The Caterpillar's Magazine
by Tea Francesca Price
“Have you seen the new Barbicone?” Patrizia Manganelli calls, leaning around the row of people seated at one of the long dinner tables in the Bruco contrada’s terraced gardens. Grinning, she energetically waves a copy of the magazine, giving the thumbs-up.
“No! Where is it?” exclaims Diana Iorio, peering at the cover before following Manganelli’s gestures toward the stairs. At the top, tucked in a corner near the entrance of the società of La Nobil Contrada del Bruco, is a table piled high with freshly printed magazines, the aroma of ink still clinging to its sturdy pages.
Barbicone, the official magazine of La Nobil Contrada del Bruco, is a biannual publication, releasing new editions in June and December. Dating back to 1962, it initially existed in a tabloid format with black-and-white print, but by the ‘90s, morphed into a glossy magazine. Registered through the city’s tribunal, the publication serves as a chronicle of the life of the Bruco contrada and thus is only available for its members.
Historical newspapers shown by Fabrizio Cencioni
Over 1,000 pairs of eyes all seem to be scanning the newest publication during the weekly, Friday night dinner, the contents captivating all but one. Lounging back in his chair and puffing quietly on a cigarette, the editor-in-chief, Andrea D’Amore, watches discretely yet attentively the myriad of reactions around him.
“When I meet with people, they give me their feedback,” D’Amore explains with a grin. “Some thank you for what you wrote, while others ask ‘Why didn’t you write about this?’”
A graphic designer by trade, D’Amore, 41, has juggled his responsibilities creating logos for business corporations and private individuals with overseeing the design and management of Barbicone since 1997.
It was upon his taking of the helm that the magazine shifted its format from newspaper to magazine, introducing higher quality photos and layouts dependent upon improving technology. Yet, while its presentation received a facelift, Barbicone’s real changes have only ever been a reflection of the growing size of the Bruco contrada, says D’Amore.
“The baseline is the life of the contrada,” D’Amore says, “and how the city affects the life of the districts.” Because of this, he says, the production of the magazine is a year-round process. If an event in December or January is established as a newsworthy event, material must be gathered. “But we start working practically two months before the publishing,” he clarifies.
"It is a magazine of culture"
The selection of the topics of news, a more judicious practice than in the past, is done part by the “redazione”, a sort of “pool of people” involved in the running and production of the magazine or issue. [Redazione: Roberto Cappelli, Barbara Cerretani, Cristina Cinotti, Benedetta Drimaco, Giada Fabbo, Finetti Giovanni, Diletta Landozzi, Tommaso Serpi.] However, D’Amore also points out that the contradaioli (members of the contrada) have a large say in the magazine’s narrative.
“The intent is not to criticize, gossip or complain,” D’Amore emphasizes. “It is a magazine of culture…it has to be written in a manner comprehensible and acceptable to everyone. It needs to tell the truth, obviously, and not mask things.”
The dialogue of the contrada, however, is reserved for its members both verbally and in print. While Barbicone has expanded to an online version, even accessible by scanning a QR code, the online version requires a contradaoilo’s individual code to login. Additionally, the official presence of Barbicone (or indeed any of Siena’s contrade) is not seen on social media.
“Social networking is not adept for the contrada,” D’Amore says seriously, expressing a common sentiment amongst contradaioli. Due to the lifestyle of a contrada, D’Amore says that, to him, using social networks as a contrada is not useful. Being a place that one attends regularly, the use of social media in today's context of constant updating is unnecessary.
Andrea Mazzuoli, 28, who serves as the Bruco's barbaresco or groom/care-taker of the horse during the Palio explains how the world of the Palio, the contrade and social media simply do not mix. "I'm a little conservative," he says, "But really I don't like a lot of technology in the world of the Palio. I do not like to see it talked about on Facebook, videos on Youtube. I may seem old-fashioned, but this is because putting photos and videos on the internet allows everyone to see [and interpret] il Palio in their own way without understanding what is true."
For this reason, Andrea D'Amore says the official publication is reserved for the members of the contrada as is all dialogue of the contrada.
“It’s my personal opinion,” he says, “we are at the limits of social networking. To share news or exchange contrasting opinions online is futile because in the contrada, one goes frequently and you can discuss things there instead of at a distance [online]. For Barbicone, we inform members what is happening in the contrada and we want to reserve this [information] for them. We want to remain in the spirit of family.”