To say that yesterday was profound would be an understatement. However, it's the best word I have. I learned more about the history of the House of Medici in this region, and deepened friendships with my Italian counterparts. Read on...
I gathered with three other women interested in the history and future of the Mugello Valley region- first, to have caffè and pastry in town- and once fortified, we drove up into the Appenine foothills. We stopped briefly in Firenzuola, a town founded in the 14th century and nearly completely destroyed in World War II. It was strategically important in the time of the Medici, and planned in 1350. It sat astride the road between Florence and Bologna...and its name means "small Florence". We passed through on the way to a small historic mill a few kilometers west.
The hillside south of the mill Coniale, with their bakery in the foreground.
The reservoir above the mill:
Another view of their bakery building
Father and son regaled us with mill information and technical details.
Some of the milling machinery:
We drove on, to the German cemetery where over 30,000 German soldiers of WWII are buried. This region was the site of a huge battle against the allies.
And after this somber experience, we had to lighten it up a bit, before driving back down the mountain to a historic Osteria:
Then we came upon an immense building along the road, and a beautiful lake. I asked aloud, "WHAT is that?" and Marta said, "It's a palace from the Medici era." So nonchalant about these places!
See images of the building here (a company restored the Villa Le Maschere complex and turned it into a resort), and below is my artistic interpretation of the place:
The House of Medici was founded by people from this region, and there are still palazzi here which you can tour. Mugello was the "granary of Florence" and so it is fitting that our work here revolves around historic grist mills, heritage grains, and the possibility of bringing back SOME form of appreciation and interest in the old ways. It has a small start so far but my colleagues would like it to gain ground (see what I did there?).
So, I visited the countryside where Medici family members once lived, where thousands died in the Second World War, and where grain has been milled traditionally since Medieval times.
Rosana, one of my new friends here said along the way, "Confucius was quoted as saying, 'We have two lives. The second begins when we realize we have only one.'" Indeed...