In the mid-1950s, Italy was still trapped in the gloomy years of the post-war period.
Industry, limited to the North-West regions, produced almost only basic necessities, foodstuffs and textiles; almost half of the workforce was employed in the countryside, and only 8% of houses had running water, electricity and toilets.
Then, so suddenly as to warrant the term ‘miracle’, everything changed.
Above all, the industrial world changed, managing to identify and meet foreign demand in the chemical, mechanical and metallurgical fields. As a consequence, work changed, with a shift of labour from the countryside to the factories, from the South to the North.
The purchasing power of workers changed, with their per capita income increasing by 63% from 1954 to 1964.
The aspirations of Italians changed, having survived fifty years in which almost ten years of conflict had worn down their resilience, they were now able to free themselves from the idea of everyday subsistence to embrace new perspectives.
Washing machine, the ally of women in the 1950s.
With its rotating drum and mesmerising porthole, this appliance became the object of desire in every trade fair.
But it was not alone, because in those noisy and crowded halls there was also that monolith that the founder of Ignis, Giovanni Borghi, defined as “the family friend”: the refrigerator. Underlying the development of his company was the image of his mother, whom as a child he saw busy lighting fires or burning rotten food with an oil pump.
Now there was no need to break the ice in the wash house in winter or to go shopping every day: refrigerator and washing machine became the allies of women, who slowly found time to dedicate not only to looking after the children, but also to themselves, to professional activities and to hobbies which, thanks to their financial well-being, allowed them to satisfy their inclinations and passions.
Family friends, precious allies which lightened the load... and the wallet: buying a washing machine meant sacrificing three and a half months of an average salary, for a refrigerator it was necessary to invest up to six months of work.
But a new habit, hire purchase, allowed even the least well-off to buy household appliances.
The years of the economic boom implied not only an unprecedented industrial development, but also a change in the way of conceiving life and social roles: the differences between classes were becoming increasingly blurred and women were no longer just mothers and wives, but also workers and individuals with passions and leisure time.
In 1963, Law No. 7 of 6 January prohibited the dismissal of women workers for marriage, while Law No. 66 of 9 February of the same year stated the right of women to access all positions, professions and public employment. It was a historic turning point: families became richer and the pace of life changed radically.
Household appliances, which were appearing in more and more Italian homes, were helping to lighten the burden of household chores. They no longer were luxury goods, but instruments of freedom, which could be purchased in instalments thanks to the instruments offered by companies such as Reale Mutua to its Members.
"Lighten your load!" - with a flyer, in 1964 Reale Mutua presents to its Members the instalment options available for the purchase of consumer goods such as cars, fridges and TVs.
Hans Rosling, Swedish physician and statistician, in a Ted Talk in 2010 tells what the spread of household appliances in homes meant from women’s and children’s point of view.
“I was four years old when I saw my mother loading a washing machine for the first time. My parents had saved up years to buy it and on the day it was set to start, my grandmother also wanted to be there. She was even more excited: all her life she had lit the fire to heat the water, and hand washed the laundry for seven children. She asked if she could press the button, grabbed a chair and enjoyed the entire washing cycle. She was fascinated. ‘It’s magic,’ she said.
My mother immediately made me understand why the washing machine was magic: ‘Now that we’ve loaded the drum,’ she said, ‘you and I are going to the library’....
On 27 November 1957, the first supermarket in Italy was inaugurated in Milan, in Viale Regina Giovanna. This is how a report of the time presented it: “And now from the United States here come the supermarkets. Hollywood cinema had introduced them to us and therefore Italians did not have the slightest difficulty in mastering the very simple system. You go in, look around and take what you need. Each carefully packaged product has its price and possibly its weight prominently displayed. Once you've finished shopping, you go to the checkout and pay. In this regard, it should be noted that supermarkets are organised in such a way that it is impossible to leave without passing in front of these checkouts. It's not a question of mistrust, God forbid: it's a simple expedient specifically designed for the convenience of customers".
In the 1950s, wages rose and inflation was stable: many families were finally able to buy goods that had previously been impossible to own: first and foremost electrical appliances, available in instalments. Goods became status symbols, witnesses to the new affluence that the peninsula was experiencing along with its population.
Scooters, Vespas and Lambrettas, but also Seicento and Cinquecento cars crowded the roads, from North to South, with their most disparate colours, like a moving kaleidoscope that showed the world each driver’s personality. With the intensification of traffic, Third Party Liability Car Insurance became compulsory in 1971: faced with this new need, Reale Mutua strived to offer its Members solutions that would combine convenience with the highest level of protection.
The property market diversified, offering new housing solutions, and the Company invested in Milan and Turin, the two development hubs of the time.
Consumer goods that were inextricably linked to the insurance world, embedded in a rapidly growing society and market.
In Italy, after the first world war, the experiment of separating traffic according to speed was launched for the first time in history: On 21 September 1924, the Milan-Varese section of the Autostrada dei Laghi (Motorway of the Lakes) was inaugurated. The Italian communication network was devastated by the Second World War: railways destroyed, 14,700 km of roads devastated, 140 bridges collapsed. On 19 May 1956, work began on the Autostrada del Sole (Motorway of the Sun), and from 1957 to 1963, car production increased 5-fold. However, Italians continued to travel mainly on two wheels. In 1958, for a worker to own a car was still an unattainable dream, but shortly afterwards, an intense advertising campaign that removed the taboo of the horror of debt in favour of hire purchase, combined with the birth of the Fiat 500, helped change things.
It was 1939 when Ferdinand of Savoy insured his FIAT 521 with a Reale Mutua car policy against theft and fire. At the time, cars were still mirages on Italian roads, but twenty years on, the sound of engines was everywhere to be heard in the city. The numbers speak for themselves: in the mid-1950s there was one car for every 77 inhabitants in Italy; two years later, there was one for every 39 inhabitants. Valerio Castronuovo called what was affecting the streets of Italy a “silent revolution”.
A revolution that was also as fast as it was silent, which lead Italians in a short time span to take out more Vehicle policies than Life policies, and which was requiring insurance companies to adapt their structures to meet these new needs.
Utility cars, luxury cars, urban roads and Motorways, of which Reale Mutua grasped the full potential, hence investing in their implementation through companies such as ATIVA and SITAF; but also new documents and new obligations brought about by the increase in traffic, including TPCI and Agreements for Direct Compensation.
During the summer of 1959 - the Consolidated Law on Road Circulation came into force, approved by Presidential Decree No. 393 of 15 June 1959, consisting of 147 articles, plus 607 articles of the annexed regulations.
The document resolved the disastrous situation of post-war road signs, which were still unregulated and destroyed by the conflict that had just ended. New rules were established concerning shape, size and colour.
500 cylinder capacity, 500 kilos, 500 thousand lire: after a very lukewarm initial reception of the first model, the Nuova 500 was launched in 1957, becoming e a true icon of Italian design - the first car to win the prestigious Compasso d’Oro - and contributing significantly to changing the mobility of Italians.
This is how it was presented at its début:
“Here it is, we give it the place of honour, the privilege of the opening, the space reserved for editorial articles in newspapers. Carlos Salamano, pilot and pioneer, presents it to us with legitimate pride. Rear engine of 479 cubic centimetres, 2 in-line cylinders and air-cooled. Spacious and comfortable cabin for two passengers, space behind the seats capable of accommodating at least four suitcases, or for those who prefer them to the four suitcases, two children.
So have a good trip at the fantastic speed of 85 kilometres per hour, achievable with just four litres of petrol, that is about twenty kilometres per litre (Americans have cigarette lighters that consume much more)....
On 3 January 1954, with commentary on the inauguration of the Milan studios and the transmitters of Turin and Rome, RAI started the regular service of television broadcasts.
At the time there were 90 license holders, which became 24,000 after a month, 88,000 after a year, 1 million after four.
Conceived as an information and education tool, television dedicated only a small part to entertainment: the most important moment was the play on Friday night.
In 1955, the Sanremo Song Festival switched from Radio to TV; in 1957, commercial breaks arrived, with Carosello: 10 minutes broken down into 1 minute 45 second stories, closed with 30 seconds in which the product was presented. In 1959, the curtain was raised on the Zecchino d'Oro and in 1960 the studio lights were turned on for Non è mai troppo tardi (It’s never too late), which taught reading and writing to a nation that still had 4 million illiterate people.
Then came the memorable programmes, such as Lascia o raddoppia (Double your money) and those dedicated to sport, especially football and cycling: La Domenica Sportiva (Sunday Sport), on air since 1953, is by far the longest-running programme on Italian television.
On 4 November 1961, this is how Mina greeted the birth of the Second Channel, Rai2 “And now tell me that I'm rhetorical, that I'm sentimental, but I want to dedicate a toast to this second born television child”. Italian television was born in the years of the economic boom, it fed and was fed by it, and was the instrument of linguistic, sociological and cultural unification of a country that had not yet learnt to feel like a nation.
For a long time Reale Mutua had been faithful to paper-based communication, appearing on TV for the first time only in 1985 with a commercial that hinted the atmosphere of Il Gattopardo.
"There is a great insurance company that treats you like kings, or rather like Members: Reale Mutua Assicurazioni, Members not simply insured" was its claim. The first of a long series of messages that, in the spirit of mutuality, focused on protection, prevention and direct relations with its Insured policyholders, who, for Reale Mutua, are Members.
Time passed and narratives changed, but the Company always entrusted its brand image to prestigious names in every form of advertising: from Dolci to Saffirio, up to Armando Testa, Reale Mutua's messages not only aim to tell the story of the Group, but to make the viewer feel part of it.
Whether it be emotional or have an innate comic verve, Reale Mutua's television ads put the individual at the centre, each time with different scenarios and tones.
Autographed photo with Cesare Polacco's dedication: “To Reale Mutua Assicurazione, the only custodian of my few savings”.
Cesare Polacco, alias the almost infallible Inspector Rock, solved his mini-crime stories on Carosello from 1957 to 1968 in episodes dramatized by Luigi Magni, Furio Scarpelli and Lina Wertmüller in 1 minute and 45 seconds, to which a 30-second advertising ‘tail’ was added with the presentation of the Linetti line products....
In the 1950s, when for blue and white collar workers their output was no longer measured by the finished product but by the number of hours worked, the concept of leisure time was born. Symbols of escape and recreation were Sunday car rides, summer holidays and sporting events: football and cycling, followed in the stadiums, on the roads and on television.
The acronym C.R.A.L. (Circolo Ricreativo Aziendale Lavoratori - Company Recreational Club for Workers) appeared for the first time in the post-war period, but already in 1927 Reale Mutua offered its employees recreational activities through the Dopolavoro: from bowls to rowing, football, cycling, walking, tug-of-war and fencing, the enthusiasm of the participants was quite tangible.
Particularly successful was the creation of an amateur dramatic society named after Fulberto Alarni, screen name of the employee Alberto Arnulfi, a Piedmontese dialect poet and playwright who was highly appreciated by Edmondo De Amicis, author of the famous book Heart.
And then conferences of all kinds, training courses and initiatives such as “Reale Christmas”, which still involves entire families with shows and gifts.
A range of possibilities for Reale Mutua employees, who could give voice to their innermost passions.
In order to protect itself against bad weather, the Committee of the 5th Stage of the 1958 Giro d'Italia insured the event with the Company. The document states: “the Company shall indemnify the Policyholder for the coverage sum of one million lire if on 22 May 1958, from 1.30 pm to 3.30 pm, there should be a quantity of rain equal to 2 mm or more”.
«Ma dove vai bellezza in bicicletta, così di fretta pedalando con ardor?» (Where are going, beauty on a bicycle, pedalling with ardour in such a hurry?) sang Silvana Pampanini in “Bellezze in bicicletta”, where Silvana, her character, pedals together with Delia towards their greatest dream: to enter Totò’s group.
It’s the fifties. On the saddle of their faithful companion, everyone hums this tune, as if with every word and every whistle one could pedal harder. As if everyone felt like Silvana and Delia, looking for a dream to realise.
It is the same refrain that echoes on 22nd May 1958, at the fifth stage of the fortieth edition of the Giro d’Italia, the last to bo...