What was Limone Piemonte like in the twenty years of the Fascist period?
These video clips from the Istituto Luce film archive take us back to the 1930s, when Limone's slopes hosted not only armed forces practices and crowded gatherings of excursionists but also major sporting and social events with the participation of political authorities and jet-set personalities.
Ski gathering of the National Afterwork Club in Limone Piemonte with the intervention of the Crown Prince
On 24th February 1929, Limone was the venue for a major afterwork club reunion: the inter-regional convention of the Italian Touring Federation, which saw the participation of over 5,500 people (800 from Cuneo, 2,500 from Turin, 1,000 from Genoa and 1,200 from Milan) wishing to get their skiers' certificate.
As recounted by the newspaper called "La Sentinella delle Alpi", the opportunity to host this great event was a source of pride and satisfaction for the town of Limone, and required a complex organisation of transport and accommodation services.
"The grandiose event will consist of a non-long-distance ski march in which numerous groups representing the three Italian regions of Piedmont, Liguria and Lombardy will participate. After the deployment of the skiing masses of these three regions, a young ladies' race and practice will follow in the “Campo degli Inglesi” field and the San Giovanni valley.
The construction of a ski jump will provide the opportunity to watch exciting jumps by the most valiant ski champions in following events. A spacious grandstand will be built to allow the authorities and ladies to attend the shows”.
This event was also attended by Prince Umberto, by then an unfailing guest of the town, who hosted a breakfast at the Benedusi Hotel (today's 'Grand Palais Excelsior') and later on handed out the diplomas.
Militia skiing Championships in Limone Piemonte. His excellency general Teruzzi attends the races
In 1929, the slopes of Limone hosted the competitions of the Militia Ski Championships, with the presence of General Attilio Teruzzi, at the time Chief of Staff of the Volunteer Militia for National Security, who is clearly recognisable in the pictures by his square face framed by a thick beard and two majestic moustaches.
The event was also attended by Bruno and Vittorio Mussolini, the Duce's sons who were then young boys. We are in the midst of the Fascist era: from 1929 onwards, the party gatherings began and were repeated in an enthusiastic crescendo of propaganda even after 1940.
In this video we can see the skiers in action along the slopes ending with a final jump from the trampoline built on the slope above the “Campo degli Inglesi” field, where a grandstand had also been set up to grant the guests of honour a better view. These facilities demonstrate the great effort that the people of Limone had made to improve their town, which had then become a state-of-the-heart alpine centre for tourism as well as the location for numerous important events.
“La Gazzetta del Popolo” trip
A winter trip organised by La Gazzetta del Popolo of Turin was held in Limone Piemonte in 1932. This event brought 3,000 excursionists to the ski resort, mostly from Piedmont. They arrived on three special trains not only from Turin, but also from Lombardy, Liguria, Nice and Monte Carlo.
Limone's mayor at the time was a lawyer named Mario Berardengo. He had a poster put up, which read as follows: 'The municipality of Limone Piemonte, on the initiative of La Gazzetta del Popolo and the interest of Cuneo’s Provincial Tourist Committee, has been chosen for a great tourist-sports excursion, which will take place on 21st February; on the same day, the long-awaited skiing competition for the Bottero Cup will also be held.
For the honour bestowed on us by the authorities for this important and grandiose event, we must demonstrate them as well as the select mass of sportsmen and women who will converge here, our profound and grateful sentiment of cordial and disinterested hospitality'.
A joyous skiing gathering
Numerous events were organised in Limone in 1932: the usual competitions of the militia, the avant-garde local jumping and downhill championships; the third edition of the Bottero Cup and the trip organised by La Gazzetta del Popolo.
The sports season ended in March with an exciting skiing day when both an international jumping competition with the participation of famous champions and the provincial championship of young fascist women won by Vanda Pedrazzo from Cuneo were held in Limone.
The video shows the mass arrival of participants with skis on their shoulders, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. A multitude of people are on the track: not only skiers intent on competing, but also simple spectators, some of which are on foot, while others are equipped with sledges
People and sports: from Liguria and Piedmont, 8,000 excursionists went up to the 'White Gathering' in Limone
On 5th February 1933 a sports outing organised by the inter-regional Afterwork Club and the Turin newspaper called "La Stampa" took place in Limone, and gathered over 8,000 participants.
Six special trains (four from Piedmont and two from Liguria) together with 200 cars and coaches from Piedmont and France converged on the town to take part in the event. The streets are crowded with people, who have flocked to take part in a day full of excitement, alternating between skiing competitions and fun activities at Campo Principe. Music and anthems, a parade in folkloric circles and the distribution of hot dishes to all those present rounded off the event.
An account of the event was published in the newspaper “La Stampa della sera” on 6th February 1933 and it reads as follows: 'Plenty of health and appetite exceeding all expectations in our excursionists. It is estimated that about one kilometre of sausages and at least three thousand litres of wine were consumed; one group of ten musicians alone drank 32 litres of it. In Limone people eat everywhere, the restaurants are all packed and those who can’t find a seat at a table wait for their turn, to take the place of those who have already had their meal'.
His Royal Highness Prince Umberto attends the IX ski championship of the Nnational Association of Alpines
On 28th January 1934 the skiing championship of the National Association of Alpines on leave was held in Limone, with the presence of Prince Umberto, the Honourable Angelo Manaresi Commander of the ANA as well as numerous army generals. On this occasion, the pennant of the ANA section of Limone was inaugurated and an official lunch was held at the Limone hotel.
The 1930s represented a golden moment for Limone: the town was living its magic time revolving around skiing. In those years the town was frequently visited by high-level guests, such as the Crown Prince Umberto with his sister Jolanda and wife Maria Josè of Belgium or members of the Grimaldi family from the Principality of Monaco. Sporting events took place continuously in the presence of the highest state authorities. Limone was declared a health resort and became a destination for tourists from outside the region and the Côte d'Azur.
The winter hiking gathering
On 12th February 1939, the usual hikers' meeting of the National Afterwork Club took place in Limone and this time it was also officially open to Italians living on the Côte d'Azur. Around ten thousand people attended, all from northern Italy, as well as around three hundred from abroad.
On that day "La Sentinella delle Alpi" newspaper reported as follows: 'Limone had undergone a radical makeover that literally transformed its already welcoming appearance.’
The town was spruced up for the occasion and the old town centre was decorated with gigantic flower beds made of paper flowers created by Mr. Lorenzon, a craftsman from Bra, as well as with tricolours, drapes and banners with bold lettering. The secretary of the National Fascist Party, Mr. Achille Starace, attended the event, watching from the Town Hall the procession of folkloric dances and the parade of floats mounted as sleighs on skates.
To allow for this demonstration, a certain amount of snow had to be brought to the square, as none had fallen from the sky for more than twenty days and the previous one had already disappeared.
The Prince of Piedmont reviews the alpine units of the Gioventù Italiana del Littorio (G.I.L.)
On 4th February 1940, a gathering of the "Gioventu’ Italiana del Littorio" took place in Limone with ski competitions and the creation of a small snow village along the lines of the one held in 1936. In the pictures of this event, we can see the Prince of Piedmont Umberto II of Savoy reviewing the young men gathered for a period of ski training and visiting the charming snow village, equipped with fortifications, walkways, meeting rooms and a small church.
GIL, whose motto was 'Believe - Obey - Fight', was established in 1937 and gathered all the youth organisations previously created by the regime and brought them under the direct control of the Secretary of the Fascist Party, with the aim of enhancing the spiritual, sporting and military preparation of Italian youth based on the principles of the Fascist Party ideology.