A bit of history.
About 110km northwest of Firenze you’ll find the Lunigiana region of Toscana in Massa-Carrara province, which is nestled between the coast of Cinque Terre and the Parco Nazionale Appennino Tosco-Emiliano (Tuscan-Emilian Apennines National Park).
Lunigiana was first occupied some 10,000 years ago, with evidence of Neanderthal man being found in the caves of Equi Terme. Stele statues, human figures carved in stone and dating back to the third millennium BC, continue to be discovered in the region. My nonni were born in the ‘commune of Licciana Nardi’ in the villages of Apella and Taponecco.
While it’s been difficult to get much historical information about their specific villages we do know a bit about the surrounding areas.
Licciana Nardi is found in the high course of the Magra River and it extends from the Appennine ridge to the end of the valley. Going back to the 12th century, Licciana was the door to the Lagastrello Pass and a place of high traffic. The medieval road from Tavernelle (where my nonni went to school) was an important trade route leading from Parma. Tavernelle was a popular stopping point, bustling with guest houses.
During World War II, when my nonni were young children, Lunigiana found itself just north of the Gothic Line and occupied by the Germans, who heavily defended the strategic route to the North over the Cisa Pass. The region was badly bombed by both the Germans and the Allies, destroying many historic buildings and bridges. The population suffered terrible losses. Starvation was widespread, as were the brutal German reprisals for local Partisan activities.
As they were farmers they were able to sustain themselves, however I cannot imagine what it would have been like to live in such a remote place at that time.
Many of the medieval hillside villages in Italy, like Taponecco and Apella, survived the war and today are protected as historic places. At its height, Taponecco had up to 350 residents, it now has 35 and Apella has 10.
Featured image: A complete male stele statue that was found in 1975 at “Cavallino” of Taponecco, when a road was widened. Probably dates back to the Eneolithic Age (between 3400/3300 and 2300/2000 BC)
Image and info credit: Museo delle Statue Stele Lunigianesi, Pontremoli, Italia, and Ciao Lunigiana