Neglect of Marconi radio centre 'a national scandal'

Coltano. Image: Angolo di Pasqua

ROME - Marco Filippeschi, the Mayor of Pisa, has denounced state neglect of the Coltano radio centre as "a national scandal", in comments to Il Fatto Quotidiano on the site from where inventor and Nobel prize recipient, Guglielmo Marconi, sent the first wireless longwave transmission.

 The mayor pointed out that he had made many attempts in his ten years in charge to have the site properly repaired, including writing to the current president, Sergio Mattarella, but that he "had lost hope" of progress being made.

 Marconi's daughter said the lack of attention paid to the site meant that "history of Italy and Europe is erased."

 It comes as the state-owned building is temporarily transferred to the mayor's control for two years in order to carry out vital repair works. At present, trees are growing through the roof and weeds are threatening the building's collapse.

 "We will make the ruin secure, with an intervention of €50,000," Filippeschi explained, "But it's not enough. We would like that the state transferred it to us. We would like to make it into a museum of telecommunications and a centre of research... which could be operated by a business or institute that has need of an open space in the countryside."

 "The station of Coltano is a national scandal, but once restored will be of international importance," the mayor added.

 Marconi received the Nobel prize for physics alongside Karl Braun in 1909 for his work on telecommunications. During his lifetime, Marconi received scant support from scientists and authorities within Italy and he eventually left Italy for a number of years to conduct his research in the more supportive conditions of Britain.

 The building at Coltano was a vital research centre and in 1911 had been used to send the first transatlantic communication between Italy and America. By 1921 was the most powerful transceiver station in Europe.

 But the site's history did not end with Marconi's death in 1937. During the invasion of Italy in World War Two, American forces turned the site into one of the largest prison camps in Italy. Famous prisoners at the camp included the Italian actors, Dario Fo and Raimondo Vianello, and the American poet, Ezra Pound, who wrote his Pisan Cantos while briefly staying at Coltano.

 The camp was abandoned by the Americans at the end of 1945 and left unoccupied until the present day.