This story begins in the Milan of bygone days, where Leonardo’s canals were flowing, when Italy was not yet united and when this city was more European than Lombard. In the San Celso district, around 1830, Carlo Castagna is an apprentice worker in one of Milan’s most famous “workshops”, where, for more than a century, elegant and sumptuous carriages have been produced, mainly for the aristocracy and the European royal families: the Ferrari, previously Mainetti & Orseniga. Thanks to his daily effort at his work, Carlo is able to gain the respect of his colleagues and his employer, until, in 1849, he is able to take over Mr. Ferrari’s business when the latter expresses his intention to retire.
Carlo builds elegant, majestic carriages, finished with fanatical attention to detail, secretly believing that luxury must be built slowly and with passion: in detail. With the support of some of the greatest names of the Milan aristocracy, both customers and financiers (the Viscontis, the Brivios, the De Capitani d’Arsagos, the Bagatti Valsecchis and the Prinettis) he becomes a well-known businessman. Famous personalities order promenade carriages, the precursors of today’s sports cars: Alessandro Manzoni and Enrichetta Blondel use one of such carriages, made of lemon-wood with red threading, for their romantic outings on the shores of Lake Como.
Towards the end of the 1800s, the first motorised carriages driven by combustion engines are produced, on commission, for Ottolini and Ricordi, importers of Benz quadricycles for Italy.
The steam carriage fashion is an immediate success and spreads quickly, thanks to orders from the most prestigious families of the era. The motorcar becomes the unquestionable symbol of the industrial age that characterised the end of the 19th Century.
In 1905, Castagna creates the legendary “Sparviero” for Queen Margherita of Savoy, on a Fiat 24HP chassis: a magnificent, highly accessorised, white double phaeton in which the Queen personally competes in one of the most important races of the time: the Susa-Moncenisio. Castagna, with his own motorised creations, is present at one of the most important international trade fairs, and the old facility situated in via della Chiusa is totally refurbished in line with the new production requirements.
The entire world recognises the Milan coachbuilder’s style and that of his “dream factory”. The models displayed for the first time in the halls of the Hotel Commodore in New York became famous, namely the “Prince of Wales” sedan, based on an Isotta Fraschini chassis and purchased by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, and the “Commodore” roadster, based on an Isotta Fraschini and Mercedes Benz chassis. Comm. Castagna is always present in the factory: he is the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night. Convinced that the difference lies in the detail, the quality of assembly and the finish, every vehicle produced is meticulously inspected by him before being shipped or delivered to the customer.