In searching the internet in September, prior to my visit to Ferrara, I was pleased to come across a page inviting you to discover the places that had influenced Antonioni’s thinking, “the corners of the city bound to the life of the great director and his masterpieces such as Cronaca di un amore, Le amiche and Beyond the Clouds.”
I was particularly looking forward to a visit to the Antonioni museum at Corso Ercole 17, next to the Palazzo dei Diamanti, as flagged up in our Blue Guide to Northern Italy (12th edition, 2005), only to discover on my arrival that it was now closed, whether for lack of money or lack of interest I could not determine. We had to content ourselves during our walks and cycle rides in taking advantage of the map supplied by the internet site to see these places for ourselves.
I wrote about the Corso Ercole and Corso Rossetti shot used in Cronaca di un amore in my post of 12 October. But in an act of homage I went to see the family house at San Maurelio 10 in the south-east corner of the city, where Antonioni (born 1914) spent life from 1918 to 1929. I hired a bike at the shop at the Porta Romana and looking across the river there was the church of S Giorgio, the very same tower that can be seen in Visconti’s Ossessione. The film has a notable Ferrara episode, when Giovanna goes in search of the wayward Gino, and this still shows Gino jumping onto a lorry in the square very close to the Antonioni house.
Did Antonioni witness the filming? It is possible, and the film must have made an impact, perhaps as much for the story as its pioneering realism. It is taken from James Cain’s novel ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice’. Giorgio Bassani (whom Antonioni knew, see post of 20 October) translated it into Italian at the end of the war, and Antonioni used the skeleton of the story in Cronaca di un amore. There is something enticing about a film masterpiece being made so close to a house you had lived in. The house itself has a helpful plaque identifying it, and here’s what it looks like now across the piazza (San Maurelio 10 is at the near corner of this block).
The other Antonioni house is at the via Brasavola 14 (no plaque this time). This is located in the dense streets that form the south-east quarter of the city, quite close to the Bassani family house at via Cisterno del Follo 1 and the Tennis Club Marfisa, where Bassani and he played tennis.
Antonioni went to study at Bologna University and began to be drawn away from the city, so that the making of the first episode of Beyond the Clouds (1995) in Ferrara and nearby Comacchio was a homecoming of a kind. I knew that he was buried there.
On my last morning there, I just had time to rush to the Certosa Cemetery. On arriving, I was dismayed at the thought of finding the tomb in such a large place,
but a helpful office for the cemetery directed me to block M12 and gave me a map. I arrived, finally, at M12 and spent several minutes inspecting all the tomb slabs for his name. I was about to come away unrequited when I noticed a street of tomb-houses
and sure enough there was an Antonioni family mausoleum
and peering in, I could see Michelangelo’s name.
Quest accomplished, mind fulfilled, I rushed back in order to catch the train to Ravenna. Ferrara, I concluded, was a wonderful place.