Il bandito e il campione (The bandit and the champion)

This is the title of a song, a very well know song in Italy. Sang by songwriter Francesco De Gregori he imbrace in this story the love for cycling in 1920s and the love for the hero/bandit who live is life as kind of Italian style Robin Hood.

Tear-jerking clips in theme with the tradition of Italian fiction, an interpreter of great effect as Beppe Fiorello, a story carried the memories of the old protagonist with the always excellent technique of flashback. “The legend of the bandit and the champion”, aired Monday and Tuesday on Raiuno directed by Lodovico Gasparini, from the novel by Marco Ventura, is undoubtedly a good product for television where all the leitmotif of the friendship between two boys and then divided by life holds until the end. On the one hand constant Girardengo (Simone Gandolfo) to become the first “Campionissimo” of Italian cycling, on the other Pollastri Sante (the aforementioned Beppe Fiorello) that promise of cycling instead becomes one of the most famous band of the ’20s, with a band capable of bold strokes between Italy and France, wanted by police in both countries. The drama is enriched by the love story of Sante and the Beautiful Apple (Raffaella Rea), loved in his youth also constant, a factor that threatens to undermine the friendship between the bandit and the sample. Some historical event actually happened but then a lot of imagination.

Beppe Fiorello and Simone Gandolfo in the fiction of Raiuno
The rest of this story, taken a few years ago by Francesco De Gregori in his beautiful ballad “The Bandit and the sample is always surrounded by myth and reality. On the true story of Sante Pollastri few examples remain today, the record fascist era intended to explain to citizens the perfect face of an Italy gives little space to the criminal deeds of the bandit in his parable of the bicycle and over the years has collected many fragments, some authentic and others probably legendary, as the title says just fiction.

That the two childhood friends who at some point take different paths is almost certainly a fantasy, a poetic touch to the real story. Both were born in Novi Ligure, in 1893 and Sante Girardengo six years later, it is still a teenager in 1913 when the first part in her first Tour of Italy. In any case, if not best friends but at least acquaintances, and neighbors with a mutual friend, the trainer Biagio Cavanna, one of the most fascinating in the history of Italian cycling, the blind masseur which is enough to recognize a palpated muscles and tendons champion. At his skilled hands after Girardengo will in fact be given the greatest of all time, Fausto Coppi.

Constant Girardengo
The incident that perhaps helped create the legend has really happened in Paris in 1926, the city where he had fled from Sante Pollastri time. In the midst of a spell in Italy, when during a firefight near the French border the death of one of the lieutenants of the bandit Novi was mistaken for death of the same Pollastri. The recovered body was disfigured beyond recognition and therefore, the Italian newspapers gave the news of the death of Sante Poultry episode reported inter alia in the fiction of Raiuno.

Pollastro was instead returned to the French capital where among other things on that day was also Girardengo for the dispute of “six days” on the road.

Amid all the races, Biagio Cavanna sitting on the track of Sante recognized the whistle, a whistle was particularly known as Novi Ligure “cifulò. Novi only one to be recognized by a fellow countryman in a foreign land would have run to perfection and Cavanna did not take long to figure out who was the Novi area of Paris. The master of cycling and his former student then met again in France and shortly after the same Girardengo Cavanna and met the bandit. Sante made an appointment to the two neighbors in Novi, but never arrived there. It was in fact arrested again in Paris in 1927 by men of the Commissioner Guillaume, betrayed by an informer tipped off the police. Following constant Girardengo was called to testify at the trial of Pollastri where there was talk of that famous encounter took place during the “Six Days.”

Sante Pollastri
He was sentenced to life imprisonment but was pardoned in 1959 by then President Giovanni Gronchi. He spent the last twenty years of his life in Novi Ligure, where he was the business of street vendor, where he died in 1979, a year after the disappearance of Girardengo.

“It was old suffered an injustice or poverty, to make the boy a fierce bandit, De Gregori sings in its composition. Sante Pollastri has taken on because his criminal career have been floated several versions. Among these, to justify the hatred of the young bandit against police there is the killing of a relative on their part or that of a brother taken to present the call to arms, although seriously ill and died at the barracks. Another story, taken from the key rather than imaginative fiction and romance with other side dishes, about Sante’s sister, Carmelina, who was raped by a military weapon. Sante, then 19 years old, killed the policeman and then you would be given to the bush. In the television miniseries was Carmela’s future instead of the bandit lover, usurer raped the country and then ran away and found to be constant in a luxury brothel in Turin. None of this hypothesis is still supported by documentation and are mostly born of legends around the figure of Sante Pollastri the war. Famous in France in fact, was almost unknown in Italy, except in the north where his criminal exploits were prominently. The complaint that severely limit the fascist crime. In fact Sante Pollastri embodied the figure of the rebel authority in a time when it was formalizing an authoritarian turn and the move from democracy to fascism. In this sense became a heroic figure for the world and the nascent anarchist anti-fascist movements.

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