Facanapa - satirical magazine of Umbertide of the late nineteenth century
Presentation at the Museum of Santa Croce - 5 March 2010
by Roberto Sciurpa
The presentation of a short-lived newspaper that saw the light in our city, intends to retrace the magnitudes and miseries of a limited historical period and the Municipal Administration did well to take care of its reproduction for its high civic value and significance. moral that the local paper carried out between December 1893 and July 1894. It was a courageous initiative of a group of authoritative citizens, who took over the situation of criticism and control over the public administration since the institutions delegated and legitimate they had inexplicably given up on it. In just eight months, a seemingly unpretentious piece of paper, he managed to achieve what in twenty years the defenders and guarantors of a community had refused to demand.
Behind FACANAPA, the Venetian mask that lends the title to the newspaper, there are in fact reports of seriously deviant political and administrative pathologies, destined to repeat themselves, when the sense of individual and collective responsibility, of the founding values of a people is lost, with the consequent lowering of the level of controls. It can happen, then, that the following occurs:
- expropriation of politics by a prevaricating and opaque bureaucracy, which responds only to itself;
- dangerous drift towards corruption and the triumph of personal interests;
- dark direction of skilled and unscrupulous fixers who manipulate the life of a community under the shelter of the peaceful umbrella that offers human and environmental outlines that are apparently peaceful and even pleasant to shady events.
The institutional framework
In the city of Umbertide in the late 1800s there was a restless atmosphere. The fall of papal power and the annexation to the Kingdom of Italy, on the political and institutional level, had not changed things. The local agriculture continued to hold power, as had happened in the past, since the active and passive electorate passed through the categories of wealth and the wealthy, together with the assets, also inherited the right to manage public affairs, according to a bad habit that was lost in the mists of time. It is not difficult to imagine the lack of enthusiasm that the various agrarians felt in taking on the task of administering the interests of a community that they often accepted unwillingly, all taken as they were by the care of their own affairs. The leap in quality will take place only in 1909 with the conquest of the Municipality by a bourgeoisie led by Francesco Andreani who set aside the centuries-old power of the agrarians and established the right to govern following the indications of the vote and not those of the census.
The social framework
On the social level, the Italian Unity brought, however, notable winds of change also in these parts, allowing the vigorous birth of trade associations, destined soon to overcome the mere corporate aspect. There was a proliferation of organizations such as the Society of Veterans of the Patrie Battaglie founded in 1883, the Society of Masons in 1888, that of Rowers of 1890, that of Mutual Aid and many others. But above all the Circolo Mazzini was alive and very active since 1877 with its numerous political initiatives, systematically opposed by the liberals of the time who administered the Municipality. The local Socialist Party was not yet born, the section will be founded in May 1899, but already at the national level that Party had had official visibility for some years. No wonder, therefore, if on the morning of May 1, 1899, the municipal guards communicated to the Mayor, Count Giuseppe Conestabile Della Staffa, that during the night someone had written on the walls of the Town Hall and in various points of via Cibo with lampblack and water:
Long live May 1st
Down with the exploiters
Down with the Public Safety Delegate
Long live the Workers
The wind of change did not affect only the heterogeneous sector of the opposition, but also that of the liberal majority who split into progressives and conservatives with often resentful oppositions and distinct and combative press organs.
Let's not lose sight of the dates to understand the political evolution of the time. Facanapa arises in this climate of profound aspiration for change and political bradyseism, when among the liberal municipal councilors sits, for example, a person of rank such as Benedetto Maramotti, the former historical prefect of Perugia for 21 years, with strong sympathies for the historical left of Agostino De Pretis who had taken power in 1876 and who as prefect had cleared the democratic Ulisse Rocchi through customs, making him the mayor of Perugia. Retired in 1889, Maramotti settled in the area, near his daughter Emma, who had married a Mavarelli, whose substantial properties were located in these parts. As a municipal councilor of Umbertide he looked after the interests of his son-in-law more closely. Maramotti was the fourth prefect of Perugia without being a Senator, after Filippo Gualtiero, Luigi Tanari and Giuseppe Gadda, all three Senators of the Kingdom.
Giacomino Dal Bianco
But the real reason why Facanapa was born lies in the prevarications of the municipal secretary of the time: Giacomino Dal Bianco.
Dal Bianco was born in 1850 in Velo d'Astico, in the province of Vicenza, a municipality that today has 2,350 inhabitants and then counted even fewer. The small town is located between the Astico and Posina streams, close to inaccessible mountains that only soften in the fertile plain of the valley floor at the end of the gorge. On March 15, 1874, at the age of 24, he was appointed Secretary of the Municipality of Umbertide. At that time the competitions for this type of office were prefectural and the appointments were conferred by the Prefect to whom the municipal secretaries were hierarchically subordinate. They were state employees in all respects, paid, however, by the municipalities.
The minutes testify, without a shadow of a doubt, that Dal Bianco was an intelligent and prepared official, present at city initiatives to the point of exaggeration. Of considerable size, tall and elegant, with a plump and round face, so much so as to deserve the nickname of “Luna Piena” (Full Moon) by Facanapa, he did not disdain the table and the good food that he gladly honored. Family commitments did not occupy him much because he remained faithful to nature, a bachelor as he was born.
He would have been an excellent and precious collaborator, had he not had the very serious defect of not staying in his place.
Taking advantage of lazy and indolent administrators, who exercised the role by inheritance of wealth and to whom an "expansive" and enterprising secretary was comfortable, Giacomino began to occupy spaces that were not his own, to override administrative skills and behavioral practices that soon attracted attention . On more than one occasion, the security of the acquired power led him to deride with irreverence councilors who were not very docile to him as happened when the mayor indicated a certain administrator as his representative at the Città di Castello Exhibition and he suggested that it would be better to send us Porrini (the usher !!), the press and the same population of Umbertide. In the imaginary and ironic interview with the "Gran Soaffa" (another nickname of Dal Bianco), which the editor finds sunk in his armchair smoking a "Virginia" cigar, the secretary declares how he does good and bad weather in the city: “In the Town Hall I am in charge, in the Congregation of Charity I am in charge, in the Bank I am in charge, and then and then ... in this country you just need to promise, these inhabitants are so good!”.
He was losing the sense of the limit, as it always happens and in all abusive paths. No wonder, therefore, if the words “Umbertide agli Umbertidesi!” Began to appear on the ballot papers.
In the meantime, Dal Bianco accumulated well-paid public assignments and fees, carried out private paid consultancy, wrote little (disregarding the advice of the Mayor Mauro Mavarelli) and traveled a lot with the carriage always ready in front of the door of his house in via del Foro Boario n. 6, in the current Piazza Caduti del Lavoro, right in front of the Rocca, and at the expense of the various bodies it represented. Public and private were intertwining in a twisted way, to the point of heavily polluting the award of numerous contracts. The little travet, with a modest salary as a town clerk, was making a fortune.
He went to the Municipality when he could to give important directives, while capitalizing the proceeds of his role as public servant in real estate. Dal Bianco, in fact, will definitively settle in Umbertide and in the registry office he is the owner, therefore the owner of unidentified properties. One thing is certain is that in the phase of the first enlargement of the city cemetery, in 1900, he bought a chapel in the left hemicycle, the noble area, next to other chapels of the wealthy families of Umbertide (Burelli, Santini, Ramaccioni, Savelli, Bertanzi, Confraternita of the Holy Cross and of the Good Death). His body rests in that chapel. Giacomino Dal Bianco died on November 20, 1914 at 6.10 am, at the age of only 64. We do not know what happened to his decent fortune. Sometimes among the mysteries that cloak personal aspirations in an arcane there is also that of wanting to be with the wealthy even when dead.
Contrary to Facanapa's ironic predictions, Dal Bianco did not leave Umbertide and after his retirement, in 1894, we find him among the municipal councilors.
The irony of the Venetian mask becomes inexorable and pungent:
“He, coming from outside, loved our country as his own, and, neglecting his own interest, he took care only of ours, so much so that he will leave us humble and humble as he came”. Harsh judgments that certainly made noise in the Municipality and in the city. The constant, precise accusations of personal interests in his public role, and of enrichment with shady deals, today would have sparked a flurry of lawsuits and heated legal battles. That was not the case at that temple. The editors continued to publish their articles undisturbed for another four months: the newspaper will still come out with eight fortnightly issues until July 15, 1894. Also in the March 25 issue, the article "Resurrection" written by a very fine pen is striking. He denounces the sadness that has pervaded Umbertide for some time due to "the economic hardship of so many, which is making itself felt more bitter every day". With fine sensitivity, the editor analyzes the situation of the man forced to fight bitterly the life that "cannot be cheerful, cannot be good, cannot be willing to look at and treat others kindly". And he continues: “Every economic disaster brings with it a legacy of enmities and grudges; and we have in our country the example of many profound divisions due to similar reasons ”. He concludes: “In the midst of the common misery there are those who get stuck; who in the midst of the general collapse of souls rules; who from our discords draws strength and power ”.
Prophetic words that transform satire into a serious and respectable editorial that many would like to sign.
The reporting of irregularities in the periodic updates of the electoral lists is recurrent and documented and responded to the logic of granting active electorate to those subjects who gave greater guarantees in the election of docile candidates to the powerful secretary.
He had also appropriated eight hundred lire of the secretarial fees, never paid to the municipal treasury, and had been sentenced to compensation by the Council of State, but in the subsequent appeal to the Ministry, the Municipality strangely did not become an injured party and Giacomino won the match. The Ghibelline from the north had created a kind of feudal vassalage to which the administrators were unable to react. It should be remembered that in 1887, among the reasons for the resignation of the historic mayor of Umbertide, Mauro Mavarelli, the minutes report the harsh criticism of his own advisers for not having removed the cumbersome subject from his office.
In this situation the newspaper became a guarantee garrison appreciated by many, not only of the opposition, but also of the majority, and carried out that role of control and criticism which the institutional bodies had inexplicably renounced.
But its merits are also other: the numerous news events that document events of city life and enrich the history of Umbertide with important details, extensively treated by other authors; the description of the poor conditions of the peasants and of their houses reduced to pigsties; a rude and arrogant small-scale agrarian bosses; the pellagra which bordered on high peaks with 341 people affected by the disease, while Gubbio, with a much larger territory, had a hundred, Foligno twelve and Nocera Umbra only one. The disease, after having weakened the physical faculties, attacked the mental ones and led the patient to the asylum. Facanapa will excuse us if we add a footnote to his numbers: on the 341 pellagrosi the female incidence was double compared to the male one and the fact speaks volumes about the silent and daily sacrifice of our women in the fields who left the rare best morsels to their men because could withstand the adversities of work longer.
Welcome back to us nice Venetian mask, which from the head of a brave sheet, buried in the dust of oblivion, coordinated the whip of the Umbertidese frog, intent on hitting the shady den of suspicious trafficking!
In this brief overview we have been able to observe the miseries of politics expropriated by a troublesome and intriguing bureaucracy; the maneuvers of a capable and prepared character who had put his remarkable gifts at the service of obscure personal interests; the serious and prolonged omissive responsibilities of conniving administrators.
But we have also seen the magnitudes and values:
- a handful of generous young people determined to replace the institutions in order to eliminate
- the positive role of the press which in eight months has helped to resolve situations
gangrenous for years;
- the polite tone of a close and never delegitimizing political dialectic, conducted
by gentlemen of other times;
- genuine respect even for the main target of the invectives, towards which
subtle irony is used, never vulgarity and much less personal offenses. They seem like values to us
to be exalted not only because they disappeared on the threshold of the third millennium, but because
indispensable to rebuild the identity of a people starting from the roots of men
municipalities that made civil conscience and a sense of legality grow among the people of Umbertide.
"A FREE MAN - Roberto Sciurpa, a passionate civil commitment" - by Federico
Sciurpa - Petruzzi publisher, Città di Castello, June 2012