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The history of the Orsanti: the first street artists were born in Vigoleno

Thursday 04 april 2019

In the medieval village of Piacenza there is a museum that tells the wandering life of ancient bear trainers, protagonists of acrobatic shows throughout Europe during the 1700s

 The history of the Orsanti: the first street artists were born in Vigoleno

If there is Mickey Mouse in Disneyland and Prezzemolo is in Gardaland, in Vigoleno there is a bear to act as your host. A wooden bear, don't be alarmed. Crossing the defensive walls and following a short cobbled section that leads from the main entrance to the heart of the village, you will come across a reproduction of an imposing mammal that, placed on a pedestal, will officially welcome you in this small medieval village nestled on the hills of Piacenza.

Those who choose to spend an afternoon in Vigoleno, in addition to the keep (the castle that dominates the valleys of the Ongina and Stirone) and the Pieve di San Giorgio (the oldest church in the village), cannot miss the Orsanti Museum. Created by the actress and puppeteer Maria Teresa Alpi, the museum is a very folkloristic reminiscent path that, through the re-enactment of life-size papier-mache bears and the display of ancient means of transport, musical instruments, masks, stage costumes, paintings and vintage prints, tells the itinerant life of the Orsanti, bear and street artist trainers who, during the 1700s, left their lands (Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Liguria) to reach the squares of London, Paris and Prague, where they performed together with these gigantic mammals, staging acrobatic and surprising shows.

Once identified a point of the city sufficiently exposed to the bustle of people, the orsanti set up the stage for their performances. Of all the trained animals (monkeys, parrots and camels), the "workhorse" was undoubtedly the bear, whose weight was around 350 kilos and, when it rose on the two hind legs, it reached two meters of height: a truly impressive sight. The Museo degli Orsanti is the only European witness to street art. And the inhabitants of Vigoleno jealously guard its memory, telling it to adults and children.


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