Date Interventions Speakers Summary
2014-10-17 Michel Thomas-Penette - Introduction Michel Thomas Penette (FR)

I am pleased to open the seventh Café of Europe in such an historic setting as this hall which adjoins a genuine Café whose Art Nouveau styling evokes times of prosperity, when the figures from the courts of Europe, whom I imagine dressed in smart linen suits and dresses of the latest fashion, take a long lunch or dinner with diplomatic discussion in the air, at which the gravest political issues could not disturb the casual congeniality of happy moments.

An atmosphere in which the on-going conflicts did not completely stop the mysterious travellers, nervous diplomats, cavorting dandies, or historians exhausted from their research, all crossing over the borders coming to the Grand Hôtel des Thermes, in search of a rest and a cure, and writing together the chapters of a history searching for a return to peace: for the body and for mankind.

So we have come together at a Café, and we all know how much we appreciate Italian coffee: short, aromatic, a lingering flavour. But in this hall, which brings together the organisers of the seven Cafés of Europe, we might also mention the coffee of Spa, accompanied by speculoos biscuits, that of Baden-Baden, pleasure of which could only be fully taken with the addition of thick cream, or better still the liqueur coffee of Ourense, conducive to eventide revelry, and most certainly the afternoon tea awaiting us in Bath, accompanied by a good number of muffins. By no means, however, am I forgetting the Turkish coffee which we will be served in Bursa at the end of next year.

So many ‘table manners’. So many forms of enjoyment, each one individual to each of the countries which make up the EHTTA kaleidoscope.

Today, however, we meet with the intention of examining together how the history of Europe has built our towns, how it has helped shaped humanity and its intellect, sometimes in spite of them and sometimes against them when Europe was caught amongst the turmoil of conflict.

This gathering is in itself rich in diversity of histories and characters, architectures and abodes which wove Europe’s shared history, which has made us, as Europeans, in charge of an inheritance, heritage and culture.

Undertaking to re-interpret together this history, and to tell its stories as though a friendship group of personalities, only slightly forgotten, were coming back to visit us today, constitutes a challenge and above all a commitment of all those who trace a route from one century to another, from one awe-filled gaze to another.

In Villes d’eaux, Erik Orsena describes in a few words this surprising consistency of the atmosphere in the thermal towns and it is our task and duty to continue this in modern times: ‘The spa towns are fertile, and feed all myths and all the interpretations. At the cocktail hour, when one dresses for the evening and applies the last coats of colour to their face, when twilight descends, that is the time of whispered stories, tales of mystery told in obscurity. Valery Larbaud told the ennui of immobile young girls, as though paralytic of their own agitation. In these towns, Milan Kundera had the last, farewell waltzes danced; Katherine Mansfield saw the length of days, and gauged the rules of a society, the order of Germany. We talk about the adventures of Rousseau in Enghien, when a society of women held salons on the lake’s edge, or Lamartine’s adventure in Aix.’ 

We are a collective, and thus a forum for sharing. And this history must continue; it is up to us!

Thank you all for your contributions!

Michel Thomas-Penette

2014-10-17 Enrico Silvio Bertero - Welcome speech Enrico Silvio Bertero (IT)

This important event takes part of a European project of two years, entitled “Sources of Culture: The Cafés of Europe”. There are 11 partners, originate from six European countries. The aim is to raise awareness of European citizens to the cultural heritage of the European spa towns. 

We took our inspiration in the “Cafés of Europe” of the 19th century, when the spa towns were places of cures, but also places of intellectual meetings where big political questions have been discussed appreciating the contemporary artistic creation and the organization of debates. 

Acqui Terme town is honored to welcome the 7th Café of Europe, with tow European round tables about culture, literature, architecture, history and leisure in spa towns; in parallel of the 47th Acqui Storia Price, dedicated to the memory of the “Acqui Divison” and to its sacrifice, realized in September 1943 in the Ionian islands of Kefalonia and Corfu.

We are happy that this European event takes place at the same time of the days dedicated to the Acqui Storia Price during the year that launch a new political Europe. 

2014-10-17 Giuseppe Bellandi - Welcome speech Giuseppe Bellandi (IT)

Dear friends and European delegates, 

Your presence at the 7th Café of Europe in Acqui Terme is particularly important and underlines the importance of the SOURCE project that invite many of our thermal towns to organize a series of European meetings.  

The history of thermal towns based on the thermal heritage offer the possibility to explore our continent creating a “European vision” of our communal thermal history. We need a new interpretation of the past to understand the European heritage which transcend national borders and know also how to make relive national, regional and local identities to build a “European communal house”. 

We are in Acqui Terme, of which origins are antiques, where we are welcomed with pleasure and where we will have surprises like during past events. 

We thanks our guests with the certainly that together we will cross days of serenity and knowledge, 

Have a good “Café”

2014-10-17 Eleonora Berti - Welcome speech Eleonora Berti (LU)
2014-10-17 Augusto Grandi - “Spa and Wellness from the crisis to the relaunch” Augusto Grandi (IT)

Estimates indicate that the thermal and wellness sectors will grow during the next few years, and at an average growth rate of 10% at international level. 

An increase that is not altogether homogenous. In-fact apart from few exceptions, the historic thermal towns are encountering difficulties more or less consistent on an ever more complicated market.   
On the other hand the spa centres are multiplying and enlarging and registering a constant growth.  It is therefore evident that we have in front of us two different wellness concepts.  On one side the Thermae seen as a place for old people and ill people, or rather for old ill people, therefore without much appeal and scarce ability of attracting new clients.  Whilst the spa centres are offering an attractive, dynamic image that appeals more to younger people.

It isn’t only due to a lack of communication, more the fact that the thermal resorts haven’t known or haven’t been able to adequately invest in order to continue offering the facilities that clients expect. 

Grand hotels that have transformed into big, large, oversized hotels, along with an inadequate thermal offer.  Consequently, charming towns that are no longer capable of organizing activities along with a high level cultural offer, but instead propose modest entertainment along with occasional events. 

It’s essential to restart from here to compete against the offers flowing from the spa centres that concentrate on spoiling and pampering their clients, along with aperitifs, music and gadgets. 

2014-10-17 Alessandro Federico Martini - Alessandro Federico Martini (IT)

Since roman times, and later throughout the medieval period and finally from the 17th century, the mud and curative waters are the resources on which Acqui builds its identity, along with significant architecture for treatments and welcome.

Marked by certain reluctance in relationship with the splendours and the worldly pleasures, Acqui confirms its vocation towards a rigorously sanitary thermalism during the course of the 19th century, with the construction of buildings (ahead of its time respect to the rest of the country) destined to a specific clientele like the military or the lower-class.    

The case of Acqui, a city of treatments before one of leisure, is deeply different to that of many spa resorts of the international loisir that exploded during the Belle Époque period. 

The Liberty style doesn’t leave any noteworthy buildings, whereas during early 1910 and the 1920’s spectacular hypothetic  projects for the Antiche and Nuove Terme signed by quality designers were presented capable of stimulating new ambitions on a quality architectonical and urban scale. These were the projects by Antonio Vandone from Cortemilia, of Ugo Giusti and Pietro Betta, presented between 1917 and 1927 but never accomplished.

With minor ambitions and architectonical results during the Fascism years the local system completes the Nuove Terme and the thermal swimming pool, intended to favour the use of the Thermae for “healthy” people. Only later after the war, a new phase takes off, led by the National Health Service.

2014-10-17 Carlo Prosperi - “Literature and thermal towns” Carlo Prosperi (IT)

In 1585, a nobleman from Casale Orazio Navazzotti, exalts in a mythological- metamorphic way the origins of the Acquese thermal springs in an aetiological short-poem Idralea, dedicated to Federico Sangiorgio, the Commendatore from Jerusalem.  It’s an encomiastic opera that in its own way retraces Ninfale fiesolano del Boccaccio and the tradition of the pastoral drama.  Whereas the Renaissance privileges mythological explanations of a natural phenomenon, Enlightenment investigates them using a scientific approach. The meaning of things and their symbolic or moral foundations is no longer looked for, rather a lifeless and perspective over-excited virtuosity prevails that from the “carità del nation loco” draws reason for emphatic events of local wonders.  Just as an 18th century sonnet by the Mantovano Gianmaria Galeotti and in a sonnet by the Doctor from Novara Filippo Zaffiri.  More interesting is the short poem La Bojenta or rather the Bollente spring from Acqui by the abbot don Luigi Lingeri (1816), exemplar in the Cicerone by Passeroni. The Bollente becomes an occasion for an excursion, in a witty and continuous style, among the “wonders” of the city, described in the glorious story as a paradisum delitiarum.   Anecdotes and scenes from everyday life, embellish the amiable causerie.

A different, almost romantic setting is felt in the notes by Jules Michelet.  Whereas Martin Piaggio narrates his Viaggio ai bagni di Acqui in rhymed ottonari full of verve and vis comica, aware of his diminished social consideration (of his loss of his aureole) , the poet portrays the Thermae among lively grotesque and carnival-like descriptions.

In 1870 the canonical Jacopo Canepa takes part in an exhibition of a monorhyme sonnet on Acqui’s mud baths. Two extemporary sonnets are from 1913 that combine the Bollente with Barbera – by Gaudenzio Miglio and a laudatio temporis acti in verses most certain Eda, not deprived of unstated polemics.

Of delayed or late romanticism we must mention the song by Francesco Bisio dedicated to the Bollente in 1930. More amusing a pomposity of the mud, all played on the ambiguity of the phàrmacon, written in 1913 by the parish priest from Orsara don Pietro Gaino.

2014-10-17 Giovanni Rebora - “The Baths of Acqui Terme: “Le Guide per il Bagnante” in the XIX and XX centuries” Giovanni Rebora (IT)

The so-called “bathers guide books” were born around mid-19th century with the aim of providing detailed information on the water and the treatments available at the various spa establishments, and in second place, on the historic and tourist heritage.

From an editorial point of view, for the Thermae of Acqui, the 19th century begins with a concise study dated 1807 on behalf of the French Inspector of the Military Hospital Jean Charles Lesne on the “City of Acqui” and its thermal springs. Scientific essays concerning chemical aspects on the waters and therefore real monographic volumes follow that gradually become the bathers’ guide books.  Among these we recall: L. Granetti, “Cenni sulle Terme di Acqui”, Torino 1841; Padre I. Ratti, “Le Regie Terme di Acqui”, Milano 1844; G. Lavezzari, “Guida ai Bagni d’Acqui...”, Acqui 1869; P. Schivardi, “Giuda ai Bagni d’Acqui”, Milano 1873; e D. De Alessandri, “Acqui le sue Terme e i suoi dintorni”, Acqui 1888. The latter, nevertheless the Health Director at the Thermae of Acqui is the first to describe the new thermal establishments that opened in 1879 in the city centre, or rather the present “Nuove Terme”.

With the 20th century the scientific popular and tourist production of the “bathers guide books” continue, among which those of F. Meda, “Le Terme di Acqui” Le loro vicende. I loro problemi”, Acqui 1916 emerge, and more of health issue “Le Terme di Acqui” by S. Pisani,  Firenze 1927.

By means of these publications, it is possible to understand the evolution of the therapeutic structures and that of the Thermae’s hotel-trade, and most of interest for the doctors the relative changes concerning the type of treatment and the methods of application.

2014-10-17 Lionello Archetti Maestri - Lionello Archetti Maestri (IT)

The theme that I would like to talk about today is dedicated to the expressions that up until not long ago the local Acquesi people used to describe those who attended their thermae - “strangers” that before the wide spreading of <<amaro e reo caffè>> came and frequented Acqui.  

This isn't going to be a delightful list of satisfied customers that have faded away in our memories, but I want to bring back to life famous Mr nobodies: from Niccolò III d'Este, husband of the Parisian sung by Byron, to the anonymous rascal that found himself with a paralysed arm and hand caused by a lapidation, and in eight days was entirely cured. 

For a few moments, ladies and cavaliers will return to life, cardinals and simple sick people, along with animals like Bonifacio Paleologo's dog or those« horses and other creatures » that were submitted to purification « in the bath destined to that ».

I'll never forget humanists such as Betussi, soldiers like the Admiral greedy of salted focaccia, filled with Nutella. I'll remember with some chronological exceeding how up until the last century, there were the cocottes and the gigolò.

  The adventurer Celso Cesare Moreno, vizir of the sultanate of Sumatra, the melancholic and impoverished homosexual Maharaja, the spies, the solitary  vacations of Alice B. Toklas, the figures of the hôtellerie such as incomparable concierge Bussi, the capable administrator Ambrogio Michetti, the far-sighted businessperson Francesco Cirio and the recklessness of the calibre of Mosè Osmo Morris.

I cannot forget the doctors from Guainerio to Malacarne to the persecuted Professor Donati. The «Compagnia dei fangaroli» whose indispensable exponents before the first half of the 19th century « non diu vivunt » were due to constant jumping in the water to collect the mud. 

I'll reserve a moment– without confining in the domination of my friend Alessandro Martini – to all the architects that contributed in the course of the centuries to the shape of our ville d’eaux. 

2014-10-17 Annunziata Berrino: “Stories of Italian Thermal Towns: culture, practice and immaginay” Annunziata Berrino (IT)

We cover the history of the Thermae in Italy, through the projection of a rich collection of images, that portray throughout Europe how springs and baths were attended for therapeutic use during mid-18th century. It’s a phenomenon that spreads like wildfire and gives life to a variety of passionate stories: scientific and medical culture, politics, the institutions, entrepreneurs, everyone is interested in the therapeutic water. From the beginning of the 19th century and an increase in attendances, a sociality around the waters and baths becomes popular, giving way to a rich and unexpected cultural production. Theatres, music, literature, art, graphics, essay writing – everyone produces and creates for the public that frequent the Thermae.

Without forgetting that the expansion of this therapeutic practice represents an important occasion for architecture, hydraulics, urban planning that give life to functional and beautiful places, where men and women combine body care along with leisure and recreation. Up until the present days when the therapeutic water and baths are part of a much more ample complex, that expands to the quality of the air, the food, the care of one’s body and mind, the teaching and refusal of artificiality and the research of a total well-being.

2014-10-17 Aldo Alessandro Mola - “Diuretic water and spa treatments for statesmen and diplomats wandering on the brink of the Great War: Giovanni Giolitti, Antonino di San Giuliano and others…” Aldo Alessandro Mola (IT)

It was the beginning of the catastrophic Franco-Prussian war that in 1870 made the Thermae (and / or “Bagni”) the main stage for the representation of the “great story” of Europe.  On the 1st July 1914, three days after the magnicidio of Sarajevo, the foreign Minister, Antonino di San Giuliano informed the Prime-Minister, Antonio Salandra, that he was going to leave Rome for Fiuggi where he had direct phone contact with the Consulta. 

But in August 1911 it was precisely the Thermae of Fiuggi that became the laboratory in the war against the Turkish-Ottoman Empire for the reign on Tripolitania and Cirenaica.  There San Giuliano and the prime-minister, Giovanni Giolitti were photographed with big glasses in their hands as they walked together in a friendly manner. In truth they were risking to trigger the European conflagration, to avoid a danger of measure in 1908, but always in impending danger. Giolitti would eagerly have gone to the Terme in Acqui, but this establishment, even though with fervour from public and private forces, was still not at its best.

Not only, Acqui recalled Giuseppe Saracco, president of the Senate (and president of the Council of Ministers) to which in September 1904 the statesman, rational of the remunerated role of “notary of the Crown” in the solemn notarial deed of the birth of the Prince Royal. Reluctant of contacts with journalists and photographers that crowded the Thermae, the statesman preferred the French ones, in particular Vichy, described by him as a healing “doctor’s paradise”. He avoided everyone, which wouldn’t have been possible if he were at home, and most of all in Acqui, that didn’t fail to list and boast about famous visitors, as happened after the War. It was the period of prestige when the magnificent Thermae of the “Bollente” welcomed diverse personalities and even rivals, forced to parade in public, one next to the other, even though they detested each other. It was the case of the Marshal, Pietro Badoglio and the Marscal dell'Aria Italo Balbo...

Places of history, and also of occult plots, favoured by the comforting and cheerful reassuring atmosphere of the waters, that eventually conferred the correct sense of wellbeing even to the most tormented happenings.

2014-10-17 Michel Thomas Penette - Conclusion Michel Thomas Penette (FR)

I opened this meeting with a speech about exceptional places, places of dialogue, places that are alive and from which we can extend our lives.

We have just listened to two magnificent pieces of writing ¬– I almost said voices – of two European writers, Cesare Pavese and Jean Giono, who are linked by their origins and their lives in the Piedmont region, for whom immobile travel constituted an astonishing means of transformation from being rooted in a region to a feeling of universality.

Traveling is thus not necessarily about motion, about moving physically; it is also about dreaming and discovering universal myths which enabled Homer to recount, and make up, Odysseus’s journey, and Jules Verne to walk the Carpathians, to sink to the bottom of the ocean, to discover far-away lands from above in his hot-air balloon, to travel in space, all this without leaving his study.

In the 1960s, Jean Giono said on French national radio that his conception of the novel was that of a continuation of the role and place of the travelling storyteller. Homer himself, through his writing, continued the work of all the rhapsodists who went from city to city, forever adding to the structure of a journey which is made all the richer for the reactions the rhapsodists receive from the audiences along the way. However, Jean Giono added quite perfidiously that if André Gide had had to make his living by reading out his own work in village squares, he would have starved to death! Storytelling is not just writing, it is to blend in harmoniously with the audience and to open the door to their direct participation.

Storytelling is lying the truth. It is said that ‘the writer is not on the side of knowledge, but that does not stop him helping others to learn’. We might add that imagination, like sociology or history – along the lines of Pierre Bourdieu and Fernand Braudel – is a ‘combat sport’. Today, we have been able to listen to historians who, by speaking of ancient religious practices to the hedonist, postmodern practices of leisure, have given us the opportunity to learn to narrate, interpret and converse across borders.

Researchers on one side, writers on the other, they have all taken us by the hand to show us how to reread, with all our senses, these ideal cities, sometimes even film sets, which Bernard Toulier depicted magnificently in 1994: ‘These holiday destinations are now towns with a strong heritage identity. They have been designed to repair the evils of the industrial town, to heal sick bodies and provide them with comfort and well-being.’

And he adds: ‘such a heritage is a sign of their modernity and transmitting it their only chance of survival.’

Thank you all for being here, and see you in Bath, in another of these ideal towns.

Michel-Thomas Penette

2014-10-17 Presentation of the 8th Café of Europe – “European Spa towns – Utopias of the past and present?”