The technical heritage and the experience of five generations fully dedicated to the nautical field.
The modernity and the efficiency of a young management, focused on technological progress.
In exchange for this, Bindi would build a "Bissa" (the typical means of transport of Lake Garda's fishermen, about 6 metres long and with a canoe-shaped stern) all by himself, from the cutting of the wood to the launch of the finished boat. The highest cost was definitely the support of the worker, especially if he, like Bindi, loved eating and drinking good wine. After a few months, when asked about the completion of the "Bissa",
Bindi answered that only the flooring was still missing. The employer's answer was: "Mr. Feltrinelli, make the floor soon, or we'll have to sell our fishing equipment just to pay you!".
Just before the World War began, Egidio emigrated to Florida, USA, where he collaborated with several shipyards. In 1919, as the war was over, he went back to Gargnano and bought the plot of ground, an old “limonaia” (a typical lemon cultivation site), where, still nowadays, the shipyard Feltrinelli is located; on this plot he built his home and began to construct boats. Egidio was considerate a “big name” by his fellow citizens, because he succeeded in starting a business with
his own money, after coming back from the USA. From the States, he also carried home the projects and plans of the first hydroplanes; this type of boats, with their subsequent evolution, will be able to reach the well-known “three points” and speeds up to 120 km/h.
The first launching slip at Boatyard Feltrinelli in San Carlo di Gargnano (1922)
Egidio’s great passion for motor boats will make him become the undisputed founder of the family’s racing activity.
In 1930, the shipyard took one of the first important assignments: the Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio asked the Feltrinellis to restore his MAS 96, the “motor boat-anti-submarine”, which he used to accomplish war feats. The MAS, coming from Trieste, arrived to Peschiera by train, and then it was launched in the Lake Garda, toward Gargnano. D’Annunzio decide to replace the old slipway’s track with a bigger one, that became the first important means of launching and towing for the boats with a considerable size of the whole lake.
Gabriele D'Annunzio's MAS 96, nowadays exposed in the Vittoriale degli Italiani (1930)
The poet became a good friend and customer for the Feltrinelli family, so that he chose some of the names for the boats launched in that period (“Rumba”, “Tango” and “Estroso” among others). D’Annunzio also had the hobby of making patents, so he ordered the Feltrinellis to create an amphibious vessel. Now, his MAS is located in Gardone Riviera, precisely in the Vittoriale, the museum devoted to the poet.
During the years between the two wars, the Feltrinellis became the first Italian Johnson motors importers, and built many one-design racing boats. Moreover, they also manufactured a 16 metres-long sailing boat for the Spanish royal family, and they started the building and maintenance of pleasure boats for the few personalities who could afford one. The shipyard had many famous customers: Tazio Nuvolari, an automobile pilot, the count Theo Rossi di Montelera, the racing boats drivers Casinghini and Passarin, the aforementioned D’Annunzio and during the fifties and the sixties the count Acquarone and the actress Eleonora Rossi Drago.
Egidio’s five children (Bernardo, also known as Dino, Eligio, Stefano, also known as Finì, Lina and Iolanda) were all busy, working in the shipyard and taking part to several racing competitions;
because of this, they were extremely petulant and unsociable and people used to call them “I macc Feltrinei”, a dialectal by-name that underlines their bad temper. The quarrels were usually caused by the male members of the family, and often by futile reasons, but sometimes provoked dangerous throws of working objects… Signs of that period can be found in the shipyard’s “Club House”(the meeting place for the Feltrinelli’s friends and clients, equipped with a café), like a good number of cups from the twenties and the thirties, a “Johnson model” motor boat built in 1931, and some models dating back to the first years of the past century: the “Corsa” type, a 6,50 metres long inboard boat,
The 5 Feltrinelli brothers with some Prizes, "Mio" and "Miss Garda" raceboats(1932 ca)
The 5 Feltrinelli brothers with some Prizes, "Mio" and "Miss Garda" raceboats
which already at that time used to have a bow rudder, that was crucial during turnings.“Miss Garda” was one of these boats and the Feltrinellis used it in the most important racing competitions, (Raid Pavia-Venice, Paris motorboat meeting, Lario championship, etc.). Egidio's sons used to drag the boat with an oxcart up to the race start, while the father, who was a pre-eminent person in his town, usually drove a car. The 7 meters long “Benaco” type had many seats, both in the covered and in the open version; a choice which came from the vessels used for the public transportation. Finally, in the “Club House” you can also admire the outboard “370” racing version and the type “M10”, a 10 metres long boat employed as work-boat.
Dino Feltrinelli riding the racing boat "Lupo"
The Feltrinellis, who were into politics beyond boats, had to deal with a big problem caused by their membership to the communist party; in 1938, the shipyard was burned by the fascists; to this end, Fausto Feltrinelli, father of Mauro, Sergio and Dino (who succeeded worthily to Fausto and who represent the last generation), tells an anecdote:
“At the end of the sixties, an ex-fascist came to our shipyard, pretending to have a declaration which had to confirm that he didn’t took part to a raid, organized in the thirties, that caused the destruction of the shipyard and the wounding of an alpine soldier.
Dino Feltrinelli and "SUO"
The man stated that he didn’t have a part in the occurrence, but afterwards his name turned out to be present in a record book edited
by his fellow soldiers; it was revealed that he was in a pub in Gargnano, where the Feltrinellis usually spent their evenings, to prevent them to go back home too early”.
Another anecdote is about blackmail: “In 1932, during a prize-giving held at the “Altare Della Patria”, in Rome, my father Dino refused the cup because the organization was trying to make him sign the party membership card, despite they were aware of his adversity. So, instead of satisfy them, Dino rejected the prize and went back to Gargnano”. During the years before World War II the Feltrinellis were stalked due to their political views, so that Fausto grandfather had to escape and refuge in Bracciano, at the shipyard Donati, where some vessels for the navy were built. Living in Gargnano was not possible anymore, because of the regime, so he forced his children and other families to leave the Lake Garda. In Bracciano, they worked calmly, because they were little known; but one day one of these families admitted that the Feltrinellis were “dangerous representatives of the communist party”. Unfortunately, Mussolini made a speech just in Bracciano, and the Feltrinellis were arrested and got to Regina Coeli, a famous jail in Rome, where they stayed for about 21 months, until a friend, thanks to D’Annunzio’s help, managed to free them.
The Feltrinellis at "Altare della Patria", Roma, 1932
Fausto, together with his mother and the two brothers, still a young boy and totally out of money, returned back to Desenzano (in the southern part of the lake Garda) by train in nine days, warming and cooking using the coal he stole from the tool car of the freight train they travelled with. After one year, the family met on the shores of the Bracciano Lake and lived there until 1946. Even after the two
world wars and the persecutions, at the beginning of the sixties the shipyard Feltrinelli was still alive, but lost his prestige and reputation. However, in 1963 Fausto decided to bring it back to basics. After leaving his home when he was only 15 years old to work in a circus, he worked as a caterpillar driver in Switzerland and then in Africa and then for Eni (an Italian petrol company) in Gela (Sicily), Terni (Umbria), Pontedecimo (Genoa) and in Vasto (Abruzzo). Finally, he decided to follow his nature founding his own activity: he spared some money and went back to Gargnano, where he bought out the business from his uncle. The shipyard was completely filled up wit commercially worthless boats, among which there was also Mussolini’s boat (a 6, 5 metres long mahogany inboard vessel with a Chris Craft engine).
launching Rail, Palmina and an OB Raceboat (1971)
Fausto understood that he had to satisfy the market’s demand, which consisted in nautical assistance, towings and launchings, presenting again just what his progenitors did several decades before. In fact, the Feltrinelli shipyard has been one of the first ones in Italy to propose “professionally” the boat’s storage. One of the first invoices from august the 4th, 1932 is still jealously conserved, which text is: “to the owner of the vessel “Moa”: towing and launching, 100 Lire; parking in the shipyard from December 18th, 1931 to July 22nd, 1932, 208 days, 2 Lire per day, total 416 Lire; bought a gasoline can to bring the motor boat to Gardone 33,15 Lire; total, 548,15 Lire, stamp 50 Lire.”
Boat's pier and 5 tons crane (1975)
In more than a century of life, the Feltrinelli shipyard has always predominantly dealt with motor boats. However, the sailing is gaining its space (the Centomiglia del Garda, which starts from Gargnano is really charming) among Fausto’s three children’s projects: Mauro, a commercial who takes care of the administration; Sergio, who is graduated in Genoa and who is the newsworthy heir of the family’s wood-working tradition; Dino, a engineer who is graduated at the vocational school. Among the lmost important works, the accurate restoration of “Sinbad” a 40 square metres Schaerenkreuzer from 1922 and of “Volpina V”, the last 5.50 S.I., designed by G.C. Carcano for Zeno Peretti-Colò.