Atina from the 19th Century Onwards

The Paper Factory and Ironworks

Pasquale Visocchi
Pasquale Visocchi

The surname Visocchi is quite well known in Atina, but one particular branch of the Visocchi’s greatly influenced the economic development of Atina and the Val di Comino.  Pasquale Visocchi planned a project to construct a paper factory, la cartiera, that could provide work for many of the local people of Atina. The factory was to be built on the banks of the River Melfa on the site of an existing mill with a waterfall that could power engines.  The construction work quickly made progress and finally the opening of the factory was celebrated on the 8th May 1845 with a grand inauguration ceremony.  Pasquale Visocchi and his brothers went on to become experts in the art of paper manufacture.

In 1850 Ferdinand II commissioned a new Iron Works – la Ferriera, to be built in the hamlet of Rosanisco, on the right bank of the River Melfa. Work commenced in 1855 and the works opened in 1858. It soon began smelting iron ore in its blast furnace and producing good quality cast iron.  It became known locally as la Mangona. Production went well until the fall of the Bourbon dynasty and the Kingdom of Naples and the Two Sicilies in 1860 and the dawning of the Unification of Italy. The iron works were forced to close down.

Chimneys of the Paper Factory of Atina Italy
The Paper Factory of Atina Italy
The Ironworks of Atina Italy

The Visocchi Family

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.

The philanthropic Visocchi family had been much involved in improving the working and living conditions of the local people of Atina.  The first public school was opened in 1857, at the family’s expense. In 1889 Alfonso Visocchi and his wife Angelina opened a new Nursery School which was donated to the people of the town.  In 1929 Giuseppe Visocchi opened a new school for the children of Atina (this building now houses the Archaeological Museum and Library). He also set up a free school of drawing and design to educate young people in arts and crafts. There was also an agricultural school.

 Several members of the Visocchi family became mayors of Atina and lead active lives in politics.

There will be more detailed information about the Visocchi family and the Cartiera added soon.

Vineyard in Atina Italy
photo © Peter Left
Asilo Infantile Beatrice of Atina Italia
School provided by Giuseppe Visocchi of Atina Italia
photo – Archivio Biblioteca di Atina

In 1878 the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta was badly damaged by an earthquake.

As the town of Atina continued to grow in size it expanded along the routes of Via San Nicola and the Via Sferracavalli.

In 1898 electric current was introduced at the paper factory, which allowed the 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.

On the 13 January 1915 there was a truly devastating earthquake that struck much of Ciociaria, its epicentre being sited in Avezzano in the Abruzzo region. It caused  catastrophic damage to this area  and in all over 30,000 people lost their lives.

In 1927 Atina became part of the new Province of Frosinone.

Atina During The Second World War

During the Second World War Atina had the misfortune of being positioned on the very edge of the German Gustav line, close to Montecassino. In September 1943 Atina was invaded by the 305ª Infantry Division of the Wehrmacht and a German communications centre was set up in in the town. The Allies began shelling and bombing German positions in the surrounding area, in an attempt to drive them out. Atina was first bombed on the 5th November 1943.  There were further bombardments on the 5th and 12th December which destroyed almost the entire town.  Many of the inhabitants of Atina were forced to abandon their homes and flee to the surrounding hills and mountains, to find shelter in old deserted barns, shepherd huts or caves. Here they lived for many months during the cold inclement winter weather. They had very little food to sustain themselves.

Finally the Allies,  in the form of New Zealand troops,  liberated Atina on the morning of 28 May 1944. The six months of bombing had left the town in virtual ruin.  34 innocent civilians died during the war and many more were injured.

Atina Italy Bomb Damage Via San Nicola
photo – Archivio Biblioteca di Atina
Atina Italy Bomb Damage Piazza Veroli
photo – Archivio Biblioteca di Atina
Atina Italy Bomb Damage Via Planca
photo – Archivio Biblioteca di Atina

In June 2008 Atina was awarded the Medaglia d’Argento al Merito Civile

“Comune siglato ai margini della linea “Gustav” ed a pochi chilometri da Cassino, occupato dalle truppe tedesche, subiva violenti saccheggi, devastazioni e continui bombardamenti che causavano la morte di numerosi cittadini, nonché la quasi completa distruzione del patrimonio edilizio. La popolazione, costretta a rifugiarsi nei paesi vicini, seppe resistere con fierissimo contegno agli stenti e alle dure sofferenze, per intraprendere, poi, la difficile opera di ricostruzione morale e materiale. 1943/1944 – Atina (FR)

Translation in English

A town situated on the edge of the “Gustav” line a few kilometres from Cassino, occupied by German troops, suffered violent looting, devastation and continuous bombardment that caused the death of many citizens, as well as the almost complete destruction of the housing stock. The population, forced to take refuge in neighbouring areas, was able to resist with fierce demeanour the hardships and the harsh suffering, to undertake then, the hard work of moral and material reconstruction.

The hardship and poverty caused by the war’s horrific and tragic events lead to a new wave of emigration overseas.   

However those Atinesi who chose to remain, worked tirelessly together to gradually rebuild their lives and repair their beloved town.  

Italian Heart

Photos have been accredited to the photographer / owner.  Images marked * are in the Public Domain.

All other photos I have taken myself –  © Louise Shapcott