Cetona would feature in any list of the most beautiful places in Italy, but it is not because of this that Guido Ceronetti, a brilliant, iconoclastic artist, chose to live here. Piedmontese by birth, he adopted Cetona as his home on account of a sort of spiritual affinity with the sobering, mystical landscape. Every morning he could be seen stopping in Piazza Garibaldi, a stone’s throw from his home in the historic centre, to buy the morning papers. A figure of exile, black beret on his head, he was a shy man who lived an almost hermetic life; Cetona, which elected him as an honorary citizen, suited his character.
One of the activities dearest to Ceronetti was marionette theatre, which he initially pursued on a domestic scale and then went on to become the ‘Teatro dei Sensibili’. His birthday, a year before his death, was marked by a performance called “Ninety Years of Solitude”, put on in Cetona. Many of the town’s young came to theatre and then to wider culture through Ceronetti and his initiatives.
Who doesn’t remember Dino Risi’s film Il Sorpasso, and Vittorio Gassman’s stroll down the Aurelia with a shy Jean Louis Trintignant? It’s one of the films dearest to the people of Cetona, where it’s often projected alongside other unforgettable Italian comedies like Una Giornata Particolare and Brutti, Sporchi e Cattivi. With a slight air of nostalgia, the cinematic evenings pay tribute to the screenwriter Ruggero Maccari who, born to a Cetonese father, never lost his attachment to his original hometown, always returning in the summer to see old family and friends. In the earlier years he would stay in a guesthouse, but later built a place of his own, where he continued to work even when on holiday, along with directors and screenwriting colleagues. Finding film stars bestriding its streets, 1970s Cetona earned the nickname of “the little Hollywood”.
Drawing such inspiration from music that he appeared to picture himself living among musicians themselves, one of Cetona’s most famous sons, Lionello Balestieri, merits his title of ‘painter in music’. His works capture a number of musical geniuses, from Chopin to Beethoven, whose image cemented the artist’s celebrity by winning the gold medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900. His own profile appears in this painting, gazing into nothing.
Despite spending a good part of his life in France, his birthtown remembers him in permanent form: with a dedicated display room of paintings and biographical accoutrements, Palazzo Minutelli opens a door on the atmosphere and cultural environment in which the painter painted.