Romagna as a self-narration

  • Romagna borgo in licenza per Apt di Giorgio

I wasn't born in Romagna, I didn't grow up and neither live there now. Having lived there for a decade does not exclude you from the clichés about Romagna non-native people make and which, however, are a very strong image even in the minds of Romagna citizens themselves. As if they want to be sure that the picturesque, romantic and gratifying picture tourists have about them is true: strong but welcoming, determined but friendly, hard-working people who know also how to enjoy life and who have found – for medium-class people coming to the Riviera from Emilia and Lombardy - a compromise, an enviable mix of wealth and attention to enjoy life, of cities with advanced services and benevolent nature modelled on human needs.

Yet, trying to understand Romagna, to explain this socio-anthropological medium-sized phenomenon is a task of non-native people who do it, however, without succeeding. The people from Romagna, with their wisdom and concreteness of the peasant culture, do not need readings and interpretations about their own land. They talk about it with anecdotes, which are more or less real. An old man from Romagna tells you about his land by describing events, not impressions. He doesn't need to interpret signs, to deduce or project: by telling you about things and people he draws a true portrait, truer than any impression you might have of this land, which is only apparently explicit and simple. As a matter of fact, in Romagna narrative is always the main way to relate within a group: in the summer fellowship, people recall events which they have participated in (or maybe not, because Romagna citizens love enriching their stories with imagination), creating the micro-mythology of the group.

Like all other old people from Romagna, my grandmother, during the last 30 of her 96 years of age, has been telling me about Romagna by anecdotes: she has never told me her impression of the city. She has always told me about Grand Hotel, Fellini, the fascism, the war, but never about her opinion on the city, or about her perception of Rimini and its inhabitants. She simply narrated, in a clear and coherent way, the events occurred in her town without the need of subtexts, with the peace of who was there and knows what she is talking about. She didn't express opinions, maybe for modest wisdom, maybe for cultural habit or maybe because it is difficult to have a clear and definitive opinion on one's own story, and when you finally have it you are already dead, so better stay out of the way. But the story of the people from the coast of Romagna – individualistic and narcissistic land – is always a story which tells a self-narration, one's own deeds or those personally witnessed.

Anyhow, the only chance for me, inhabitant of Modena infiltrated in Romagna and then extradited to Lombardy, is to tell about Rimini through concrete events, scenes that really happened -  those pieces of life that Hitchcock, clownish genius at least as much as Fellini, called pieces of cake.

The bocce (wooden balls) court is one of the most traditional places where people narrate the exploits of the night before. But this tradition is already outdated: years ago, there was a court in every beach establishment, while today the survivors are few. It is a place linked with a disappearing generation of septuagenarians. 

The beach attendant and the beach bar are – both for Romagna citizens and mostly for teenager tourists - the places where they discover their first desire, or at least their first serious flirt, the symbolic place of the passage from puberty to adolescence, of sentimental education. Even in this case, since an early age, Romagna citizens learn to practice the art of narration about their epic exploits of the night before (often using a renovation or a real imaginary production).

All this happens in a land with strong cultural diversities, where during three months a year cultural influences meet and coexist: from the land tradition of the last representatives of peasant families to its totally opposite part and the influences of geographically and apparently culturally far-away cultures, embraced by the generations of young people (surfing, hip-hop). Besides this, we should add the countless native or migrant populations who live on the coast, among which Russian carers, the mass of tourists (Italians, Germans, French or Russian) and the strong African and Chinese immigration. The narration, filtered by this cross of flows, is divided, becoming richer and more complex: the identity framework greatly expands.


Luca Vanzella
Luca Vanzella

He works as consultant and blogger at Daimon. Tw: @vanz

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