Together with Carlo Petrini he helped found Arcigola, the precursor of Slow Food
Actor and artist Azio Citi has died at the age of 74. Born near Bra in Sommariva Perno, together with Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini he was one of the key driving forces behind the establishment of the gastronomic association Arcigola—among many other initiatives—which evolved into Slow Food. With Petrini and Giovanni Ravinale he also founded the historic Radio Bra Onde Rosse, supported by Dario Fo. Here we remember what made him such an inimitable figure in Slow Food life.
Mentioning Azio in any context relating to Slow Food has always served as an important push to move forward, to be committed, to, as the Italian saying goes, “throw our hearts over the obstacle,” for those of us who were lucky enough to know him even when we were not involved in those early Arcigola days. His jokes, the memories of the first evenings organized by the Bra trio of Azio, Carlo Petrini and Giovanni Ravinale and his vision of the dynamics of the world—which even back then was farsighted and whose fruits we are still harvesting—were all irretrievably woven into the cultural life of the association.
All of us within Slow Food have benefitted from his legacy, whether through a close friendship or simply because his presence has always been so legendary. And we want to remember him by recalling some of the episodes recounted in the book Slow Food. Storia di un’utopia possibile (Slow Food: Story of a possible utopia) written by Gigi Padovani in conversation with Carlo Petrini and published in 2017 by Giunti and Slow Food Editore.
The Early Days in Bra
The historic trio formed by Carlo Petrini, Azio Citi and Giovanni Ravinale first came together in the late 1960s within the Società di San Vincenzo De Paoli’s youth organization, which opposed the prevailing attitude towards the poor based on distancing and marginalization. The organization’s most important group in Piedmont was in Bra, with 130 young members, and Carlo was the youngest group president in Italy. “The San Vincenzo organization was not just for believers, but also many secular members like myself, who had joined because we wanted to feel useful. With us was also Giovanni Ravinale, who followed all of our process of cultural and political growth. Every so often he would dress up as Father Christmas and go around playing with a band,” remembers Azio in one of the early chapters of the book.
Bra’s Pirate Radio Station
The upheavals of the wider world were little felt in Bra in those days. Conformity dominated, and the young people who gravitated to Carlo, Azio and Giovanni were desperate for an outlet. Together they started Italy’s first private, non-commercial, non-music-based radio station; the first transmissions of Radio Bra Onde Rosse went out in the summer of 1975. The radio station had no licence and its programs were heavily critical of the local establishment.
Azio was a key protagonist of those first broadcasts. He recalled: “Our information services were Lotta Continua, Il Manifesto, l’Unità: We didn’t have the journalists or funds for an Ansa [the Italian news agency] teleprinter, but our local news sources were excellent. At the start there were fierce discussions about advertising, but we decided not to accept it. When Carlin [Petrini] joined the municipal council, we started to broadcast the sessions, with a delay of 45 minutes. That was the time necessary to take the recorded cassettes, by foot, from the town hall to our headquarters. They confiscated our equipment twice, but we didn’t let ourselves be intimidated. We resisted in every way possible, including switching to broadcasting from near to Benevagienna, 25 kilometers south of Bra, where we knew that the magistrate Mario Armando wouldn’t block us.”
The pirate radio phase did not last long, with the legal battles linked to it leading to the total liberation of Italy’s airwaves in 1976. But the free-airwave activists struggled to keep up with the daily rhythms. The radio station continued to limp along until it shut in 1978. The last news to be broadcast was the kidnapping of Aldo Moro.
The Club Tenco
It was 1978 when the three friends ended up at the Club Tenco music festival in Sanremo. They did not perform, but dominated the scene backstage, in the so-called “infirmary,” providing enological assistance to the singers and during the after-festival dinners. Petrini recalls: “Just twice, in 1990 and the following year, did they convince us to take to the stage. In Sanremo everyone knew us simply as the ‘Bra Trio,’ baptized La Filoridicola: the Tall, the Short and the Fat. The roles were set and did not change: I was the good presenter and took care of the direction, Azio was the real artist of us three, gifted with an innate cabaret artist’s wit, while Giovanni Ravinale would intervene his irony; he was always ready with a joke, a skill he inherited from his father.”
Since the 1980s, Azio never missed a spring alongside Carlo Petrini at Canté i’euv, the Easter ritual that livened up the Langhe nights as a group of singers and musicians went from farmhouse to farmhouse to “sing the eggs”. Azio was always at Petrini’s side during the first years of the Arcigola gastronomic association and throughout the adventures of Slow Food as it grew from a local Bra group to an internationally renowned organization, including as the University of Gastronomic Sciences was founded in 2004. His presence was constant and always sincere and unselfish, driven by shared ideals and projects.