Hi Buzztrippers! Today you will get in touch with a real Friulian genius: Giacomo Ceconi, better known as Count Ceconi. I will narrate about his outstanding life and works; most of all, I will open the doors of his wonderful castle in Pielungo. Ready? Let me Buzztrip you!
On February, 21st, 2016, I took part to a visit organized for the international tourist guide day. I opted for Pielungo, located in the beautiful and wild Friulian Alps, in Val d’Arzino, in order to take advantage of a special occasion: the extra-ordinary opening of Ceconi Castle, now owned by a private company and usually closed to visits. Pielungo village belongs to Vito d’Asio municipality: strange enough, this territory is formed by several communities, divided into sub-communities (Pielungo alone is composed by 40 small hamlets), spread on a surface of 52 square km! It was here, in this humble, isolated scenario, that Giacomo Ceconi was born.
This legendary Friulian personality spent his youth in Pielungo, before deciding to move to Trieste, part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, in 1851: at that time, Trieste was one of the most important, modern and cosmopolitan cities in Europe. There, Giacomo Ceconi began his career as a construction worker, but did not stop there: as a matter of fact, he attended a night school in order to master geometry and technical drawings and to become a bricklayer. Thanks to his fruitful professional experience, non-stop learning, and constant desire to improve his education, he started his own business, mostly working for imperial construction sites. Ceconi was in charge of several railways works and tunnels in Austria, Hungary, Italy and Croatia, arousing admiration and envy among his competitors. His most legendary challenge was the Arlberg tunnel (1880-1884), built between Bludenz and Innsbruck: he managed to complete it by brilliantly inventing a new and huge debris carts. Besides, a clause of the Arlberg contract required the Austrian government to pay a conspicous sum of money for every day of advanced close-out work. The government signed without even thinking Giacomo Ceconi could complete the tunnel before the agreed terms…well, he managed to inaugurate it 8 months in advance!!
In each and every construction site, he hired several workers from Vito d’Asio community, helping local people to earn a living and revamping that underdeveloped area economy. Furthermore, he supervised their behaviour during foreign assignments, sending their money home and preventing them to spend it on alcohol and prostitutes. He ran a site where 16000 workers were employed, always empowering fellow citizens with managing roles.
In spite of his open-minded and modern approach, he never forgot Pielungo and Val d’Arzino, planning one of his most challenging accomplishments: strada Regina Margherita (Queen Margherita road), composed by several tunnels and dangerous bends, built to connect Anduins with Pielungo. He worked on this brave project against the envy of neighbouring villages, Forgaria and Clauzetto, that refused to help him in his feat. Furthermore, he built a modern and gorgeous church, and five excellent bricklayers’ schools in Pielungo: students came from all over the region to learn the trade, and many of them emigrated to other European countries to become foremen.
Born under the Austrian empire, in a land ignored by Austrian authorities, Ceconi was honored with a noble title by Franz Joseph. After the Independence war and the birth of the Italian nation, he was granted with the title of Count by Queen Margherita… without even being Italian! As a matter of fact, he had never asked to acquire the Italian citizenship, becoming de facto a stateless person. Last but not least, Ceconi was a real womanizer: he married four times and had 12 children.
After the Arlberg incredible endeavour, Giacomo Ceconi became ultra-rich. With the money earned, he decided to build a remarkable mansion in Pielungo: the result was an eclectic and magnificent castle. He took care of the surrounding scenario as well, creating from scratch an impressive beech wood and building imposing terraces where to plant flowers and trees. The castle is an uncommon and original work of art: built in neo-gothic style with several colorful materials, it evokes a medieval atmosphere thanks to its battlements. The façade presents a curious mixture of prestigious personalities: statues of Dante, Petrarca, Ariosto and Tasso, together with portraits of George Stephenson (the locomotive inventor), Alessandro Volta, Irene da Spilimbergo, Vittoria Colonna, Leonardo da Vinci, Alessandro Manzoni.
The Count provided his castle with electricity, huge majolica ovens, and a giant ice-house… something absolutely unusual for Val d’Arzino simple architecture. In front of the castle, an elegant fountain reminds us of another curious anecdote: a local farmer obtained the right to water his herd there, exploiting the fountain and walking around Ceconi’s property.
Unfortunately (or not, according to different points of view), the castle is nowadays owned by a private company, Graphistudio, that took in charge the whole, demanding restructuring work. The owners decided to completely change its internal aspect, leaving just a bathroom as it was: apart from that, spaces are now arranged into meeting rooms, bedrooms, private apartments, and an interesting showroom.
This entry was posted in Friuli-Venezia Giulia