Garibaldi in La Spezia, a long story.
Giuseppe Garibaldi has walked the streets of La Spezia; there are reports about three stops on the city ground. The first was in 1849, the second in 1862, injured following the Aspromonte campaign and the detention in the Varignano prison, then in 1867, recovering from the Mentana battle. The town’s will to commemorate the General with a monument started in 1882. Still, it took shape on June 1, 1913, with the inauguration of the equestrian statue by Antonio Garella in the public gardens.
The Garibaldi statue and its sculptor, Antonio Garella.
Recently restored, the monument is made of bronze and weighs 60 tons. It is one of the few prancing-horse equestrian statues in the world standing on its hind legs. At the time of its construction, the statue’s placement was a reason for some controversy. So much so that the statue, completed in 1911, was inaugurated only two years later. The choice finally fell on the public gardens, and the city agreed to cut some typical orange trees to give space to the statue.
Antonio Garella is a sculptor from Ferrara, born in 1863.
The statue gets unveiled, and the parade takes place.
You can’t forget a celebration like that. And I remember well, even if many years have passed since 1913. The inauguration of the Garibaldi monument to Garibaldi was planned for Sunday, June 1, but already on Saturday, the city was crowded with Garibaldi partisans. It seemed that the world suddenly had decided to visit La Spezia.
“A train arriving from Parma!”, “Here’s one from Pisa!” And then Bologna, Genoa, Turin: at the station, trains kept coming. So go on, blowing in the brass instruments and – they were not one, but two days of celebration – cycling and rowing races.
None of us had ever seen a statue like that, you know? It seemed like they’d never let us see it, we knew it had been there for two years, but we had not seen it for one reason or another. And then, what a surprise! A horse was rearing to the sky, the Two Worlds’hero riding it with the sword pointing to the sun. Of course, we all had seen the sketch by Antonio Garella, the sculptor, and we discussed where the statue should have been placed.
My father, for example, did not agree with cutting the orange trees. “Garibaldi must be great, but what did the orange trees do wrong?!” He said. Nevertheless, when the cloth fell, he was amazed indeed.
Everybody goes, “It is one of the few equestrian statues in bronze in the world that only stand on the animal’s hind feet.” “Well, of course,” – I have always thought –” if it stood on the front ones, the horse would toss Garibaldi.” But Garibaldi cannot be dumped anywhere.
And even if the speech was not great, the crowded parade on Savoia avenue was a show! Eight hundred seventy associations had helped organize the party, and a crowded caravan of joy and banners had never been in town.