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January 6, 2020

Vellano – A Village Rich in History

Filed under: Uncategorized — Darren Hackett @ 7:02 pm
Vellano Near Pescia Tuscany Italy

We came to live in Vellano in 2010. We knew little about the village having only visited it briefly on holiday in 2001 and the year before in 2009 when we viewed the house, along with a few others in Tuscany, which were for sale.

Vellano sits at 552 meters above sea-level with 254 inhabitants. The village was first settled in the 10th Century and grew-up around a Benedictine Abbey at the site of the Church of St Michele Castle Chapel in the Medieval centre; where services are still had everyday at 5 o’clock; a small bell rings out through the mountain air to welcome in the faithful. The village was handed over to the Garzoni family in the 13th Century. The Vellanaise were not best pleased, but they finally came under the authority of Florence in 1339. The Villa Garzoni at Collodi is said to face towards Lucca and Pisa in triumph at the Florentine Garzoni’s victory over Pisa! Collodi is the home of Pinocchio.

We are told that at one time each of Le Dieci Castella – the 10 villages that make up the valley communities – all had a brass band in each village and that they would have concerts in one of Vellano’s two theatres; now redundant. In one of the village houses you can still see where the stage was; this is now a sitting room in house that belong to friends of ours. Spot the corridor that links to the house next door, thought to be used as an off stage dressing room.

One of Two Old Theaters in Vellano

Casa Verde, as we have named it, was a property built to house itinerant stonemasons for the quarry on the property; that is still visible today above the house. There was even a school for stoneworkers in Vellano. A neighbour in his nineties says as a young boy he can remember blocks of stone being sledged down the hillside behind our house (The sledging path is still definable (photo below) to build the houses of the lower third of Vellano. Vellano still has a working quarry Cava Nardini – Click here for a Blog about the Nardini Quarry: Click Here Germano Nardini Stone Quarry

Vellano has a Historical and Ethnographic Museum of Miners and Quarrymen This interesting museum can be visited and guided tours requested, around Vellano.

How Casa Verde’s Quarry may have looked
The Village of the Scalpellini – Stonecutters
Old Sledging Path

The first two floors of the house were gentrified in the 19th Century with the addition of a Pietra Serena stone fire place, marble window sills, a double stone sink, a balcony and arched double doors. We are told that this happened when Vellano had its own town hall, school and a police station, a Carabiniere Officer lived in the house with his family. In the master bedroom of Casa Verde was a liberty style bed referred to, by our

neighbours, as the ‘General’s Bed’ we used this bed for some years and still have the old headboard!

Casa Verde with ‘Liberty’ Doors & Balcony

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Also Vellano was opened up to the wider world when the state highway was built in the 1930’s.

Workers Building the New State Highway

In the autumn of 1944 Vellano was a village located to the south of the ‘Gothic Line’ during World War Two. This meant that the forces of Hitler’s army and local fascists groups clashed with resistance fighters in Vellano. Vellano was then the capital town in the valley with excellent views over the foot of the valley, where allied forces were attempting to make their way over the Apennines into the Northern parts of Italy occupied by Hitler’s forces and the remains of Mussolini’s fascist regime. The conflicts of the autumn and winter of 1944/1945 were brutal and horrific, and this was a very serious time for Apennine villages like Vellano and its people. Locals will say they can remember the American Army arriving in Vellano from Montecatini Terme nearby which was the Allied Headquarters. The main battle was in December 1944 when the US Army and Indian 8th Infantry Division confronted the German/Italian Army in the Garfagnana region close to Bagni di Lucca. the Indian 8th were a special mountain troop of the British Indian Army. The Allied forces gained a small advantage but generally the Gothic Line stayed in place until the Axis collapsed in 1945. This was a torrid time for Vellano, as the Germans Army committed some particularly serious war crimes. In the last month a new stone carving of two links in a chain have been commissioned by the village to stand as a symbol of reconciliation between Italy and Germany; each link symbolising each nation. Both countries being founding members of the European Union.

Battle for the Garfagnana 1944
Links Between Italy & Germany

The 1950s were halcyon days for Vellano. With a population of about 3500 citizens and many shops and a hotel ‘La Tosca’ with a restaurant nearby where the restaurant Manero is today, before mass tourism and foreign travel was available to most people. At this time Italians’ would spend the hot summers up in the mountains appreciating the cooler breezes and from here, in certain weather, you feel and smell, the sea air! It’s still called the Svizzeria Pescatina or ‘Little Switzerland of the Pescia Hills’ today.

Restaurant La Tosca with Casa Verde visible on the Hillside top left
Albergo La Tosca – & The Locanda in the 1990s

Ferdinando Innocenti the inventor of the Lambretta and scaffolding was born in Vellano. The Lambretta being a lasting icon of the 1950’s.

An Icon of the 1950’s – Rock Hudson & Gina Lollobrigida

Vellano like most of the mountain villages has a number of seasonal festivals. For some it’s sausages, arancino or bruschetta for Vellano the most popular is the annual Chestnut Festival over two weekends in October. There are stalls and medieval costumes, as well as Castagnaccia, a type of pancake delicious with panna-cotta or chocolate sauce!

Still cooked on this ‘Gigante’ Pan

This year has seen a very important development for Vellano the renovation and opening of a new shop in Vellano. The alimentare has proved very popular; particularly the delicatessen counter with it very tasty cheeses, cured meats and bread.


Vellanaise Queue at the New Elimentare
Vellano’s New Enterprise

Over the last 10 years we have renovated Casa Verde from a much loved home to what we see today. The Holiday Apartment www.tuscanyholidays-casaverde.com which greets holiday makers and travellers in much the same way it did itinerant workers and stone masons a hundred and fifty years ago. We hope with modern facilities and comforts! In 2010 the Apartment had no electricity, hot water, bathrooms or heating system and the toilet waste went to a hole in the ground! Now with three bathrooms, central heating and double glazing (keeps heat out as well!) we welcome guests from all over the world from Portugal to Peru with over 720 guests staying in the last 10 years!

The Apartment at Casa Verde
Casa Verde

We hope to welcome you again if your returning to us or if you are excited travellers yearning to see and feel the cities of Florence, Lucca, Pisa; your Welcome.

We look forward to meeting you

www.tuscanyholidays-casaverde.com

If you have any photos of Vellano you would like to share please do by sending them to me at: info@tuscanyholidays-casaverde.com They will all be shared on this site.

Monte Sera from Vellano
Vellano’s is a Winter Wonderland


 

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