The association has been located in four different properties, listed below.
Take a trip down memory lane…
December 1996 – July 2003
Vedrana di Burdio, Bologna
Reading Retreats in Rural Italy began in a 17th century villa surrounded by potato, wheat, and onion fields and located a few hundred meters from the River Idice.
Not many people came to read those first years, but the association survived through organising classical music and Jazz concerts, parties, and cultural events for local members from the Bologna area.
The Castle of Galeazza Pepoli
July 2003 – May 2012
In the summer of 2003, Reading Retreats in Rural Italy moved from Palazzo Montefano to the 14th century Castle of Galeazza, owned by Arnaldo Falzoni Gallerani and his wife, Anna Bettini.
The association was based here for the next nine years, until the earthquakes of May 2012 destroyed the castle and forced us to move on. That summer we took our library of over 6,000 books, art collection, 1,000 plants and other belongings to a third historic property, Corte Eremo (Curtatone, Mantova), where we started over, inaugurating the new venue on September 29th of 2012, exactly four months after the second earthquake of Emilia destroyed all hope of continuing at the Castle of Galeazza.
September 2012 – November 2015
Corte Eremo was a fantastic property to get the association back on its feet. The owners, the Morelli Coghi Family of Milan, allowed us to use several rooms of the basement of their villa (1752) as storage as well as concert and exhibition space, but several of the buildings on the property were not structurally sound. As water came through the roofs of the house where we had art, books, and guests, other buildings on the property started to collapse.
The costodian’s house of the villa was a good temporary solution for the association because we were homeless after the earthquakes of 2012, but it didn’t seem possible to remain for a long period of time. The best part of Corte Eremo was the outdoor space around a huge threshing floor.
It is here that we created a garden from many of the plants taken from the castle garden, while those that needed shade stayed in pots in the derelict cow barn, facetiously re-named the Hortus Horrei (Garden of the Granary).
La Macchina Fissa
December 2105 – Present
Borgo Virgilio, Mantova
Fausto and Filippo Tosi, two brothers who live near Mantova, came to Corte Eremo and to the rescue in 2015, offering a permanent solution. They proposed the association move to their property, a former pumphouse near the Mincio river, south of Mantova.
They began by rebuilding all of the roofs in the summer of 2015. The first guest rooms were ready by December and by September of 2017 we had ten guestrooms, two kitchens and four bathrooms, meaning the association could host more members for overnight stays than ever before.
We also can organise cultural events year-round in heated rooms on the ground floor, spaces that serve as libraries/art galleries/music salons. Plans for 2018 include the start of large-scale garden renovation and converting a garage into a concert hall for 75 people.
The… what? The story behind the name
La Macchina Fissa means “the Fixed Machine or Immobile Motor, so don’t worry if you know a bit of Italian but can’t make sense of it. Italians can’t either. It was built in the late 18th or early 19th century and was the old pump house used for pumping water from the Mincio river into the canals that irrigated the surrounding fields. This area south of Mantova was once upon a time only swamps and murky water, but after centuries of landworks beginning in Roman times but really serious after the Renaissance, namely levy construction and canal digging, they have become very flat, arable low fields. The only problem was (and continues to be) that it doesn’t rain much in the summer growing season.
Originally operated by mules, in the 19th century a new steam engine (or probably two, guessing from marble slabs and architectural clues left in the house) was added so the mules could rest and people could constantly add coal or wood to the fires instead of feeding beasts and cleaning up their poo. In 1929 the new pumps and beautiful water holding station of Bagnolo San Vito was completed, and by 1930 La Macchina Fissa was no longer in use. There were once five families living here and the house was divided in an ad-hoc way into separate apartments. Even today guests find it easy to get lost in the maze of 20 rooms, stairs, and lofts.