From huge antennas to the small screen: the Fucino Space Centre is a TV star

02 August 2023

The Fucino Space Centre in Abruzzo (Italy) is a world-class hub of technological excellence. But it is more than that - with its spectacular antennas, the “Piero Fanti” centre also sparks the imagination and several times it has become a set for filming science fiction TV series, videoclips and even a TV quiz show. Let us learn about all the times the Fucino Space Centre appeared on TV. 

This story takes place next year in England.” This is the opening line of “A come Andromeda”, the RAI (The national public broadcasting company of Italy) mini TV series broadcast in 1972 and directed by Vittorio Cottafavi. It was an Italian remake of a series the BBC had produced a few years earlier.

In the five episodes of the series, some of the most famous Italian actors of the time, including Luigi Vannucchi, Paola Pitagora, Franco Volpi and Giampiero Albertini, are dealing with a mysterious signal from the Andromeda galaxy.

Detected by the world’s most powerful radio telescope, the signal will turn out to be the first contact with an alien civilisation.

While in the fictional world of the TV series the radio telescope is in the quiet English countryside, in real life it is actually one of the large antennas of the Fucino Space Centre, which is shown in its full 30 metre diameter glory in the opening credits, to the sound of the famous musical piece composed by Mario Migliardi.

From Telespazio to Telemike 

In 1987, the Fucino Space Centre was once again on TV in one of the most famous and popular TV programmes of the time, Telemike, hosted by Mike Buongiorno.

After the special episode on the last day of the year, the Fucino Space Centre was constantly linked to the Canale 5 TV studios in Cologno Monzese, from where the programme was broadcast live.

“You really feel at the centre of the world here in Fucino,” exclaimed the correspondent Alessandro Ippolito when the link was established. It is not an exaggeration, it is a fact: the space centre manages the satellite transmissions of many Italian and international television channels, so the whole planet really is connected through it.

There is more, because during the live broadcast, to the astonishment of the reporter and of Mike Buongiorno, a Landsat image of the Cologno Monzese studios was shown - the first steps towards what is now done with a click. 

The mysteries of "Sound"

A few years later, in 1989, the Space Centre was dealing with science fiction again, specifically with the “Sound” miniseries directed by Biagio Proietti, starring the American actor Peter Fonda and a young Elena Sofia Ricci.

In the two episodes broadcast on Rai 2, Fonda is Roberto Lovari, a fictional Telespazio engineer who, during a night shift in the Fucino Space Centre, detects an incomprehensible signal from deep space. There follows a plot with aliens and time travel, not unlike Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Navigator”.

Unlike “A come Andromeda”, in which the Fucino Space Centre is mainly the background for events occurring far away, in “Sound”, “Piero Fanti” and Telespazio are the real settings of the first scenes of the TV series, in which the structures and equipment of the centre at the end of the Eighties are clearly visible - not just the huge, fully lit antennas but also all the equipment inside.

Although digitalisation has now made them obsolete, they still have a vintage charm.

Space... to the music

In 1993 there is also room for music, and the Fucino Space Centre appears in the videoclip of Lucio Dalla’s song “Liberi”, from the album “Henna”.

In the video, which was released when Telespazio was still a company in the STET Group, the antennas of the Space Centre and the satellite images processed there alternate with TV images and scenes that, following the lyrics of the singer-songwriter from Bologna, become increasingly positive and optimistic, up to the final scene, in which the videoclip hero is walking with the great parabolic antennas behind him.

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