When a veteran marshal is assigned to a tiny town, he falls in love with two women: a midwife and an earthy young lady dubbed “Frisky.”
Luigi Comencini directed the 1953 Italian romantic comedy film Bread, Love, and Dreams (Pane, Amore e fantasia). It received the Silver Bear award at the 4th Berlin International Film Festival.
The film is set in “Sagliena,” a fictitious small town in central Italy, where Marshal Antonio Carotenuto, an aging womanizer, is transferred in the immediate post-war period. He must adapt to the monotonous and quiet village life. With the help of his housemaid Caramella, the marshal heads the local carabinieri station.
There, he meets “Pizzicarella la Bersagliera,” a young local girl who is secretly in love with the carabiniere Stelluti. Initially, the marshal attempts to court the “Bersagliera,” as Paoletta, the parish sacristan, is in love with Stelluti. However, Stelluti is actually in love with the Bersagliera and wants his mother to meet her. Thanks to the intervention of Don Emidio, who informs the marshal of the situation, Stelluti and the Bersagliera get engaged. Meanwhile, during the feast of Saint Anthony, the marshal himself gets engaged to the village’s elderly midwife, Annarella.
In the early 1950s, Luigi Comencini and Ettore Margadonna went to Palena, Abruzzo, to explore the possibility of filming “Pane, amore e fantasia” (Bread, Love and Dreams), for which the screenplay was ready. However, after a reconnaissance mission, they concluded that the post-war reconstructions disrupted the old-world village atmosphere that Comencini wanted for the film.
The municipality chosen to represent the imaginary village of Sagliena was actually Castel San Pietro Romano in Lazio, in the eastern area of the province of Rome. It was selected for its small size, characteristic appearance, and rugged terrain. This location was also used for the films “Pane, amore e gelosia” (Bread, Love and Jealousy), “I due marescialli” (The Two Marshals), “Il federale” (The Fascist), “Liolà,” and “È permesso Maresciallo?” (May I Come In, Marshal?).
Ettore Maria Margadonna wrote the screenplay based on his native town of Palena and his memories of its distinctive residents. The town, its church, the priest and his community, the marshal, the mayor, the craftsman, the gossips, the village beauties often the subject of envy, and the midwife are all figures that Margadonna remembered from Palena. In Comencini’s film, the town became Sagliena. The real-life priest of Palena was “Don Concezio,” and notably, the “bersagliera” played by Gina Lollobrigida was inspired by the vivacious “Lucietta bella” (Lucia Travaglini) who in the early 20th century captivated many with her beauty and later, having married one of Palena’s poorest men, emigrated to America and gave birth to the famous singer Perry Como.
Initially, the actor Gino Cervi was chosen as the protagonist, while the working title was “Pane e fantasia” (Bread and Imagination). Additionally, the main subject was rejected by several producers because it was considered detrimental to the honor of the Carabinieri; producer Marcello Girosi, a friend of De Sica, then stepped in and secured the approval of the corps on the condition that De Sica played the lead role.
The film was restored by Philip Morris Cinema Project, in collaboration with the National Film School Foundation National Film Archive and Titanus, with Giuseppe Rotunno (AIC-ASC) as the director of restoration.