Casa Cotechini and the ice factory

When my family still only ha an icebox and no fridge, my grand-grandfather Abramo would weekly walk to the ice factory to purchase a large block of ice to help keep the family’s food fresh.
Casa Cotechini in Sesto
Casa Cotechini in Sesto

Don’t get confused we are not talking about cotechino, the cooked salami that is a Christmas favorite. We are talking about the house a family called Cotechini had built in 1914. It is an intersting little building. Its shape and overall demeanor hints at a much larger villa, with a side tower overlooking the neary area. An observatory or outlook similar to this was a common feature of several villas of the same period, but here we are not talking about a villa but rather about a family house built on the side of a trafficked road (even at that time, as this is the main road towards Monza) and pressed, on its back, against the railway.

The tower of Casa Cotechini
The tower of Casa Cotechini, see the colorful floral tiles

The house is heavily ornate and is topped by colorful tiles depicting flowers, in the Art Nouvau (or, as it is called in Italian, “Liberty”) style, but the rest of the walls is just bare plain bricks and concrete, while the short tower add an impression of grandeur that makes you almost forgot the lonely balcony right below it. Casa Cotechini is a quite skilled attempt by a well-off but not extremely rich family to built an almost patrician house while not breaking the bank.

Producing artificial ice
Side view of Casa Cotechini
Casa Cotechini is now inserted in a maze of uninspired 1960’s buildings

Casa Cotechini had been built by the side of the “artificial ice” factory, basically a large freezer that produced a good that was still in demand until the 1950’s. Most families could not afford a fridge, but may have had an icebox (sometimes, just like my grand-grandparents, an hand-me-downs from a richer family who had switched to an electrical fridge). In summer people would buy a large chunk of ice and take it home. The chunks were already shaped and sized to fit the iceboxes. In winter it was easier and cheaper to just place the food that needed refrigeration on the windowsill or balcony.

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