The last saturday of september was my birthday. My daughter, my husband and a couple of friends had already presented me their gifts the night before, but I was feeling a little down because, let’s face it…..it was my 52nd birthday and I didn’t really feel like celebrating that much………so my daughter asked me to go with her and her friend F to another photo contest and spend the day together. I’m really happy I said yes because we had such a great time!
Early morning we drove to the little town of Salsomaggiore Terme, located at the foot of the Apennines about 40 kms from our home and a popular Spa town. During the reign of Marie Louise as Duchess of Parma Salsomaggiore started to be recognized as a spa attraction for therapeutic purposes. Salsomaggiore then became one of the most famous and celebrated watering places in Europe. Notable attractions of this town are the central square with its clothing shops, the main centre of the town with a ice-cream parlor that is renowned throughout the area and the countryside surrounding this valley town. I used to go there often, especially in summer, when I was younger, because the town was a nice attraction for young people with lots of places where to dance or listen to live music, and it felt good to be back after many years.
Our first stop was the “Palazzo dei Congressi” – the Conference Center – to have daughter and F registered. The building housed a photographic exhibition, but I was more interested in the place itself…..
Located att the heart of a magnificent park, the luxurious Grand Hotel des Thermes, a splendid building in Art Nouveau-Art Deco style, known for more than thirty years as “Palazzo dei Congressi, is within walking distance of all Salsomaggiore’s hotels. Its captivating frescoed halls, together with its more modern structures, provide a venue for congresses, conferences, meetings and other events, with a seating capacity of 2,300. The Conference Centre occupies three floors: the “historical” halls, known, respectively, as “Moresco” (Moorish), “Cariatidi” (Caryatids), Pompadour and “Taverna Rossa” (Red Tavern), are rich in architectural and decorative invention, and are amongst the most important examples of Art Deco in Italy.
The building was designed in 1898, on a commission from the Società Magnaghi to the architect Luigi Broggi. Opened in 1901, the hotel was managed by Cesare Ritz, who together with Baron Pfyffer, acquired it in 1910. The plan is a horseshoe shape with originally 300 rooms spread over four floors. The outside is covered in brick. The awning over the entrance and the railings in wrought iron were done by Alessandro Mazzucotelli. Among the external and internal pictorial decorations, those of the Dining Room (Sala Cariatidi), the work of Gottardo Valentini, are particularly fine.
After the First World War, the hotel was ceded to the Società Anonima Grandi Alberghi Salsomaggiore; the building was enlarged with the construction of a new body, attached to the already existing one, facing the park. It came to house the Moorish Salon (Salone Moresco), the Red Tavern (Taverna Rossa), and the Loggia-Veranda (Loggiato Veranda), works of Ugo Giusti and Galileo Chini. To Chini we owe the decorations of the inner rooms, inspired by the Moorish style, and the refacing of the cupola of the Dining Room, in Japanese style. The artists who partecipated were Antonio Veronesi, who did the cupola of the Moorish Salon, the Chini Ceramic Works of Borgo San Lorenzo, who provided the glass, Salvatore Aloisi, the sculptor who provided the stucco models and the sculptures, and Franco Spicciani of Lucca, the furniture maker who devised the red-lacquered tavern tables and chairs.
After the Secon World War, the hotel passed to Count Leoni and then was acquired, in 1965, by the Municipality of Salsomaggiore Terme.
M and F were more interested in the photos, but after all, they are professionals!!
Done with the contest formalities and the visit to the exhibition, we were out, photo hunting. M and F were at least, I was just following them taking photos on my own without that much pressure, they however had to follow the contest rules, six themes, one photo each theme to submit to the judges – september, social, lines, memories, green and impossible – in the afternoon. I guess I had much more fun just wandering around…..
……… until a building attracted my attention, the headquarters of the Tourist Office.
Set on the corner of the street leading to the Spa, the building was erected in 1914 from the design of architect Orsino Bongi. Count Ladislaw Tyszkiewicz, who commissioned the work, intended to use the premises for “Warowland”, a modern art gallery. In 1919 the property passed to Marchesa Alberta Dalla Rosa Zambelli, but was taken as state property by a decree of 27 April of the same year. The building became the seat of the administration offices of the spa. As an isolated episode in the urban contest, the “palazzina” was created in the Neo-medieval Lombard style, evident in the decorations of the exterior walls, with arms and fasces painted in polychrome. The stucco simulates pointed stones and “fish scales”.
The building is articulated around an interior courtyard that creates a type of cloister with garden, visible from the atrium that crosses the building in correspondance with the tower. Notable the use of wood under the eaves and in the external stairs that lead to the loggia with stone balustrades.
Outside the courtyard M and F were waiting for me, ready to visit the Spa building…………
The spa building is dedicated to Lorenzo Berzieri, the first doctor who systematically studied the therapeutic properties of the town’s natural mineral waters. The “Terme Berzieri” were designed at the beginning of 1900. In 1912, the project was given to the architect Ugo Giusti, in an earlier phase he worked on the project with the engineer Giulio Bernardini. In 1919, after the interruption of the First World War, the project included Galileo Chini and his collaborators of San Lorenzo Ceramics Works, which prepared the building’s decorative materials. The building’s work ended four years later, and the pubblic opening was held on 27 May 1923. On the facade, you can recognize some of Chini’s particular artistic experiments. Of note are the paired lion heads that decorate the roof over the entrance. The model of the lion head is the work of the sculptor Francesco Aloisi, who together with Guido Calori was one of Chini’s closest collaborators. In the blue girls in lion cloths, placed to the lower side of the mezzanine windows, as in the lions that flank the word “Thermae”, it is possible to see an echo of Chini’s experience in Siam, nowadays Thailand.
The interior of the atrium, decorated by Giuseppe Moroni, contains marbles, murals and stuccoes. The monumental double staircase at the end of the vestibule leads to the first floor. By climbing it one can see the stucco rosettes on the ceiling, that frame the artificial lights like flowers, while the skylight, open above the funnel of the stairs, confers a suffused luminosity to the entire space. At the end of the staircase are the frescoes of Galileo Chini. The female figures hover on the gilded background among dense scrolls in a fantastic landescape of water and luxuriant vegetation, evidently an allegory using the environmental motifs that characterize the watering place. On the front wall is a fresco of Giuseppe Moroni, of 1923. It is a typical example of Art Déco.
After that feast for the eyes, we needed a break, so we searched for a place to sit down and have something to drink.
Our feet brought us to the “Gran Cafè del Teatro” ( Theater Grand Cafè) dedicated to Federico Fellini and his movies….and once the location for the final steps of the “Miss Italia” competition….
After that we had a short walk to the place we choose for lunch……….
where we finally could relax waiting for the time to hand the photos to the committee……….
Much more heavy then before, we walked back to the Conference Center …………….
to finally have the photos downloaded, named, classified and encoded…….
Some of you already know that the next day M was awarded the first prize in the category “social” with this photo….and I really have to say how proud I was???
I had just the time to come back home, take a shower and I was out again, to meet our friends to have a pizza together………..
All in all, not a bad day………..if not for that #52…………….