An itinerary entirely dedicated to Manzoni and to his masterpiece: "I Promessi Sposi" (The Betrothed).
In the direction of the centre of Milan, we pass by the gates of Porta Venezia and thus enter the ancient city walls, today represented only by the imposing arch and mainly coinciding with the Milan ring road.
Walking through the streets, one can imagine the diversity in times gone by, with carriages, costumes, paved roads, and Renaissance buildings, an environment that can still be enjoyed with a bit of imagination.
It is precisely in these streets that Renzo walks, discovers, experiences and lives during his stay in Milan.
We arrive in a very characteristic place, central to the book’s course of events. However, to explain the significance of this place in Manzoni’s book, we must take a step back in the plot of events and go back to the period before the episodes of the fateful Lazzaretto we have just visited.
After Renzo and Lucia leave their village, escaping the clutches of Don Rodrigo and his men, the young girl retreats to the convent of Monza, helped by a nun. On the other hand, Renzo wanders around the capital’s central streets and finds Milan in turmoil, where neighbourhoods and districts are in the grip of panic. Poverty and hunger drive the citizens to riots and outright revolts, attacking bakeries, during one of which Renzo also takes part.
It is precisely here, by the “Forno Delle Grucce” (The Oven of Crutches), where Renzo gets involved. This is a special event, which complicates things for Renzo in the course of the storyline.
In fact, due to the lack of food and scarcity of resources, the physically and mentally exhausted population revolts by attacking the bakeries in the town. Notably, in Chap. XII, Renzo observes a rebellion right here, in Via Vittorio Emanuele. As described in the book, here once stood the ‘Forno Delle Grucce’, where a crowd of riotous Milanese lay siege to the shop. The owners, outnumbered and barricaded inside, respond with equal force and violence by throwing objects and stones at the assaulters. More than one person dies, and after some resistance, the shop occupants give in badly. At this point, the mob, now even more enraged by the previous resistance, literally devastates the shop, smashing, lynching and burning everything within its reach. Renzo observes this madness and rage with criticism. He continues to follow this hysterical mob and opposes them with screams and useless dialogue, risking being lynched himself for his irreverence and obstinacy. In the city streets of Milan, Renzo keep cursing loudly. Unfortunately, these outbursts reach the ears of a plainclothes policeman who issue a warrant for his imprisonment, thinking him to be one of the leaders of the revolt that has just taken place at the bakery. This event caused Renzo to flee to Bergamo, a city kilometres northeast of Milan, where he would stay for a while, hosted by his cousin.
Because of the plague, Don Rodrigo, still searching for Lucia in Milan, is struck down by the disease and taken to the Lazzaretto as previously anticipated. When Renzo returns from Bergamo and learns that also Lucia ends up in this miserable place, he is faced with the deepest fears. But instead, he finds his beloved safe and healthy, and after much suffering and worry, the two reunite, ready for marriage.
As a final complication, however, the girl, still under a vow of chastity, cannot marry, and Renzo asks a monk for help so that he can release the girl from her commitment to God. Finally, after all these misadventures, the young lovers return to the village to get married and enjoy a happy ending.
Today, any evidence of the bakery has disappeared. The building was demolished in 1919, and today stands only a commemorative plaque dedicated to Manzoni.