by Gianluca Tenti
Forte dei Marmi wouldn’t have existed without it. This statement may seem rather audacious but it is a fact that 90 summers ago when this story started there was Viareggio to the south and Massa to the north. In the middle there were some Mediterranean shrubs, lots of sand and some noble villas here and there. Certainly, there was more. The jetty. Since the times of Michelangelo, when this strip of land, squashed between the Apuan Alps and the Ligurian sea, was a Medician outpost, marble used to be loaded onto ships from that wooden jetty. There was also a small fortress. Little else apart from a small group of people who had proudly separated themselves from the municipality of Pietrasanta. It was a land blessed by the gods. Its destiny would have been to remain one of the very many beach resorts which populate the peninsula, if it hadn’t been for the long-sighted vision of Achille Franceschi.
The ex-mayor of Forte, Franceschi had wanted the widest, sea front avenue ever, because, he said, cars would arrive. And he wanted that avenue to cater for elite tourism. There was a hotel, actually, a grand hotel reminiscing Principe de Piemonte in Viareggio for its beauty and a hut made of branches and sackcloth, two wooden boards and some straw to put on a perch to use as a bar. He invited the aristocratic who’s who and, significantly enough, they all answered the call on that 15th August, 1929. They parked their Ispano-Suizas, Rolls Royces and Isotta Fraschinis and drank the cocktails mixed by Nico. The bottles did not last long. Peperone, an old sailor, cooked fish soup, Achille took the orders and gave them to Mrs Nella, the true soul of his dreams. Incredibly excited, the Suarez sisters called that non-place “Capannina” unaware of having launched something historic that would have made Forte’s luck.
Entrepreneurs of that time were not admitted. There was Viareggio for them where the bathing establishments had already been running for decades and where even Queen Margaret had taken up her summer residence. The only exception was Edoardo Agnelli, when the children of the automobile dynasty were dressed up as little sailors.
It was this jet set which went to the “Capannina” that made Forte dei Marmi the capital of resorts. Surely, there were golden sands, there was the sea crossed by sailing boats, there were sailors and life guards who put up the huts but there wouldn’t have been this high society.
To cut the story short, this light, guiding the night, has written the most beautiful entertainment pages of these last 90 years thanks to Achille Franceschi, to his sons Guido and Nevio and since 1977, to Carla and Gherardo Guidi. Yes, because if, while strolling along the water front, you can still read “La Capannina di Franceschi” today it is only thanks to the Guidi family who have never wanted to forget how everything started; during Franceschi’s long management there were Edith Piaf, Armando Trovajoli, Bruno Quirinetta, Ray Sugar Robinson, Perez Prado up to Wanda Osiris. But if you dig deeper, you will find out that nobody quite like the Guidi family were able to run the place which also turned out to be the most historic nightclub in all Europe. A certain Gherardo Guidi, who, by no chance, is also Grand Officer, gave whole generations legendary celebrity events like those with Ray Charles, Grace Jones, Kid Creole & the Coconuts, just like something out of the “Sapore di Mare” films. And, in this amazing Capanna he always welcomed what I call the “collaterals”, be they Carnival parties, the concluding evenings of the Premio Satira award (from 1973 to 2017), the presentation of books and the awarding of “A tavola sulla spiaggia”. All to show, once more, what this story means to all of us.
La Capannina di Franceschi
Viale della Repubblica 16
Forte dei Marmi (LU)
Tel. +39 0584 80169