If you could see the village of Vallucciole as I saw it today, you would wonder – what bad could happen here? This small, isolated village is located in the hills of the Casentino, which at this time of year are awash in the bright greens and colorful flowers of spring, set off by a deep blue sky.
However, on the night of April 13, 1944, German soldiers, accompanied, according to some reports, by their Italian allies, massacred all 108 inhabitants of Vallucciole. The massacre was in retaliation for the killing, by partisans, of two German officers at a nearby mill. Men, women, and children were killed and houses looted, then burned.
We attended a memorial Mass in the small chapel above the village. We did not need to understand Italian to realize that at one point in the Mass, the celebrant read the names of all of the victims. Banners representing local groups were held high and the church bells rang. It was a very moving moment.
Afterwards, we lit a candle at the memorial at the back of the chapel and then walked down to the village. Some of the houses have been restored and are inhabited at least part of the year, but several others are still in ruins. It is hard to reconcile the beauty that is part of everyday life with the atrocities committed here. In the nearby cemetery, entire families are commemorated on headstones and it is then that you realize how young some of the victims were.
I wish I knew how to end this post, but sadly, this is a story that has no end.
Images © Melissa Corcoran.