The historical archive at Fondazione Barbanera 1762 – headquartered in Spello, in the province of Perugia – is home to a number of documents, including an autograph letter Gabriele d’Annunzio sent to a friend of his: “People think I have ‘The Odyssey’ or ‘Iliad’ by my bed (there is deeper poetry in the former than the latter), or the Bible, Virgil, Horace, Dante, or Gabriele d’Annunzio’s ‘Halcyon’. In fact, the book by my bed is the one where ‘the flower of time and knowledge of the Nations’ gathers: the ‘Barbanera’.”
The poet from Pescara constantly consulted “Barbanera” – the eponym of Italian almanacs – “to interpret in his own way”, as his son Mario explains, “the signs of the stars that the astronomer from the Apennines inspected with his looking glass, just like in his portrait on the frontispiece.”
D’Annunzio died on March 1, 1938, and had underscored in red, on that year’s “Barbanera”, the forecast of the “death of a personality” in the late-February lunar month…
Intellectuals and farmers alike – proving that the desire to know the future is common to all social ranks – have always been fans of this old publication, which first saw the light around the middle of the 18th century in Foligno. It included a calendar as well as astronomic tables, weather forecasts and, most importantly, forecasts on the current year’s most important events.
“Il Barbanera” was a passion, or perhaps a mania, for entire generations in Italy; it even earned a role in a story by Luigi Capuana. The novella’s main character, a Sicilian land owner and a bit of a simpleton, received the almanac “usually in the first few days of November, and anxiously waited for the first months of the year, reading over and over all the terrible pages that announced trouble month by month, which he believed never failed to come true. His faith in the astrologist depicted on the frontispiece was extraordinary” (L. Capuana, “L’ingenuità di don Rocco”).
Feliciano Campi, the current publisher of “Almanacco Barbanera”, created Fondazione Barbanera 1762 to “highlight through research, exhibitions, and publishing activities the long history of ‘Barbanera’ and Europe’s great almanac tradition, which has in Foligno’s publication its most authoritative heir.”
A visit here seems to be written in the stars.