Milan and Luigi Santucci’s Brianza, a century after his birth

Milan and Luigi Santucci’s Brianza, a century after his birth

A little more than a century has passed since the birth of Luigi Santucci, one of the most important Milanese writers of the twentieth century who dedicated a book to Brianza (“in a balloon”). The memory of Carlo Franza for Brianzart.

Luigi Santucci is the Catholic novelist who won the Campiello Prize in 1967 with the book “Orfeo in Paradiso” and even Benedetto Croce was able to appreciate the qualities of his thesis his degree (“acute and accurate work” in La Critica, 1943) when the Italian writer graduated in Literature in Milan at the Catholic University with a work (discussed with Mario Apollonio) on children’s literature.

Luigi Santucci

(Photo by official site)

Today the celebrations continue for the centenary of the birth of the Italian writer Luigi Santucci (1918- 1999) who elected his second homeland, after Milan, right in Brianza (in Cassago Brianza), a place that gave him the opportunity to focus on the volume “Brianza in mongolfiera” (first released with the title “Brianza and other loves), titles that clearly mark the direct line of what this unforgettable territory meant for the Lombard writer. Just in these days then the National Committee for the celebrations – in collaboration with the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan, the Brera Art School, the “School of the Book” of Urbino, the University of Urbino Carlo Bo, the Carlo and Marise Bo Foundation, the IFA International Future Arts Association, the Carlo Bo Association of Urbino – presented the exhibition “Luigi Santucci: from novel to children’s literature”.

The exhibition is held in the historic state art high school of Brera in Milan, because the writer here was a teacher of Italian letters at the art high school annexed to the Brera Academy in the 1950s. The exhibition presents a vast literary production, which makes use of descriptive panels and documents, is divided into the exhibition of novels, essays, short stories, up to arriving at children’s literature. The stories, published and unpublished by Luigi Santucci, are interpreted by about 50 students of the “Scuola del Libro” of Urbino. The creative exhibition consists of three editorial series and other free productions, divided into the production of 33 books and 15 sculpture-books.

The cover of “Orfeo in paradiso”

The documentary Luigi Santucci: writing as a life by Luca Scarzella and Giorgio Tabanelli is screened as part of the exhibition. Here is an unpublished thought of the Italian writer: “Why am I writing? I write to thank the things (certain things: the public gardens, the Dolomites, Christ) Christmas, for the graces they have given me. Out of gratitude. I write to keep them as long as possible in the circle of life, of memory, of gratitude ”(Luigi Santucci). These unpublished, incisive words of a Catholic writer, such as he was, give us the “Christ of Santucci”, whose literary imagination did not allow itself to be captured by the severity of theology, but has plucked its flowers and laid bare its roots, giving us texts of high literature from “Orpheus in Paradise” to “Do you want to go away too?”.

READ the articles by Carlo Franza

Santucci, who was a writer of a certain cultural and spiritual dimension, matured his literary vocation, taking with him Peter’s answer to Christ: “Where shall we go Lord?”; because Christ could not fail to be for him the term of reference for his investigations into history, for each of his questions about man, for each excavation of his in the mine of his own deep self. I must add that the Municipality of Milan also named the garden in Piazza del Tricolore after the writer Luigi Santucci, on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of his birth; during the ceremony, which was attended by about a hundred people, his wife Bice Cima and their four children, the municipal councilor for Culture Filippo Del Corno spoke, among others, reconnecting those places and that neighborhood where he lived Luigi Santucci before going to live in Brianza.

Well, having known Luigi Santucci well, knowing his admirable written masterpieces, novels that earned him internationally renowned prizes, I wanted in this writing to dwell on an admirable volume concerning Brianza; is entitled “Brianza in a balloon” (Meravigli, Milan, 2020, pp. 184). The volume (published by Rusconi, in the first edition, in 1981 with the title “Brianza and other loves”) contains a collection of 48 “Brianza” drawings by the painter Camillo Cima, father-in-law of Luigi Santucci, who already made them as a nonagenarian. The book deals with an “escape” in Brianza, by the very Milanese Luigi Santucci, who lets himself be guided by an “old man, often drunk, but always lucid”, “ol Picch”, a timeless man, a “Virgilio from Brianza”, flying over , aboard a poetic hot air balloon (which also acts as a time machine), wonderful landscapes and places full of stories and fairy tales.

An act of love towards one’s roots, in search of a “paradise” mostly lost, on the thread of memory and dreams. A book whose pages “lie between history and mythology, life lived and a wild imagination” and are “populated by all the greats, from Stendhal to Manzoni, from Parini to Sant’Agostino, who were born, lived or they simply passed ”. Santucci tells us about San’Agostino born in Tagaste more than fifteen hundred years ago, Bishop of Hippo, a very learned doctor of the Church, philosopher, novelist, but also … Brianza for a few months (and with a crazy taste) in the autumn of 386 AD

“Brianza and other loves”, which later became “Brianza in a balloon”

“Cassago. I flew over it; and intentionally, as an appendix to my Christian circumnavigation of Brianza, Cassago, that is Cassiciaco, to give it its Latin, Roman, Augustinian name, which seems to pronounce it an antiphon of still song. Was it here that the great one stayed? Oh yes, perbacco, the president of the local historical-cultural association S. Agostino assures me. No more doubts. If ever it was that pooper, uninformed and bungling Manzoni don Alessandro (the adjectives are mine, but the indignant spirit of the people of Cassago will certainly approve of them) one day diverted the tracks, giving a nonsense answer to a scholar who had broken his boxes on the question of Cassiciaco, by replying that for him the refuge of Agostino had been a certain Casciago in the Varese area. Had there not been that duck, perhaps uncertainty would never have arisen. Strange cases of history! Just the Brianteo Homer Don Lissander who risks plundering Brianza from its greatest archaeological-tourist glory: having hosted Agostino. Good for everyone that there has not been a fight between Brianza and Varese for this most holy «kidnapped bucket». And you still hear that sublime words: “What is more like heaven on earth? Brianza, right? And Augustine, therefore, writes what we have read above. Here is the irrefragable solicity, here is the certain confirmation that the great man stayed here. What else, finally, can it be – in the expressions I have quoted – if not precisely and omninately Brianza, and this Brianza Cassaghese, greener than elsewhere? ”.

Santucci loved the region, or sub-region, between Monza and Lecco, between the small lakes south of Como and the beginning of the plain: “The Myth or the Secret – or the Fable if you prefer – of this scalene triangle inscribed between Lecco, Monza and Como, of this ‘wonderful natural garden’ “, as Carlo Linati writes, is hidden in his own idea, which is even more complicated than its etymology and its boundaries, and which corresponds to what Santucci calls Regnum Brianteum , with respect to which he modestly admits: “I don’t know everything about Brianza. Maybe! I know that tot that is enough (and I ignore that tot that is enough) to flirt and gossip about it beyond its objective to exist geographically and historically “.

Brianza, land of entrepreneurs, factories, furniture factories, railways, cars and motorcycles (its dense daily traffic, and the event of the Formula 1 Grand Prix; in Arcore the Gilera and, not far away, in Mondello, the Moto Guzzi) but also of the even larger enclosed park in Europe (that of the Royal Villa of Monza, created by the French, made flourishing by the Austrians, abandoned by the Piedmontese, and then a mere deposit for the “allies”).

Brianza in a hot air balloon

Brianza in a hot air balloon

And Santucci also adds the story of how Leonardo’s Mona Lisa is like the Virgin of the rocks a painting from Brianza, and not from Tuscany, in fact it speaks to us of an enigma of Brianza, which makes him think of that of the Mona Lisa of the “Leonardo Leonardo, who passed through here, we know, and was enchanted […]. Perhaps it is true then that right here, as a guest of Ludovico il Moro at the castle of Trezzo d’Adda, he would have begun to paint the cryptic smile of Mona Lisa del Giocondo; and in this case those who, in the background of the painting, recognize the view enjoyed from that place are right. I scrutinize the masterpiece, I look at the background with a heartbeat: those cretaceous mounds, the winding road and the cascading river (the Adda?) Crossed by the arched bridge behind the Bella; beyond those green indentations of woods. And I look at her, the Mona Lisa: here she is, perhaps, Brianza, embodied, personified ”.

And in the book on Brianza, Santucci adds a thousand “other loves”, all to be known. Brianza of vacationing writers but also traveling, passing through, Kerouachian on the road, the Veronese-German theologian Romano Guardini applies to all, whose “Letters from Lake Como” are worth more than Spengler and Heidegger, on European decadence, and that confessed to having understood Hölderlin in Brianza.

Carlo Franza


Born in 1949, Carlo Franza is an Italian historian of modern and contemporary art. Art critic. He lived in Rome from 1959 to 1980 where he studied and earned three degrees at La Sapienza State University (literature, philosophy and sociology). He graduated with Giulio Carlo Argan of which he was a student and assistant ordinary. Since 1980 he has been in Milan where he still resides. Extraordinary professor of history of modern and contemporary art (La Sapienza University – Rome), full professor of Italian language and literature. Visiting professor at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan and in numerous other foreign universities. Journalist, art critic from 1974 to 2002 at Il Giornale by Indro Montanelli, then at Libero from 2002 to 2012. In 2012 he returned and resumed his column “Scenari dell’arte” in the newspaper “Il Giornale”.


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