Lusignana - its location, history
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
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:
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 commando operations included the
Speedwell (September 1943) and the
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.
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 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.
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.
for further details.
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