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Villa Lubin EN

The History

The daily activities of the National Economic and Labour Council are based in the splendid setting of Villa Lubin, immersed in the greenery of Villa Borghese.

Work on the construction of the Villa began in 1906 on the initiative of David Lubin, an American entrepreneur who founded in Rome the first organisation for world economic cooperation, the International Institute of Agriculture, in which Lubin himself, until his death, represented the United States. When the Institute was incorporated by the FAO, Villa Lubin the Italian state took his ownership back, and then assigned to the CNEL in 1958. The first president of CNEL was, from 1958 to 1959, Meuccio Ruini, to whom President Renato Brunetta recently named after one of the most important rooms in the building.

David Lubin

Born in 1849 in Kladowa, Poland, from a family of Jewish merchants, he lost his father to cholera. To escape racial persecution, he moved first to England and then to the United States, where he worked as a goldsmith and then a carpenter. After an unsuccessful attempt to find gold and oil in Arizona and after losing all his possessions in the great Chicago fire of October 1871, he began working as a chandelier salesman, achieving a certain prosperity. In 1874, he founded a clothing shop in Sacramento, which made his fortune.

In 1884, during a trip to the Holy Land together with his mother, he was struck by the first experiences of agricultural colonies according to Herzl's ideas: this gave rise to his love for agriculture, in which he saw a possible way of salvation for the people. Back in the United States, Lubin bought a farm and developed the idea of creating an organisation to coordinate agricultural production and distribution. Not finding an audience in the United States, Lubin took his project to Europe, where he managed to persuade the King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III, to fund the International Institute of Agriculture in Rome.

The Villa

The construction of Villa Lubin immediately provoked a lively controversy due to the felling of several hundred-year-old pine trees, a circumstance that mobilised associations and various citizens, including Gabriele d'Annunzio and Giovanni Pascoli. Nevertheless, after a brief suspension, the work on the Villa was completed in 1908. The main designer of the structure was the architect Pompeo Passerini, an exponent of Neo-Mannerism and Neo-Baroque, who worked in close synergy with the artists who were responsible for the decorations: Adolfo Cozza, Adolfo Apolloni, Giuseppe Mazzoni, Lemmo Rossi-Scotti. Outside the Villa, several fountains stand out, including one depicting two dolphins and the god of water, one depicting a gleaner, and a fountain with a Bacchus boy made of stone, a piece of Adolfo Apolloni.

Inside, it is possible to admire one of the most richly decorated halls, the Marco Biagi Plenary Hall - formerly the “Parlamentino” - named, on the initiative of President Renato Brunetta, after the Italian jurist killed in 2002 by the New Red Brigades. On the right side of the Room, Cozza's painting represents the Agriculture from the Barbarian Ages to Imperial Rome: in the centre of the fresco is Homer in the act of explaining the history of agriculture and next to him stands Hesiod. At the feet of the two poets stands Theophrastus, the “father” of botany, while on the other side there are Pythagoras, Archimedes, and Euclid. The second painting on the left side of the room was supposed to depict The Great Navigators, Astronomers and Naturalists from the 13th to the 18th century but was left unfinished due to the tragic death of the artist, who fell from the scaffolding just as he was painting Leonardo Da Vinci, one of the 17 recognisable characters.

In the Meuccio Ruini Room - formerly the Yellow Room - there is The Triumph of Ceres followed by The triumph of Ceres, followed by the Court of Nations , a painting by Lemmo Rossi - Scotti.

It is also worth mentioning the CNEL Library, named by President Renato Brunetta after David Sassoli, the recently deceased and former President of the European Parliament. The importance of the David Sassoli Library is first and foremost historical: it is, in fact, the first Italian library dedicated to the theme of work. It was founded in 1934 and renovated in 2022, when it was moved back to its historical location after having been in the building next to the Villa for decades. The material in the Library consists of monographs and papers on topics related to the interests and institutional activities of the CNEL: labour and economic and social planning, labour organisations and national and international trade union law, social security and welfare, vocational training, sociology and labour policy, income policy, and tax policy, housing policy. Considerable space is also reserved for the CNEL's editorial production. Through the Library's volumes, therefore, it is possible to retrace Italy's economic and social history, while the papers offer a national and international scientific glance at the disciplines of the sector.