FAI International – the National Trust for Italy

Translation edited by: Arianna Cassani.

On the dot, as usual, the third weekend of March brings with it a standing appointment: the Spring FAI International Days.

Born thanks to the idea of Elena Croce, FAI International (Fondo Ambiente Italiano) saw the light with the instrument of corporation signed by Giulia Maria Mozzoni Crespi the 28th of April 1975, in response to the British National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty.

The year 1993 was the one in which began The Spring FAI International Days, and to this day we can count the 25th edition and a total number of 10 million visitors. Two whole days, from Saturday to Sunday, dedicated to the discovery of treasures, hidden and not, on the national Italian territory.

As every year, the proposals were numerous, but we chose between two peculiar and opposing worlds.

On Saturday we visited the San SiroSnai Racecourse of Milan.

In a class of its own and almost 100 years old, the San Siro Racecourse is one of the most prestigious horse stage internationally speaking, declared “Monument of International Interest” in 2004.

The entrance of the building is dominated by the Horse of Leonardo, a contemporary version of the monument realized for Francesco Sforza, commissioned by LudovicoIl Moro to Leonardo Da Vinci. Entirely made of bronze, it is one of the most famous and also one of the biggest equestrian statues, that measures 7,5 metres of height, and has a weight of 7 tons. It was realized by the sculptor Nina Akamu.

Behind this impressive sculpture there is a suggestive place, characterised by controversial rituals, once exclusively reserved to a well-off audience.

A part of the racetrack of the San Siro Racecourse, and in the background the skyline of MilanA part of the racetrack of the San Siro Racecourse, and in the background the skyline of Milan

Designed by the architect Paolo Vietti Violi, the building, entirely realized in Liberty Style, extends on a surface of 610.000 square metres and inside it hosts a charming botanical garden that counts 72 different trees and a lake that is at its centre.

Horse Race in the San Siro RacecourseHorse Race in the San Siro Racecourse

The Palazzina del Peso, focal and exclusive point of the sports facility, is named like this for the activity of weighing that involves the jockey, his saddle and the harness, before and after every race. Breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys, gentlemen riders, members of the jury and commissioners gather here before saddling up the horse, before putting the rod on the horse, before reaching the racetrack and the galleries.

On Sunday, we decided to visit Varano Borghi, a small town near Varese.

A whole day spent discovering the beauties of Varano and discovering something about Borghi Family. With its contribution for the development of that community, it had, in 1906, the privilege to see its name included in the name of the town, as we know it today: “Varano Borghi”.

Front view of the building once called “Cotonificio Pasquale e F.lli Borghi”Front view of the building once called “Cotonificio Pasquale e F.lli Borghi”

The history of this family, who covers such an important role in the field of spinning, goes back to the second half of the 18th century, and begins with Fedele Borghi. It was his son Pasquale who installed in Varano in the year 1819 a water-based spinning wheel, used for the spinning of cotton, in an old mill on the banks of Brabbia canal.

The Borghi dynasty in a few years gave to the factory, whose business name became “Cotonificio Pasquale e F.lli Borghi”, an international reputation and then it became more and more important and powerful in industry.

View of a part of the “Cotonificio Pasquale e F.lli Borghi”View of a part of the “Cotonificio Pasquale e F.lli Borghi”

International reputation that improved through the years and became even more neat after 1849, due to Luigi Borghi’s exile, ardent patriot involved in the Five Days of Milan, in United Kingdom. It was the perfect occasion for him to deepen his knowledge of the English textile industry.

At the International Exhibition of London, Luigi bought a Belgian steam engine and installed it in the factory in 1851, to substitute the hydraulic energy with the more powerful steam energy, generating in this way an increased production that augmented also thanks to a gasometer for lighting and that allowed the introduction of night work.

Inner part of one of the wards of “Cotonificio Pasquale e F.lli Borghi”Inner part of one of the wards of “Cotonificio Pasquale e F.lli Borghi”

The commitment of this family, throughout his glorious history, did not limit only to the technical and mechanical enhancement of the factory, but it also extended to the social life of his workers and of their families. Varano Borghi represented – together with Villaggio Crespi – an example of the few Italian centres that tried to associate the industry to the labouring country, like the company towns of London.

Typical workers_ dwellings of Varano Borghi during our visitTypical workers’ dwellings of Varano Borghi during our visit

The factory remained in the hands of Borghi family until 1913, year in which it was ceded, due to the heavy crisis, to a French group.

Luckily, Borghi family have left their marks in every corner of Varano and hi inhabitants, throughout three centuries, recognized them as genuine “benefactors”.

Without the intervention of FAI International, we couldn’t have had the possibility to discover the ancient history of the Monastery of the Thousand Souls, located in Gornate Olona (Varese). It is the Monastery of Torba, one of the first acquired in 1977. So, You can’t miss the chance to visit the nerve centre of the whole Seprio territory, accompanied by the fresh voices of the students-volunteers during the The Spring FAI International Days.

Here You can find the radio tale by Sara Fumagalli:

 

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