Free-climbing in Italy: Zanzara e Labbradoro and the story of Roberto Bassi, climbing champion.

The documentary Zanzara e Labbradoro, on the story of Roberto Bassi, climbing and the spread of free-climbing in Italy in the 1980s, is finally available on Youtube. It all started with a ‘chance’ meeting in Arco with Cristina, his sister.

Roberto Bassi, the art of climbing and the spread of free-climbing

Roberto Bassi was born in Milan in 1961. He lives in Trento and approached climbing at the age of 15, through the legendary Graffer School. Among his first teachers was Marco Furlani, and it was with him, Gigi Giacomelli and Elio Piffer that he went to California, Yosemite, in 1979: the journey which would change forever his way of approaching rock, and with him, that of entire generations. No longer peaks to conquer, but extreme difficulties to overcome with the movements of the body, without any external help. This is how free climbing developed in Europe.

On his return, Roberto and his friends began to explore the crags of the Sarca valley and opened the first routes. In 1980 he contacted Manolo and invited him to “come down from the mountain”: together with H. Mariacher they opened the hardest and most mythical routes in the crags of Nuovi Orizzonti, Spiaggia delle Lucertole, San Paolo and many more. In just a few years Arco and the Sarca valley became one of the most important free climbing centres in the world, a crossroads for German, French and English climbers… and Roberto was the true and silent protagonist. In 1985 the first rock climbing competition in Bardonecchia, where Roberto was first among the Italians, brought a further change and opened the way to competitions. Roberto competes for a few years with champion results, then gradually as extreme competitiveness takes the place of the beauty of movement and the taste for discovery, he decides to quit and concentrates on the search for new, increasingly secret, increasingly silent places.

On 28 September 1994, a month before his friend Fabio Stedile, a terrible accident took him away “…just like James Dean”.

Zanzara e Labbradoro, the film

The film features interviews with Manolo, Mauro Corona, Stefan Glowacz, Jerry Moffatt, Marco Furlani, Alessandro Gogna, Rolando Larcher, Gianni Bisson, Diego Mabboni, Ennio Dalmut, Marco Preti, Palma Baldo, Giovanni Groaz and Marco Curti. Each one tells an aspect of Roberto.

Manolo talks about, among other things, the name of the street, Zanzara and Labbradoro. That insect bite there on the beach, Roberto not wanting to get out of his sleeping bag. And then he goes on to tell the story: ‘We were there, at that moment, and we did it’. There could be no other title for the film.

The film was written and directed by Lia Beltrami and Marianna Beltrami, with the fundamental contribution of Cristina Bassi. It was produced by Andrea Morghen for  Aurora Vision. All photos are by Lucio Tonina and the Bassi family archive. The director of photography is Emanuele Rainaldi and the original music is by Alberto Beltrami.

The photos in the film are just as Roberto had left them in the slide rails, ready to be used for popularisation evenings. There is a magnesium bag that opens the film was his favourite. The original music was inspired by the rhythms he had in his head.

And after the film, came the book

Zanzara e Labbradoro is also a book, written by Lia and Marianna Beltrami for the Versante Sud publishing house. It is a cross-section of the eighties, between music and comics, which reconstructs the time in Roberto’s life when he chose to be a public figure. It stops, at the moment when he had decided to retire, as a hermit of old.

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