The famous American hunter Buffalo Bill first arrived in Italy in 1890. He disembarked in the port of Naples city where he performed the first italian shows. He then headed with a circus caravan towards Rome following the Via Appia and stopping in the area of Cisterna di Latina, it is said that he had a discussion with Duke Onorato Gaetani about his great ability to tame and ride horses. The Duke, who knew well how the italian butteri cowboys was no less, accepted the challenge to the local cowboys in the ability to saddle and mount some American foals, without being thrown from the saddle, inside the arena built by the Americans for the Wild West Show.
The italians won “in house” and the story goes that Buffalo Bill got so upset that he left without paying the stakes. In the famous challenge of 8 March 1890 in Prati di Castello, Duke Caetani and Buffalo Bill had bet 500 lire, which was a lot of money at the time, so much so that a salary of 10 lire a month was already considered good. Losing the bet, Buffalo Bill left in a hurry without ever paying it…
On 8th March 1890 in the surroundings of Rome there was the famous challenge of taming foals against the “butteri” cowboys of Agro Pontino led by Augusto Imperiali.
Augusto Imperiali (Cisterna di Latina, 27 August 1865 – 18 December 1954) entered the arena at the head of a group of 9 companions on horseback and, on 8 March 1890 in Prati di Castello (Rome), won the challenge launched by the legendary Buffalo Bill.
“Holding the reins with his right hand and waving his hat with his left, he made a beautiful and elegant gallop around the entire camp. The enthusiasm was sky-high. The audience applauded loudly. The enthusiastic cowboys jumped, danced, threw their hats in the air in honour of their hero”. (Noses, 2006)
The event was obviously followed by a large crowd of the local population and all the italian press, so much so that the roman newspaper “Il Messaggero” published on March 10, 1890:
“The little morello, held with ropes, struggles frantically; he gets up on his back legs, pulls ramps. Cowboys always dodge them with the rapidity of experienced men. They finally manage to put the saddle on him with the undertail, and in one jump one of the cowboys is on top of him. It’s Augusto Imperiali. New storm of applause. The cowboys, enthusiastic about their success, jump, dance, throw their hats to the air, just to imitate everything the Americans have seen them do. Augusto Imperiali gallops around the field, holding the reins with his right hand and shaking his hat with his left. All the rants of the horse are unable to move him from the place for a single moment. He descended to the ground, and called to approach the first places where he received the warmest congratulations from everyone, including the Duchess of Sermoneta and her children”. (Il Messaggero)
Augusto Imperiali, nicknamed “Augustarello” from that moment on he became famous, and like a true hero his victory became part of the historical memory of Cisterna di Latina, so much so that a statue was dedicated to him and his figure inspired songs and books and even a biographical comic strip.
The “buttero” cowboy Augusto Imperiali, symbol of an Italy that is not afraid of anyone, died in 1954, at the age of 89 and is buried in the cemetery of Cisterna.
Buffalo Bill, pseudonym of William Frederick Cody (Le Claire, February 26, 1846 – Denver, January 10, 1917), was an American actor and hunter but also a soldier, explorer and theatre entrepreneur. He became an American national hero after a brief hand-to-hand combat with the Indian chief Yellow Hand in 1876, during which he said: “Here is the first scalp for General Custer!”.
He also performed in some Italian cities, including Naples, Turin, Genoa, Alessandria, Udine, Milan, Bergamo, Brescia, Verona, Bologna, Florence, Arezzo, Cremona and Rome, also going to Trieste at that time in Austria.