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The Visocchi Family of Atina

The Visocchi family of Atina had a great influence on industry, agriculture, everyday living conditions, and the development of Atina as a community.

Generally, the main work had been found on the land where peasants toiled in miserable conditions in order to scratch together a very meagre living.

The entrepreneur Pasquale Visocchi had the idea of opening a paper factory,“la Cartiera” that would utilise the hands of the local workers. He went into partnership with a Frenchman by the name of Pierre Peuche.  The Visocchi’s provided the necessary capital for the paper factory, whilst Peuche provided his expertise.

The chosen position of the factory was in Ponte Melfa, on the site of an existing mill with a waterfall which could be utilised to power engines. An engineer, Patrelli, was taken on to direct the construction work. The necessary machinery was purchased from Paris. The construction work quickly made progress.  The opening of the paper factory on the 8th of May 1845, was a grand ceremony.

At an exhibition in Florence in 1861, the Visocchi brothers were rewarded for the quality of their paper. By 1870, there were 120 workers at the factory. Indeed it was the main employer in the area.

In 1898, electric current was introduced at the factory.  This allowed use of new machinery, and the recruitment of an increasing number of skilled workers.  In 1906, the town of Atina was one of the first in the area to have electricity.

In 1937, after merging with the Arata group which had extensive experience in this industry, the mill was renamed “Visocchi Cartiere of Ceprano and Atina - Visocchi Arata SpA”. During the war, and under German occupation the factory was plundered. Some of the local people who protested the looting were shot by the Germans. Atina suffered heavy bombardment by the Allies.

The soil of the Val di Comino is perfectly suited to viticulture. Pasquale Visocchi who, as well as being an industrialist, was a notable agronomist. He experimented in producing new wines, by planting vines of French grape varieties such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Pino Noir and Pino Blanc. Before long the vineyards began to yield excellent results. Thus the "Stabilimento Enologico Fratelli Visocchi" was founded in 1868.

In 1940, Mr. William Visocchi obtained a decree recognizing his wine.  The Cabernet wine was now certified with the designation of origin Atina DOC. In 1954, he was given a Gold Medal from the Chamber of Commerce of Frosinone for the work carried out by the family in the wine industry.

Today you can sample the Cabernet Atina DOC at Le Cannardizie Restaurant, located on the original site of the original old Cantina Visocchi. It is decorated with interesting winery relics.

The Visocchi family were much involved within the local community. The first public school was opened in 1857.  The teacher was Antonio Amata. In September 1889, Alfonso Visocchi established a school for younger children of ages four to seven. The school was named “Asilo Infantile Beatrice”.  Its enrollment was 230 children. The school was run by a nun called Sister Nicodema Balsamo who came to Atina in 1886. She dedicated her life to the running of the nursery school for many, many years, and lived to be over 100.

After the war William Visocchi attempted to restart production; however, in 1950, the business was declared bankrupt which resulted in the acquisition of all its shares by Arata. The company changed hands yet again, and in 1977, the site was finally abandoned.

photo © Italo Caira

Photo © Italo Caira

You can see more photos of what remains of La Cartiera here:  La Cartiera Visocchi

As time went on, however, Peuche’s interest in the venture waned, being more interested in sampling the local wine, and he began neglecting his work. Pasquale’s brother Giancinto stepped in to help, and reminded Peuche of his contractual duties. Peuche did not take kindly to Giancinto’s intervention and eventually backed out of the partnership, thinking that the paper factory would be sure to fail without him.

However, this only served to make the Visocchi brothers and the workers of the factory even more determined to make the venture a success. Production went ahead, and before too long the company began to make a profit.  The two brothers dedicated themselves to the running of the establishment, experimenting and learning along the way, until they finally became experts in the art of paper manufacture.

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