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The Illusive Gronchi Rosa

The Gronchi Rosa or Lilac as it is alternatively known, is an iconic modern day variety, highly sought after by collectors of the Italian area and a surprisingly well known “celebrity” stamp among the Italian general public.

In 1955 Giovanni Gronchi was elected President of the Republic and became the first Catholic politician to become Head of the Italian State. His period in office, lasting until 1962, was marked by the ambition to bring about a gradual “opening to the left”, whereby the Socialists and the Communist Party would be brought back into the national government. There was substantial parliamentary opposition to this project, particularly by the small Italian Liberal Party, which was needed (like current day UK) to form any viable working majority in Parliamnet.

In the turmoil of minority party politics and with the formation of the most unlikely of alliances including the Far Right, popular feelings ran high and in 1960 there was extensive rioting in several cities in Italy, particularly in Genoa, Licata and Reggio Emilia, where the police opened fire on demonstrators, killing five people. This led to the downfall of the Government and although much discredited Gronchi remained in office until his term expired in 1962.

In 1961 President Gronchi made a State Visit to South America, visiting Argentina, Uruguay and Peru. These countries figured on the 170L Blue stamp, the 185L Green stamp and the 205L Rose lilac stamp. The set was issued on the 3rd April 1961 but unfortunately the designer mis-drew the borders of Peru on the 205L stamp and as a result the stamp was withdrawn the day after issue and a replacement with the correct borders but printed in grey, issued on the 6th April.

This issue were primarily to have been used for commemorative air covers sent to the Presidential Visit destination countries and the Italian Postal Authorities confirm to have sold 70,625 of the L205 Rose lilac stamps, however many were used internally in Italy on philatelic mail. Even after the 6th April when the re-drawn design and new colour had been issued, the 205L Rose-lilac stamp was still being used on air letters but a decree was issued for Postmasters to cover them over exactly with the grey stamps. ( So, if you ever get a cover with the grey L205 stamp addressed to South America always check to see if the “Gronchi Rosa” is underneath!)

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