Thursday, December 29, 2022

A Farewell to 2022 in Florence & Tuscany, Part 1

Well, 2022 was an adventure, un anno tosto (a tough year) as the daughter of my 90+ year old neighbor remarked to me on the phone the day after Christmas.  The mother is Marisa and her daughter Paola.  More about them later.  See Part II of this blog post.

After the Tuscan population was steamrolled by Omicron in early January, my friend Deborah and I, wearing masks as was everyone, made our annual getaway to the Tuscan ski resort Abetone.  Brilliantly cold and clear, the setting was the one we found below.

The trail through the woods is a ski run. Alas, this December, this image is a mirage.  Probably due to climate change, the temperatures are above freezing, there has been torrential rainfall.  No snow at a ski resort.  We're still hoping things will change by February at least...

The same month brought the annual International Holocaust Day of Remembrance on January 27, 2022. The Uffizi Gallery unveiled a new acquisition, a portrait of young woman with closed eyes entitled "Flame" by genocide victim German Expressionist art Rudolf Levy, who was deported from Florence. 

Raised in an Orthodox home, Levy faced opposition in his artistic career choice.  Born in Germany, he lived in Paris, Mallorca, New York, Dubrovnik and Ischia, seeking refuge.  He moved to Florence in 1940 and when the Nazis occupied Italy in 1943, he went underground in Florence.  Arrested by the Gestapo, imprisoned briefly in Le Murate, he was taken to Auschwitz and died there in 1944.

Stumbling stones ("pietre di inciampo in Italian) are square-shaped memorials placed in the sidewalks of the streets of Florence.

The stumbling stone located outside his hiding place -- a friend's apartment at piazza Santo Spirito no. 9 -- was placed there this year to ensure that posterity will not forget Rudolf Levy and others who suffered the same fate.

Well, World War II appeared in a July outing to Abetone in the company of Robert Shackelford and Harding University in Florence.  I had helped set up the trip months ahead of time (in terms of logistics, arranging for mountain bikes etc.) so of course I was invited to come along.  A real blessing since the summer of 2022 was one of the hottest on record -- unrelenting heat and no rain for months.
It was even warm in Abetone, and cool only at the very top of the ski lift.

On the way down from the mountain, Robbie, the student group and myself stopped at 
the Museum of the Gothic Line in Pianosinatico, six miles south of Abetone, which I had never heard of before.  The Gothic Line was a heavily guarded German line of defense during World War II designed to cut Italy in half from east to west, from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Adriatic coast. Pianosinatico was right on the Gothic Line, so the museum was opened in 2019.  There are also hikes of varying lengths
to WW2 bunkers that depart from the site.

Here we are at the entrance to the museum.  Robbie is on the far right, with the 
director of the museum, hand on her hip, to the left.

The museum is divided into four rooms, each devoted to a protagonist of the WW2 campaign: partisan resistance fighters, Italian fascists, American soldiers and their German counterparts.

I was amazed to find the military patch of the 10th Mountain Division, which had trained on skis at an altitude of 9,200 ft. at Camp Hale, Colorado, before arriving in the mountains around Abetone in 1944.
This was only six years before Abetone native Zeno Colò won the gold medal in the men's downhill and giant shalom skiing at the Aspen, Colorado world championships.

The Americans left their footprint on the Apennine mountains here, as you can see from the Coca Cola bottle and the packages of K rations and even Milk Duds (!).  .

They even left behind an Italian phrase book.

Unfortunately, a group of partisan resistance fighters attacked a car with German soldiers in Pianosinatico, killing an officer and an enlisted man on September 27, 1944.  The Nazis rounded up 11 men in the village on the same day and shot them in revenge.  Nine were over the age of 55 and one of them, Tullio Levi, was a Jew from Parma who thought he had found a safe and remote place to hide.

In the spirit of my photo taken along the walkway to the museum,
 rest in peace.

Flowers thrive in the pure mountain air.

As for Pianosinatico, there are currently more ghosts than residents; 
the population currently stands at 76.
Of these, according to info online, "24 are unmarried, 34 are married or separated, two are divorced and 16 are widowed.  The majority have gone to either elementary or middle school 
and one person is illiterate."
Times seems to have stood still in this tiny hamlet 3,000 ft. above sea level, whose destiny, evidently, is to be a guardian of history.

But as I am saying farewell to 2022 in Florence and Tuscany, 
there's still the second half of the year
 to report on.

                                                                         reporting live from Beautiful Florence
                                                                -- Rosanna

No comments:

Post a Comment