Pinocchio was born in Collodi

“Centuries ago there lived… - A king! – my little readers will say immediately.

- No, children, you are mistaken. Once upon a time there was a piece of wood. It was not an expensive piece of wood. Far from it. Just a common block of firewood, one of those thick, solid logs that are put on the fire in winter to make cold rooms cozy and warm. I do not know how this really happened, yet the fact remains that one fine day this piece of wood found itself in the shop of an old carpenter…”

Lucia Maffei

This is the starting paragraph of one of the most well-known and beloved children’s books: The adventures of Pinocchio.

The story of the wooden marionette is still today the most diffused title after the Bible and the Koran. Over 200 different translations of the book exist and an incalculable number of editions and re-prints have been published since 1883.

Pinocchio was born in Collodi, a small town between the cities of Lucca and Pescia in the region of Tuscany, through the pen of the writer Carlo Lorenzini. Florentine by birth, the author spent his childhood years in Collodi, where his mother worked as a cook at the Villa Garzoni mansion. This small country town became the writer’s adoptive home, and this is strongly manifested in the pseudonym that he took on at the beginning of his journalistic career: his articles, published in the magazine “Il Lampione” were signed Carlo Collodi. And from this pseudonym stems the tie that binds this land with the figure of Pinocchio.

IT IS THE SUMMER OF 1881: COLLODI PUBLISHES THE FIRST CHAPTERS OF A STORY THAT WILL APPEAR IN WEEKLY EPISODES on the new children’s magazine called the “Giornale per i Bambini”. The piece is called “The Story of a Marionette” and ends after just 15 episodes with Pinocchio being hung on a branch of an oak tree. This brusque ending unleashes the disappointment of the magazine’s young readers and – following the numerous letters of protest sent to the editors – the story resumes in November of that same year, this time with the title “The Adventures of Pinocchio”. In January of 1883, the story’s definitive ending sees the Marionette transformed into a real live boy. Three weeks following the conclusive episode of the magazine story, Pinocchio becomes a book published by the Florentine editor Felice Paggi, complete with illustrations by Enrico Mazzanti.

From that moment on, new editions follow one another at a swift pace, and each one is illustrated by the best artists of the period.

In the world of children’s literature, images have to succeed in transmitting the story and its emotions all on their own. So, if “told” graphically, even a world-famous work like Pinocchio stirs up new and unexpected sensations in the reader. The book’s fortune has led to the creation of a veritable “history of illustrations”. So much so that, in the “Historical Archives of the Giunti Publishing House” in Florence, is a hall completely dedicated to the iconography of Pinocchio – a totally complete picture of the book’s history from the XIX century to today.

Finding and collecting the most beautiful editions of Pinocchio is not easy, considering the fact that, before arriving into the hands of connoisseurs, most of the books published have passed through the hands of little readers – curious, impatient, exploring hands that were often tinted with the colors of chocolate or various ice cream flavors. Just to have an idea of the book’s value on the antiques market, the first edition by Paggi, practically impossible to find nowadays, is quoted at around 7,500 Euro, while the famous edition illustrated by Attilio Mussino for Bemporad in 1910 has a value of about 700 Euro.

BUT NOT ONLY THE WORLD OF GRAPHICS HAS DEDICATED ATTENTION TO PINOCCHIO. The most important event that brought the story worldwide fame and fortune was Walt Disney’s adaptation in 1940 of Collodi’s text to turn it into an animated film. From this moment on, the wooden Marionette’s iconography will be forever tied to Disney’s Pinocchio. And the cinema has since never stopped considering this “fairy tale for young and old”. The last person to work with this “piece of wood” is the Florentine actor and director Roberto Benigni who in an interview declared: “Pinocchio is life, death, joy, a smile, suffering, deceit, friendship, freedom, forgiveness, evil …a unique text, like the Bible. I fell in love with this piece of wood and every time I see a tree, I feel the irresistible urge to hug it!”

Pinocchio is a character who brings not only Benigni but every single one of us back to our childhood. Is there a mother who has never told her child: “be careful, if you tell a fib, your nose will grow like Pinocchio’s!” •

Pinocchio’s Park and the Villa Garzoni mansion

The town of Collodi rotates around the two elements that have given it worldwide fame: the mansion called Villa Garzoni and Pinocchio’s Park.

Situated in what was once the Republic of Lucca, bordering the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, villa Garzoni is located at the bottom of the town, almost as if to bear all its weight. The child Carlo Lorenzini roamed around its kitchens.

A fascinating origin for this villa which was not born from the project of a grand architect, but rather from the imagination of an amateur designer. It was 1652 when the marquis Romano Garzoni placed the final stone of his new villa.

The garden, skillful synthesis between the geometry typical of the Renaissance and the spectacular of the Baroque, is enriched with several statues. Through a complex hydraulic system, these create water effects that the marquis Antonio Mazzarosa retained unique, at least in Italy: “The Garden resembles a scene from a theater. And it looks all the more admirable when the water, of which the grounds abound, makes its original effects.” That very same water that, around the XVI century, the inhabitants of the surrounding valley began utilizing to make paper. It is precisely in this territory that began the paper activity and tradition of Lucca.

Just a few steps from the villa’s gates, Pinocchio’s park was inaugurated in 1962. An artistic and cultural experience that was catered to by some of the greatest artists and architects of the time. A park built for children, but fascinating also for adults. A walk through green fields representing the most famous chapters and adventures of the book. The characters come alive through the art of the sculptors who have represented them: one meets the Fox and the Cat, a sleepy Snail whose head peeps through a green hedge, the Fairy’s little house, the Money Tree full of gold coins and, at the end, a giant whale in whose mouth one can enter and wander through its surreal stone teeth…•

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