Across the Brenner Pass to the ‘country that Germans long to visit’.

Germany in the 1950s and 1960s: a carefree time; sweet and (deceptively) innocent. World War II had ended and the republic had risen like a phoenix from the ashes of endless ruin. Reconstruction was progressing rapidly and the economic miracle had brought full employment. Real wages had risen two and a half times so that people were now able afford to purchase the fruits of technological progress. The VW Beetle appropriately symbolises the period. People drove their Beetles across the Brenner to the ‘country that Germans long to visit’, to Italy. The Alps had always separated the two nations like an insurmountable wall but now it was suddenly possible to cross the mountains – and on the other side: sun, sand and wine. Azure-blue sea, idyllic landscapes, pizza and pasta. A relaxed way of living under permanently clear skies, lined with fragrant cypresses, olive trees, historic buildings and thousands of churches and chapels. A cliché?

However, it’s often the negative that comes to mind when thoughts turn to Italy today. High unemployment, for example, the economic downturn, massive budget deficits and the strange tendency of Italians to repeatedly fall for Silvio Berlusconi. And yet, the country of people’s yearning still exists. But perhaps it never existed at all. Because Italy does enjoy that perceived Mediterranean attitude to living, great food and wonderful landscapes – but it’s rarely ever encountered in a single package. The original, almost archaic, Italy is above all to be found in the south of the country, the Mezzogiorno, as it’s called there. Tourists may enjoy the secluded, picturesque villages that cling on to mountain slopes, their plastered walls and red roofs; the gnarled old men with their leathery, wizened skin and dressed in black sitting at the roadside their chins resting on crooked walking sticks; a donkey baying in the high grass and deserted beaches squeezed in between steep white cliffs. But what seems so idyllic is often also a sign of the poverty that prevails here. Similar to the east of Germany following the collapse of communism, the south of Italy is a structurally weak region dominated by agriculture. And then there’s organised crime: the Camorra, 'Ndrangheta and Cosa Nostra remain powerful in the Mezzogiorno and isolate the geographically remote region even further.

Painted ceiling in a church in Suisio in Italy

The north is entirely different: the conurbation around the major economic centres of Milan, Turin and Genoa (triangolo industriale) in the north-west and the eastern Po Valley region is one of the economically strongest areas in Europe – it even enjoyed full employment before the financial crash in 2008. And although the crisis is causing serious trouble for the state and international competition continues to increase, Italy’s north remains an important economic driver in Europe.

Still widespread: Roman Catholicism.

So, where the economy is concerned, a clear north-south divide exists in the country that on the map looks like a boot. But there are no differences across the country where faith is concerned – the Roman Catholic Church is everywhere. More than 80% of people in Italy say they are Catholic, regardless of their geographical or social roots. Michele Ferrero was a confirmed Catholic. The owner of the confectionery factory that bore his name, who died in early 2015, believed deeply that his company’s success was due to the Madonna of Lourdes. That’s why he – one of the richest people in the world – had statues of the Madonna installed in all the group’s branches. This little anecdote illustrates how prevalent the faith is in Italy and to what extent it runs through the fabric of society. And that’s why the cliché mentioned above remains absolutely true: Italy is peppered with churches, cathedrals and chapels. There are hundreds of churches in Rome alone – more than a thousand it’s said. Nobody seems to have counted them exactly, particularly as new ones keep popping up every year. How many places of worship there are in all of Italy … well, God only knows. That’s why Italy is the main market for a special product in Kampmann’s range: the Konvent heater for churches.

Cathedrals and chapels – the technical building services in places of worship must meet special demands. Churches, particularly Catholic ones, are often splendidly furnished: statues, crucifixes, frescoes, altars – both the inventory and substance of the buildings are absolutely worth protecting. Technical interventions into their structures should therefore be prevented as far as possible or kept to a minimum. The historic substance might suffer further if spaces are heated or cooled too quickly. Heating systems also need to be installed as discreetly as possible so they don’t obstruct the view of the cultural assets and they must, of course, run as quietly as possible so that they don’t distract from the acts of worship. The Konvent church heater has been designed specifically for such applications and offers slow and thus gentle heating and cooling processes, low air velocities and whisper-quiet running. And the installation dimensions required by the heating units are small in spite of the massive volumes that need to be heated or cooled in churches. A perfect solution, then. But how does a church heater get from Kampmann in Germany to Italy, to Suisio near Bergamo, for example?

Lingen - Bolzano: the climate-communicative Brenner Pass.

Basically no differently than the tourists from Germany did with their Beetles in the 1960s – by taking the Brenner Pass. The pass remains the busiest transit route across the Alps to this day. It provides access from the north to South Tyrol, which is not only an autonomous, culturally diverse and multilingual region, it’s also Italy’s northernmost province. Bolzano, the provincial capital, has therefore almost inevitably developed into an important location for economic relations between Germany and Italy. The Tecnoprisma commercial agency is also based in Bolzano and operates from here representing Kampmann in the sale of heaters, air-conditioning and ventilation units in Italy. Kampmann’s trench heating system, the Katherm HK, is – like the above mentioned church heating systems – also a best-seller there. But door air curtains and the Ultra unit heater are also important drivers of sales.

The team at Tecnoprisma consists of three people in the main: Cesare Chizzali, Gianni Boratti and Alessandro Pasqualotto. Cesare Chizzali transformed his heating wholesale business, which he had successfully managed for many years, into a commercial agency for Kampmann in 2004 and thus opened up the Mediterranean region for the Lingen-based company. The dynamic north down to Rome constitutes the main sales market – which corresponds to Italy’s economic divide. Twelve other sales representatives who work on commission for Kampmann also operate in this main area of activity. Coordination with headquarters in Lingen, the communicative Brenner Pass so to speak, is effected between Alessandro Pasqualotto and Rainer Middendorp, who is the Sales Manager Southern Europe. They work together to develop strategies for specific properties, set the terms and arrange marketing, show presence at trade fairs and organise important meetings with customers and specialist wholesalers.

That’s how Kampmann technology gets to Italy. For example, to the elegant Hotel Lido Palace, an Art Nouveau palace that uses the Katherm HK for its heating and cooling requirements. Or to the Benetton Shopping Centre in Rome. Or to Suisio near Bergamo where the historic Sant’Andrea Apostolo parish church was fitted with Konvent church heaters and where the outdoor architecture appears quite sober and plain. But where the interior overwhelms with exuberant splendour: magnificent paintings, massive frescoes, marble columns, ornaments and statues as far as the eye can see. The only thing here that exercises any visual restraint is the Konvent church heater. German engineering meets Italian craftsmanship – and again the clichés come to mind. What is so often true also applies to the Italian cliché: that’s not really the way it is.

Images: Dorf Manarolo in Cinque Terre by MartinM303/iStockphoto; Chiesa di Suisio by Parocchia S. Andrea Apostolo