Franco, a young man of noble descent, decides to marry Luisa, daughter of a humble clerk, against his grandmother's will. But a terrible tragedy upsets the life of the newly married couple:... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Massimo Serato ...
Franco Maironi
Ada Dondini ...
La marchesa Orsola Maironi
Annibale Betrone ...
Zio Piero
Mariù Pascoli ...
Ombretta Maironi
Giacinto Molteni ...
Il professore Beniamino Gilardoni
Elvira Bonecchi ...
La signora Barborin Pasotti
Enzo Biliotti ...
Il signor Pasotti
Renato Cialente ...
Von Greisberg
Adele Garavaglia ...
La signora Teresa Rigey
Carlo Tamberlani ...
Don Costa
Giovanni Barrella ...
Il curato di Puria
Nino Marchetti ...
Pedraglio, il cospiratore
Giorgio Costantini ...
L'avvocato di Varenna
Jone Morino ...
Donna Eugenia


Franco, a young man of noble descent, decides to marry Luisa, daughter of a humble clerk, against his grandmother's will. But a terrible tragedy upsets the life of the newly married couple: their little daughter Ombretta drowns in Lake Como and Luisa goes to the brink of madness... Written by Salvatore Santangelo <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

10 April 1941 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Old-Fashioned World  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Referenced in We, the Women (1953) See more »

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User Reviews

19th Century Lombardy
4 December 2002 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

PICCOLO MONDO ANTICO (LITTLE OLD-FASHIONED WORLD), based on Antonio Fogazzaro's esteemed 1895 novel of the same title, is set in 19th Century Lombardy, then under Austrian domination. Like Manzoni's novel I PROMESSI SPOSI, the story is set into motion by the marriage of a young couple that meets opposition. The couple here is Franco and Luisa. Franco's grandmother, the Marchesa, is his only "parent." This cold-hearted, über-aristocratic matriarch won't permit her grandson to marry Luisa, the daughter of a government "funzionario." When he does so anyway, against her wishes, the fat old meanie disinherits him and does whatever she can to persecute the couple.

Franco becomes involved in the patriotic movement, the Risorgimento, to liberate Lombardy and other Italian states from foreign domination and work toward unification with the Kingdom of Piedmont and create a new Italy. Grandma, an entrenched conservative, condemns her grandson's political agenda and co-operates with the Austrians to harm him. Tragedy befalls the couple when their little daughter Ombretta accidentally drowns. Franco and Luisa are estranged. The film concludes with a remorseful grandmother trying to make amends, Franco and Luisa reconciling, and with Franco going off to the Crimean War.

Massimo Serato is a handsome and convincing presence as Franco; Alida Valli is even better as Luisa, especially in rendering her desperation after the death of her child. She won an Italian award for this performance. But it is Ada Dondini who steals the show as the wicked-witch Marchesa whenever she is on screen. The exterior photography by Arturo Gallea is particularly beautiful, with moody misty shots of Lake Como, boats on the lake, nearby estates and villages. There is a stark scene of high visual contrast toward the end which has Alida Valli going to a church, wearing a black shawl, in the wind-swept rainy background. This interestingly suggests a similar scene in Visconti's 1948 LA TERRA TREMA. All in all, this is a creditable movie and one of the key works from the Italian fascist era.

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