Guareschi’s Minor Fair

A day at Fiera Milano, penned by Giovannino Guareschi

Giovannino Guareschi (Fontanelle di Roccabianca, May 1st, 1908–Cervia, July 22nd, 1968) was an Italian writer, journalist, humorist, and cartoonist.

Festa della "Befana benefica" alla Fiera di Milano del 1952 Festa della "Befana benefica" alla Fiera di Milano del 1952 (1/6/1952) by Non identificatoFondazione Fiera Milano

Guareschi is one of Italy’s best-selling authors worldwide (with over 20 million copies sold) and the most widely translated of all time.

Stand delle cantine dei "Marchesi di Barolo" alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1962 (12/04/1962 - 27/04/1962) by Non identificatoFondazione Fiera Milano

The most famous character to come from Guareschi’s pen was Don Camillo, the parish priest constantly at odds with Peppone, the Communist mayor of his little world in the Po valley in Emilia.

Visita del presidente della Repubblica Luigi Einaudi alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1951 in occasione della inaugurazione (1951/04/12) by Ancillotti & MartinottiFondazione Fiera Milano

In 1950, Guareschi was accused of libel by the Italian President Luigi Einaudi for a satirical cartoon. He would be given an eight-months suspended sentence.

Due visitatori leggono il menù all'ingresso di un ristorante alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1957 (12/04/1957 - 27/04/1957) by Non identificatoFondazione Fiera Milano

In 1950, the fair’s house organ published a short, but brilliant report on the experience of a fair visitor, told with the humorous touch of "someone who sees today through the eyes of tomorrow”, as he himself liked to say of people who could make others laugh.
(The article appeared in «Fiera di Milano. Rassegna dell'Ente Autonomo Fiera». Year III. Number 2, April 1950.)

Inaugurazione del nuovo salone nautico della Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1965 (4/15/1965) by PublifotoFondazione Fiera Milano

Viale dell'industria alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1950 (post 1950/04/12 - ante 1950/04/30) by Non identificatoFondazione Fiera Milano

“I was surprised to meet a guy like that at the Fair" 

"This is about last year. It was a Sunday afternoon."

Visitatori stranieri alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1963 (12/04/1963 - 25/04/1963) by Non identificatoFondazione Fiera Milano

"The sun and sky seemed to have been deliberately made to demonstrate that the smartest stand at the Fair was the Factory of the Universe. But it needs to be considered how at the fair—rain, hail, or shine—everybody relaxes, shedding their usual frown to become more gracious."

Interno del padiglione macchine e apparecchi per l'industria chimica e farmaceutica alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1963 Interno del padiglione macchine e apparecchi per l'industria chimica e farmaceutica alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1963 (12/04/1963 - 25/04/1963) by PublifotoFondazione Fiera Milano

"Even Chemistry—and if anything is grim and forbidding in this world, it is Chemistry, with all its abstruseness and ice-cold formulas—and yet, at the Fair even Chemistry relaxes and from its cheerful, festive pavilion smiles warmly even on the school pupil who was failed for not knowing the formula of sulphuric acid."

Sala delle produzioni chimiche diverse nel padiglione del Gruppo Montecatini alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1950 (post 1950/04/12 - ante 1950/04/30) by Aragozzini, VincenzoFondazione Fiera Milano

Interno del padiglione Monopolio Tabacchi alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1963 (12/04/1963 - 25/04/1963) by PublifotoFondazione Fiera Milano

"Then there is the Government. I say if there is anything colder, grimmer, and more forbidding than Chemistry, then it really is the Government. Yet even the Government relaxes at the Fair and graciously greets the people...

...it usually barks at and bullies and sends the Government Monopoly, its favourite son, to smile at visitors at the tobacco products stand and go so far in its kindness as to package special cigarettes for the Milan Fair."

Padiglione editoria, filatelica e carte valori alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1966 Padiglione editoria, filatelica e carte valori alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1966 (14/04/1966 - 25/04/1966) by PublifotoFondazione Fiera Milano

"So I was surprised, as I was saying, to meet a guy like that at the Fair, because he was such a frightfully gloomy man."

Esterno del padiglione delle Ferrovie dello Stato alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1957 (12/04/1957 - 27/04/1957) by Non identificatoFondazione Fiera Milano

"I took a seat at the kiosk..."

"... under the sun umbrella to have a drink, and the little man was at a table near mine. He did not say a word, but would snort every now and then and you could tell he had a case of the gripes."

Escavatore in esposizione alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1953 (1953) by Non identificatoFondazione Fiera Milano

"‘What a load of rot!’ he grumbled at a certain point. ‘All that fanfare for nothing.’ I looked over at him as he seemed to be talking to me. ‘All that fanfare for nothing!’ he repeated. ‘Nothing where?’ ‘At this damn Fair!’ Now, I would think even the inhabitants of the remotest regions on the other side of the world must know about the Milan Fair."

Visita del direttore generale dell'IRI Salvino Sernesi alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1963 (4/22/1963) by PublifotoFondazione Fiera Milano

"Ultimately, you could say everything is here at the Milan Fair, from the Diesel engine to patented shoelaces. I tried to explain this calmly to the little man, but the little man was sure of himself. ‘There’s nothing here’, he exclaimed."

Interno del padiglione dei casalighi alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1965 (14/04/1965 - 25/04/1965) by PublifotoFondazione Fiera Milano

"‘I couldn’t give a damn about transformers, suction-force pumps, television sets, ploughs, drinks cabinets, and refrigerators. I work in funeral transportation and if you can tell me where the coffin stand is, I’ll buy you a drink. That’s what interests me. So for me, there’s nothing here.’ The little man was furious, so I tried to calm him down. ‘You see, here it’s about industry…’"

Esibizione di sommozzatori alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1952 (12/04/1952 - 29/04/1952) by Non identificatoFondazione Fiera Milano

"‘And manufacturing coffins isn’t an industry? What is it then, philosophy? If you have guys presenting packaging, with their patents and what-not, why shouldn’t you have guys presenting packaging for the deceased?’‘Well, in the goods packaging business there can be innovation, original developments, but in the coffin business there’s not much room for novelty,’ I said. ‘What innovations would you care to make to coffins?’”

Area espositiva Fiat alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1950 (post 1950/04/12 - ante 1950/04/30) by Non identificatoFondazione Fiera Milano

“The man lost his temper"

"‘I don’t know! The manufacturers are the ones who should know! It’s that people don’t understand a thing, they go about day and night complicating life, but nobody bothers to complicate death. And if it’s necessary to complicate life, then it’s also necessary to complicate death."

Installazione pubblicitaria Durban's alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1963 Installazione pubblicitaria Durban's alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1963 (12/04/1963 - 25/04/1963) by PublifotoFondazione Fiera Milano

"In the past, all you needed to bathe yourself was a basin and a piece of soap; to bathe yourself now you need fifty different contraptions and every day they invent something new. Now you tell me if to go six foot under these days you need anything more than you did one or two hundred years ago?...

Visitatori seduti su un gradino per il picnic alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1953 (post 1953/04/12 - ante 1953/04/29) by Cronache ItalianeFondazione Fiera Milano

... Nothing is done to make burial any more comfortable and so people die unwillingly and us funeral transportation people are the ones to suffer for it.’"

Veduta notturna dell'area espositiva dell'OM alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1950 (post 1950/04/12 - ante 1950/04/30) by Ancillotti & MartinottiFondazione Fiera Milano

Sala delle materie plastiche all'interno del padiglione Montecatini alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1961 Sala delle materie plastiche all'interno del padiglione Montecatini alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1961 (12/04/1961 - 27/04/1961) by PublifotoFondazione Fiera Milano

"It was a line of reasoning that worked on its own special logic; but still, it worked so I did not insist. But the heart of the matter is not this, it is not my encounter with that gloomy man. My point is that there is a Major Fair and there is a Minor Fair."

Installazione pubblicitaria delle distillerie Groppi Soda alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1957 (12/04/1957 - 27/04/1957) by Non identificatoFondazione Fiera Milano

"The Major Fair is the one all the newspapers talk about"

"It is the one you see for yourself touring the pavilions of the Fair. The Minor Fair is the one the newspapers do not talk about."

Visitatori in un'aiuola con picnic alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1941 (post 1941/04/12 - ante 1941/04/27) by Bruni FotoFondazione Fiera Milano

"The one made up of people like the little man who searched vainly for the death industry stand; of the little men and women who come from far and wide with a packed lunch in their bags, who eat in the shadows of the pavilions."

Interno del Salone del Bambino alla Fiera di Milano nel 1964 Interno del Salone del Bambino alla Fiera di Milano nel 1964 (29/10/1964 - 08/11/1964) by PublifotoFondazione Fiera Milano

"It is the one where loudspeakers announce to distracted visitors that their dear little child, lost somewhere in the crowd, has been found and is waiting for them at this or that office. And this Minor Fair has its own smart poster, too, just like the Major Fair."

Area ristoro per i visitatori della Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1952 (12/04/1952 - 29/04/1952) by Non identificatoFondazione Fiera Milano

"The difference is simply that the Minor Fair’s poster is always the same, showing a lady struggling to open up a chair bed because a friend or relative has come from out of town, and now she has to put him up for the night since he could not find accommodation anywhere."

Visitatori in un'aiuola con picnic alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1940 (post 1940/04/12 - ante 1940/04/27) by Bruni FotoFondazione Fiera Milano

Visitatori alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1951 (post 1951/01 - ante 1951/04/12) by Non identificatoFondazione Fiera Milano

Stand di articoli sportivi alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1965 Stand di articoli sportivi alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1965 (14/04/1965 - 25/04/1965) by Non identificatoFondazione Fiera Milano

"So there is a Minor Fair"

"It is, for instance, the one where youngsters cross the threshold of the Major Fair’s gates and then go wild chasing after all the stands to get their hands on catalogues and advertising leaflets..."

Palazzo dell'abbigliamento alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1956 Palazzo dell'abbigliamento alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1956 (12/04/1956 - 27/04/1956) by Non identificatoFondazione Fiera Milano

"... and then begins the endless parade of paper in Milan’s houses that brings the Fair into our homes and drags it out for at least another two months."

Mostra "La FIAT per la casa" alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1958 (post 1958/04/12 - ante 1958/04/27) by Ancillotti & MartinottiFondazione Fiera Milano

"Because this 'Minor' Fair is made up not only of that furious little man I spoke of earlier, for instance, but also of my wife, who after wandering around all day visiting thousands and thousands of stands packed with the marvels of industry."

Stand prodotti alimentari Animex alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1961 (12/04/1961 - 27/04/1961) by Non identificatoFondazione Fiera Milano

"After seeing the most brilliant and astonishing things in the universe, gets home and says, ‘What a waste of time this year—I didn’t see a single decent egg beater. Last year the Fair was fantastic; do you remember that painkiller for toothaches with the rubber syringe you squeezed in your ear? It was amazing'."

Salone dell'auto, avio, moto e ciclo alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1965 (14/04/1965 - 25/04/1965) by Non identificatoFondazione Fiera Milano

"And there is no point trying to defend the geniality and creative force of national industry. ‘To beat eggs I need a good egg beater. I can’t beat them with an agricultural tractor or a crane. They can be the best agricultural tractors and the best cranes in the world, but when it comes to beating my eggs, they’re useless. So for me, this year’s fair was a complete failure.’"

Stalla modello nella Casa del latte alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1950 (post 1950/04/12 - ante 1950/04/30) by Ancillotti & MartinottiFondazione Fiera Milano

"This is not to discourage the exhibitors at the Fair. They should carry on with their business with the same enthusiasm. If anything, besides agricultural tractors, Diesel engines, railway cars and so on, perhaps they could down to work on egg beaters.”

Mostra del volo verticale alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1956 (post 1956/04/12 - ante 1956/04/27) by Ancillotti & MartinottiFondazione Fiera Milano

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