Santo Stefano Belbo in Piedmont and Brancaleone in Calabria


A little tour through the villages of Cesare Pavese
Sun, 30 Dec 2018

A little tour through the villages of Cesare Pavese

Here we are with some news on villages and writers. This time the event involves a truly immense scholar in the twentieth-century Italian scene: Cesare Pavese, born in 1908, the famous author of "Lavorare stanca" and "Il mestiere di vivere".

And here are two villages between North and South. Two curiosities and two places expressly mentioned in his literary production. Different areas of the country because Piedmontese Langhe was our writer, but then knew the South even in the sad occasion of fascist confinement in the early '30s. So Pavese stayed in Brancaleone, extreme southern Italy, province of Reggio Calabria.


Santo Stefano Belbo
Photo from

Santo Stefano Belbo, in the land of Cuneo, is the country of origin of Pavese. Here his birthplace, where then the family always went also later for the summer holidays.

"La luna e i falò" is one of his books in which the country returns to the pages. But the village is also mentioned in the wonderful poems of "Lavorare stanca". Suggestive the famous little station of the small town, as well as the hotel dell'Angelo, which existed before the war.

Pavese rests in the cemetery of Santo Stefano, a town of 4000 inhabitants, famous for its wine, born on the banks of the Belbo, a tributary of the Tanaro river.

Earth regretted by the writer after the transfer with his in the city.

The Pavesiano Center takes place in the birth house, with exhibitions and various prizes at its center. Sandstone, 175 meters above sea level, there are areas with peaks of 500 and more meters above sea level, especially on the sides of the river in the area to the north. Right at the foot of a hill, a real treasure: the Roman abbey of San Gaudenzio, Benedictine (an important order here, also for the cultivation of the vine).

Also worthy of mention is the sanctuary of the Madonna della Neve.

History as a relatively young center (XI century), also had the Cistercians in the church of San Maurizio.

Santo Stefano Belbo, therefore, a simple, rustic center with an ancient flavor: what was dear to the poet.


Photo from Giornale di Calabria

The village of Reggio was Pavese's confinement: seven months, from August 1935 to March 1936. We are on the Ionian side. A relationship to highs and lows, that between the author and the villagers. Of course, Pavese openly defended the honor of the Calabrians, silencing at the root every supposed legend about, even, the "filth" of these people.

Here are his direct words: "They are cooked by the sun.The women are combing in the street, but vice versa they all bathe.There are many pigs, and the amphorae are poised on the head". Again: "Brancaleone, after all, looks like Santo Stefano Belbo and the boys and the men remind me of the time of childhood." Beautiful.The villages resemble each other.

And then: "Here I found a great reception. Good people, accustomed to the worst, try in every way to keep me good and dear ".

We draw these words from the opera "Il quaderno del confine".

But even the novel "The prison" speaks of it. Words reminiscent of those of Carlo Levi, the artist and writer, also from Piedmont, but exiled to Lucania: first in Grassano and then in Aliano, in the materano.

In 1967, edited by Giuseppe Taffarel, a documentary was created entitled "Il confino di Cesare Pavese", now available online.

But what to do and see in Brancaleone?

Center with a curious name, it has a beautiful and popular seaside resort and an abandoned historic town, with ruins of the old Bruzzano and the fortress of Rocca Armenia. Brancaleone Superiore was the name of the old village, from the origins dating back to the VI century AD about. It was finally abandoned in 1953, after a bad flood.

The role of the Basilians was decisive for the growth and then for the stability of this area: the monks knew how to enrich the area, also in culture.

Many caves and crosses characterize the rock area, a few kilometers away from the city center.

Splendor derived also from the contact with nature, therefore.

A community with a certain consistency: hence the castle, of which today there are only small ruins. Earth also of historical earthquakes, this: think of those of 1783 and then of 1908, circumstances that, together with the depopulation left by the unification of Italy, have contributed to the drastic demographic decline.

A history common to many southern centers.

Two villages, therefore, where the song of Pavese breathes: the native and ancestral one and then that of a land where ours did not go for pleasure, but who managed to make his own, joining the Calabrians, in the best optic of meeting between the people and the cultures.

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