Benedetto Ravasio (1915-1990) was arguably the most famous and best puppet-master of the province of Bergamo. In the late 1940s, he and his wife, Giuseppina Cazzaniga, decided to commit themselves to the art of puppeteering, which occupied them until his death. In 1993, the Benedetto Ravasio Foundation was set up, and Museo del Burattino was eventually opened in 2019.
Benedetto was instrumental in breathing life into Ol Giopì, a mask traditional to Bergamo. The earliest evidence of Ol Giopì is a 14th-century painting recently discovered in a local church. His main characteristic is three goiters, which he flaunts as if they were jewels. Crafty and rough around the edges, Ol Giopì is a porter and a farmer by trade, professions that he does not practice, preferring occasional less tiring earnings. He always carries a stick that he often uses to beat reason into people, always however for the benefit of the oppressed and undefended, making him a fundamentally good-hearted character.
Surrounding Ol Giopì is a panoply of characters, all colorfully named in the Bergamo dialect. Accordingly, Ol Giopì’s parents were Bortolo Söcalonga and Maria Scatoléra, and he has two brothers, Giacomì and Pisanbraga. His wife is Margì and their son is Bortolì. Each one of them exhibits specific characteristics that endure through the stories. On display at the museum are more than 120 puppets, including several versions of Ol Giopì and his immediate family, and dozens of other characters, such as merchants, thieves, magistrates, policemen, and so on. All of these are so-called hand puppets, a type of puppet that is worn as a glove and animated through the movement of hands and fingers.
Ol Giopì and his universe are the centerpiece of the museum, but there is also a section showing rod puppets and marionettes, and another section showing how a puppet is designed, carved, primed, and painted. At the time of writing, there was also a temporary exhibit of marionettes from China. Pictures of Benedetto Ravasio in action help understand the setting in which he operated.