Rock-Hard

Pian Della Rocca is usually by-passed on one’s way from Gallicano to Borgo a Mozzano and beyond. Apart from a monumental electricity generating station and some useful garages for revisione (MOT) and car repair there’s not too much to stop there for except for an excellent espresso at its one and only bar.

Rocca, above it, is quite another fish, however. Rocca clearly mean rock in Italian and it’s the ideal place to build a stronghold. The village has one dating back to at least the fourteenth century, if not before.

Rocca rises 314 meters (1030 feet) above sea level and is built on a steep slope of a hill dominating the valley of the Serchio and Lima. Thanks to its strategic location it was a stronghold of the Suffredinghi clan for many year before Lucca took it over.

The settlement retains the characteristics of a medieval village with stone arches and narrow cobbled streets, clearly part of the castle keep at one stage.

At its top are the ruins of the old fortress and the base of a circular tower.

Obviously, a more ample archaeological dig would be needed to uncover the extensive castle ruins such as has been done to great effect at Benabbio. But one can still see the slits where arrows would be flung at the enemy

The village church was built between the eleventh and twelfth centuries and is attached to a spacious rectory which was once the seat of Suffredinghi and the Antelminelli. We’ve visited part of the rectory before, which contain an interesting collection of old farm implements, but it was closed when I went to Rocca the other day.

The road leading to Rocca has a chapel dedicated to the Alpini on whose wall are the names killed or missing in two wars in Borgo a Mozzano comune.

Unlike the other Alpini chapel on top of Bagni di Lucca’s Colle, this chapel has nothing modern about it. It’s a conversion of an old oratory. From it an avenue called the avenue of the fallen rises up into the surrounding sweet hills and behind the chapel are a series of coats of arm of the various regiments involved.

It should be remembered that the Alpini suffered the worst losses in World War II when Mussolini had the crazy idea of aiding Hitler in the conquest of Russia. The Alpini, because of their experience of mountain combat, were meant to conquer the Caucasians but instead got bogged down in the River Don valley to disastrous effect and with inadequate clothing and ammunition. Just look at any war memorial in our valley and you’ll see the longest list of soldiers commemorated on them is those “dispersi nella Russia”.

It’s difficult to realise this context of war in such a beautiful setting ,especially when one sees the gentle countryside dotted with the  picturesque hay stacks one builds in this part of the world.

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