer Giuseppe Verdi and his contribution to the Risorgimento was evident, not only in the performance of his works, but also, on the occasion of the centenary of Verdi’s birth in 1913, by the mounting of a plaque in his memory.
Furthermore, the inaugural evening was given over to La Donna Romantica by Giulio Pullè, and on stage, instead of there being a simple smooth velvet curtain, there appeared an authentic work of art; in fact, the large canvas, approximately 10 meters x 8 meters, had been painted by the Milanese painter Gerolamo Induno and depicted Piazza Plebiscito of Naples on 21 October 1860, one of the symbolic events of the Risorgimento, where the characters’ faces had the appearance of the best known Gallaratesi of the time.
The representation was thus described in the brochure: «scene on the seashore, Vesuvius smoking in the background, hearts are joyful, everyone is there, the old masters of redemption, the men who fought the battle, the women who comforted them during the hard years of defeat, the children who will enjoy the freedom they have won.
And middle class gentlemen go arm in arm with the population and with the soldiers. In the background “Viva l’Italia una”, (Hurray for United Italy) they leap like lively hearts, agile, but as fantastic and fresh as the new-found exultation, as if the sea air were swelling them up.» The success of that evening is testified by various chronicles of the time and by a manuscript by the comedian of the time, Gaetano Pasta, in which he stated that “there was a crowd of people, the place was full to bursting”.
A “Romantic” curtain
The curtain was removed from the theater in 1913 and today safely awaits restoration. Gallarate was very active during the Risorgimento. The spirit of independence that flared after Austrian domination was fueled by a sentiment defined as “Romantic”, meant in the sense of patriotic passion. The first Romantic writers, Alessandro Manzoni in particular, treated the question of Italy’s independence and the struggle to achieve this great goal as a political, moral and literary one.
Manzoni was one of the men who inspired the Risorgimento, through his political commitment but also through his writings where he expressed patriotic feelings and a deep religious faith. His work The Betrothed represents a milestone in Italian and international literature. Inspired by this book, in 1961 the lawyer Mario Mazzucchelli wrote the book The Nun of Monza deepening one of Manzoni’s characters, and donating its proceeds to support the costs of the restoration on the centenary of the Basilica.
After years of intense activity as the cultural hub of the city, the Teatro Sociale saw an inexorable decline during the period of the Great Depression resulting from the Wall Street crash of ’29. In 1932, in fact, when the Banca di Gallarate went into liquidation, the city’s economy suffered a true financial and social meltdown causing a scandal involving several leading figures on the political and economic scene.
The first restoration of the theater, dated 1949, led to the elimination of the royal boxes and the rich decorations, and to a new name, “Teatro Condominio”, which reflected the financing by various owners in co-ownership, until it closed in 1997. Four years later, the Municipal Administration bought the entire building which was once again refurbished and inaugurated on 19 April 2006 with the name “Vittorio Gassman Condominium Theater”.
This represented a turning point in the rebirth of Gallarate, strengthening its position as reference point in the cultural panorama of the province of Varese. For many years it was managed by the 1860 Città di Gallarate Cultural Foundation, established with the aim of promoting artistic, cultural and musical activities. Today the theater is successfully managed by the Melarido company and once again spearheads the city of Gallarate which, thanks to its large and avant-garde spaces, can welcome all types of theatrical performances as well as conferences and meetings.
Passion for music and entertainment
The presence of the other three city theatres, Teatro del Popolo, Teatro delle Arti and Teatro Nuovo, each with its own distinct offering of theatre, musicals, ballet, opera and high-level classical music concerts, is testimony to the strength of theatrical arts and a passion for music and entertainment still very present in Gallarate, and to how much the presence of these theaters lends prestige to the area, as do the numerous acting and dance schools, musical associations and city bands.
Of note is the Giacomo Puccini Conservatory, born in the 1970s as a cooperative, which, in 1980, passed under the responsibility of the Municipal Administration. After a four-year journey, in 2021 the Ministry of Public Education granted the accreditation of its courses in piano, clarinet, transverse flute, violin, cello, guitar, opera singing and percussion instruments, in line with state regulation and conferring the titles obtained in the exams the same value as those of the State Conservatories of Music, with the institute becoming to all intents and purposes the Conservatory of the province of Varese, like its Lombard counterparts in Milan, Brescia, Como, Mantua, Bergamo, Pavia and Cremona. In the photo an original invitation card from 1921.
The city had a special relationship with Giuseppe Garibaldi, the hero of the events leading up to the unification of Italy in 1861, who was often a guest at the Albergo dei Tre Re in the square near the centre, where other illustrious personalities such as Napoleon Bonaparte and General Cadorna also stayed.
The hotel has now been replaced by the former Casa del Fascio, a fascist architecture building by the architect Guido Minoletti, but there are still important buildings overlooking the square, such as the Palazzo Borromeo Mazzucchelli whose origin dates back to the 15th century, and which was frequented from 1550 onwards by the Borromeo Arese family and where the aforementioned lawyer Mazzucchelli lived.
There’s also Palazzo Rosnati, where it appears the Empress of Bavaria Elisabeth Amalia Eugenia of Wittelsbach, known as Princess Sissi, was a guest, along with her consort Francesco Giuseppe of Austria, on a visit to attend the military exercises that were held on the moors, and the building that houses the pharmacy which is recognized as one of the most important places of the history of the Risorgimento in the upper Milan area.
The square, which had previously been named piazza d’Armi e Pasquè, was dedicated to Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1885 following the inauguration of the central state, and a statue of Garabaldi was erected, the work of the artist Francesco Confalonieri composed of a flagstone base with a dedication and the star of Italy in bronze and the statue of the leader in white marble depicting him in his military cloak and holding a cap with his right hand against side, and a sword in his left.
An iconic character
The Gallaratese were very fond of Garibaldi, an iconic character considered a real star, who had managed to secure several Gallaratese among his ranks. After the battle of Custoza, in the current province of Verona in 1848, Garibaldi and his Lombard and Piedmontese fighters asked for asylum in the Canton of Ticino in Switzerland. Among the typical activities of the first half of the 19th century, was seeking freedom from oppression from the Austrian foreigner and supporting organizations such as Young Italy founded by Giuseppe Mazzini.
The Gallaratesi who supported the association shuttled between Italy and Switzerland in order to bring messages and sustenance. Proclamations were printed by Giovannino Croci, son of Marino, the first typographer from Gallarate, who took part in the Expedition of the Thousand and was killed when he was only 20 years old. In a subsequent visit to the city, Garibaldi, who was welcomed by the municipal authorities, including the councilor Marino Croci, acknowledged the sacrifice of the young man by embracing his father. An event remembered by the reporters of the time.
Another important patriot was Filippo Guenzati, to whom the small square in front of his home from the early 1800s was dedicated, and who was arrested, tried and sentenced to death, a sentence later reduced to four years of harsh prison in Spielberg in present day Czech Republic, in the same room, number nine, that was previously occupied by Silvio Pellico. When he returned to Gallarate, he was a municipal councilor for many years. Another active Mazzinian patriot, a member of Young Italy, who was also arrested and imprisoned several times, so much so that he had to flee to England and France to escape the Austrians, was Luigi Borghi, who would become a very important figure in the industrial and political history of Gallarate.
His family was among the Italian pioneers of the textile industry. In 1819, in fact, they bought an old mill in Varano, on the Brebbia canal in the province of Varese, turning it into a mechanical spinning mill, a first for Italy. During his forced stays abroad, his nephew Luigi became familiar with the world of industry and gained a lot of experience, and bought a forty-horsepower steam engine at the Universal Exhibition in London in 1851, which he put into operation in Varano the same year, thus replacing hydraulic energy.
Furthermore, along with the pioneers of the industry of Gallarate and nearby Busto Arsizio and Legnano, he founded a company for the importation of raw cotton directly from New Orleans where it was produced. Luigi Borghi had a modern vision for the management of the factory that placed attention not only on production but also on the condition and health of the workers, and on safety regulations and medical health checks.
A great example of how to turn misfortune into opportunity. In the photo is a postcard from 1903 depicting the statue in the center of the square with the Alberto dei Tre Re in the background on the right and the building that houses the pharmacy on the left, the meeting place of the Mazzinians from Gallarate.
As previously mentioned, one of the most important places in the history of the Risorgimento in the upper Milan area is the Dahò pharmacy, whose previous owners belonged to the Castelli family, originally from the neighboring Cardano al Campo, and played a fundamental role in the Risorgimento. Giuseppe Castelli was already a protagonist of the uprisings of 1848 in Milan, and they felt such a great desire to collaborate with the citizens that they made the place a meeting point for the most fervent patriots.
Important characters such as lawyers, notaries, doctors but also farmers and workers met in the basement. The independence movement was rooted not only among the men who fought on the front line, but also, for example, among the priests who made passionate, patriotic speeches to the citizens, urging them to fight, and even risking prison themselves. Some parts of their speeches are emblematic: “we reject the fearful and traitors because they lead us to ruin”, “be brave, smile at the prospect of danger because behind danger there is victory and glory”.
The Dahò pharmacy was also the place that inspired the setting of the first act scene in the 1891 play “Romanticism” by Gerolamo Rovetta, which was meant to represent patriotic sentiment and love for Italy fighting for its independence. Today the pharmacy has moved to another street in Gallarate, and the fate of the original furnishings is unknown following construction events and controversial legal proceedings, but a commemorative plaque remains at the site. In the photo the original interior. Photos from the book by Orazio Cammarata Gallarate postcards and historical sketches.
Luigi Majno and Ersilia Bronzini
In 1867, thanks to Cavalier Cesare Milani, the oldest cultural institution in Gallarate, one of the first in the province of Varese, the People’s Library, was established in the current Piazza Risorgimento. This building became a cultural center that managed to overcome the classic, limiting concept of book conservation. In fact, numerous Gallaratese participated in the cultural evenings organized by the library itself, following a modern vision of a cultural center capable of offering cultural services to citizens and not simply concerned with the mere conservation and loan of books.
It was another example of the great spirit of patronage of the Gallarate entrepreneurs of the time, promoting the culture and diffusion of education and civil progress of the population. The Library currently holds over 200,000 volumes, mostly the result of donations and bequests from Gallarate families. Among the oldest books is the Gallorum Insubrum Antiquae Sedes written in 1541 by Bonaventura Castiglione, where he describes Gallarate a small village at the foot of the hills 24 miles from Milan.
The Encyclopédie des Sciences dating back to the 18th century, set out by Diderot and D’Alembert and considered the first example of a modern encyclopaedia which inspired those that followed, and one of the first great representative manifestos of the European Enlightenment; finally, a collection of edicts, laws and norms printed in the state of Milan between 1640 and 1797, when the duchy passed from Austrian domination to the French, and the Milanese Gridario of the 1600s, to which Manzoni refers, used by the town criers to call out proclamations in the streets to the illiterate population of the time.
The library was then dedicated to the jurist Luigi Majno born in Gallarate in 1852, when, in 1956, it was moved to the former home of Balilla, a fascist architecture building built in the 1930s located in Piazza San Lorenzo. A leading figure in Gallaratese and Milanese culture at the end of the 19th century, from 1889 to 1894, Maino was professor of criminal law and procedure at the University of Pavia, and from 1900 to 1904 he was a socialist deputy in the national Parliament.
Maino was for many years president of the Humanitarian Society, rector of the Bocconi University, councilor for education and delegate of the mayor at the municipality of Milan, and lastly, president of the Milanese Bar Association. He was one of the authors of the Criminal Procedure Code at the end of the 19th century and in 1913. The professor died in Milan in 1915. In Gallarate, in addition to the Library, a middle school is named after him, while in Milan, a middle school and a boulevard of the Cerchia dei Bastioni in the central area of Porta Venezia bear his name.
Along with his wife Ersilia Bronzini he was the promoter of many social initiatives such as support for the Department of Occupational Medicine of the University of Milan, and the foundation of an institute intended for the reception and recovery of girls and adolescents who were victims of violence or initiated into prostitution, which was named after his daughter who died at a young age.
At the time of the foundation of the Mariuccia asylum in 1902, there were five other institutions in Milan dedicated to the shelter and rehabilitation of minors, but they did not set the goal of offering a real chance at redemption, nor attempt to integrate the girls into society and the workplace. Since 2004, it has become a Foundation and an ONLUS (a non profit organisation).
The institute was supported by the National Women’s Union (UFN), a Milanese emancipation association of socialist origin, founded in 1899 by Ersilia herself, which was responsible for protecting women’s rights, both in the social sphere and in the workplace.
Among the initiatives of which Ersilia herself was most proud was that of having contributed to establishing for the first time in the city of Milan, the figure of a charity delegate, a consultant who carries out visits, analyzes needs, explores proposals, formulates innovative projects, as in the case of the “Piscinine”, the nine-year-old female apprentice seamstresses, milliners and ironers made to work between 11 and 14 hours every day.
For them, the Union established the Società delle Piscinine, with the aim of organizing leisure and educational activities in premises granted by the municipality. Thanks to their mobilization, in March 1902, the law for the protection of female and child labor was approved. In Filomena Maffei’s thesis Space, History and Culture: The Milan of Ersilia Majno, from her 2013-2014 Modern Literature degree course at the University of Milan, we read how Ada Negri, writer and frequent visitor of the “Casa Majno” described it:
«the hospitable and industrious House, where so many seeds of goodness germinate and bear fruit, and from which everything is banished that is not pity for those who suffer, fraternity for those who work, struggle for a very high ideal of justice and love”.
Ersilia died in 1933. In the photo by Emilio Sommariva we see Luigi Majno, his wife Ersilia Bronzini and their son Edoardo in their Milanese home in via Pietro Verri in 1914. www.lombardiabeniculturali.it
Aloisianum Philosophical Institute
The city of Gallarate boasts the presence of the prestigious Aloisianum Philosophical Institute, thanks to the generosity and foresight of Countess Rosa Piantanida Bassetti Ottolini, member of the family that owns the Bassetti Manifatture. The institute, dedicated to San Luigi Gonzaga from which the name Luigi in Latin derives, was founded in 1839 as a seminary for aspiring Jesuits. For historical reasons, he was forced to make long wanderings through Italy and settled in Gallarate in 1936, in the hilly area in the Ronchi district.
Countess Rosa Piantanida Bassetti Ottolini
At that time, the area was part of the property of the Bassetti family which included the park created in the 18th century as the garden of the summer residence of the Rosnati noblemen from Gallarate, called “La Costa”, which at the end of the 19th century was purchased and then enlarged by the Bassetti counts who renamed it Villa Rosa. In 1979, the heirs donated a large part of the family garden to the Municipality of Gallarate for the benefit of the community, and, with its 3.56 hectares, it became the largest park in the city, and was characterized by an unusual variety of flora that reflects a refined botanic exoticism that struck many rich industrialists of the province in the mid-1800s.
Countess Rosa’s idea was to build a church near their villa, but Father Beretta, her confessor, suggested that she educate the men first, and then build the church. Thus the Aloisianum was born; it was finished in 1936, equipped with 120 rooms and all the necessary equipment for regular functioning, and was located at the top of a tree-lined avenue. In 1937, the Institute was recognized as a Pontifical Faculty of Philosophy able to confer the academic degree of Licentiate to Jesuit students.
Philosophical Studies Center for university teachers
In 1945, it was extended to include the Philosophical Studies Center for university teachers, a center created following the succession of conferences attended by professors of philosophical studies from all over Italy, and with the aim of promoting a Christian way of life and the rebirth of post-war philosophical studies. A real Gallarate Movement was established, whose representatives made themselves known during their participation in national and international congresses.
At the same time, the Movement promoted publications of high philosophical interest such as the compilation of the Italian Philosophical Encyclopedia from 1900 to 1950, still today updated and widely known and recognized abroad as well, and the monographic volumes of the annual Conferences.
Moreover, it also backed initiatives supported by the generosity of a group of industrialists from Gallarate, including the promotion of philosophical studies with prizes and scholarships, as well as the project of a large Philosophical Dictionary. The Center for Philosophical Studies of Gallarate thus contributes to enriching the Italian cultural panorama, and remains to this day, a driving force for European philosophical culture. In the 1970s, the Aloisianum ceased its university activity, remaining solely as the residence of a Jesuit community. Today the building houses the Gallarate headquarters of MAGIS and some socio-educational and reception centres.
Church of the Sacred Heart
In 1948, the Countess Rosa died without having seen her much desired church, which was only erected in 1952 and completed in 1959, officiated by the Jesuit community and called the Church of the Sacred Heart. The church, of early Christian inspiration, is actually a functional and modern temple equipped with a crypt for meditation and was designed by the architect Ottavio Cabiati, under whose direction the walls, the external finishes and the wooden ceiling of the central nave were erected. In 1955, the C+3S architectural studio of architects Giuseppe Crespi, Pietro Sartorio and Enrico Spampinato completed the work by finalising artistic details such as the Via Crucis by Francesco Messina, pictorial works by the Jesuit Brother Venzo, Bianchi, Kaufmann and others. In the photo a postcard dated 1959.
It is universally recognized that important goals can only be achieved through intelligence and courage: by men and women who are able to overcome all limits and trace a furrow that will may well become a main road for humanity, sowing so that others may reap later. There are several intellectual figures, too often kept in the shadows, whose evolutionary work brings the pioneering importance of the city of Gallarate to light, even in lesser-known areas. Studying to learn more about the excellence of one’s past helps to face the future with greater awareness.
Father Roberto Busa
Father Roberto Busa, originally from Vicenza, was born in 1913, died in Gallarate in 2011, and was an Italian Jesuit, linguist and computer scientist. In 1940, he was ordained a priest, just a few days before Italy entered the Second World War, and was chosen for cultural service. While writing his degree thesis in philosophy and theology at the Aloisianum Institute, he developed in 1946 the idea of an accurate and complete verification of the lexicon of St. Thomas Aquinas and was the first to intuit the enormous scientific, economic and social potential of the use of computers for linguistic analysis.
In 1949, following the visit of some Gallarate industrialists to New York, he managed to get an appointment at IBM, whose president, Thomas Watson, decided to grant Father Busa a loan, the first of a thirty-year-long series, which concluded with the publication of the monumental Index Thomisticus, making available the calculators and punched card machines with which to carry out his immense project.
Aloisianum Philosophical Institute
In via Ferraris in Gallarate, where he was a professor at the Aloisianum Philosophical Institute, he set up a laboratory in a wing of a textile factory where he began the lexicographic analysis of the almost nine million words that make up the complete works of St. Thomas of ‘Aquino, available online since 2005 (www.corpusthomisticum.org), creating the method, terminology and procedures for recording a written language on electronic support, in practice, announcing the beginning of the greatest technological revolution: the birth of hypertext.
Father Busa developed methods that were maximally portable from one language to another, while IBM acquired know-how in an industry that would explode with the arrival of Internet. Upon his death in 2011, newspapers hailed him as “the inventor of hypertext” and “the pioneer of computational linguistics”. Almost eighty years after that meeting, Father Busa’s legacy lives on on all the screens of the world’s devices. The work was made possible not only by the passion and tenacity of Father Roberto Busa, but also by the foresight of entrepreneurs who, back then, had understood the potential and the thrust towards the future provided by automatic data processing, and financed projects through their patronage,
In 1998, the Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing (ALLC) and the Association for Computers in the Humanities (ACH) established the “Premio Busa” (Busa Award) aimed at those who distinguished themselves in the field of digital humanities, while in 2019, new international confirmation of the importance of this scientific work begun in Gallarate by Father Roberto Busa arrived thanks to Marco Passarotti from Gallarate, professor of computational linguistics at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan and student of Father Busa, who, in dedicating his whole life to continuing the work of father Busa and its resulting branch of knowledge, published One Origin of Digital Humanities: Fr Roberto Busa S.J. in His Own Words, curated by Julianne Nyhan and by Passarotti himself.
The volume, which includes 17 articles by Father Busa published between 1951 and 1996 and translated into English by his historic collaborator Philip Barras, was born from the idea of offering the scientific and civil community a sort of “best of” of Father Busa’s writings, translating them into English in order to benefit an international audience. In the photo Father Roberto Busa at IBM in 1949. www.controverso.cloud
Amalia Ercoli Finzi from Gallarate, also known as the “Lady of the Comets” for her mission that brought humanity to a comet for the very first time, and for an asteroid which has borne her name since 2018, was the first woman in Italy to graduate in aerospace engineering at the Milan Polytechnic, in 1962, where she was then professor of orbital mechanics, and she continued to collaborate with the Milanese University even after she retired from teaching.
Born in 1937, her career covered consulting for NASA and the European Space Agency in the Giotto mission, a theorem related to the behavior of non-Newtonian fluids that bears her name, the signature of the Rosetta mission launched in 2004 and which concluded twelve years later, as well as the creation of a botanical garden on the Moon. In addition, she has written more than 150 scientific publications, a book about herself, and more recently, a personal narration of the three fundamental events of a new space age that will characterize the society of the future. Her commitment to research and design still continues with the same intensity and curiosity, like her avant-garde study that hypothesizes the possibility of landing a crew of men and women on Mars.
Ercoli, who started out from a small town in the province of Varese, has always been convinced that limits do not exist and has always turned her gaze towards the humanity that occupies the whole world. From a pioneer in an academic world dominated by men, and belonging to that very limited category of the world’s most important names in the field of aerospace science and technology, she has become the pride of Gallarate and Italy in the world.
Furthermore, she presents an inspirational model for female careers in every sector, urging families to be the first to abolish gender stereotypes and support their daughters in their aspirations and help them understand from an early age the infinite possibilities open to them, over and above typical female skills such as multitasking while displaying innate emotional intelligence and empathy.
In Damiano Realini’s 2019 interview for the Swiss-Italian TV RSI, Ercoli recounts that in her family there was true respect for culture and that she was educated on the importance of taking care of others, and not living only for oneself but to be aware that what is being done must serve humanity, in the belief that each of us is a small cog that helps humanity to improve. In recalling the Rosetta mission, an essential project for advancing understanding of the characteristics of the Solar System and its origin, her pride is visible, pride at having a placed a piece of Italy on a comet, a technological instrument that landed on a body 500 million km away after 10 years of travel.
Inspirational role models of women obliged to work in male environments were the neurologist Rita Levi-Montalcini and the astrophysicist Margherita Hack, but it was also her desire to have a family. When asked how she managed to combine her family with her five children and work, the scientist replied: “With the rule of the three metals: health of iron, nerves of steel and husband of gold”. In the photo a frame of the video of the interview available here.
The importance of the city in the tradition of theatre, dance and music is part of that intangible cultural heritage, protected by UNESCO and by the city’s cultural heritage code, which constitutes the memory of a people that should be known, protected and handed down. The city of Gallarate and its young people continue to commit themselves to cultivating beauty and culture with dedication and an eye to the future, as is evident in the numerous cultural associations that organize festivals, reviews and concerts periodically organized in various fields. Among the most important to mention:
Book and author days. One of the longest-running and most popular literary and cultural events in the whole of Lombardy, running since 2000 and organised by the Culture Department of the Municipality of Gallarate, which has hosted great Italian and international writers through meetings open to the public.
Philosophy festival in the province of Varese, whose aim since 2005 has been to allow everyone, from children to adults, from experts to those who are simply curious, to engage with philosophical reflection and to do so through masterful lessons by great authors and even laboratory or didactic events, combining philosophical reflection with the arts: from theater to cinema, from music to dance, from writing to the figurative arts. The festival has a different theme every year, which combines singular aspirations to beauty and truth, encouraging participants to take back charge of their own time or, better still, embrace the wider goals of reflection and contemplation. The initiative is organized by the Cultural Center of the Teatro delle Arti and enjoys the patronage of the Region of Lombardy, the Ministry of Education and Merit, the City of Milan and the Presidency of the Republic.
SI Scrittrici Insieme
The literary festival created to showcase the creativity and intelligence of women both through the rediscovery of great authors of the past and offering a stage to those new to he limelight, and opening up offers to include music, photography and cinema. Inaugurated in 2011 by the writer Helena Janeczek, who lives in Gallarate, already winner of the 2018 Strega prize and finalist of the Campiello Prize, with Silvana Baldini from Milan who works as a hospital neurologist in Gallarate, Anna Carù and Chiara Ciccocioppo, the festival has become “a wandering festival”. From the first editions in the Villa Montevecchio in Samarate it has continued its journey to the Ma.Ga. of Gallarate and finally arriving at the Visconti Visconti Castle of San Vito di Somma Lombardo.
Eventi in Jazz
The music festival which since 2017 has hosted the biggest names on the national and international jazz scene, and in which the three municipalities of Busto Arsizio, Gallarate and Castellanza are involved.
Below is a selection of videos of ballets and concerts by the Gallarate associations that testify to the activism in the arts of the younger generations.
The Giacomo Puccini Conservatory of Music
Is an asset that particularly deserves protection as it characterizes the city and the province of Varese in general. In fact, Gallarate boasts a prestigious musical tradition, dating back to ancient times when an Ambrosian singing school flourished there. In the video, young Gabriele Rizzo, age 11, performs on the piano at the Puccini Institute in Gallarate as part of the “Virtuosi e virtuosi in virtual” concerts organized during the pandemic and broadcast on Youtube to entertain the public who could not enjoy of live performances and to give students experience performing in public.
The European Philharmonic Orchestra
Directed by Marcello Pennuto, was born in 1989 under the name of Orchestra Sinfonica Varesina. Since then, an increasing number of musicians have been part of it, many from foreign countries: Hungary, Russia, Yugoslavia, Poland, Albania, Spain, Romania, Holland, Turkey, France, Lithuania and Brazil. The repertoire has gradually expanded, ranging from symphonic, operatic and sacred. There are also numerous invited soloists and guest conductors, and frequent meetings with schools for educational purposes, an activity officially recognized by the Superintendency of Studies of the Province of Varese who sponsored it in 1994. In the video, the classical music concert The winter guest performed in collaboration with the Giuseppe Verdi Choir of Samarate and guests the Soprano Maria Tomassi and the Baritone Martino Hammerle Bortolotti – Church of SS. Trinity of Samarate, 2018.
The Proscaenium center for education and training in classical and contemporary dance
It has its roots in the “Lucia Galli Galletti” dance school, founded in 1966 by Lucia Galli Galletti, prima ballerina of the Teatro alla Scala, and hosted by the Teatro delle Arti in Gallarate thanks to the intelligence and sensitivity of Don Alberto Dell’Orto and Silvio Zanella, founder of the modern art gallery, and later MA*GA. In 1993, Cinzia Puricelli took over the management, embracing this prestigious inheritance and continuing her work by cultivating with heart and soul the same values of seriousness and professionalism with which it was created. In the video, the promo of the end-of-year ballet Sleeping Beauty by Piotr Tchaikovsky performed by the students of the school, at the Teatro delle Arti in Gallarate, 2022.
The CDV – Coro Divertimento Vocale
Was founded in 1996 in Gallarate by a group of only 20 very young boys, who, led by Maestro Carlo Morandi, wished to continue the choral experience begun in middle school. Today the staff includes more than 130 voices, becoming one of the most numerous choirs in Italy. A band of musicians that adds further impact to live performances has also been added to the voices over the years. The repertoire has also evolved from classical and sacred, to gospel and jazz, and all the way up to pop and rock. In 2019 the chorus participated in Italia’s Got Talent arriving in the final live on TV8 and finishing in 7th place out of thousands of candidates from all over Italy. In the video is the second performance.
Fabric by tradition, theater by vocation
When we say ‘fabrics by tradition, theater by vocation’, we are probably speaking of a company in Gallarate with an ancient textile tradition that was already operational at the end of the 18th century. The company is called Peroni, and since the 1950s, it has supplied its fabrics to the most important theaters around the world, including the Teatro Alla Scala in Milan and the Teatro Regio in Turin, this thanks to Michele Peroni’s love of theater and opera, which led him to decide to direct his company’s activities exclusively to the creation of theatrical scenery.
This included the provision of everything from velvets, silks and other fabrics for scenography, to plastic materials, and even the mechanics behind the movement of sets and curtains. At the end of the 80s, came the meeting with Sabino Lenoci, a great lover of opera and a prominent cultural personality, who would go on to provide financial support for cultural and literary initiatives aimed at promoting knowledge of opera as a characterizing aspect in the world of Italian culture. First of all there was the foundation in 1986 of the l’Opera magazine, the monthly reference for opera music, unique of its kind in Italy and among the most important in the world, then in 1998 there was another specialized magazine Musical!, aimed at fans of musical theater. www.loperaonline.com, www.rivistamusical.com
Today, the town maintains its primary role among the most prestigious cultural centers of the province, and its proclivity for enjoying life is evident in the presence of numerous restaurants, bars and pastry shops, including the oldest which dates back to 1934: Pasticceria Whites. Gallarate is known as a “Gourmet town” for its numerous recommended restaurants, and for the awarding of a “fork” by the Gambero Rosso, a prestigious Italian food guide, to two of the province’s total of 17 restaurants: Ristorante Ilario Vinciguerra and the Posteria San Rocco.
The historic bar of Gallarate was the Ranzoni café, situated under the arcade in the center of town, which, from the end of the 19th century, was the center of Gallarate social life, a meeting place for the city and the heart of all the cultural and popular activities of the time. The café, today closed, was a place lodged in the memories of the people of Gallarate, so much so, that it has been chosen as the setting for crime stories such as Il Rebus di Gallarate from 2022 by Stefano Bandera and Adelfo Maurizio Fornisi, both from Gallarate.
Their tale also takes place in Gallarate, with the various stories of the protagonists, who include both historical and fictional figures of the town, revolving around the outdoor tables of the historic café. The history of this café intersects with the Gallaratese Chess Society founded in 1920, which was based right in the Caffè Ranzoni, and which counted among its members illustrious names of Gallaratese industry such as Count Corrado Agusta.
Between the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, the Club became famous on a national level with the F. Binaghi Tournament in which great national and international chess players, such as Esteban Canal, took part. In 2012, the Club, managed by the new president Paolo Collaro, set a record for members, becoming the most important club in the province of Varese. In the photo are chess players in a room on the first floor of Caffè Ranzoni, 1960s.
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