Palazzo Agostini and Caffè dell'Ussero, lungarno Pacinotti

Facciata Palazzo Agostini e Caffè dell'Ussero (L. Corevi, Comune di Pisa)
Facciata Palazzo Agostini e Caffè dell'Ussero (L. Corevi, Comune di Pisa)
Palazzo Agostini: the result of the unification of two medieval tower houses that took place in the fourteenth century by the will of the Astajo family. The façade stands out among the others on the Lungarno for its elegance and materials, mainly terracotta, which is why it is also known as the Palazzo Rosso (Red Palace). Since 1496, it has been owned by the Agostini family, still living there, specialized in the silk trade. On the Gothic front, marked by mullioned windows, we can still see the coats of arms of the Agostini, the Della Seta, Fantini and Venerosi families. The top floor was originally opened with a loggia, then it was closed in the 19th century. Behind the building there is a private roof garden, which spreads over four levels. In the back, where the church of Sant'Ilario in Porta Aurea once stood, is the oldest Italian cinema still existing, inaugurated in 1905, currently called Cinema Lumière, closed in 2011 and transformed into a venue for concerts and music (the first screenings were made inside the Caffè dell'Ussero in 1899).
The Caffè dell'Ussero is the oldest coffee shop in Pisa and the third in Italy, after the Florian of Venice (1720) and the Greco of Rome (1760). Founded in 1775 , the Caffè dell'Ussero, which owes its name to a group of hussars who arrived in Pisa together with Grand Duke Francis I of Lorraine and his wife Maria Teresa of Austria and were hosted in these premises in 1750. The coffee shop immediately became a meeting place for all the Pisan university society, and the forge of Italian Enlightenment and Risorgimento ideas. Among its walls the departure of the expedition of the university battalion for Curtatone and Montanara was organized. It had many names, including the Caffè dell’Unione, when it hosted the meetings of the scientists who came to Pisa for the First Congress of Italian Scientists. A legend tells that on the premises of the Agostini palace a French Hussar was imprisoned and walled alive, and his ghost wanders in the ancient building, making his chains resonate eerily, hence the name Caffè dell'Ussero.

Curious fact: the Agostini are also owners of the beautiful Villa di Corliano, in San Giuliano Terme, one of the most beautiful in the area, featuring elegant frescoes by Andrea Boscoli. A magical place, rich in history and legends. The church of Saints Pietro and Paolo or church of Corliano or Romitorio di Corliano, originally consecrated to Santo Stefano, seems to have been built on the remains of a pagan temple dedicated to the Bona Dea (Roman Goddess). In the eighteenth century the villa was inhabited by Teresa Scolastica, the bride of Cosimo Baldassarre Agostini, who restored its park and furnishings. A woman of great value and with a good heart: it is said that since her death she still lives inside the villa and her appearances are not uncommon. She is also followed by the most expert international teams of ghost hunters.
Among the first literary cafes in Italy, it was frequented by Risorgimento students such as Domenico Guerrazzi (suspended for a year for having declaimed, standing on a table, some carbonari motions), Mazzini, Giuseppe Montanelli (a volunteer in Curtatone and Montanara), then Giuseppe Giusti, who made it famous in the 'Memorie di Pisa' (Memories of Pisa) (1841), Renato Fucini, Giosuè Carducci, Mario Tobino, and Mario Praz...
At the beginning of the 1900s, a cinema and theatre was opened and took the name of the Cafe and later, in the adjacent rooms, a cinema was born.

Cit. Dirò una bischerata, ma per me son persuaso che s’i mpara all’Ussero almeno quanto s’impara in Sapienza e però vorrei che questi due locali si dividessero il tempo della vita dello scolaro ad onta delle predicazioni di tutti i predicatori. Cotesto di Pisa è un noviziato doppio, cioè si incomincia ad imparare a studiare e ad imparare a vivere; poi, usciti di costà, si incomincia a saper vivere e a saper studiare…I libri soli non in segnano a vivere, insegnano a geometrizzarsi un modo di essere pedantesco…Con questo non intendo an teporre l’ignoranza alla dottrina, ma asserisco che il sapere privo dell’esperienza della vita, è una dotta gufaggine bisbetica e sterile.

Giuseppe Giusti, Lettera all’amico Pietro Cioni, XIX sec.

One of the most frequent visitors of the Cafe was Renato Fucini, who also has the merit of having given an artistic dignity to the dialect of Pisa, or 'Vernacolo', which was the rustic language of the city and the countryside. Fucini, who signed himself Neri Tanfucio, was one of the first to publish in this vernacular (Cento sonetti - One hundred sonnets, 1870-71) and paved the way for many poets who still enjoy writing verses in vernacular, often amusing ones.

(Cit.) Er Cicerone e l’inghilese
Splendidissimo, jes!
O 'un gliel' ho detto?
Fra' 'ampanili è 'n grand' oggetto d'alte!…
Essere autore?…
Credo un alchitetto…
Vienga… lo gualdi di 'vaggiù 'n dispalte.
Oh, magnifico!
Vero, eh? bell'effetto!
Si vede pènde' da tutte le palte.
All'Ondra nun ce 'hanno e ci scommètto,
A meno che dipinto 'n su le 'alte.
Lassàmo anda', ma Pisa pòlta 'r vanto
Di tanti ritrovati d'invenzione,
Che foravia di 'vi nun c'è artrettanto.
O le cèe! sèmo giusti, 'un ènno bone?
Le sentisse alla sarvia, ènno uno 'ncanto…
Eh! l'Italia è 'na gran bella Nazione!

(R. Fucini, Cento sonetti, 1871)
The Cinematographic and theatrical hall of the Ussero was opened to the public on Saturday, 16 December 1905, and in the adjacent rooms the Splendor was born in 1914 (first name of the current Lumiere cinema): 'The equipment is most modern and sophisticated, the films are splendid and an absolute novelty, the long duration of the shows and the size of the screens attract a large crowd (...)' the local newspapers wrote. The opening show featured 43 screens 'A journey through the impossible, the expedition of a group of scholars from the Incoherent Geography Institute', by G. Mélies from Paris. Then followed by the comedy: 'The photographed bear'.
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