Imagine one hundred and fifty of Italy’s (and the world’s) most significant figures descending on a little town which most of them had never heard of. Then hear them discuss their work, be quizzed by the mayor on their views, reply to questions asked by a local audience. And all this happening in an exquisite green theatre – a theatre whose scenery consists of box hedges and verdant trees placed in a luscious mid-summer evening landscape of dramatic hills and sunset skies.
This year Borgo a Mozzano’s Teatro Di Verzura celebrates its tenth anniversary. Springing from the brainwave of energetic and highly personable Francesco Poggi, mayor of the town from 2004 to 2014, the Teatro has offered a platform for some of Italy’s most distinguished current personalities to meet the people.
Here are some of the celebrities
me and my wife and I have met there:
Emmanuele Filiberto di Savoia, who would have been King of Italy had the 1946 referendum gone for his Royal House;
(Emmanuele Filiberto Di Savoia)
Magdi Allam, the Egyptian-born convert from Islam. personally baptised by the Pope and a penetrating commentator on the meeting of two religious worlds (he’s still under attack, of course and security was discrete but high when he appeared);
(Magdi Cristian Allam)
Craig Douglas, the psychic detective who has also assisted America’s FBI in their investigations; Vittorio Sgarbi, a true art connoisseur, perhaps the Italian equivalent of the late lamented Brian Sewell. (we also met Sgarbi at Villa Bruguier’s conference on Italian Villas and gardens in 2009 and visited his quirky exhibition of forgotten masterpieces at Milan’s Expo last year);
Walter Veltroni, the politician who lived through the ‘anni di piombo’ (the years of lead – bullets) of Italy’s home-grown terrorist infiltrated seventies and eighties, and economist Alan Friedman have all been attracted to Borgo a Mozzano’s pastoral confines.
And there has also been the great actor Giorgio Albertazzi (who sadly passed away the other day) and that doyen of Italian journalists and politicians, Giulio Andreotti.
At first it was a little difficult to persuade such persons to come here. Most of them didn’t even know where Borgo a Mozzano was! Then requests began to come in thick and fast and Borgo, with its supreme symbol of the Ponte Della Maddalena, has been firmly put on the map for the majority of Italians. Indeed, I would suggest that anyone who has attended the evenings at the Teatro wouldn’t get a much better insight into the problems, the triumphs and tragedies of contemporary Italy. They would, indeed, return home with a much greater understanding of this beautiful, fascinating and incredibly complex country.
(Borgo’s mediaeval Ponte Della Maddalena)
Last Sunday evening Francesco Poggi’s book ‘Protagonisti del Nostro Tempo’ (protagonists of our time) was presented in the great hall of the Conservatorio delle Oblate di Santa Francesca Romana.
In a beautifully organised programme reminiscences by many of those involved in the project were interspersed with musical interludes, including virtuoso flautist Antonio Barsanti and guitar prodigy Zeno Marchi.
Francesco Poggi has been, in my opinion, one of the most successful mayors in our area of Mediavalle. A graduate in Economic sciences from Pisa University, he has not only created the very successful meetings at the Teatro di Verzura but he’s also behind La legenda di Lucida Mansi, Borgo’s incredibly successful Halloween festival, the Chet Baker jazz festival (yes Chet Baker stayed at Borgo too…), the summer festival and several theatrical enterprises. It was, thus, a truly celebratory event bringing many people in the packed hall together.
Afterwards we adjourned to the convent of Saint Francis on the hill overlooking Borgo a Mozzano for a sumptuous rinfresco. Within the peaceful setting of the ancient cloisters the spreads were succulent and the wine excellent. I could only enjoy the food and company, and contemplate the success of Poggi’s and Borgo’s unique Teatro Di Verzura venture.
For this year’s programme at the teatro di verzura see https://www.facebook.com/teatrodiverzura/