photo © Louise Shapcott
The Old Iron Works – La Ferriera in Rosanisco Atina
In 1850 the Bourbon King Ferdinand II commissioned a new iron works to be built in Atina. Its purpose was to extract iron from the ore mined in the nearby area of Monte Meta. There have been mines situated in this area of the Val di Comino since ancient times. The area was first mined by the Pelasgians, followed by the Etruscans and then the Samnites. Indeed many bloody battles were fought in this valley to ensure the possession of these precious mines. Thus historically the mines gave Atina great wealth and hence the name of “Atina Potens”. The master blacksmiths of Atina were renowned for their skills in metalwork and especially in forging of weaponry for Roman legions of the Imperial age.
In 1778 an iron works had been built by the King of Naples near the Melfa springs in the Valle di Canneto near Settefrati. This was designed to produce iron and cast iron to be used to make armaments for his formidable Navy. The works were powered by the natural force of the water of the River Melfa. However the position of the site proved to be inconvenient, as the works were situated at a height of more than 1000 metres and the communication routes were poor. This was worsened by inclement weather during the winter months when there were periods of intense cold and snow. In addition, the quality of the iron ore from the mines was of a poor quality and by 1798 the site was abandoned.
In around 1850 new deposits of limonite and haematite were discovered in the mountains near to the towns of San Donato, Alvito and Campoli. So King Ferdinand commissioned a new Iron Works, with the latest modern equipment. This was to be built in the hamlet of Rosanisco, situated close to the right bank of the River Melfa and close to the new Sferracavalli road that linked with the Strada Regia di San Germano, today’s town of Cassino. The building of the Ferriera was designed by the engineer Giovanni Rossi of “Ponti e Strade” and construction commenced in 1855. La Ferriera was officially opened in June 1858 became known locally as La Magona.
The new huge blast furnaces for smelting iron ore were able to operate at very high temperatures. Each stood 13 metres high and 2.80 metres in diameter. Water from the nearby river was channeled into a small reservoir where there were sluice gates to open, close or adjust the flow. The flowing water turned a water wheel which was used to create a current to drive an air turbine to ventilate the furnaces. The foundry was able to produce up to 3100 kg of good quality raw iron a day. Every two years a furnace was totally dismantled, cleaned and repaired. Another furnace was utilised in its place.
However these were turbulent times and 1860 saw the fall of the House of Bourbon and the Kingdom of Naples and the Two Sicilies, and the dawning of the Unification of Italy. Consequently the iron works was closed down and the site was left abandoned and was plundered, as were the local mines.
In 1878, the Visocchi family, who already owned and ran a Paper Mill or Cartiera in lower Atina, purchased the old iron works. They sold the furnaces and much of the equipment to fund other new projects. They installed a 4-volt dynamo connected to the water wheel which they hoped would produce hydro-electrical energy to power a paper factory. The experiment, however, was not a great success.
The Iron Works Today and La Ferriera Winery
In 1947 the property was purchased by the Mancini family of Atina, and today it has been transformed into a winery. The entrance leads to a spacious courtyard surrounded by buildings which were once utilised as warehouses to store raw materials, as workshops, administrative offices and accommodation for the some of the workers. In the centre of the courtyard stands an ancient poplar tree.
Today you can still see the remains of one of the old furnaces which is supported by four pillars. It has an archway with a carved keystone which bears the Ferriera’s coat of arms. The furnace is draped with a colourful curtain of vines and creepers. It measures 13 metres in height by 2.80 metres in diameter.
The Cabernet and Syrah varieties of grape are cultivated in the vineyards of the estate of Colle Alto in lower Atina, in the beautiful Val di Comino. In some of the old buildings of the Iron Works modern equipment has been installed for the production of wine with controlled temperature and an inert atmosphere in order to obtain a good extraction. The wine is aged in barrels made of a type of oak with maturing on the lees, and finally in the bottles. There is a giant VAT for blending their vintage wine, made from 80% Cabernet, 20% Syrah and it holds 3280 litres. La Ferriera specializes in the production of quality red wines with the designation of origin Atina Cabernet DOC.
It is possible to visit La Ferriera and sample some of its quality wines.
There are Guided Tours available in Italian, English and Spanish for groups of minimum 4 people.
For more information contact Valeria Tel: 347-2454138
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