There are four reasons for visiting nearby Borgo a Mozzano’s square (Piazza Marconi) in front of its railway station.
The first reason is the obvious one of catching a train from there. (But be warned, not all trains that stop at Bagni di Lucca’s Fornoli station stop at Borgo!).
What are the other three?
The second reason is contained in the station itself. It houses the’ Museo Della Memoria’ opened in April 2012.
The initiative is one of the objectives that the ‘Committee for the Recovery and Enhancement of the Gothic Line’, which passed through Borgo a Mozzano, had when it was established.
The museum contains photographs and oral testimonies of those who lived through the dramatic and terrible moments of the last war. It holds relics, posters of the period and contemporary documents (e.g. warnings to those who broke the Nazi curfew i.e. execution).
The museum is open to the public on Thursdays from 9 am to 1 pm and, on special occasions, like the Azalea festival. More information is available at http://www.lineagoticalucchesia.com/museo-borgo-a-mozzano.html
Special visits can also be had by phoning 3472420419 or 0583888881
Visits to the Gothic Line itself can also be arranged. I’ve written various posts on this fortification wall which once divided Italy and has been best preserved in our area. See, for example:
https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/war-and-peace/ , https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/10/17/il-castellaccio/ ,https://longoio.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/secret-mission-across-the-gothic-line-a-success/ , https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/olive-oil-persian-cats-and-the-gothic-line/
It’s ironic that at this very moment walls are being rebuilt throughout Europe, the latest being across the Brenner Pass, to ‘protect’ Europe against the millions of immigrants expected this summer. Where have the banners of ‘we welcome refugees’ disappeared to, I wonder?
Incidentally, the old station building is also HQ for the local Ferrari owners’ club and the Alpini soldiers’ section.
Indeed, there are further military connections in this square for the third reason for stopping at Piazza Marconi is to admire the war memorial. The original statue of the soldier was, in fact, melted down for the war effort. The present ‘Fante Glorioso’ was sculpted by local artist Gilberto Malerbi who also did the fine statue to Salvo d’Aquisto at Bagni di Lucca.
The fourth reason is to read the inscription on the stone which is placed in a well-kept garden in the centre of the square. It’s dedicated to the Brazilian regiment which, together with the US Buffalo soldiers, were part of the allied force which liberated Borgo a Mozzano from Nazi oppression at the end of 1944.
It’s not often realised that Brazil entered the war on the allied side in 1942 when its shipping began to be attacked by German U-Boats. In 1944 Brazil contributed 25,000 soldiers to the allied war effort in North Africa and then in Italy where, in the Valle del Serchio, it also liberated Gallicano and Barga from the Nazi hordes. It lost close to 1,000 soldiers in combat. If you go to Pistoia you will see another memorial to the brave Brazilians, designed by Olavo Redig de Camposa, fellow architect to Niemeyer who planned Brazil’s capital,Brazilia.
There are a further three monuments to the F. E. B. (which was the only South American country to participate in WWII) in Northern Italy.
It’s worth remembering the Brazilians contribution to WWII especially during this year where, despite some home problems, the country will be hosting the Olympic games. See the games web site at http://www.rio2016.com/en/olympic-games
Translated, the inscription on the stone (which is also written in Brazilian Portuguese) reads “On 29th September the Brazilian expeditionary forces (F. E. B.) entered into Borgo a Mozzano. This plaque is placed in eternal memory and recognition of the contribution of the F. E. B. towards the fight for liberation from Nazi occupation and the re-establishment of liberty and democracy.
Borgo a Mozzano 25 October 2014.”
You may be wondering why the Brazilian Expeditionary Force emblem is a pipe-smoking snake.
That’s because in the early part of WWII Brazilian politicans used to say that Brazil had as much chance of joining in on the allied side as one seeing a snake smoke a pipe. It’s like our ‘pigs can fly!’ The F. E. B. proved them wrong and, to mock the saying, reversed its meaning and used it as their emblem. Indeed, the Brazilian soldiers were known as the Smoking Snakes!
So next time you’re at Borgo a Mozzano railway station don’t just gaze at the train timetable and wait. Have a little look around you. There’s more than meets the eye!