More magic

I mentioned in a recent blog post that there was something magical to me about fog and that autumn mornings in the Casentino Valley offer lots of magic. That was an understatement, as you can see from the photos in this gallery.

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Images © Melissa Corcoran.

The road to Porciano: Consuma to Porciano

After the road crests at the Consuma Pass, it dips down to the hamlet of Ponticelli. There’s a bus stop here, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, where the bus from Florence offloads passengers going to towns in the Casentino and the busses from the Casentino offload the passengers going to Florence. For the most part, the timing is coordinated, but the first time it was a little nerve-wracking, wondering if we’d be stranded here!

Ponticelli bus stop.

Ponticelli bus stop.

After Ponticelli, the road climbs again through a heavily-forested area (as I mentioned in another post, the wood used for the scaffolding and machines used to build the dome of the Duomo came from the forests of the Casentino), but at one point, the land drops away from the road and I can see Poppi and the valley opening up before me. From here, I am usually narrating the journey in my head for the benefit of my siblings, wishing they could be along for the adventure and thinking how much they would enjoy this trip. When I am bringing someone to Porciano for the first time, I try not to narrate – I don’t want to impose my feelings on their first impressions.

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Looking into the Casentino Valley towards Poppi.

The bar that marks the turn.

The bar that marks the turn towards Porciano.

Then it’s time to make the turn at Scarpaccia, where a bar (meaning a place to get food and drink, not just alcohol) marks the turn. Now I’m almost to Porciano and I swear I can feel the tug of the place. Soon Castello di Romena comes into view. No matter the angle I see it from – from Porciano, on SR70 from Bibbiena, or from here – I get a catch in my heart because it’s so beautiful.

 

Castello di Romena.

Castello di Romena.

A couple more twists and turns and Porciano comes into sight. I’m like a showman when someone is with me – if no one is behind me, I stop the car and point out the village with Castello di Porciano behind it. Then it’s down into Stia, a little town of which I am very fond, a turn onto a small bridge across the Arno River, with the centro storico on the right and the football (soccer) field and La Rana, a restaurant overlooking the Arno, on the left.

A turn onto Via Dante Alighieri and I’m almost there. I pass the house where a dog named Zoe and her canine companion whose name I haven’t found out yet live, hoping to catch a glimpse of them both; if I see them, I sometimes pull over and distribute scritches! Another turn, and Porciano comes into view again. Different times of day and seasons have shown me the hills ahead glowing with light or wind ruffling the olive trees, displaying the silvery undersides of their leaves. In the fields on either side of the road, I often see a shepherd with his flock. Another turn or two and I’m in the piazzale below the castle. I pass the local cemetery, turn into the drive, and I have arrived.

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As I said, it’s a journey I’ve made many times; I never tire of it and it is never less than beautiful.
Images © Melissa Corcoran

What bad could happen here?

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.

Vallucciole.

Vallucciole.

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.

Ruins of houses.

Ruins of houses.

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.

Memorial in the chapel.

Memorial in the chapel.

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.

The cemetery.

I wish I knew how to end this post, but sadly, this is a story that has no end.

Images © Melissa Corcoran.