Via Marina di Reggio, a place for the soul. A good book tells us about it


By John

For us in Reggio Calabria, the Via Marina is a border and a magnetic pole, is the natural conclusion of the city that runs, descends, slides towards its sea. But it is also its principle, its emergence from the waters that change their appearance, light and color at any moment. It is a belvedere and an urban park. It is the view – the possession – of the Strait in its Reggio version (because the Strait is one and multiple according to where you look at it, you face it), closed by Etna, ‘a Muntagna which visually belongs to us, by right of landscape and usucapione of beauty. Via Marina is a gaze, it is an identity. As a great mayor said, who gave it his name, Italo Falcomatà – the Lungomare is named after him, while via Marina Alta is named after Giacomo Matteotti, even if “via Marina” remains the confidential appellation and the name of the soul – «it is a feeling».

AND a differently ancient placegiven that it has been rebuilt several times, the last one just over a century ago, but with waste materials and rubble from the city that collapsed and imploded in 1908: the city stands on its own pains and uses them to make itself new, reappear to its natural balcony, which together protects it and offers it to the currents, the winds, the salt.
It’s a place differently modernwhere the ancient forms have been reinvested and recovered, and combined – thanks to the foresight of some administrators – with contemporary art installations that today combine to create a unique, ancestral, futuristic place.

It is a place that extends in space and time: from the municipal Lido to the station, from the Real Palazzina to the redevelopment works of 1994, to the visions of Zaha Hadid. It is a place that extends into the life of each of us children and citizens – a place of strolling and socializing, of solitary walks, night owls and jogging, nightlife and contemplation. A Proustian space, where the madeleines are the ice creams of Cesare’s kiosk. All this, and much more, is contained in the beautiful volume «Via Marina di Reggio Calabria. The light of the blue, tales and visions» signed by two indomitable people from Reggio: the journalist Giuseppe Dullformer deputy director of Repubblica and chronicler of all forms of southern and Calabrian resilience, and the photographer and reporter Marco Constantine, who works for major newspapers and national agencies. For both, what the publisher writes (another indomitable Reggio, Franco Arcidiaco of the well-deserving “Città del sole”) in the brief introduction is valid: this is love, “stubborn love” for one’s own city.

There is everything in the book – which will be presented tomorrow, at 7 pm, in the archaeological site of the Area Sacra Griso Laboccetta, organized by the Touring Club of Reggio, as part of the program of events managed by the Ulysses association – : stories, anecdotes, suggestions. Shadows, mythologies, urban legends. Smorto combines the spirit of the reporter who seeks out and collects facts and characters with the taste of the narrator who falls in love with a detail, the reflection of light on the water, the sinuous shapes of the “Ficomagno”, the popular name of a bird flutters between rocks and palm trees. And there is a whole ornithology, a botany, an astronomy of the via Marina that peeks out, in the short chapters that are countermelodies of the beautiful images of Constantine (moreover, with a masterful titling: the titles, by themselves, make up a further path, a poem for allusions, winks, quotations). A double narration that proceeds by details, hints, flashes: Athena’s spear, the red of the sunset that filters through the columns of Tresoldi (the latest installation, the most spectacular union of ancient and modern on the shores of the Strait), the silhouettes of people from Reggio who, whatever happens, “go down” to via Marina and walk along it, towards Etna or towards the Bronzes at the Museum (pole stars, by now, of the city’s imaginary), and then back again.

Smorto is ancient Reggio, which recalls the acrid smell of tear gas in the air of the revolt of the 70s, it recalls via Marina when the trains ran through it, between the trees and the sea, it recalls the lost Orchidea cinema, but at no time the his is a nostalgic and traditionalist “amarcord”: if anything, it is active love for a living city, for which to fight the battle of defense, of beauty. The one that Costantino’s shots show us, which are a catalog of different gazes, of the infinite possibilities that a place like Via Marina offers to everyone, enchanting the people of Reggio and visitors alike (which are not few).

There is also a minimal literary review, from Homer to Pavese, of verses and fragments that cite the via Marina as a synecdoche of the Strait (where always and in any case the part is for the whole, and vice versa).
I didn’t intentionally consider the old dispute over the title of “most beautiful kilometer in Italy”, if it was really a phrase by Gabriele D’Annunzio: of course it is a thrilling kilometerwhoever said it, and continues to be so for those who live there, and never stop seeing it (that sometimes one goes blind to beauty that is too close, and unfortunately this is an endemic problem in the South), and never stops having the look, to know that he is consoled, wanted, loved by it.