By Moira Sullivan.
In northeastern Italy lies the autonomous region of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. “Friulan”, a romance dialect, is spoken in Friuli. Casarsa della Delizia is one of the towns of the area and is where the mother of Pier Paolo Pasolini was born. During the Second World War, the Italian poet and filmmaker lived here and in the surrounding area with his mother Susanna (Colussi) Pasolini awaiting the end of the war. One of his earliest volumes of poetry was Versi a Casarsa (1941) published in Friulan.
The Pasolini home, “Casa Colussi” has been made into a small museum called the Center for Pasolinian Studies. The rooms have some of the original furniture and are adorned with photographs and framed poems written when Pasolini was a young man, some in Friulan. One of the rooms is decorated in blue and red stripes, the color of the Bologna soccer team that Pasolini played on.
The center also has a small library for scholars and contains first editions of all of Pasolini’s published work from the Friulan period and his complete filmography.
Nearby the center is the small church Santa Croce where the funeral for the poet was held in 1975. On the walls are frescos depicting the Holy Cross by the Italian painter Pomponio Almateo (1505-1588). As thanks for being spared a Turkish invasion in 1499, the villagers of Casarsa built and painted the church that was completed in 1529. In documentary footage of Pasolini’s funeral the distinctive tiles of the outdoor ceiling of the church can be seen.
Next to the church is the “Casarsa della Delizia Civic Library” with an extensive collection of books about Pasolini, and books and poems written by him. Italian academic dissertations on the filmmaker are also located there. Many of these volumes on Pasolini are now out of print so it of great interest to see them.
In an adjacent room are dictionaries of the Friulan language and historical monographs of the Friuli region.
A map at the center shows historical sites of interest in the area. Pasolini was only engaged in party politics for a short time. In San Giovanni is a lodge where Pasolini put up posters during the war in the Friulan and Italian language. At the time there was a Friulan Populist Movement, which he briefly joined in 1947. Later he was active in the Communist Party (CP) in Giovanni. His insistence on using Friulan angered Catholics, Christian Democrats and CP intellectuals who maintained that only Italian represented the Socialist Realism of Italy. His open homosexuality was also a sore point and he left the party and was forced to flee to Rome with his mother. A short volume published in Italian, Swedish and French tells of his early awakening and understanding of his sexuality: Amado Mio (1948).
On the outskirts of Casarsa della Delizia is Venuta where Pasolini and his mother sought refuge during the war. In 1947 they opened a school for young people in one of the rooms of their house since during the war children had no education. The church of Sant’Antonio Abata in Venuta dates somewhere between the X to XI century. Masterpieces of art lay under the surfaces and Pasolini and his students rubbed away the plaster with onions to bring forth the marvelous frescoes.
The final destination for a visit to Casarsa is the cemetery where Pasolini is buried. A simple plate with engravings of his name and an identical one for his mother marks the gravesite.
Although the modernized Casarsa looks very different from the area when Pasolini used to ride his bike in the countryside, it is still a moving experience to visit the places where he worked and lived.
The Center for Pasolinian Studies does not charge an entrance fee and is financed by subsidies. Several activities take place during the year including seminars and exhibitions. When I visited the museum in April there was an historic photo exhibition running on San Giovanni. A group of young Italian students tore through the house and touched everything much to the dismay of the center assistant. Indeed, most of the museum is under a watchful eye and it is a good idea to make an appointment before you visit.
Casarsa can be reached by the Italian railway from Venice (1.5 hours). (English)
Center for Pasolinian Studies: http://www.centrostudipierpaolopasolinicasarsa.it/ (Italian only)
Photos of the Pasolini Center ©Moira Sullivan
Moira Sullivan has a PhD in Cinema Studies from Stockholm University. She is a freelance film critic based in San Francisco and a member of FIPRESCI (International Critics Association) and the European Critics Association.