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Castelnuovo di Garfagnana – From ancient times to future prospects


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This volume seeks to make known the salient aspects of the lands of Castelnuovo, as they were and as they will be. It tries to provide a different reading from the usual monographs on old towns and on the landscape. True, they often provide useful information, but they frequently give a static, romantic, nostalgic and memory-based vision.
Although this book begins with conventional texts, written by scholars –archaeologists and geologists – who offer further documentation of the deep roots of this land of ours, it then opens up new perspectives, drawing attention to certain recent facts and to current projects, so as to provide a glimpse of future architectural and landscaping, economic and cultural projects, so that a new identity may be assigned to these lands in respect of their history and of the people who have lived in them. A renewed love.
Certainly a new air is blowing along the course of the Serchio, favoured by Unesco’s recognition of the Garfagnana as a ‘world reserve of mankind and of the biosphere’, encouraging good practices of sustainable development. The relationship between the lands of Castelnuovo and the larger area of the Garfagnana and the environmental challenge in relation to these new projects is a subject that is treated in this volume with a lucid synthesis by Fausto Giovannelli.
Many people are working so that Castelnuovo may strengthen its role as capoluogo or main town of the Garfagnana, so that it may become a centre of culture, as a basisbase for new economic activities. In this way, our people, the new companies, the whole community, will develop new skills and relations with the world outside our valley, with the rest of Tuscany and with other regions.
A few years ago these proposals were set in motion by the restoration of the Mont’Alfonso fortress. The essay by Francesca Velani, an important contribution to this volume, provides a further opportunity to get to know the spaces of the Fortress and to understand the plans for its revival and reuse. But the operation that has been called ‘the re-appropriation of memory’ must be carried out if we are to avoid this patrimony – even with its architectural structures restored – being gradually misunderstood, as has happened in the past. Today the Mont’Alfonso fortress is multifunctional, offering the possibility of hosting different activities at every time of the year.
The recuperation of the fortress must be seen in close relation with the restoration of the Rocca of Ariosto. Both of them recall the history of this area, not only for the formal qualities they express, but especially because they augment future potential, relaunching a series of cultural initiatives and events, promoting new working sectors and, in synthesis, the economic recovery of the territory.
The Rocca of Ariosto – as Luigi Ficacci notes in his beguiling essay – was until recently ‘set or disguised’ within the dense urban layout. Marco Dezzi Bardeschi’s restoration project gave a new territorial and cultural role to the Rocca. Dezzi Bardeschi – as Ficcacci observes – grasped the expressive possibilities of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana so as to ‘present it as a varied reality, an urban structure capable of expressing an adventurous geography of history and anthropology, of mountains, hills and fortresses; and of grasping Ludovico Ariosto both as myth and as poetic presence’.
So the aim of the restoration of the Rocca is to create a museum dedicated to Ludovico Ariosto and the Garfagnana, illustrated by Lucilla Bardeschi Ciulich, to propose the transformation of the fortified monument, until then used exclusively for political and administrative purposes power, into a more porous structure, a ‘joyful citadel’ in the urban centre, capable of responding to ‘the fantastic imaginative world of Ariosto’.
The commercial sector, the tourist business, the revival of the villages and buildings that dot the territory, already set in motion by intelligent initiatives of the citizens, are further projects challenging us to activate a network of relations. These will draw attention to the high-quality micro-settlements which in turn enhance the landscape and ensure a high standard of building for the future. The interventionsrestoration of the villages, rightly defined by Gilberto Bedini as the crown of around? the old centre of Castelnuovo, will aim to satisfy the requirements of tourism. Revival will also be encouraged by the support of agriculture and typical produce, by the repair of minor roads, paths and mule tracks, and by the maintenance of the geomorphological balance and of the minor waterways.
This volume re-examines the formal architectural and landscaping values of the old towns and villages through the beautiful photographs of Tommaso Teora and of the Castelnuovo photographic club. The photographs cannot unfortunately do justice to the oeno-gastronomic values generated by the people who live and work here human presence and by the daily labour, carried out according to ancient methods. This is reflected in their cultivation of the chestnut, in their work in their kitchen gardens, in the wood-fired ovens, inn the mills, but also in other precious activities worthy of being safeguarded.
With regard to the restoration of the Rocca and of the Fortress, and of the new cultural climate that results, it is worth once again recalling the words of Luigi Ficacci: these interventions can be used as steps to ‘the re-emergence of the dense filigree underlying the generating elements around which the identity-structure of the territory has developed and gradually consolidated itself. It concerns the reinterpretation and highlighting of the survival of the system of historic roads with the dense network of fortresses, fortified buildings, churches, pievi, parishes and archaeological presences in the Garfagnana, on which the Este government and production apparatus have been were grafted (primary resources; quarries and mines; fairs and markets, mills; agricultural and pastoral products; mulberries, wool, a nail factory, etc.)’.
Thanks to the initiative of private entrepreneurship in the reshaping of the city and territory of Castelnuovo, old and new economic sectors are involved. In the city centre a great operation is under way for the formal and functional remodelling of the area, and of the manufacturing sector in the Valserchio, which will make possible new commercial and service initiatives, with public and private offices, equipped for collective use and with adequate parking. This will sustain the historic activities historically present as well as the new ones envisaged, specifically organising whatever is needed for a place that will assume the role of a centre serving the whole Garfagnana.
The productive centres – the new ones, outside the old city – are also included in this general overview that interprets the territory through the lens of culture.
One example is that of the Nuova Antica Valserchio-Artes belonging to the Bertolani family, which re-proposes on a new entrepreneurial basis the creation of high-quality textiles – these too derive from ancient tradition – using innovative technology and old looms, involving massive capital outlay and indirectly attracting new attention to Castelnuovo, increasing its pool of specialised expertise.

Another example is the group Idrotherm 2000, a company that is innovative and competitive on international markets.
These firms represent an historical novelty for Castelnuovo and the Garfagnana. They are productive realities not imported from outside and not inspired by the welfare logic of the postwar period but are linked to the courageous and creative initiatives of families from our local community, a sign of tenacity and attachment to our land. These examples reinforce a cultural shift, a concept of development rooted in our history and identity, and in a lived experience made of unique social features, that puts at the centre the enhancement of the territory’s natural resources, beginning with the human ones.
The Mayor
Andrea Tagliasacchi

Additional information

Language of the book

English, Italiano


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