Besides the classic museums, Reggio Emilia owns some really fascinating and alternative ones. Luzzara has been the seat of National Museum of Naifs Arts since 1967: dedicated to Cesare Zavattini, it’s so rare and specific to be called ‘the only house of italian naifs’.
Naif means ingenuous, primitive, and defines those artists who came out of their artistic hermitage to amaze the public with their new and unique representation of nature, cheerful and free from any artistic rule. Naifs are first the illiterate painters, simple people living in the villages, in the woods or along the river, then those artists who found an alternative way to express their inner world through vivid touches of colour. Their paintings have no proportions, space and shades, it’s just deep poetry of natural events and shapes, represented like a dream, it’s a collection of memories, sensations, presences, stories.
Since the last war ended, italian naifs began their first exhibitions, the regular shows in Luzzara, their annual national prize and had a ‘house’ in this now very active museum. Brescello is a little world rooted in northern Italy, a fertile and flat land between Po and Apennine, wrapped up by a cold fog in the winter and dried by a cruel sun in the summer. Guareschi’s pen is unique describing the atmosphere, feelings, stories of its beloved and special characters. The parish priest don Camillo and the mayor Peppone are always the same, yet always different, as the author loved to say “I didn’t create them, I just gave them a voice. The Valley created them, whom I met and arm in arm I walked with, up and down the alphabet”. They went very far in literature and cinema! Five movies with the popular actors Gino Cervi and Fernandel were filmed in Brescello, whose square was the ideal stage for the most famous priest and mayor in the world. The whole village was involved in the show and today one can still see Don Camillo and Peppone’s houses, the big bell under via Gilioli arcade, the famous talking Crucified hosted in a chapel of S.Maria Nascente church. The original museum of Don Camillo and Peppone, created with love and a little money, is now a nice reality where memories and historical documents, the original locomotive of the first movies, the tank, the statue of Giovanni Guareschi, are mixed up with souvenirs and typical products, like lambrusco, spongate and zuffe.
In order to deeply understand Reggio Emilia, it’s mandatory a visit to the museums of farming life in S.Martino in Rio, Novellara, Correggio, Aiola di Montecchio, Villa Gaida, Castelnovo Monti, different expositions but so important to discover a past which is close in time but so different from our actual way of life. In few decades our countryside changed silently, wiping out a millenary civilization. The farmers left the crops and moved into towns to work in factories and services. An ancient and great material culture, a language, traditions and customs that seemed unchangeable are now a faint memory many young people don’t even believe in.
People need to know and preserve roots and historical memory to build a conscious future, that’s why in the seventies some private and public collections were created thanks to a few men commitment. Today these collections are an interesting and well-constructed sector of our reality. A central episode of Italian identity is the creation of our flag, the Tricolore, on January 7th, 1797. The national flag was proclaimed in Reggio Emilia during a gathering of Repubblica Cispadana representatives (Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Ferrara). The Cispadana flag originally had horizontal stripes, red on top and green at the bottom, with a quiver in the middle as a symbol of the union of four towns. A model of the original flag is exposed in the hall where it was born. Today this wide hall with balconies, designed by Bolognini and realized in 1774 to contain the municipal archive, is the seat of Town Council. In the civic tower, called “del Bordello”, in 1985 was created a Tricolore Museum that gathers documents and relics dating from 1796 to the risings of 1831. One can read the Napoleonic Civic Guard proclamations, admire the old uniforms, guns, portraits, war decorations. Reggio Emilia role between the ancien regime and the first revolutionary risings is mentioned by Ugo Foscolo and Napoleone Bonaparte who praised people from Reggio for being the first rebels against austrian protectorate. Since the beginning of the Risorgimento, Reggio was protagonist of many historic events: labour conflicts between 19th and 20th century, the Resistance, the politic struggles after the war.