November 1966

Yesterday, the 4th of November, was an anniversary of the devastating floods in Florence. Horrifying scenes were transmitted throughout the world, thanks to the nightly news on TV. I can still run several in my mind… waters rushing pell-mell down what were once trafficked streets, the Ponte Vecchio operating as a provisional dam to the insistent push of the flood-waters, people perched out their 3rd or 4th floor windows & balconies watching in anguish disbelief, and so on and on and on for many days and weeks afterwards. The clean-up lasted for over a decade, as an occasional plaque will remind.

IMG_5746At that same moment, similarly destructive floods hit the village of Codiponte. The water & debris washed away the Medieval bridge, the town’s only artery to the world. The right-hand part of the bridge, now graced with an elegant brick arch, was obliterated the same night as in Florence. The village houses built on mud-packed bases along the river were rocked, moved, angled off-kilter and, in some cases, parts were just plain carried away by the terrific forces of the deluge. The water level reached to the attics of some, certainly to the top of many 2nd floors. Codiponte and other towns were isolated by mud- and land-slides. Communication was interrupted. There were other inconveniences too, like no drinking water, provisions or medicines for many days.

IMG_5749The town cleaned itself up. The bridge was repaired and strengthened. Retaining walls were erected along the Aulella River to steer any future flood waters away from the borgo. And, under the banner of Progress, a brand new and reinforced concrete bridge was built a little down stream connecting the village to the Casciana Road and to what is now the SR445, graded, buttressed and asphalted in the meantime. It used to be a rutted dirt mule-track before. And remember, before 1966, the way to “San Jose” was from Monzone behind and on the other side of the chestnut covered hills of our little valley and not by way of what today is The Road through the Aulella River’s throat from Gragnola, Gassano & Aulla below.

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When tragedy strikes… car accidents, earthquakes, landslides, flooding… the Italians build and guard with vases of flowers a “Madonnina”. They skip over the part of how come the Virgin’s protection lapsed to allow such an awful & mean event to occur and, instead, rest easier knowing they have marked the location of despair so her attention may always be drawn to that tragic place. The townspeople built one on the post-flood, re-built Medieval bridge, a safe-guard and commemoration too. Above il Poggiolo is another Madonnina built after the IMG_5740huge earthquake of 1922. Once-upon-a-time, our house had a tall stone wall to cordon off the vineyard from the path up to the Borgo del Castello. It tumbled down upon the vineyard and our now houses. In any of these or other cases, safety and security are insured with a Madonnina: the Virgin Mary is watching over us. And, not a week passes that a woman of the village hasn’t refreshed the flowers or, at least, brought in some new plastic ones.

Let us be thankful. In the years You & I have been at Il Poggiolo, we’ve had our share of tragedies, the most recent of a Fire!!! Now, I say a little pray and hope for the best. How Italian! Gads.

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