Plain-towns of Italy

Source: Egerton R. Williams, Plain-towns of Italy: The Cities of Old Venetia (London: J. Murray, 1912), pp. 142-143

Text: After a dinner in company with various gentlemen who ate with their hats on (according to the peasant’s manner), consumed alarming quantities of meat and macaroni with the sole aid of their knives, and roared continuously at each other with deafening bellows, I solaced my nerves with some caffè nero at a sidewalk table in the main piazza; and then found a cinematograph exhibition, which gave a performance of five numbers for the modest sum of thirty centesimi, in the first class.

Moving pictures are now the one great amusement of the Italians. There is hardly a town so small as not to possess at least one such show; and the prices are usually twenty centesimi for the second class, thirty or forty for the first. Here the national love of tragedy is prominently manifested; the popular piece must have plenty of blood-letting, and above all a harrowing finis, that leaves most of the characters upon the ground. Especially successful this evening was the story of Parasina; when it ended with the death of herself and Ugo upon the block, a united sigh of satisfaction arose from the excited populace. The concluding number, as always, was supposed to be very funny – “comicissima,” – and consisted of the usual chase of one person by many others, at whose clearly intentional tumbles the audience roared with delight.

Footnote: In the cities there is often also a third class, costing ten centesimi; at which rate children and private soldiers are nearly everywhere admitted, the latter proving the mainstay of the business in garrison-towns. As a teacher for them of general information, it is invaluable; and one sees them, night after night, drinking in with open mouths the wonders of this world.

Comments: Egerton Ryerson Williams (?-?) was a British travel writer. The film show he attended was in the town of Bassano (now Bassano del Grappa) in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. Parasina was a poem by Lord Byron which was turned into an opera by Donizetti and based on the 15th century historical figure Parisina Malatesta. The film was probably Parasina (Italy 1909), production company SAFFI-Comerio.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

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