The Francesco Baracca
1. Casa Baracca
Reconstructed in 1916 but probably dating back to the second half of
the nineteenth century, the house belonged to the Baracca family
until 1951, when it was given to the municipality of Lugo following
the wishes expressed in the will of Count Enrico Baracca, father of
Francesco, that it be used as a museum.
The inscription in marble on the front of the building confirms that
this is the birth house of the First World War ace, despite various
sources which refer to the nearby locality of San Potito, the
location of one of the agricultural estates of the Baracca family.
The building housed the middle school “Silvestro Gherardi” until the
mid-Seventies. It was then occupied by various associations, the
Resistance Museum, and finally Francesco Baracca Museum since the
20th of June 1993, following the transfer of the museum from its
original location in the Estense fortress.
The fašade is an example of twentieth century eclecticism, to which
decorative elements in the floral style of the beginning of the
century have been added.
Various vintage glass doors and elegant wooden furnishings by the
sculptor Antonio Turri (Lugo 1872-1932) have been conserved inside
the building, as well as pastels and frescoes on the main ceilings
by the artist Domenico Pasi (Lugo 1892 - 1923).
1. Biographical note
Francesco Baracca was born on the 9th of May 1888 by Paolina
Biancoli and Enrico Baracca. As a young boy he first attended the
school of the Salesian Fathers in Lugo, then the Scolopi school in
Badia Fiesolana, before finishing his studies at the Dante high
school in Florence. After graduating from high school he enrolled at
the Military School in Modena, where he remained for a couple of
In 1909 he attended the Cavalry School in Pinerolo, where he was
promoted to the rank of second lieutenant in July 1910 and assigned
to the 1st Squadron of the “Piemonte Reale” Regiment stationed in
Rome. In 1912 he took civil flying courses in Reims, where he gained
his pilot's license. He felt a natural propensity and great
enthusiasm for flying, as his letter to his father on the 5th of May
1912 shows. Francesco wrote : “[...] now I realise what a wonderful
idea I have had, because aviation has progressed immensely, and will
have a tremendous future.”
After attaining his civil aviation license, he went on to gain his
military pilot's license and dedicated himself to perfecting his
training. On the eve of the war, Baracca went to Paris, where he
specialised in flying the new Nieuport fighter biplanes at Le
Returning to Italy in July 1915, he carried out patrol flights and
won his first victory on the 7th of April 1916 at the controls of a
Nieuport, shooting down an Austrian two-seater Brandenburg C.I..
For his actions in war, he would receive a bronze medal, three
silver medals, the Knight Grand Cross of the Military Order of Savoy,
the Knight's Cross of the Order of the Crown of Belgium, and finally
the Gold Medal for Military Valour.
In the spring of 1917 he was put at the command of the 91st Squadron,
a specially formed unit which brought together the best pilots of
the Italian air force, and which was soon named the “Squadron of
Aces” thanks to its many victories in combat.
On the 15th of June 1918, during the last Austro-Hungarian
offensive, he won his 34th and last victory over San Biagio di
Collalta, in the province of Treviso. Four days later, on the 19th
of June 1918, Francesco Baracca lost his life during a low-flying
machine-gunning action over Montello. On the 24th of June, his body
was discovered almost by chance, next to the remains of his aircraft,
by the artillery officer Ambrogio Gobbi, who was immediately joined
by the lieutenants Ranza and Osnago, companions of the ace of the
91st Squadron, who were looking for their commander together with
the journalist Garinei.
The funeral ceremony in honour of Francesco Baracca took place on
the 26th of June in Quinto di Treviso: the funeral eulogy was read
by Gabriele D’Annunzio. On the 28th of June the coffin reached Lugo
in the late evening and the funeral carried out on the 30th of June
before an enormous crowd.
2. The museum
Established by the municipality of Lugo in 1926 and located in a
room at the entrance of the Estense fortress until 1990, the
Francesco Baracca museum was transferred to the birth house of the
Italian aviation pioneer in 1993, in keeping with the wishes
expressed in the will of his father, the count Enrico.
From June 1993 to April 1999, the Museum, which works closely with
the “Friends of the Baracca Museum” association, housed a first
section on the ground floor only, with the aeroplane and various
mementoes. The works, which began in 1999, allowed a consolidation
of the building, particularly the roof and the fašade. The
architectural barriers were pulled down and a lift put in to connect
the three floors of the building, which was rebuilt in Liberty style
at the beginning of the twentieth century. These works, which
required the building to close for two years, doubled the exhibition
area of the Museum, which was finally able to house a large number
of mementoes, furnishings and documents, and provide suitable
facilities for a rich cultural heritage, making various materials
available to the public which had never been exhibited before.
The acquisition of the final floor, in 2006, allowed all the relics
on Francesco Baracca to be included in the exhibition.
The Museum is the starting point of a city tour which includes the
Monument, designed and completed in 1936 by the Faenza
sculptor Domenico Rambelli, declared one of the best expressions of
twentieth century Italian sculpture, and the Burial Chapel,
decorated by the artist Roberto Sella of Lugo, located in the town
cemetery, inside which you can admire the majestic sarcophagus cast
using the bronze of the Austrian cannons from the Kras region.
3. Ticket office and bookshop
There are two display cases in this room; one displays a selection
of publications on Francesco Baracca, from the First World War to
today, while the other shows images of him, donated by the Visani
A German-built engine from an aeroplane shot down by Francesco
Baracca stands proudly in one corner. The propulsor still has part
of the wooden propeller attached, broken in the violent impact with
4. The lobby
Currently exhibited in the lobby is a Ferrari F399 whichhhhh
competed in the Formula 1 Championship in 1999, winning six
victories in the hands of Michael Schumacher, Eddie Irvine and Mika
Salo, who stood in for the German driver for six races when
Schumacher was injured. The single-seater is a loan from the
Galleria Ferrari museum in Maranello, the result of a collaboration
between the two museums. The origins of the link between the Rampant
Horse and Ferrari is told by the constructor himself, and dates back
to 1923, when Ferrari – still only a driver – won the first Savio
Circuit at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo. Paolina de’ Biancoli, the
mother of Francesco Baracca, told him: “Ferrari, put my son's
rampant horse on your cars. It will bring you good luck.” Years
later Ferrari wrote “I still have the photograph of Baracca, with
the dedication of his parents with which they granted me the emblem.
The horse was and has remained black; I added the canary yellow
background – the colour of Modena”.
The SPAD Room, the highlight of the Museum, is opposite the book
5. The SPAD Room
The room is fitted out to evoke the idea of flight. The SPAD VII,
with registration number S 2489, was built by the BlÚriot company in
1917 and was used by the 91st Squadron between the end of 1917 and
the beginning of 1918, a period which coincides with its use by the
ace, although no archive document is currently able to confirm or
exclude its effective use by Francesco Baracca. What is certain is
that this fighter plane was the personal aircraft of the lieutenant
Eduardo Alfredo Olivero from the end of the summer of 1918 to the
spring of the following year, when it was exhibited at an air show
in Taliedo. It was then donated to Baracca's town of birth and
exhibited here in a room of the fortress.
An initial series of restoration works were carried out at the end
of the Sixties by air force technicians, followed by further works
in 1990, carried out by the Turin section of the Friends of Historic
Aircraft group, in Italian Gruppo Amici Velivolo Storici, or
GAVS. The original fabric lining was removed during the initial
restoration works, but is conserved in the museum storerooms.
6. The courtyard
Here you can admire an Aeritalia G. 91Y donated by the Italian Air
Force, thus bringing two different eras of flight together under one
roof. The aircraft was used by the “5th Stormo di Cervia” squadron,
and made its last flight in 1993.
Under the portico on the right is one of the two General Electric
J85-GE-13A engines which powered the plane.
7. The Uniform Room
This vast room, which looks out over the road on one side and the
courtyard on the other, displays various uniforms worn by Francesco
Baracca, and one which belonged to an Austrian pilot, donated to the
Museum by the Viennese collector Johannes Walenta. As well as
honouring all the pilots of the First World War, regardless of their
nationality, the room shows Europe's fall from the splendour of the
Belle Epoque to the horror of the war, with the glittering uniforms
which fade in the greyness of combat equipment.
The place of honour in one of the display cases is occupied by a
wooden panel which Francesco Baracca had made, bearing the emblem he
chose – as he writes in one of his letters - in honour of the
“Piedmont Cavalry” Regiment he had once belonged to.
The black Rampant Horse did not appear on the first aircraft flown
by the ace, making its debut on his Nieuport 17 in the spring of
1917, then on the SPAD VII and XIII.
On Baracca's death, the Rampant Horse, his personal emblem, would
have disappeared had it not been for his commander, Amedeo d’Aosta,
who decided to adopt it as the emblem of the 4th Stormo squadron of
the then-Italian Royal Air Force. The Rampant Horse still flies with
the air force today.
8. The bedroom
The room in which Francesco Baracca slept displays the original
furniture and furnishings donated by the family; the uniform
trousers and boots are also originals. Also on display is the cello
played by Baracca when he was a boy, and a rough wooden cross
brought from Montello, which originally marked the exact spot where
his body was found.
9. The Room of Honours
On the left, in one of the first display cases, are medals and
diplomas awarded to Francesco Baracca, including the Gold Medal for
Military Valour, the highest Italian decoration for acts of valour,
while a second case holds various relics. The first shelf holds
various personal items, including a singed coin purse recovered from
Montello, a silk shoe embroidered with the military pilot's badge
and the Haussmann watch won in an equestrian competition before the
war, with the hands stopped at his time of death. The lower shelf
displays other mementoes, including the ribbons from the flower
wreaths brought in tribute to the pilot during his funeral or during
ceremonies in the following years. Note those from the tenor Caruso,
and from the French air force squadron stationed in Venice. A case
in the centre of the room contains the Sword of Honour, donated to
Baracca by the town of Lugo, while the painting Portrait of
Francesco Baracca in cavalry uniform by Bedeschi from 1919 is on
the wall opposite the door.
10. The room of the 91st Squadron
This room is dedicated to Baracca's companions. Especially
interesting are the relics displayed in the cases, while on the
right-hand wall, above a series of panels describing the profiles of
various aircraft of the squadron, are the wing struts of a
Brandenburg C.I., shot down by Pier Ruggero Piccio, friend and
superior of Baracca. Beside the door are the biographies of some of
the pilots who served in the squadron, while a blown-up photograph
on the end wall, probably taken in April 1918 on the airfield in
Padua, shows Baracca and the other pilots in front of a SPAD XIII.
On the left of the photograph is the reproduction of a geographical
map of the period showing the areas where the Italian troops fought
during the First World War.
11. The Room of the Funeral Honours
This room displays images and posters from the funeral of the pilot.
Worthy of note is the painting by Lucio Benini from 1918, called
Arrival in Lugo of the body of Francesco Baracca.
12. The second floor
This floor is dedicated to the life of Francesco Baracca, with a
series of panels describing various key events. The panels take you
along the walls from right to left, continuing in the Room of the
Rampant Horse before returning to the first room. There are
various relics on display relative to the life and military career
of Francesco Baracca.
13. The Room of the Rampant Horse
The first display case on the right holds a exercisebook and a
drawing by the future ace, followed by part of a propeller from an
Austrian aircraft which was shot down, and a long display case
showing further items linked to Baracca's victories. The tour
continues by turning right into the Room of the Rampant Horse, which
owes its name to the panel showing a reproduction of the original in
cloth of the emblem of the Rampant Horse from a SPAD and conserved
by the X Fighter Group of the air force.
Various weapons from planes which were shot down are arranged along
the walls; of particular note are the rudder and a fuselage panel
complete with registration number of the Brandenburg C.I 61.57,
which was shot down on the 7th of April 1916 in the first aerial
combat victory of Baracca and the entire Italian air force.
When you have finished in this room return to the Piedmont Cavalry
Room, where the tour continues, with a number of display cases
holding various objects from the aeroplane in which Baracca lost his
life, including the cushion from the pilot's seat, donated by Mr.
Sciascia of Mantua, the rear-view mirror and telescopic sight, to
name just a few.
14. The War Memoirs Room (curated by the Isonzo
History Group of Gorizia)
This room brings together objects removed from enemy soldiers, a
practice common even among the Italian troops. Among the pilots of
the 91st squadron under Francesco Baracca this activity was fairly
widespread, as shown by the many findings kept here in the museum.
Here you can admire the re-creation of a trench with the equipment
given to the Austrian infantry and artillery, but also to the
Italian troops: helmets, rifles, machine guns, accessories, unusual
weapons and the remains of bullets. They are the memory of a grim
period, lived through by those who dominated the trenches from above,
trenches populated by thousands of enemy soldiers.
15. The Legend of Baracca
In the lobby, take a seat on the bench to listen to the final text
dedicated to the legend of Francesco Baracca. (PAUSE)
Many authors stress the importance of the role but above all the
legend of the pilot within the context of the First World War,
suggesting different ways of looking at the figure of Baracca.
Even during the war, the name of Baracca was already very well-known.
Numerous books, articles and booklets have been published about him,
without counting the space reserved for him in the various general
histories of aviation and the First World War, while school
textbooks, which aim to capture the imagination of children and
young people, never fail to mention his name.
Most of the texts can be divided into two main types. On one hand we
have the picture of a “knight of the air”, one who views aerial
combat as duels between gentlemen, and who harbours great enthusiasm
for these battles in the sky, considering them a ‘spectacle’, a
sporting contest with “glory” as the ultimate goal.
On the other hand we have a more warrior-like figure, showing no
compassion towards the enemy he has shot down, one who takes on the
characteristics of the superhuman hero, a perfect war machine,
completely absorbed in carrying out his “sacred duty”.
The image which tends to prevail today, however, is that of an
adventurous man, sensitive to the development of technology and
modernity. According to various modern interpretations, Baracca was
not so much inspired by the idea of the hero of the air, pure and
resolute, as much as by the “champion of success”.
Analysis of the diary and letters sent to the family shows the
figure of a young pilot aware of his ‘status’ of “knight of the
skies”; one who belongs to a kind of supranational Úlite, which “has
the fortune in life, but especially after death, to embody the
spirit of flying and aerial warfare, combining daring and chivalrous
conquest, the most advanced technology, and the most resolute spirit
of adventure in a rare synthesis.”
But this legend, which in the twentieth century would come together
admirably and inseparably with that of another great ‘pioneer’, Enzo
Ferrari, has its roots as far back as the “Manifesto of Futurism” of
1909, when Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, choosing the aeroplane as a
symbol of modernity, wrote:
“We will sing [...] the gliding flight of the aeroplanes, its
propellor fluttering like a flag in the wind, seeming to applaud
like an enthusiastic crowd”.
An exaltation of the audacity and domination of man over the ‘machine’,
but also a sense of the challenge and dimension of a dream, the
latter clearly expressed by Baracca himself in a letter to his
father, dating back to the French period: “[...] It was a
wonderful daydream, seeing myself flying under the trees, over the
roads and the countryside...”.