Lusignana: location, history & people

Lusignana


Lusignana -  its location, history & people

Lusignana is a small village on the South Western facing slopes of the Apennines. It comprises two hamlets, Vignolo and Posponte, which face each other across a valley and are about half a mile apart. Our house is at Vignolo, the larger of the two hamlets. For an historical overview of the area click here.

During the winter months the population of Vignolo is no more than 15, but during the summer months this swells to over 300. In August is a sagra (local village festival) at which there is communal dining in the village hall every night - a great culinary and social experience! (For backgound info on the event click here).

There are two other English couples who own property in the village. Most of the permanent residents are native Italians; although their English is limited they are extremely friendly and make every effort to communicate (thank goodness for Italian body language!).

Pre-20th Century History .....
The Lunigiana was well populated in pre-Christian times but the native peoples (the Liguri) were overwhelmed by the mercenaries of the Roman Empire and ultimately assimilated. Little is known of their culture - all that remains are stone Stelae, the best examples of which may be seen at the Castello del Piagnaro museum in Pontremoli.

The Lunigiana has more castles per square mile than anywhere else in Italy. This reflects the stategic importance of the area as a gateway from the Po Valley to central Italy.

The village of Lusignana is named after the Lusignan family who were originally based near Poitiers in modern France. Legend has it that during the 10th century they were awarded the fief of Lusignana for services rendered in fighting muslim forces originating from North Africa. Although ultimately dying out in the late 15th century, the dynasty was of pan-European importance and were one-time kings of Cyprus, Jerusalem and Armenia. Documentation on the history of Lusignana is available on this site as follows:
World War II ....
The Lunigiana was devastated during the second world war - Aulla and Villafranca were heavily bombed and the the two main railway lines through the Magra valley (one to Parma and the other to Genoa) were targets both for partisans and for Allied special forces.

Allied Special Operations
Allied commando operations included the British Operation Speedwell (September 1943) and the American Operation Ginny II (March 1944), both of which were largely unsuccessful; indeed, all the Americans and four of the British were quickly captured and executed. Only a British officer and NCO survived (the officer spending the rest of the war in captivity).

More positively, on 27th December 1944 the British launched Operation Galia in which 33 SAS soldiers were parachuted into the Lunigiana. Their role was to tie up Axis forces and thus relieve pressure on the 92nd US Infantry Division which was struggling to maintain its position on the Gothic Line. The mission was spectacularly successful and managed to tie up 6,000 enemy troops. Furthermore the British suffered no fatalities, although six SAS personnel were captured and spent the rest of the war in captivity.

Bomber Command
Large numbers of bomber aircraft flew over the Lunigiana on their way to attack industrial targets in the Po valley. Inevitably some didn't make it - notably a Wellington Mark X which crashed near Bratto, North-West of Pontremoli. For details click here.

Partisan Activities
Partisan activity is a key theme of the Museum of the Resistance located near Fosdinovo and worth a visit, especially if you have some Italian language skills. German/Italian Fascist response to partisan operations was brutal. Terror tactics were used against the civilian population, especially in 1944 during Operation Wallenstein. Details of the reprisal killings can be found in our High Lunigiana and Commune of Fivizzano documentation.

Special Operations Executive (SOE) officers were parachuted into the region to liaise with partisan groups. In tbis regard the testimony of Frank Hayhurst is of interest.

PoWs
After the armistice between the Allies and Italy (8th Sept 1943) large numbers of Allied prisoners were released and many were helped to evade capture by German/Italian Fascist forces through the efforts of local villagers. Click here for further details.

 
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la pieve di sorano
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