Casa scatole latta box museum

La Casa Delle Scatole Di Latta – Unique Tin Boxes Museum In Italy

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The article helps the travelers who want to take an unusual day trip from Rome to visit the tin box museum, a little gem in the town of Gerano near Rome in Italy.


Why travel to Gerano?

Rome is a city with a thousand-year history that contains an indefinite number of museums. Travelers can easily find their way around the state and municipal museums, which are well defined. On the contrary, travelers find it much more difficult to understand how many and which public museums are run by the military or universities, let alone private museums.

gerano lazio italy clothes window

Many lists cite museums that have been closed since time immemorial, others under renovation and still others that turn out to be simple archives. In a few cases, small hidden treasures can be found.

casa scatole museum small

For example, one of the many lists mentions the “House of Tin Boxes”, a private museum in the municipality of Gerano. Intrigued by the strange name, we discovered the passion of an owner who has collected over 1,000 Italian tin boxes in three rooms.

tin boxes museum food carrier

We then called the owner Marina to make an appointment to visit the museum. On a winter Saturday afternoon we headed with our car towards Gerano. The village is about 45 minutes away by car.

boxes museum snow white cartoons
tin boxes museum candy chocolate

Crossing the A24 motorway towards the Adriatic Sea, we exited after a few kilometres, at the Castel Madama toll booth. Once we exited the motorway, we continued for about fifteen kilometers along the state road that leads towards the Ruffi mountains.

gerano lazio italy ruffi mountains

Gerano historical center

We were starting to get to know this area around the city of Rome well, which hides important jewels, such as the Civic Museum of Modern Art in Anticoli Corrado and the splendid village of Poli in the Prenestini mountains. The area has an ancient history, because the Equi population inhabited these valleys before the foundation of Rome.

gerano lazio italy old town

Before entering the historic center, you can see the town hall, a modern building with an ancient flavour. It overlooks the valley with large columns, so travelers can enjoy a magnificent panorama of the Ruffi mountains. Opposite, there is a very popular bar. The customers of the bar laughed out loud when they observed us photographing a cat at the entrance to a house. One of them said :”Look, she is taking photos of my cat.”

gerano lazio italy stairs cat

A small road runs alongside the historic center and then enters it. Unlike many villages in Lazio, beautiful but with a decadent charm, Gerano shines thanks to excellent cleanliness and maintenance. Many signs illustrate its history. In a small square we noticed a splendid window.

gerano window colorful sonia morelli

The stained glass window colors and highlights Palazzo Lelli. This is a modern work, created a few years ago by the artist Sonia Morelli, an expert in glass painting. The work tells the story of Gerano and its surroundings, from the Equi people to the Italian Republic, passing through the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages, with the foundation of the sanctuary of Sant’Anatolia, the oldest church in the area.

gerano lazio italy icons wall

Tin Box Museum

The first box

From the small square, we heard Marina’s voice, who recognized us and called us to go up the steps that lead to the small door of the museum. Thus we entered this place rich in history, in front of the entrance stands a large box of Saiwa biscuits, a cylinder about 50 cm high, blue in colour. That’s the “Number One” box. Just like an artist who has a soft spot for his first work, Marina places her first collected box in the center.

casa scatole first box friend

Above the box, you can see an old black and white photo. Marina told us that she was fascinated by it when she visited a couple of friends in northern Italy. The woman depicted in the photo then decided to donate that box to Marina.

casa scatole latta boxes museum

The gift set in motion the collection that gave rise to the museum. The shape of the “number one” box is particular because at the time the shops sold loose biscuits, sweets and chocolate. Companies delivered large boxes to stores who then proceeded to sell individual quantities of the product to consumers. When the products ran out, the shops returned the box to the companies with the “empty return” scheme.

casa scatole latta mona lisa

After Marina collected a large number of boxes, she thought about how to give these boxes the protection they deserve and make the collection of these boxes more meaningful. In 2000, Marina decided to found a museum to give a future to her splendid collection.

tin boxes museum game chess
tin boxes museum cartoons duck

A world of old tin boxes

Next to the “number one” box there is the work with the most original shape. Inside a display case, we saw a large box of sweets in the shape of a tank, with the tracks clearly highlighted.

boxes museum de coster saiwa

Besides many large boxes, we also noticed very small pieces, which my wife Hua particularly likes. Some display cases preserve the smaller boxes that contained medicines and liquorice.

tin boxes museum licorice balance

The museum helps travelers to understand the tastes and needs of each era. An area of the museum shows oriental decorations, which recall Chinese or Japanese ornaments. Another wing displays the cocoa and coffee substitutes that the shops sold during the autarky imposed by fascism.

tin boxes museum oriental decorations

When the authorities prohibited importing products from abroad, Italians could no longer buy raw materials from South America and Africa. Companies made do by producing products that had elements and flavors similar to coffee and chocolate.

casa scatole latta topo gigio

When the Second World War broke out, tin had to be used to prepare war material, and not to preserve sweets. As evidence of this period, Marina showed us some cardboard boxes on which embroidered and designed fabrics had been applied.

tin boxes museum train chocolate

Le Grandi Firme

Marina also pointed us to an old magazine from those years, whose cover recalls the motifs painted on its boxes. It is “Le Grandi Firme”, a weekly and fortnightly magazine whose second series achieved success in the years preceding the Second World War. Between 1937 and 1938, 75 issues were released featuring the sensual women drawn by the illustrator and advertiser Gino Boccasile on the cover.

tin boxes museum lock food

One of the covers drawn by Boccasile displayed in the tin box museum shows a woman who gets a stomachache after eating a whole box of chocolate called “Ali Baba”

casa scatole latta gino boccasile

The women on the cover became known as “Miss Big Signs”, while the inside of the magazine contained short stories by the greatest writers of the time. After the war, the magazine’s editor Cesare Zavattini became internationally known as the screenwriter of many famous films, especially those directed by the director Vittorio De Sica and starring the actress Sophia Loren. Among his films awarded at the Oscars, we remember “Sciuscià” (Shoeshine, 1947), “Ladri di biciclette” (Bycicle Thieves, 1949), “La Ciociara” (Two women, 1960), “Ieri, oggi, domani” (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, 1963). 

casa scatole latta food carrier

After the war, Gino Boccasile did not have the same career because he supported the fascist regime. In fact, he designed numerous war propaganda posters not only for fascist Italy, but also for the Republic of Salò (the puppet state created by Nazi Germany).

tin boxes museum bag round

Thus, Boccasile had difficulty working and soon died of pleurisy. But, as Marina says, he did not lose the habit of provoking public opinion by illustrating very sensual women, so much so that the authorities and the church covered her busty breasts in an advertising drawing of him.

casa scatole latta candy chocolate


In the window next to the entrance, boxes with a particular appearance stand out, in the shape of cars or buses. I was particularly struck by a vertical box with a devil drawn and the words “Faust”. Next to the devil, a poem seemed to be engraved. Therefore, I thought that the box represented the play Faust by the great German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe .

casa scatole latta faust ddt

I lingered to observe the box and Marina asked me what I was looking at. I replied that I noticed “Faust”. She laughed and said that only people of a certain age can recognize that box. It is in fact a box of DDT, the very powerful insecticide released by the American army at the end of the Second World War.

gerano casa scatole boxes museum

During the liberation of Italy from Nazi-fascism, the allies eradicated many diseases carried by insects, such as malaria. The Allies achieved their objective by spraying fields and people with DDT. A few years later, authorities realized that DDT was highly toxic and banned it.

gerano casa scatole latta rodeo

Today these pump-shaped instruments remain, recalling that period in which Italians got rid of insects at the cost of greater pollution.

casa scatole latta boxes cookies

The end of the visit

Marina cares a lot about the area dedicated to fairy tales and fables. Here, she also keeps more recent boxes, including some from the Ferrero company which portray the story of Pinocchio. Travelers can observe famous stories painted and represented over time on tin boxes.

tin boxes museum pinocchio cartoons

The most recurrent is certainly that of Pinocchio, taken from the well-known novel by Carlo Collodi. At the same time, other stories such as Alice in Wonderland and Little Red Riding Hood are also notable.

casa scatole latta colonial period

While we visited the museum, Marina organized the central area to free it from the boxes that are on display today. In fact, she intends to redesign the exhibition space to celebrate March 8, International Women’s Day. In the days following our visit, female-themed boxes and paintings will be on display. The creation of small temporary exhibitions is in fact another welcome service that Marina offers visitors.

tin boxes museum women guerzoni

We left after witnessing an important piece of Italian corporate history. A story that is lost over time, like many company brands that we have seen appear on the boxes. Only companies like Gentilini remain healthy, which produces excellent biscuits in its factory in Rome, along Via Tiburtina, not far from Rebibbia .

casa scatole big saiwa

Or Saiwa, a company from Genoa, of which we recommend using Oro Saiwa Classici biscuits to prepare tiramisu, the most famous Italian dessert. In fact, the Oro Saiwa Classici make the dessert more full-bodied than the traditional ladyfingers which play the role of a simple sponge for the coffee.

tin boxes museum door saiwa

Mid Autumn Festival

During our visit, my wife Hua gave Marina a small tin box from China. The box contained a Moon Cake, the dessert that the Chinese eat during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

casa scatole latta mooncake

The Moon Festival is an Asian festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the Chinese moon calendar. The festival falls between the end of September and the beginning of October, near the autumn equinox, when the Moon is more beautiful and larger than usual.

full moon nature clouds sky

One of the famous versions of the Legend has it that the immortal Houyi fell in love with the beautiful Chang’e, a human girl who worked as a handmaid in the palace of the Jade Emperor, one of the main gods of Taoist mythology.

moon nature trees leaves

The other immortals envied Houyi so much that they chased the two lovers from Heaven. On Earth, the Chinese emperor made use of Houyi’s talent and rewarded him with the pill of immortality. But Chang’e ate the pill and flew to the Moon while her husband tried to bring her back to Earth. On the Moon, Chang’e asked the white rabbit to prepare an elixir so he could return to Earth.

moon nature night clouds

It is said that the rabbit is still preparing the elixir. Meanwhile, Houyi has moved to the sun to be closer to Chang’e. The two can only meet on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival. According to Taoism, Chang’e represents Yin while Houyi represents its complementary Yang.

moon nature leaves evening

Corpus Domini

We stopped at the bar in front of the town hall for a coffee. The bartender smiled at me and told me that Gerano is also famous for being one of the cities where the Infiorata originated. This is a typical tradition of Lazio. In this region, during the celebration of Corpus Domini, the streets of the historic centers become the canvas of beautiful carpets made of flowers. We know this tradition well from having helped prepare the flower carpets when we lived in the province of Viterbo.

gerano lazio old town light

Corpus Domini is a Catholic holiday celebrated between May and June. The day falls on the seventh Sunday following Christian Easter. The bartender tells us how beautiful the town is during this festival and advises us to stay here overnight when arriving on a Saturday. Indeed, Saturday is the solemn and fascinating moment of road preparation. Probably more beautiful than the procession that takes place on Sunday, when the confusion multiplies and it is difficult to park cars and access the streets.

gerano lazio italy historical center

We hope to see each other again for the flower display, which according to the bartender is much more interesting than the cat we photographed at the beginning of the trip. In the meantime, two friendly customers, who perhaps had a few too many drinks, were fascinated by Hua’s hat and ask us where we bought it.

gerano lazio italy stairs light

The movies screenwritten by Cesare Zavattini below can be rented/bought on Itunes or Amazon Prime:

Shoeshine (1947) on Prime Video

Bicycle Thieves (1949) on Prime Video

Two Women (1960) on Itunes and Prime Video

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1963) on Prime Video

Written by Enrico, translated by Hua, and photos from Hua

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