The initiatives designed to celebrate the Alpine railway that has been connecting Italy and Switzerland every day for 100 years were presented in Santa Maria Maggiore. The '4 Seasons Train' was also inaugurated.
Two years to celebrate 100: a journey, that of the Vigezzina-Centovalli Railway, which began on 25 November 1923, thanks to a common cross-border vision, as strong then as it is today.
Two years, from 25 November 2022 to the same day in 2024, to celebrate this important anniversary, with events, conventions, exhibitions, concerts and publications, a very rich calendar created thanks to a synergy between SSIF and the Unione Montana della Valle Vigezzo, as well as other local bodies, foundations and associations, and with the financial contribution received within the Interreg PAES.CH.IT project.
The Unione Montana delle Valle Vigezzo (Vigezzo Valley Mountain Union), in particular, immediately recognised this centenary as an important anniversary for the entire territory, to the point of capitalising on the aforementioned Interreg for this event, bringing the Vigezzina-Centovalli Railway into the project partnership.
THE HISTORY OF THE VIGEZZINA-CENTOVALLI RAILWAY
The industrial ferment of the early 1900s inspired the then Mayor of Locarno Francesco Balli, who expressed the desire to create a new line linking Locarno with Domodossola, crossing the Centovalli and the Vigezzo Valley. The ultimate goal was to create a connection with the already existing major railway works, the Gotthard and Simplon lines.
The idea infected the mayors of the Vigezzo Valley, and an Italian-Swiss executive committee was formed, which led to an agreement for a unified project, thanks to the tenacity and union of forces between the Locarnese and Vigezzo communities. The pioneers of this dream were first and foremost Andrea Testore, a fervent supporter of the realisation of the railway in the Vigezzo Valley, together with the aforementioned Francesco Balli, and, on the Italian side, the Hon. Alfredo Falcioni and the real architect of the project, Giacomo Sutter. Thanks to their generous efforts, political, technical and financial difficulties were overcome, turning a dream into reality. The railway was inaugurated on 25 November 1923. The narrow-gauge line is still a masterpiece of civil engineering and dialogues in harmony with the enchanting nature of the valleys it passes through.
A large exhibition dedicated to 20th century Vigezzo painting will be hosted in Santa Maria Maggiore next spring and until the centenary date, on the occasion of the reopening to the public of the renovated exhibition rooms of the 'Rossetti Valentini' School of Fine Arts. Between spring and autumn 2023, a photographic exhibition will pay homage to the history of the railway, while the most precious pieces of the Craveggia Treasure will be exceptionally displayed to the public for the first time.
During the coming winter, Santa Maria Maggiore will host a special exhibition dedicated to the theme of travel and trains with the clothes and jewellery of the Gruppo Folkloristico Valle Vigezzo (which celebrates its first 100 years in 2022).
In spring 2023, the small Cà di Feman museum in Villette will host an unprecedented themed exhibition dedicated to the Madonna of the Blood, and the 'Zuccone', Giovanni Zucono, the author of the sacrilegious gesture that miraculously caused the forehead of the frescoed Madonna di Re to bleed.
The music of the 20th century will instead represent a precious fil rouge from spring to autumn 2023 and beyond, from Domodossola to the Vigezzo Valley, along the tracks traced by great composers and artists of the last century, with unmissable concerts. To further enrich the centenary musical programme, a number of concerts on board the trains of the Vigezzina-Centovalli Railway are also scheduled.
Multimedia and technological techniques will be used to tell the story of "The Italian Song Valley": special qr codes on board the trains will make it possible to listen to some musical songs and stories about their birth, often linked to the Vigezzo Valley, through podcasts.
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: two special exhibitions will be set up in the Vigezzo Valley (in spring 2023 and summer 2024) and will be dedicated to the past and future of the Italo-Swiss railway, while the present will be recounted through an exhibition scheduled for autumn 2023 in Domodossola. At the same time, in twelve months' time, Santa Maria Maggiore will host a large conference dedicated to the centenary anniversary.
The calendar of events will really cater for all tastes and will embrace multiple themes. In the spring of next year, the Vigezzo Valley will host an international meeting organised by IABMAS - International Association for Bridge Maintenance And Safety - dedicated to the bridges, no less than 83, that characterise the route of the Vigezzina-Centovalli Railway.
During the summer of 2024, a food and wine itinerary will unfold between Domodossola, Masera, Trontano and the villages of the Vigezzo Valley: various appointments dedicated to the promotion of typical products of the area crossed by the little white and blue trains. Next autumn, the capital of the Vigezzo Valley will host the national conference on historical and tourist railways "Binari d'Italia, La Grande Bellezza".
Many other events will dialogue with the railway line's birthday: from special theatrical performances, which will take place on the trains and in the stations of the Vigezzina-Centovalli Railway, to the Andrea Testore - Plinio Martini "Let's save the mountain" cross-border literary prize, which has included a section dedicated to the Vigezzina-Centovalli Railway in its 2023 edition, and the "Malescorto" International Short Film Festival (in Malesco) and the "Sentieri e Pensieri" Literary Festival (in Santa Maria Maggiore), which will have events dedicated to the centenary.
FART SA, the management company of the Ticino section of the railway, will also be planning a series of initiatives involving the portion of territory between Camedo and Locarno, starting in November next year, the highlight of the celebrations.
The 100th anniversary will be celebrated along the entire line, also in collaboration with SSIF, until the grand finale in November 2024, when FART SA will present the first of eight new trains that will officially enter service by the end of 2025.
The celebrations on the Swiss side will officially start on 25 November 2023 with a twelve-month-long journey that will allow the celebration of the past, with an eye to the future, including conferences, a publication dedicated to the centenary, a travelling photographic exhibition, a widespread event in the Locarno area and the valleys, and various other initiatives.
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