Creativity at the ‘Festival of the Mind’

Creativity at the 'Festival of the Mind'Just over the Tuscan border in Liguria, Sarzana, a medieval city cradled between the Mediterranean and the foothills of the Apuan Alps, hosts the 12th edition of the first European festival dedicated to the investigation of ideas and the creative process.

September 4 – 6: FESTIVAL DELLA MENTE. Various venues, Sarzana. Events from 5:30 – 11:15 pm Friday, from 10 am – 11:15 pm Saturday & Sunday. Admission €3.50 or €7. All events in Italian.


This year’s Festival of the Mind focuses on the relationship between creativity and responsibility. In this era of increasing technological and scientific advances and changes, the concept of responsibility begs to be examined and perhaps redefined.   During these three days in September more than 40,000 psychologists, entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, musicians, public intellectuals and literary figures come to Sarzana to explore, discuss and share their ideas and knowledge.


Outdoor-loving music fans will not want to miss an imaginative innovation this year: “Music in the Apuan Alps,” an event combining trekking and the compositions of Bach.

The Italian Alpine Club (CAI) has organized two guided hikes; one of one hour’s length suitable for all abilities and one three-hour trek for experienced hikers.   At trail’s end, at 1315 meters set in pristine alpine scenery with sea views, cellist Mario Brunello will play Bach’s Suites (Sunday, concert at 3 pm, hikes begin at 10 and 7:45 am.) Participants bring their own lunch and water. Free participation, but registration required by Friday, September 4. For the shorter hike register at or tel. 0585/776782. The longer hike can be booked at, tel. 0585/488081.


The festival opens with a welcome by the artistic and scientific directors and the mayor of Sarzana. Historian Luciano Canfora will bring to life the story of the founder of the Roman Empire in a free lecture “Augustus: The Political Ethics of a Republican Monarch” (Friday 5:30 pm, Piazza Matteotti, free admission). Later that evening literary enthusiasts can listen to actor Anna Bonaiuto reading from Elena Ferrante’s book “My Brilliant Friend,” part of a four-book series set in the author’s 1950s childhood Naples (9:30 pm, Piazza d’Armi Firmafede Fortress, €7).

Delving deeper into the subject of creativity and accountability, author Alessandro Barbero will speak on “The Historian’s Responsibility: From the Sorbonne to the Gestapo Prisons.” His presentation is based on the life and writings of renowned historian Marc Bloch, a French and Jewish patriot and member of the French Resistance until captured, tortured and executed by the Nazis in 1944 (Saturday 11:15 pm, Piazza Matteotti, €3.50).

“Gender Based Violence: Perpetrators, Victims and Intervention,” consists of a dialogue with a professor of criminology, a writer and advocate for minors and a psychologist, exploring the crimes of stalking, harassment and domestic violence. Discussion will examine the motivation behind these aberrant behaviors and the potential curing of both the victims and perpetrators (Saturday 3 pm, Modern Cinema, €7).


Sunday morning the intellectual repast continues on a less serious note with the discussion “Laziness, Fatigue and Our Constant Running.” Participants will examine the plight of 21st century citizens who have an intense need to be competitive and on par with the world’s rapid pace but seem incapable of relaxing and doing nothing at all (Sunday 10 am, Modern Cinema, €7).


Antoine de Saint-Exupery first drew the doodle of a small blond boy on a tablecloth in a New York restaurant in 1942. When his American editor enquired who the youngster was, Saint-Exupery replied, “It’s a child I carry in my heart.” The author turned the drawing into a children’s story, “The Little Prince,” one of the three most read books in the world, translated into more than 250 languages. Professor of French Literature Daria Galateria and writer and literary critic Emanuele Trevi retell the history of the “20th century’s most beautiful fairy tale” and its author (Sunday 5:30 pm, Piazza Matteotti, €3.50).


Events specially designed for children and teens will be offered throughout the festival. Photographer Massimiliano Tappari leads an exercise, “Amazement at Km. 0,” enabling children to “discover hidden surprises right in front of our eyes” by activating participants’ observational skills (Friday 6 pm, Modern Cinema, €3.50, ages 6 and older).

Later on Friday “Exploring the Universe of Emanuele Luzzati” allows young explorers to experience the kaleidoscopic universe of this well-known Italian painter, illustrator, animator and film director (Friday 9 pm, Italian Cinema, €3.50).

“Pinksie the Whale” with Alessandra Pieratelli, a workshop combining animation and creative activity, will delight children aged 6 to 10 as they discover different food cultures. Youngsters can learn about food sustainability and the pleasure of preparing and sharing tasty food (Saturday, 2:45 and 4:30 pm, Sala Ragazzi B Fortezza Firmafede, €3.50).

“The 3D Printer: An Idea Becomes an Object” an event for ages 9 to 13, will demonstrate how imagination can become reality using tools of technology (Sunday, 9:45 am, 2 and 4:30 pm, Casa della Salute, €3.50).

The Festival of the Mind, drawing a larger audience every year, promises to offer something for all interests in the creative world. This intergenerational event is also thanks to the invaluable contribution of 500 young volunteers, high school and university students, contributing in all aspects of the organization and staging of the three-day festival.

For the complete program of events and ticket information, visit the festival website: (rita kungel)