Lawyer, Mayor and Banker
He was born in Sanremo on 20th November 1831 from Francesco and Caterina Gogioso.
He was descended from an ancient lineage of the extreme western Liguria of which we have news in the « History of the Maritime Alps » by Gioffredo (the historian of Nice) on p. 1041, and in the « Marquisate of Dolceacqua » by Girolamo Rossi.
After graduating in Law in Parma, he devoted himself to the forensic activity while working in the bank which, together with his brothers Carlo Felice and Giovanni Battista, founded the « Asquasciati Frères English Bank » in 1867, with which he contributed to the financing of many great works, including hotels, villas, gardens and civil housing.
On the strength of his experience as an influential banker and builder of important public and private buildings, in 1878 he was elected mayor of Sanremo launching an administration that would last without interruption until 1891.
He was the third in order of time among the distinguished mayors in the history of Sanremo. In two chapters of « San Remo renewed » Astraldi deals with him, who, also later on, continuously mentions him as the Mayor who remained above all exemplary and almost legendary.
« He was (c.f.r. Astraldi, p. 157) one of those administrators to whom any progress does not become an antisocial fact ».
In the thirteen years of his "loving dominion", according to Serao, Sanremo excelled among all the healing cities of Europe. It is enough to take a look at the four thick pages in which Astraldi reports the list of the great public works that, with Asquasciati, transformed, or rather, almost created today's Sanremo.
You will see how little has been done since 1891, in fifty-five years of other administrations, and with far greater financial possibilities. At the time of Asquasciati the Casino Municipale was not even erected.
After a brief illness it died in Sanremo on 2 April 1933.
Bartolomeo Asquasciati was for fourteen years (from 1878 to 1891) uninterruptedly Mayor of Sanremo. The Giuntas changed, but there was no doubt about the name of the person who was supposed to be the Mayor of Sanremo. And it was observed that never before, and afterwards, by free elections, had there been a Mayor of such a long and consecutive duration. Moreover, that he was no longer re-elected during 1891, after not even two years, in 1893, popular suffrage raised him once again to the head of the Municipal Administration.
However, despite the warm pressure and the esteem of his fellow citizens, he renounced the office. He was not flattered by the idea of a trade union that threatened to be conferred on him, from 1878 to 1993, for life. He thanked him graciously and with his sense of true democracy, he closed his public activity victoriously and beautifully.
But these were not the only qualities of the Asquasciati. He was endowed by nature with a very strong practical sense, combined with an audacity, as a creator, as well as a realizer, of his daring programmes. Contrary to what he had done until then, he never wanted to isolate himself in the administrative routine, but he listened to the wise advice of his colleagues and also to the humble and very often sensible voice of the people, which he treasured. With him Sanremo made great strides, winning the favour of the majority of the population with the very ideas he was talking about, that is to say, pandering to the genius of the people, transforming into them his own.
He had a creative vein, he was intolerant of idleness and doing nothing. He was against violence in any form. With his success, he was never arrogant; but he cared little or nothing about the attacks of the envious, knowing that the life of honest and just public men was a continuous battle against the obstacles and the wickedness of the adversaries, he never lost heart, he never gave up, in order to reach his noble goal which was the following: « to use his best energies in training the inhabitants of our Sanremo to greater fortunes ».
He (Astraldi p.146) had a firm opinion that the foreign colony should entirely rebuild the new generation, because the kind guests, by coming to congratulate our people with their ideas and riches, would have contributed powerfully to help the resurgent prosperity of Sanremo.
The ideas of progress (given the great authoritativeness of Asquasciati and the trust in him of the population) « were no longer mocked, nor did anyone have the courage to criticise the citizens who caressed them; and this is why the hard-working mayor, not wanting to imitate the ancient one that cunctando restituit rem, did not stop repeating that the different parties have mutual responsibility, if the car of the Municipality walks slowly adagio adagio...». But how strong marched instead, at the time of the Asquasciati, of this Mayor, though so scrupulous with his councillors.
Astraldi attributes to Asquasciati the repetition of the same words that the good Henry IV addressed to the notables in the Assembly of 1596: « I have united you to receive your advice, and put myself in your hands for protection ».
The Sanremo of the Great Hotels of the Villas and Gardens
From books, and from the memories of contemporaries, one can easily extract the figure of this great Mayor. A handsome man, gentleman of birth and heart, endowed with a large census, he was a worker as I am today. With the brothers Carlo and Giovanni Battista, from their « Asquasciati Frères. English Bank », a radically modern increase in Sanremo was proposed. And he was not lacking in tenacious enthusiasm, an exceptional work force, and a clarity of ideas in a programme that was at once so bold, linear and generous, and which had no counterpart in the history of Sanremo.
Whoever had in mind to build large hotels, villas, buildings, gardens, found in the Asquasciati the financier. This is how the Sanremo of the great hotels, villas, gardens and more civilized dwellings arose. Many villas and hotels, he built himself, to instil confidence in the timid and uncertain about the future of Sanremo.
He opened two private roads, on the Berigo hill, which almost entirely belonged to him, and he built sumptuous villas there, with large gardens rich in plants, which still today constitute one of the greatest and most substantial beauties of Sanremo, both from the building and the panoramic side. At the same time, at an intense rhythm, under his guidance, the municipal activity proceeded. It was about three decades, from 1878 to 1891, of incessant, intelligent works that met the taste and approval of everyone, as eloquently demonstrated by popular suffrage, with the uninterrupted re-election of the Asquasciati Mayor of the city.
Model to the Mayors of Italy
Matilde Serao, who stayed frequently at that time in Sanremo, proposed in a series of articles in the "Corriere di Napoli", Asquasciati as a model to all the Mayors of Italy: « I have never found a Mayor like this Asquasciati who was practically in love with the welfare of his country... While fifteen years ago the workers from here had to go to France to earn twenty money, now there is a constant flow of people to the Riviera for the development of this industrious, amiable and beautiful country... For twelve years now, under the paternal, loving dominion of the mayor, Bartolomeo Asquasciati, Sanremo has made progress in beauty, comfort and luxury which make it superior and different from all the winter resorts, from all the villes d' eaux in Europe ».
It is impossible to keep up, even if with hasty quotations, the copious bibliography concerning the life (also very interesting) and works of this great fellow citizen. Let us continue, therefore, with a few more pages. We owe it to Asquasciati :
A complex of public works of incredible opinion for every time, and such that Sanremo, started in search of its uncertain future by Siro Andrea Carli and Roverizio, more with attempts, hopes, tastings, than with rational programmes, was with a tenacious, systematic, well coordinated work, very laborious, and even audacious, elevated to a tristic centre of world fame.
And all this (apart from the modesty of the municipal resources of the time) also through the vicissitudes of a ruthless struggle, which wanted to present Asquasciati to the public opinion almost as a visionary or at least as an illusionary. The numerous praisers of the past, who never lacked in any age, accused him of neglecting the port, the culture of lemons and olive trees, the ancient resources of a Sanremo (which, however, in these areas, in Asquasciati's right judgement, was on the way to a quiet decline), which, for their particular interests, or for their narrow-mindedness, they still wanted to artificially preserve.
As far as agriculture in the area was concerned, Asquasciati foresaw and sponsored its most lucrative future in floral cultures. The great mayor's adversaries wandered, even, the creation of a first class port, even if the bay's layout, the shallow depth and the easy silting up of the seabed, the lack of direct communication with the Piedmontese hinterland advised against such a crazy undertaking. But they wanted the big port, because the mayor was firmly against it... and also in sterile and medieval hate of Porto Maurizio and Oneglia; they wanted the port that could compete with them, ruining them. So, for the cultivation of the olive tree, which was also interpreted as a challenge, even if the Empire valley was favoured by natural conditions. But in the absence of better arguments, the detractors of Asquasciati called it "that of Cologne" (of the city of Cologne).
Even the Municipal Aqueduct, it seems inconceivable, gained him adversaries. As a matter of fact, almost all the small bourgeoisie of Sanremo, which was very static, culturally mediocre, shy of any novelty, did not understand him and was often acrimoniously opposed to him. But Asquasciati always had from his side the totality of the real people with all his common sense, and the intellectuals and the aristocracy. These three forces gave him the suffrage to his passionate struggle, which was always victorious.
Even for the construction of streets, both in the centre and suburban areas and in the countryside, he had to fight, in an unspeakable way, with the owners.
And yet, as you will see from Astraldi's documentation, almost all the roads of Sanremo Nuova, as well as the panoramic ones, and those connecting with the hamlets and surroundings, are linked to her name. « L'Asquasciati. the Miraculous Mayor, who gave a face and a charm to Sanremo, said that every new road is like an open door to fortune. (A. of Lisbon, in key to the town plan) ».
Miracles of Honesty and Capacity
Only with his administration of an honesty and an ability and genius that remained proverbial until today, he was able to develop his grandiose plans. He could not count on other resources. The Casino's high municipal revenues were still to come... The Municipal Casino was built with the Mombello Administration, as soon as the first casinos were built on the nearby French Riviera. It should also be noted that the
At the time of the Asquasciati, it did not even have the income from the tourist tax, parking fees for the flower market, and others afterwards.
The Asquasciati and the Casino of Sanremo
The same Casino Municipale, could exist, only thanks to the intervention of Comm. Bartolomeo Asquasciati (no longer Mayor) and Banca Asquasciati. « In order to finish the work, the late Mayor Bartolorneo Asquasciati, the illustrious and truly well-deserving citizen of Sanremo, had to give a strong hand to the completion of the work, and to its exercise. With his decisive intervention, he allowed the carrying out of an administrative programme useful for the city and a great benefit for the population ».
But the program had the mark... socialist, and towards it and towards the erection of the Casino all the adversities were constituted, to the point of compromising every practical outcome. The Asquasciati saved the situation. As soon as the Mombello administration decided to erect the Casino, imposing with wise providence the burden of direct management on its builder, the Frenchman Ferret, the latter went in search, like Diogenes with a skylight, everywhere, of the necessary capital.
But the parcel of shares that he had brought with him to Paris with the intention of placing them on that square was brought back by Ferret, still complete. In those days, the management of the Casino threatened to take on the character of a catastrophic, foolish business. Who saved the situation, then, with a far-sighted eye, as always, and with the passion of a devoted son of his land, was Bartolomeo Asquasciati.
« The Banker this time, after all, like all the other times, won it over the lawyer. He won the "cause" for Sanremo. He gave Ferret the million and two hundred thousand lire, which he needed to equip the Casino. (One million and two hundred thousand lire, from the year 1896, we would like to add between the already eloquent lines of Brizio). If the Casino exists, both as an overcoming of the foolish political ostracism of the socialist administration that was a supporter of a Casino in Sanremo and as a substantial economic foundation and for all its subsequent developments, and if today the Casino exists, as a felt necessity, of the municipality and the population, we know to whom to give thanks.
(A.N.Brizio. Extracts from the "Pays du Soleil ". History of Sanremo, at n. 53 - 4°, and 53 - 10°) ».
The Civic Aqueduct
Despite the short-sightedness of many of his fellow countrymen, who (for misoneism, or for modest and unhygienic conceptions of life, or for sterile private interests (such as the defence against the uprooting of some lemon tree or even olive tree along the itinerary of the work, o for wild and antisocial concept of the right of property towards the workers used for temporary public works in their lands) did not see the civil necessity of the construction of an aqueduct such as to provide the city and agriculture with abundant water, the Asquasciati, all these resistances defeated, sponsored and implemented (it did not propose programs to implement them) the work still today great and sufficient to the needs, the Municipal Aqueduct.
Before then, in the city, water was fetched from the fountain with the bucket, and these fountains of the well-deserving Siro Andrea Carli were, in any case, insufficient for the growing population. In the countryside then, if in some land you could have a well, that owner's vegetable garden or field was envied and sighed by the neighbours as even a Promised Land. « Asquasciati with the Argallo aqueduct, built by Giovanni Marsaglia, provided Sanremo with healthy and abundant irrigation. (A.N.Brizio. "Au Pays du Soleil ". History of Sanremo. 54° - 4 ") ».
Needless to say, it is only since then that the cultivation of flowers that so much irrigation requires began, and it is also superfluous to enumerate the immense advantages that the Aqueduct had from the city hygiene and agriculture in general, regardless of the particular cultivation of flowers.
The Asquasciati Public Works
The list of Asquasciati's public works, as already mentioned, occupies only four whole pages of Astraldi's "Sanremo Rinnovellata".
We refer the reader to that documentation; it is enough to mention some of them here:
- Civic Aqueduct
Courses and streets in the Centre:
- Corso Trento e Trieste (Sea Walk)
- Corso Umberto
- Via Roma
- Via Ruffini
- Via XX Settembre
- Via Volta (Via Francia)
- Via Giorgio Pallavicino
Bypass roads, connection, etc
Berigo: Corso degli Inglesi, and all the roads of Berigo (except Via Roverizio). He also opened two roads of his own private initiative in this area (the two "Asquasciati Private Roads": the first, the one behind the Casino, elevated, which goes from Casa Montepignol to Villa Armida; the second, which, from the first, passing along the Albergo Savoia, climbs up to the upper Berigo, leaving almost in front of the Albergo Belvedere.
These two private roads were left in use by the population.
- Solaro. All the roads of Solaro.
- Road to the Madonna della Costa.
- Road to the Madonna della Guardia.
- Road to Peirogallo,
- Road to Borgo Pescio,
- Road to Verezzo.
- Road through Poggio.
- General arrangement of the road in Coldirodi.
Road corrections and widening of streets and squares:
- Corso Cavallotti.
- Via Palazzo.
- Via Principe Amedeo.
- Piazza Mercato.
- Piazza Municipio.
- Enlargement and better accommodation of the Cemetery.
- Cisternone of Piazza Castello.
- Water pipes of the Capitolo and Palma fountains.
- Four public wash houses.
- Accommodation of a shelter for the poor.
- Accommodation, in comparison with the previous Administrations, of the Old Town with paving, openings of passageways, etc..
After Asquasciati very little, or nothing, has been done for this dense urban agglomeration in which so many people from Sanremo live.
- Improvements to the Municipal Schools' premises, which were then still district schools.
- Building of the Palazzo delle Piazze Mercato e Cassini as the seat of Public Education (Liceo Ginnasio, Technical Institute).
- Establishment of a Municipal Technical Institute.
- Establishment of a singing school, which functioned for some time under the direction of M.o Abele Gessi, and which was to be the first step towards the foundation of a Conservatory of Music that Asquasciati wandered in spite of the opposition he had.
Lover of letters and freedom
A man of rich and lively culture and who had travelled extensively, an expert connoisseur of foreign languages, he had a vast and varied concept of culture.
A lover, personally and instinctively, of literature and the arts, especially poetry and music, he was just as passionate about Law and especially about our Commercial Law, (compared to that of foreign countries, in which the last field, which had been one of the major studies of Camillo Cavour, was at that time one of the most up-to-date Italians. He was thus very close friends with men of letters, politicians and jurists. The names of Pio Pecchiai, Matilde Serao, Anton Giulio Barili, Sofia Bisi Albini, Grazia Pierantoni Mancini, Giovanni Ruffini, Cesare Correnti, the jurist Augusto Pierantoni, husband of the poetess Grazia Mancini, son-in-law and disciple of the great Pasquale Stanislao Mancini, founder of the modern Italian school of International Law. Pietro Bonfante, another famous jurist and founder of an Italian school in the interpretation of the History of Roman Law and in the institutions of Roman Law, was Asquasciati's granddaughter. Some of his contemporaries remembered him, so well known in Italian life, with masterly traits in their memories, because Bartolomeo Asquasciati seemed, even to them, a truly complete and exceptional personality.
In the city circle, then, in spite of the ancient and powerful family and the census, Bartolomeo, this well-prepared, daring, and ingeniously and physically indefatigable worker, was a friend to the then source of the ingenuity of the new generations. So of an Augusto Mombello and an Orazio Raimondo, and of the new ideas they represented. He also understood their ideas.
It was therefore, the Asquasciati, open for his time to such largely democratic political and social conceptions (as he was, on the other hand, in his private life) that, if we want to use a modern word, we could say progressive, And, if ever, he gave himself to the militant Italian politics (he did not show up at political constituencies), spiritually, his personal thought, civil and moral and humanitarian, can place him in a quid medium between the Historical Republican Party and the Italian Socialist Party. The latter party, then in its infancy, and our Sanremo was in the vanguard (remember the electoral successes with Orazio Raimondo), considered him as a friend, and sometimes even as a true ally. This, especially at decisive moments for the most appropriate orientations in public affairs. And, this, even when Asquasciati was no longer mayor.
Remember, in this regard, his very firm stance, which was so effective, both for personal authority and for his direct and tangible economic intervention, when he supported all the senses up to the last, the program already his since 1885 ( see Astraldi, pg.144 ) and taken over by his friend Mombello for the erection of a Municipal Casino in Sanremo, and as said program, thanks to Asquasciati he was able to reach, after many and long efforts, a fait accompli, with full success and with public strengthening of the Socialist Administration, led by Augusto Mombello.
The most winged speech by Orazio Raimondo
« On 27 January 1908, the illustrious citizen closed his earthly day. Horace Raimondo then gave the most conceptual, the most winged speech he could remember. We believe that the heartfelt word of the great orator and politician from Sanremo could not have been better turned to a more sincere task, that is, paying homage to the merit recognised, in his Sanremo and in Italy; of a truly noble man who palpitated to the extreme breath of the most intense love for his country, and to the passion of a life consecrated to the community, in the deliberate intention of benefiting and erudition.
This is how Bartolomeo Asquasciati passed into the list of those beatified by the everlasting memory (A. 'N. Brizio." Au Pays du Soleil " History of Sanremo,
(Text freely taken from "Storia di Sanremo I Grandi Sindaci dell'Ottocento" by the Arts and Traditions Committee and notes by Andrea Gandolfo).