Special thanks to Rachel McNamara for the linguistic review and translation

To read earlier episodes of this series

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


The Red Album contains the last years of Grazia’s career. The Milanese girl was no more a teenager, she had gained some international experience .. and she probably wanted to break away from parents’ and coaches’ rule, to explore her peers’ world …

Grazia and Carlo skating during the inauguration of Turin’s ice rink (1951)

Original caption says:
“During the compulsory figures, at Italian Championship / Cortina 1950”




This video also shows Grazia and Carlo at the opening of the ice rink in Turin in 1951

The album continues with more pictures of Grazia and her skating friends and colleagues



With Carlino [Fassi], Giuliano Grossi,  Franca Tininini and the Cif”.







“Asiago, January 21.
        Celebrating the participants to the Championship       (Giuliano is sad because he got no cup to toast, but soon he’s going to take comfort …)”



“Bad Gastein.
We support a mate during the slalom race.
With me and Franca there are Garnero, Piorpaes, Rimoldi, Ghitti, Cif, Anni Andretta e Guido Colnaghi”.

Another picture from Bad Gastein, Austria:

“With Lilo Barth, who was going to be the opponent to me and Franca, if the scirocco [south wind] had not melted the ice …”

My break during the training.  Chatting with coach Burghardt.










“Sestriere, 20 January 1952 / Italian Championship”


“Italian Championship / With my friends and CUS Milano teammates / mirra and Liliana Aquilano”.


CUS, established in 1947, is the University Sports Centre of Milan. The three skaters could be watched in these beautiful video: Please click on the link 


In January 1951, Grazia won again the Italian Championship in Asiago. The Italian press praised the performance of the “invicible Barcellona”, but the President of the Italian Federation declared to Corriere dello Sport that only Carlo Fasi was going to represent Italy at the World Championship that was due to be held in Milan (23-25 February 1951). The fact was that “our  national figure skating movement has to expect a lot from him [Carlo], as it has to do with 12 years old Fiorella Negro,  up-and-comer of the Italian artistic skating, winner of the gold medal in the 2nd class”. So Grazia lost the chance to skate during the 1951 World Championship, in front of her Milanese fellow citizens. What was the name of the President? Remo Vigorelli, of course …



Grazia and Fiorella Negro holding their cups, Asiago, January 1951. Fiorella Negro (Milan, 1938 – ), whose cup is probably the Juniores Italian Champion one, was going to take Grazia’s place, becoming Italian Ladies figure skating champion in the mids 1950s’. She participated at the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina. Grazia was there, too, as judge: she joined the Secretary of Figure Skating, headed by Bruno Bonfiglio.



“Cortina, 10 February 1952 / During the compulsory figures, for the Armando Apollonio Cup”




My four meetings with Grazia Barcellona and the discovery of her amazing photo albums raise a lot of question for Sports History scholars, that I’d like to share with PP readers.

A first issue is the historiographical one, about the two different sports periods Grazia had to deal with, the Fascist one (until 1945) and the democratic one. She can be considered a real fruit of the Fascists sport policy: born in Milan (not in some Alps village), she could be introduced to the skating practice thanks to the regime sports structures (Milan ice rink, GIL group). She was used by the regime, too, during the Croatian adventure and the several skating public manifestation.

Nevertheless, she didn’t become a Fascist girl. Grazia told me that during her childhood none in her family talked about politics, because they feared that children could have a big mouth. Nevertheless, her father Giuseppe was confined as Communist fro a whole year in 1933; her mother Giovanna and her aunt Marta both became partisan during World War II.

Somehow, Italian sportswomen (even very young, such as Grazia was) found several ways in order to practice their beloved sport without giving up their personal conscience.

Rehearsing the Roman salute with the Italy team mates


Looking at these photo, my students asked Grazia what was it like make the Roman salute, not being a Fascist. She said:

“At that time, it was a normal gesture, everybody was doing it all the time. I didn’t feel anything. And if someone was doing it wrong, I used to say “Please! At least, do it right! Straighten your arm!” “.


A second issue is about the method. History of skating scholars have to save as soon as possible oral testimony of the past, in order, for instance to have a precise knowledge about the moves terminology, or about the skate technology.

Grazia holding her skates (1951)












Types of skate. Number 8 was the newest figure model, in 1935. Source: B. Del Marco, Il pattinaggio e l’hockey sul ghiaccio (Milan, 1935), p. 25


A little note could be made here about collective figures made by female skaters: that they were just for fun, but what’s the connection between that 1940s’ and early 1950s’ practice, and the beginning of synchronized skating in 1956? According to my student who nowadays practises synchronized skating, some of the moves Grazia and her friends used to do are quite to the contemporary ones …




Grazia and Ciacia skating together (1944).





“For a documentary about skating I’m doing with Mirra, Liliana and Didi  – a strange move that is quite worrying us, although we’re trying to be casual”.













Sestriere, 1951.





A third issue is about the biography of a sports champion: often the risk for scholars is to reduce him/her to the list of his/her medals and victories. The main fact about Grazia – and her photo albums too – is that she can’t be widely understood outside of her family.

Giacomo “Popi” Barcellona (1926-1943)



Giovanna Boccalini Barcellona had two children: Giacomo “Popi” (b. 1926) and Grazia (b. 1929). Giacomo was adored by his grandma and his young aunts (Marta and Rosetta): for this reason, his death in 1943, during the war, yeas was a real tragedy for the entire family. After that, Grazia remained the only child in the house, and her relatives’ great expectations moved to her. This was the main reasons for Grazia’s sports career: she understood how her medals could make happy his parents and relatives …





To my beloved aunt Marta, very fondly / Grazia / 9.1.42.XX”. Number “20th” refers to the Era Fascista ‘Fascist Era”, which began in 1922, when Mussolini had took the power thanks to his Marcia su Roma.







“To my dear grandma Antonietta[,] her / Grazia / 9.1.42.XX”







“To my dearest grandma, very fondly / Grazia / Pontresina / Olimpiadi 1948”.





This photo was autographed probably for her maternal grandmother, Antonietta Salvarani Boccalini (1873-1962), who moved the entire Boccalini family from Lodi to Milan in 1927 and was widowed in 1928. She raised all alone 2 sons and 5 daughters. The painter Ettore Archinti from Lodi helped her: that’s he used to accompany the young Grazia to Milan Palazzo del Ghiaccio.

Grazia got married in 1960 to Mr. Ferrari, in the same year that Carlo Fassi married his German pupil Christa von Kuczkowski (Leipzig, 1942) – ; they had three children. Christa too became a trainer: in 2009, she trained Italian skater Carolina Kostner, gold medal at 2012 World Championship.


During the third meeting with Grazia, one of my students plucked up the courage, and asked very politely of Grazia, about what everybody was wondering about: “After all those years together, did Carlo became your husband?”.Grazia said:

“No, I married another man. Carlo and I were just friends”.


Article © Marco Giani  

To read Part 5 Click HERE 

For historical sources about Grazia Barcellona, see:

For more sources about ice and roller skating in Fascist Italy, see: