Garibaldi, Anita and the Passator Cortese

Garibaldi, Hunted by the Austrians, in August 1849 Garibaldi and Anita fled to the Marshes of Comacchio. An incredible adventure and the mistery of a precious treasure.

A man stands in a cane thicket surrounding Capanno di Pontaccio, between the pinewood forest of Ravenna and Porto Corsini. It is August 6, 1849: tired and dirty, Garibaldi stares at the lagoon while thinking about his adventure: “Rome, San Marino, Cesenatico, the Austrians, the flee to the Marshes of Comacchio and his wife Anita”.

The famous flee of the general which took place between 3 and 14 August 1849 in the Marshes of Comacchio and around Ravenna is a fascinating adventure.

Everything began in Rome, where Garibaldi went to defend the Republic born on February 8, 1849. At the end of June, the city surrendered and on July 2 the general, together with four thousand volunteers, left to the Adriatic Coast and Venice, one of the last cities in Italy which resisted to the attack of the Austrians. He was accompanied by his father Ugo Bassi and his wife Anita, who was expecting her fifth child, who reached him in Rome on June 26.

Garibaldi met Anna Maria Ribeiro da Silva (this is the full name of Anita) for the first time in Laguna, Brazil, in 1839. “She was tall, had a perfect oval, big black eyes and a beautiful bosom”, told the general. She symbolized female beauty and bravery during the Risorgimento. Anyway, in 1962 Indro Montanelli and Marco Nozza described Anita as a woman who got very worried when she didn't see her husband during the battles; a jealous wife who just only wanted to have an ordinary husband. However, as Luciano Bianciardi wrote in his Antistory of the Risorgimento, she had to resign herself since Garibaldi couldn't resist temptations.

On July 31 Garibaldi and 2,500 volunteers flocked to San Marino and were welcomed by Captain Belzoppi. During the same night, together with 250 volunteers and Anita, he escaped from the fortress to reach the sea. On August 1 they arrived in Cesenatico where they stole 13 bragozzi – the big boats used in the Adriatic Sea – to reach Venice. In this city Garibaldi met Giovanni Battista Culiolo, called Leggero.

On August 2 at 6:30 they left  Cesenatico. Anita had a very high fever. In the afternoon, between Porto Garibaldi and Punta di Goro, their boats were stopped by four Austrian boats which bombed them all night long. On August 3 8 bragozzi were captured by Austrians. The boat where Garibaldi, Anita, Leggero and Ugo Bassi travelled flocked to the beach of Magnavacca (7 km far from Porto Garibaldi). The general helped Anita, set foot on land and ordered everybody to disperse. Only Leggero remained. Once on the beach, they were given indications to reach the so-called capanno Cavalieri (in Lido delle Nazioni) by a poor local inhabitant.
The patriot Gioacchino Bonnet left from Comacchio to help survivors. Once flocked to the capanno, Bonnet brought Garibaldi and his companions to Valle Isola, at Podere Zanetto, where Anita was helped by the owner of the house, Teresa De Carli Patrignani. Bonnet came back to Comacchio to organize the flee of Garibaldi to the south, towards Ravenna, the Apennines and the Marshes of Comacchio.

For the fist time the strategic abilities of the general couldn't solve the situation. He didn't know the territory and had to rely on patriots,  such as “Sgiorz”, “Scozzola”, Michele Cavallari called “Gerusalemme”, “Tetavac”, “Erma Bianca”, “Bunazza”, Lorenzo Faggioli called “Nason” and Gaetano Montanari called “Sumaren”. In the evening the boat finally came: Anita was laid on a mattress.

At midnight Garibaldi, Anita and Leggero reached Casone di Valle, called Lanterna, which was situated next to the church of  S. Maria in Aula Regia and Loggiato dei Cappuccini in Comacchio. The flee went on up to Tabarra Agosta and set out again on August 4 at 8 o'clock.
It was very hot and it took 5 hours to cross the Valleys. When they reached Chiavica Bedoni, situated on the left bank of the river Reno, Anita was about to die.

Garibaldi and his companions reached the Guiccioli farm in Mandriole, the first stop of the flee arranged by Bonnet.
The farm was situated less than 3 km far, but they took more than an hour and a half to reach it. Once in Mandriole, they met doctor Nannini from S. Alberto and farmer Stefano Ravaglia.
Garibaldi wrote: “We brought Anita in the bed of a room of the house. I knew she was about to die. I took her pulse and understood the beloved mother of my children was dead. It was 19:45 of August 4, 1849: the 29-year-old Anita died in the farm of Mandriole, the so-called “casa rossa”.

Desperate Garibaldi remained next to the body of his wife for an hour. Austrians were about to arrive. The Ravaglia family hid the body of Anita under the sand of Motte della Pastorara, about 800 metres far from the house, where it remained up to August 10, when a 10-year-old child, Pasqua Dal Pozzo, saw one of her hands. Pontificial authorities exhumed the body. The autopsy established the woman had been strangled.

The Ravaglia brothers were charged with murder. It was said they had murdered Anita to steal “Garibaldi's treasure”. The news of this precious treasure spread in the valleys and was heard by the local bandit Stefano Pelloni, the so-called “Passator Cortese”. Pelloni explored the whole of the valleys but couldn't find anything. So he reached the Ravaglia family to ask for information. They tried to explain him they didn't know anything but finally had to grant him 1,434 pounds.

After having abandoned the house of Mandriole and the village of Sant’Alberto, Garibaldi and Leggero reached the pinewood forest of Ravenna and flocked to Capanno del Pontaccio. They crossed the Apennines and on September 2 they finally flocked to Cala Martina, north of Grosseto, and left to Liguria. Legend has it that the treasure of Garibaldi is still hidden in the Marshes of Comacchio and the marshes around Ravenna.

Ten years later, when Garibaldi flocked to those areas again, an old man said him: You lost many things here! The general answered: I didn't have money. But Garibaldi lost the most precious things he had: his sweet, brave Anita.

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