The Lady of the Orta Lake
San Giulio island, The view from Casa Fantini hotel, Lake Orta
Text Carlo Mazzoni
Rayon is a fibre similar to silk, it is obtained through the washing of cellulose with ammonia. Before the Second World War, an agreement between Italy and Germany allowed the company Bemberg to install a production site on the shores of Lake Orta (Lago d’Orta, in Italy): a great quantity of water was needed and a lake was the perfect solution. The valleys north of Novara, between Verbania and Varallo, had always housed brass foundries – tradition of the ancient art of sand casting for churches bells. The ammonia released by Bemberg reacted with copper and the heavy metals discarded by chrome plating processes. The damage to environment exploded in the Thirties and the lake was dyeing away: no life form in its waters. Children were prohibited to bathe.
A long time passed. Only in the Eighties, the Pallanza Institute of Ecosystem study, part of CNR (National Research Council), extracted tons of bicarbonate from a pit nearby and poured them in the lake. The PH of water stabilized, metals settled underneath the silt. A history of rebirth, Daniela Fantini well remembers: the first fish that returned was the Royal Perch, in all its majesty and courage. In a short space of time, eels and carps appeared. Mallards and swans. By the lake, soft water shrimps, on the bottom of the lake, mussels, that slowly worked dredging the subsoil from silent metals. Nowadays, Lake Orta is one of most clean basins in Italy, potable water can be found in depths of 10 metres. The water fitting district which develops around the lake and in the nearby valleys is advanced and attentive to impacts on the environment.
Daniela Fantini is the Lady of this Lake – if by Lady we intend to find the protective and benevolent meaning that remind us of Medieval saga. The Lady asked Piero Lissoni to design the new headquarter of Fantini Rubinetterie: a building of glass, gently surfacing amidst willows and brooms. On the edge of the park of the manor house, Lissoni also designed a small hotel which resembles to a diamond, shining in the fresh shade. On the dockyard, in the centre of Pella, Casa Fantini opened to guests last August, after five hundred days of work – it is dedicated to architects coming from all over the world to visit the company, to learn about the new plumbing systems that make Fantini a top-notch line of design for water. Casa Fantini is a building made of stone and light, inserted within the green setting of the lakeside, its lines are modern yet delicate. Its guests can breathe pure air, in the company of the dragonflies of San Giulio Island (Isola di San Giulio) – the bishop coming from Greece to establish one-hundred churches.
We would have stayed to listen these stories of water and peace. A good word for everyone, one more for a sir who has just turned one-hundred– when on Sunday morning we walked across the town with her, Daniela Fantini, Lady of the Lake.