THE HISTORY OF TOURISM IN SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO
Introduzione. Il seguente progetto è stato realizzato da una terza e da due quarte classi dell’IPSIA di San Benedetto del Tronto (AP), in occasione di uno scambio culturale COMENIUS con un ITC di Baden (Austria). Nella parte del progetto da svolgere in lingua inglese gli studenti, divisi in gruppi di lavoro, hanno redatto dei documenti sull’economia, la storia e le tradizioni della nostra cittadina. Gli alunni stessi hanno scelto l’argomento della ricerca: la nascita e lo sviluppo del turismo sambenedettese; hanno consultato testi di storia locale alla biblioteca cittadina, reperendo materiale fotografico antico; hanno scattato foto e girato un film del centro storico e dell’attività balneare e peschereccia.
FISHERS AGAINST BATHERS
In the first half of the Nineteenth century the seamen used the shore for the landing of the boats, they performed the various activities joined to fishing (caulking, sails painting, selling fish). But, when the bathing activity had been developed, contrasts emerged between the promoters of the bathing season and the fishers who feared to lose the spaces for sheltering their boats. The conflict was sharpened in 1887, after the demand of enlargement of the Bathing Establishment and it lasted until to the construction of the fishing harbour.
The mayor Moretti settled the situation in 1879. The two activities had not to hinder each other, so the spaces were delimited: from one side the fishers, from another one the bathers. Nevertheless, the colourful sailing boats, returning to the shore from fishing, represented a wonderful scene for the tourists.
This show is portrayed in the beautiful paintings of the Swiss painter Chatelain who, at the end of the nineteenth century, opened an “atelier" of local artists whose main representatives were Armando Marchegiani and Adolfo De Carolis.
ORIGIN OF THE SEASIDE RESORT
From the beginning of the nineteenth century besides fishing, agriculture and the new born cordage industry, another source of earnings appeared to the horizon of San Benedetto. At first, in summer, only the people infected of tuberculosis came to San Benedetto for recovering. This place attracted million of tourists for its beauty. At the beginning of the fishing season of 1865 the first bathing establishment was opened and its director on June 3rd 1867, advertised the event through a poster illustrating the services provided:
l. The establishment had several assistants and offered any gratuitous service for gentlemen.
2. The marine bathing lasted about an hour including undressing and dressing.
3. The entry tickets were sold in the very establishment.
4. The fares were: ten pence for only one person in a single room, 15 pence for two people, 20 pence for three people.
5. For the children under seven the marine bathing was gratuitous.
6. The internal service of the marine bathing establishment was ruled by a special decree published on June 3rd 1867.
There were few moving cabins, called "casotti", trailed by some bathing attendants; these cabins had wheels and were used by the women as a wardrobe. The women inside the bathing huts were pushed toward the sea, when they wanted to have a sea bath. After the bath, women were brought back on the beach.
The main meeting–places in San Benedetto were Marsili's chalet the bathing establishment with its multicoloured huts or cabins, "Adria's cafè", "Ruffini's restaurant” and the hotel of the Station.
The Palazzina Azzurra
The Autonomous Association of cure, Stay and Tourism of San Benedetto del Tronto built two tennis courts, a large square for dancing and skating and a villa inside the public gardens; the villa was the seat of the tennis and of the foreigners clubs. As it was blue painted it was called "Palazzina Azzurra".
At the ground floor of the "Palazzina" there were the hall with the bar, a veranda (from which tennis ground can be seen), a sitting–room and some showers. At the first floor, there were the hall, the reading–room and two sitting–rooms. The roof covering consisted in a terrace.
ARRANGEMENT OF THE SEAFRONT
The promenade of San Benedetto is renowned for its wideness (30 metres in total, 18 metres of road and 12 metres of pavement) and for its beautiful palm trees alternated to oleanders. Its arrangement was designed and carried out by engineer Onorati; the works started in 1931 and ended a year later. The project established by engineer Onorati for the sea–front was realized in 1932.
The sea front started from the sailor house and the bridge on Albula, for about half a kilometre in front of the wide beach extent. On the other side there was the thick pine–wood and, behind it, the public gardens, full of flowers, plants, and shady avenues.
Engineer Onorati exploited this wonderful tract of coast to enhance its quality and harmonic beauty. The project involved:
l – The "Rotonda" with 70 meters of diameter and the fountain at its centre, on the way out of Moretti avenue'.
2 – The side pavement.
3 – The massive walls with balusters of stone towards the sea.
4 – The arrangement of the public gardens.
5 – The tennis courts.
6 – The lighting system.
7 – The plantation of three hundred palm‑trees, fifty hundred oleanders and other ornamental plants
8 – The asphalt of the avenue.
9 – The placement of the street–lamps.
This great work was made in about one year.
On April 1st 1933 the Committee Of Tourism And Stay approved the plan of arrangement of the tennis courts area and the construction of a pavilion which later was named "Palazzina Azzurra" that means "blue public villa". In 1935 this plan, for its originality and its high technology, appeared on the April issue of the magazine "Architecture" of the Italian architects with the following introduction: "The Committee Of Tourism And Stay of San Benedetto del Tronto, in order to better the town facilities and to create a leisure centre, has recently built two tennis courts, a skating rink and a villa, which is the seat of the Tennis Club and of the Foreigners Club. These works are situated on the south side of the park and have been planned and directed by engineer Onorati .......”
After its accomplishment in 1935, the "Palazzina Azzurra" soon became the most fashionable meeting place of the mid‑Adriatic coast. By the royal decree n. 1911 of July 16th 1935 the village of Porto D'Ascoli joined the municipality of San Benedetto.
From 1942 to 1945 San Benedetto's tourist development was arrested by the terrible events of the second world war which involved the city and the population and caused death and destruction.
THE RESUMPTION AFTER THE WAR
Some favourable conditions helped tourism to start again after the second world war. The beach of San Benedetto is situated at only 237 km from Rome to which it is connected by means of speedy and comfortable coaches. For the wideness of its sandy shore and for its length (over 5 km) it could be compared to the American beaches of the Florida.
The Autonomous Association of Tourism of San Benedetto del Tronto improved this seaside resort and made the stay of tourists various and enjoyable. The beautiful town, thanks to the tenacious will of its inhabitants, effaced the traces of the sorrowful wounds caused by the war and promoted the renewal of the hotel trade. The hotels were:
Progresso Sul Mare (with 90 beds);
Moretti (with 40 beds);
Vittoria (with 16 beds);
Triestino (with 26 beds);
Pensione Villa Sorge (with 21 beds).
All of them were furnished with bathrooms and garages. Some of them had also bathing–boxes on the beach.
In San Benedetto after the last war there was a revival of social activities and of art. In spite of the destruction and of the damages, the people were not discouraged and started to work and to amuse themselves. The famous meeting place "Palazzina Azzurra" reopened with Sciorilli's orchestra and another one, the "Cavalluccio Marino" was inaugurated. In the'50s new hotels were built on the seafront and among them the Jolly Hotel of Marzotto's chain.
The Tourism and Stay Committee organised trips, competitions and various entertainment. The palm trees gave San Benedetto a new exotic look, so that since the '40s it had been advertised as the "tropical oasis of the Adriatic Sea". Its economy depended more and more on tourism and on fishery. For this reason some reporters defined it a "two faces city". On August 15th 1950 the local magazine "La Riviera Delle Palme" published an article entitled "San Benedetto, two cities in one". In fact the old fishing village was changing into a modern seaside resort, but both these aspects still coexisted.
Till this moment, tourism had been practised only by a limited number of upper class people while in the '60s it became a mass phenomenon. There was a building increment and the transformation of tourist activities into a business. The seafront was lengthened to link San Benedetto to Porto D'Ascoli and it became a two–lane avenue.
The Present Seaside Resort
Today San Benedetto is one of the best renowned seaside resorts of the Adriatic coast. It is also called "Riviera delle Palme" because there are lots of palm–trees along its promenades and also on the beach, like at tropics. The town is divided into two parts: the high part and the low one. The former is situated on a hill and is composed by the ancient centre, the so called "Paese Alto", with its old houses, the abbey of "San Benedetto Martire" and the medieval clock-tower called, "Torre dei Gualtieri". The low part of San Benedetto is called "Marina"; it lies on the low ground and is a modern centre with lots of blocks of flats, big department stores, supermarkets, shops, hotels, cinemas, a stadium and other facilities.
San Benedetto's fishing port is one of the biggest of the Mediterranean Sea, it shelters one of the most important fleet of Europe composed both of small coast–way boats and of huge ocean–going vessels. There is also a little port for pleasure boats and some shipyards, refitting yards and a launching yard. Along the seaside, in front of the wide sandy beach, there are numerous bathing establishments with coffee–houses and restaurants.
San Benedetto is connected with the other towns and cities of Italy by roads and by a motorway and a railway situated parallel to the coast. Its economy is based on fishing, fish trade, refrigeration industries, agriculture, but particularly on tourism. In summer a lot of tourists, coming from various parts of Europe, spend their holidays here enjoying the comforts of a modem city together with the charm and the benefits of the sea life.