“Ravenna boasts such unique and unrepeatable events and situations,
that every inhabitant of this world would die of wonder”.
(Dario Fo, La vera storia di Ravenna, 1999)
Between 1998 and 1999, on the wave of a successful collaboration between Dario Fo and the Academy of Fine Arts, in which the artist worked together with the students of Ravenna to create brightly coloured sea tents, in the old-fashioned way, love struck once again; even the neo Nobel Prize winner succumbed to the charm of Ravenna.
What attracted the great exponent of Italian theatre was, once again, the quantity of raw material (a wealth of stories, characters and legends) that constitutes Ravenna’s fame. Thus, he voraciously and histrionically flung himself into the task of – as he puts it himself – «rewriting its history», less than officially: a cross-section of local treasures and its industrial soul from chemicals to the seaport; an adventurous and passionate story from its Etruscan origins at the beginning of the Middle Ages, through centuries interwoven with military triumphs, unpredictable betrayals, lust, cruelty, legends and myths.
This is how Fo explains his reworked version:
“I’ve wrung those stories dry, beaten them well in lye solution and I’m going to lay them in front of you again, in a bid to amuse the reader and maybe even shock him into healthy indignation, right from the title itself. In this world of collective slumber, a sudden jerk and a shudder every now and then won’t hurt us!”
The title of the book is provocative, La vera storia di Ravenna (The Real History of Ravenna), containing short chapters illustrated with 150 images in which Roman and Byzantine Ravenna is retraced from when it was still a group of islands by means of salient facts, popular stories and legends: the protagonists of our past are portrayed through little known anecdotes, such as the one about the hen of Onorio, brother of Galla Placidia, which Fo found thanks to careful bibliographical research. But on the empress herself, Dario Fo, confessed that it would be «the ideal story from which to create a soap-opera of at least 100 episodes».
Ravenna, with Dario Fo, becomes the stage for an extraordinary story, unique in the history of the world, made up of wars, complex family issues, wondrous works of hydraulic engineering, the advent of emperors, popes and bishops who have given life to the tragedies and farces of one of the most compelling performances in the history of the Italian peninsula. A history that earned him the title of honorary citizen.