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The History of Casa dei Racconti

At the roots of the House ... and all its stories

A village on the edge of the sea

The Casa dei Racconti is located in the municipality of Ceggia (Ve), just north of the ancient Via Annia, a Roman road that from the 2nd century BC connected the rich city of Aquileia with the southern areas of Veneto. Along the road – so called in honour of the magistrate who started the works, belonging to the gens Annia – the flourishing settlements of Oderzo, Quarto d’Altino and Concordia Sagittaria developed.

The remains of the Roman bridge with three arches, found in these areas just over sixty years ago, are still visible evidence of this work – which, when joined with other roads, was directly inserted for centuries in the crucial artery between Rome and the East, as far as Constantinople.

The first certain references to the town of Ceggia date back to this same period: the name derives in fact from the Latin “cilium maris”, on the edge of the sea. Although the definition evokes picturesque scenarios, in reality the territory remained always marshy and unhealthy, which – with the decline of the Roman Empire and the first barbarian invasions – led to its progressive abandonment. This perilagunar area, between the rivers Piave and Livenza, is in fact located in various points below sea level and the main settlements (such as those mentioned above) were built on emerged lands. It was only after the extensive reclamation carried out in the twentieth century that the area was once again significantly repopulated.

dettaglio casa dei racconti
libri casa dei racconti

The new Diocese, the convent, the birth of the House

After the partial abandonment of the area in the Middle Ages – certainly due to the intrinsic difficulties of the territory, but also to the administrative decline typical of those difficult centuries – signs of rebirth were seen with the establishment of the parish of Grassaga in 1535, run by the congregation of the Canons Regular. On the initiative of these same presbyters, a convent was built in 1569, close to where the Casa dei Racconti is today. The convent, now abandoned, was demolished in 1793 by the Republic of Venice, and it is certain that some parts of it were used to build the house itself.

This evidence emerged when the current owner, Gianni Pasin, completed the complete restoration of the building in 2013. On this occasion, it was possible to see how the stones were of two different types: the red ones, with a regular shape – typically nineteenth-century – and the yellow ones, not completely disregarded, undoubtedly belonging to previous centuries.

News of the new building date back to 1842, the year in which a cadastral census was carried out. An enlarged reproduction of a drawing of the time, taken from the Map of the Census Hall, has been made, which today occupies an entire wall and part of the ceiling in the main hall of the House.

portico casa racconti ceggia
giardino casa dei racconti ceggia

From the Papadopoli counts to Gianni Pasin

In 1797, after the transfer of Veneto by Napoleon Bonaparte to the Austrian Emperor Francis II – with the consequent end of the Republic of Venice – the marshy countryside of the area was reclaimed by the new administration. This was not a decisive event, as was the new reclamation undertaken in the twentieth century, but nevertheless allowed resuming appropriations and activities.

The land was transferred to the future Papadopoli counts, who are believed to have been the builders of the House in the first decades of the nineteenth century: of the countryside and the building, they remained the owners until 1921.

Later, the properties were acquired by Giovanni Giol, son of emigrants who had made their fortune in Argentina, in Mendoza, the “homeland” of wine.

In 1966, the property changed hands again, but this time the agricultural estate was dismembered: the Rubinato family bought the House and only a portion of 26 hectares of the surrounding land.

The next transfer is to the Borga family, after which, from 2013, the House is acquired by the current owner, Gianni Pasin, and renamed Casa dei Racconti by him.

storia casa dei racconti
cancello entrata casa racconti

Roots, memories, stories

Giannino Zanatta was born in the House and lived there until he was eleven (1958). On the outside wall of the room where he slept, a plaque with three crucifixes and the date 1559 (probably in memory of the donation of part of the stones of the old convent for the construction of the new building) is placed. Zanatta preserves many memories – his own and his family’s, as well as of the many who lived or frequented the House at that time: therefore, even long before his birth.

“Back then, there were 21 or 22 persons living here and the children had been working with their parents since the age of 5, obviously doing what they could,” he explains. “The residents cultivated fifty fields on sharecropping and the beating heart of everything was the stable.”

The stable was a meeting place as well as a place of work, where in the evening, in the coldest months, Filò took place: a term which, first of all, indicates the act of spinning the fabrics by women, alludes to a much wider social activity. In the evening, in fact, we sheltered ourselves from the cold winter thanks to the warmth of the stable: therefore, children and men also came into the stable, and all together we talked, joked, played, sometimes young people fell in love, arranged marriages…

Del Filò, Giannino remembers various episodes, as well as the cutting of wheat with oxen and mower; the mothers’ commitment in making shoes for children with canvas and old car tyres; the fountain in the farmyard that continuously poured pure groundwater and where nearby families came to stock up. In his childhood memory, the fascination of small things, the sound of bells from nearby villages or the memory of some exceptional event in his eyes, like going to the festival of San Donà, remain.

Even decidely memories come back to his mind, either his own or handed down from the stories of others: in particular, events of the Second World War.

“In 1943, my family hid for about a year two allied soldiers, a New Zealander and an Englishman who had escaped from the train that had been sent to the German concentration camps during a stop at Ceggia station. We hid them in two underground drainage tanks in the barn, quickly cleaned and whitewashed with lime. There they would spend the day, going out in the evening and sleeping in the barn sometimes on the fields”.

For this episode, the Zanatta family obtained official recognition and in 2001 the New Zealand soldier’s children came to visit the House (now transformed) to see the places where their father had been hidden and thank his saviours.