Years before the Tutto Città street map was created and ages before the Google Maps and Tom-tom, etc., helped you to find your way around Forlì, there was only the Street Guide. This handbook was more or less the size of a Bible and at home was regarded with the same devotion. "Dad, I've got a volleyball match in Tertullia Rubria St." "Hand me the Street guide," he would say. He then leafed through here and there and then would declare: "It's in the Romiti area," after which he went to take out his Ritmo from the garage.
The Forlì Lo Stradario Street Guide was the exact antithesis of modern geo-satellite efficiency. It contained all the streets of Forlì in alphabetical order, and according to the very complicated alphanumerical codes, explained where these streets were located.
For example, Antonio Carini St. was the 3rd left from Ribolle St. after no.33. If you did not know where Ribolle St. was, then you had to look for it, decode that it was the X to left from Apennine St. and after no. 309 on Risorgimento Avenue, 4th right after which once past no. 158, and so on and so forth. If still today cities seem to me like abstract and random concepts, it is because this was how I got around them.
The Street Guide moreover, explained why each street was called in that manner and who had baptized it so. In the concrete reality of one who sets off from a determined place and has to get to another, this may be totally useless and even confusing, though behind every name lies a story. And giving a meaning to names implies giving importance to the streets and squares, and to the city.
And it is precisely thanks to the Street Guide for example, that one may discover that your place of residence was the location of antifascist killings that occurred in the past 20 years, or that the gardens and the council housing of my district concealed a collection of epic names and facts. I was living in Sergio Tavernari St. where a Forlì partisan had organized an underground radio during the war Discovered while he was passing precious information, he refused to surrender and barricading himself in the house, fought the overpowering German SS forces. When he ran out of ammunition he threw himself into the void crying out, "Long Live Italy," and immolated his youthful existence in a heroic gesture. This is but one example.
When I was 12 or 13, a person living in Marzabotto St. invited me to his birthday. There also was the boy I liked, and so attending the party was a question of life or death. "Go on foot, its close by," said my parents who took Renzo and Luana's coach to go dancing every Sunday "Take the Street Guide, you will not get lost."
I set out, street guide in hand. I turned 2nd left which was Silvio Corbari St. named after the partisan commander of the battle with the same name. His reckless endeavours against the occupying forces had earned him the esteem and support of the local population and unleashed the ire of the Salò Republic. He was discovered together with Iris Versari, Adriano Casadei and Arturo Spazzoli. After a violent battle he was captured and then hung with his companions in Castrocaro on 17 August 1944. On 18 August they were hung in Forlì at the lamppost in Saffi Square. But why they were hung twice, I wondered. It was to stress the message clearly to all, so that everyone understood what would happen to all the rebels. Didn't the Corbari band know it would have ended so? Of course they did, but in those times one had to make a choice. And they chose this.
The 3rd street right was the street named Iris Versari St., the partisan heroine of Tredozio, and Silvio Corbari's partner. Following a roundup by the Germans in Ca' Cornio di Modigliana, she was wounded and committed suicide to allow Corbari to escape. And did Corbari escape? He reached Adriano Casadei, a university student professing himself as a republican and Vice Commander of Corbari's gang. During a manoeuvre in a district of Ca' Cornio di Modigliana, he tried to bring the wounded Corbari to safety but was captured by the Germans and hung in Castrocaro on 17 August 1944 and again in Forlì.
I mustn't lose the way, I told myself distractedly. And I started to imagine the events of that day in Ca' Cornio.
August 17, 1944 was a cloudy day. In Ca' Cornio someone blew the whistle, and the Germans surrounded the refuge. They had to escape, but the day before, Iris had been wounded while cleaning her stem gun. She knew that Corabri would never have abandoned her, and so she shot herself to allow him to escape. It was a question of choices, and perhaps this was not the hardest decision she had to make over the last years. Shocked, Corbari escaped, and firing his gun threw himself out of the window and ran to the woods, towards the river. On the river bank he fell and hurt himself. Casdei, the gang's brain and Silvio's best friend was already far away, and safe, but he turned back to carry Corbari on his shoulders. "You crazy? you must at least save yourself." "C'mon don't say nonsense."
They were immediately caught, and loaded on to a cart with Iris's cadaver. They passed through the villages and knocked on doors, calling out to the people to show all that they had taken Corbari. When they got to Castrocaro, only Casadei was conscious. He put the noose around his neck by himself, but when the Nazis pulled the cord, it broke.. "Damn, even their cords are rotten," the soldier said, then put another cord around his neck. This is how it must have happened. I lost my way and every minimal sign of orientation. I crossed Claudio Treves St., Gian Raniero Paulucci Ginnasi St., Mario Angeloni St., and each of them had its heroic and heartbreaking story to tell. When I reached Marzabotto St. the party had almost ended and the guy I had a crush on was playing a videogame. "How's that?" I asked. "You are the American and have to kill the Nazis." "And how are the Americans called?" "Are you crazy? Who cares how they are called? Just shoot and that's all."
"I care because names are important, you idiot. And because there's a story to every name." That's what I thought but did not say it to him. The afternoon was simply fantastic. Nowadays things are completely different. The sexy voice of the navigator tells you to turn right or left and in five minutes you get to your destination. Silvio Corbari is just a road sign, another street, similar to another street where today there is a mall, and where you curse when you notice you are driving along a one-way street the navigator did not point out.