In his speech in 1957 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Pirelli’s Colonia Marina, the seaside holiday camp in Pietraligure, Franco Brambilla, the then managing director of the company, mentioned a fact that would startle parents and dieticians today: “It is as though the holiday camp had produced 1,245 new children over the past ten years.” At the end of their month’s stay, the children did indeed weigh an average of 1.6 kg more than when they arrived: Rina Gagliardi and Francesco Beretta, who were some of the first guests at the camp, way back in the early post-war period, broke every record by putting on 5 kilos in just four weeks. When the Colonia was opened in 1947, the prime objective had been to restore the health of young children after the deprivations of war. Over 20,000 children of employees were guests between 1947 and 1957. “To transport all those children, you’d need a 250-carriage train, about 2½ km long,” wrote Brambilla in his article on the event for the house organ Fatti e Notizie. “And if you wanted to take all those children in 600s (the Fiat runabout launched in 1955) – each with a driver, of course – you’d need 6,680 of these cars, which, if driven at a minimum safe distance from each other, would form a 47-kilometre-long convoy.
The Pietraligure holiday camp had already been designed in late 1946, taking up a long tradition by the Pirelli Group of attending to all aspects of company welfare: first and foremost, the well-being of workers’ children during the summer holidays. This had been the case since before the war, when the company paid external organisations a fixed monthly rate for every child hosted. However, the idea now, for the first time, was to have facilities that would belong entirely to the company. In the 15 February 1947 issue of the Notiziario Pirelli, the house organ that, between 1946 and 1949, preceded the launch of Fatti e Notizie, Mario Pangrazzi wrote about the Pietraligure project and the expectations it brought with it: “As we gradually realised that we were going to be without a seaside home for our children in the summer of 1947, a special bond came about between the present writer and an architect-engineer who is known to ‘Pirelliani’ but who does not wish to be mentioned here.” Even so, in the footnote is a rendering of the future holiday camp, with a credit that states “Prog. Ing. Alberto Alberti”. “Holding hands as we returned to our long-lost childhood, we roamed the dormitories, the refectory, and the playroom, across terraces and classrooms that, barely traced out on the paper, acquired real substance for us…”. The design was complete, and all that was needed was funding. When the designers went to meet Pirelli management, their requests “found only smiles and approval”.
An entirely “Pirelliano” facility and a great desire to break with a past that, in the spring of 1947, was still fairly recent: “In the Nuova Colonia there shall be no blaring trumpets, no flag-raising, no compulsory singing, but only the constant encouragement to behave well, to be good little men and women, and to acquire fresh energy and ever-better health.” Towards the end of the article in the Notiziario Pirelli, the tone becomes increasingly lyrical, especially when Mario Pangrazzi imagines a future when those children, twenty or thirty years later, would return to Pietraligure as fine, upstanding Pirelliani to accompany their children, and later their children’s children…
The Colonia in Pietraligure was destined to be handed over, in the early 1970s, to the municipality of Cinisello Balsamo, but it maintained its historic function as a summer home for children.