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Brescello

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Remembering don Camillo and Peppone: places and objects

Once upon a time there was a small village called Brescello.. […] Always different but still the same are the priest Don Camillo and the major Peppone, the haughty leaders of the two opposing factions. Brescello, seen from the right side is the town of Don Camillo, while when seen from the left side is the town of Peppone. Seen from above it is a town where the opponents fight harshly, but without becoming enemies and where the the voice of conscience always has the last word. (from the movie Don Camillo in Moscow).

Here are some of the objects and places that recall the cinematographic past of Brescello and that contribute to keep alive the memory of the characters created by Guareschi.

 

Church of Santa Maria Nascente and the “Christ of Don Camillo”

In the parish church, re-built between 1829 and 1837 on the plan of Luigi Groppi, there are valuable paintings of the local painter, Carlo Zatti, and there is also, in the sacristy, the parish museum (with works of the sculptor Carlo Pisi from Brescello and some antique pieces of furniture).
The façade is characterized by a porch that was commissioned by Angelo Rizzoli for the shootings and then donated to the church as a memory of the many movies inspired by the characters of Don Camillo and Peppone.

The object that mostly excites the curiosity of the visitors is the crucifix used for the movie and now placed into a small lateral chapel at the left side, flanked by spiral columns and by a baldachin.
The work was created by the Veronese sculptor Bruno Avesani for the shootings, and he was helped by a local joiner, Emilio Bianchini.
Avesani created four interchangeable faces, with four different expressions (all of them were used only in the first movie, while in the following ones it was used only the bent face), and only one of them , unfortunately, remains. The Christ Crucified (1,65 mt. high, without the cross) weighs 13 kilos, while at the beginning it weighed 20 kilos; in fact, in order to facilitate Fernandel during the shootings, Avesani decided to build the cross in balsa wood, which is very light, and to empty it inside.
At the end of the cinematographic adventure of Don Camillo and Peppone, the Christ was donated by Angelo Rizzoli to the church of Brescello and carefully preserved by don Dino Alberici, the parish priest at that time.

 

Matteotti Square

The big square, surrounded by the church, the town hall, and some arcades, has been the ideal stage for the adventures of the most famous priest and mayor in the world.
Here people listened to meetings and watched the passing of the Reds, while don Camillo, with the rifle in his hands, controlled the situation from the bell tower, ready to intervene at any moment…ringing the bells.

In the present northern part of the square there is the statue of “Ercole the benefactor”, commissioned by the duke of Este, Ercole II, and created in the year 1553 by the sculptor Jacopo Tatti named “the Sansovino”. At the beginning, the statue was placed in the square of the fortress, but after the Spaniards destroyed the fortification in 1704, the work was abandoned. Only in 1727 it was placed in the middle of the present Matteotti square, where now people can see a copy of it.
Don Camillo and Peppone are represented with two bronze statues created by Andrea Zangani and unveiled the 2nd of June 2001 (don Camillo statue is on the church parvis; the one of Peppone is in front of the town hall and shows the mayor raising his hat, as if he would greet his opponent who is in front of him).

 

Peppone’s house

In Carducci street there is Peppone’s house (now private property, inhabited and not available to visit inside), that was used to film the interiors of all the movies. At its balcony, in the movie Don Camillo, Cervi/Peppone stood showing his newborn son to all the comrades.

 

Peppone’s bell

In the movie Don Camillo: Monsignor!, Peppone, after crying “the church bell monopoly is going to finish”, buys a bell, raises it in the square in front of the town hall. During the night, someone steals the clapper and it turns out to be a stroke of luck, because, in the course of the movie, the bell falls on the mayor (the bell, in paper-pulp, really fell on Gino Cervi’s head during the rehearsals).
Now the bell is hanging from an arcade in Giglioli street.

 

The rail station

The rail station is at the end of Venturini street, and it has remained almost the same as the one shown in the movies. From there don Camillo leaves for the mountains, bound to Montenara, for his “political convalescence”, in the movie The return of don Camillo.
The station, as at the time of the shootings, is owned by the Società Veneta Autoferrovie (Venetian public transport company) and it links up Brescello with the line Parma – Suzzara.

 

The Madonnina of the Borghetto (effigy of the Madonna)

In the movie Don Camillo: Monsignor!, the “small chapel of contention” was to be knocked down in order to make room for the “Council house” (16 flats for the poor people of the town and the church), but nobody was proud enough to start the work.
The reference is to a tale by Guareschi: “The massive wall” in Don Camillo and his flock (the story is about a piece of land owned by Marasca, where people want to build a four-floor building with flats, shops, garages, services; but once more, they have to bring to account an old effigy of the Madonna, subject of the popular devotion).
Situated on the crossing of the SS 62, the Madonnina of the Borghetto has been recently restored.

 

The locomotive

The locomotive has been placed near the museum; this locomotive was the one that should have brought Peppone into his “Roman exile” in the movie Don Camillo's Last Round. It has been restored by some volunteers from Brescello.

 

The tank

Guareschi talks about it in the tale “Il Panzer” (Don Camillo and his flock): Dorini, in April 1945, stole a tank to the Americans (mistaken for Germans), without declaring it to the military authorities. Helped by don Camillo and Peppone, he will try to move it away from his property in order to avoid problems.
The tank used in the movie Don Camillo's Last Round (owned by Tasca, and also in this case kept well hidden) is exhibited in Mingoni square, near the museum. It is not the original American Sherman used by Duvivier in the movie, but it is a Pershing M26 obtained by the people of Brescello from the Italian Army, after a lot of searches and bureaucratic obstacles. Thanks to a local group of volunteers, the mechanical part has been repaired. On the 26 August 1991, on the occasion of San Genesio’s Day, the Panzer made a triumphal entry into the town.
Before the current Pershing M26, another tank sat in it`s place. An industrialist from Bassano del Grappa, war surplus collector, lent to the Brescello municipal tourist board (on the occasion of the opening of the museum in 1989) a smaller, out-of-order tank (it entered the town after a “Guareschian highway trip”). But the people of Brescello didn’t give up: they wanted a working tank and in 1991 they finally got from the Army the one now exhibited.

 

Guareschi bust

We cannot forget the real author of the worldwide success obtained by don Camillo and Peppone. In memory of Guareschi, the German sculptress Gudrun Schreiner created a bronze bust, placed in the park of the museum dedicated to him.

 

 

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Church of Santa Maria Nascente

 

Don Camillo's Christ

 

 

 

 

 

Statue of Don Camillo

Statue of Don Peppone

Arcades near Matteoti square

 

 

 

Peppone's Bell

 

Railway station

 

Virgin of Borghetto

 

 

 

The locomotive
 
 
 
 
 
 
The tank

 

 

 

 

 

Bust ofGuareschi