Back in Italy after two years of absence because of the pandemic. Here in Le Marche in the lee of the Northern Appenines is a little, lesser known, corner of heaven. Greener than Tuscany and with wider expanses than neighbouring Umbria , Le marche is characterized by ridge roads running down to the coast at Senigalia and Ancona 20 miles away.
This is a snatched visit unlike our usual summers, to make sure all is well with our home in the citta of Pergola in Le Marche: one of the original papal states. Pergola , a town of only 7,500 is actually is a city because it has a Duomo . The campanile of the cathedral is almost next door . With great regularity its magnificent C 12th bells ring out the Angelus every evening but on Sundays it's almost non- stop.
Partly to escape the noise that totally prohibits conversation on our terrace and partly to re-visit favourite places, we went off towards Arcevia today. The road twists and turns, up one ridge and down and then up another and down again, rolling through landscapes unchanged in 400 years. Just before we reached the small hilltop town of Arcevia, we took a fairly torturous white road road off the main road up to the tiny 12th century monastery at the top of Monte San' Angelo. A single picnic table there and a panoramic view of the mountains make for complete peace.
But on the way to the top, we always stop for a few minutes in silence before the substantial ruins of a remote farmhouse. Only the stone wall of the front of the building remains, complete with gaping empty doorway and gaping empty windows frames. In front of it candles are often lit besides the flag pole for the Italian flag. Usually there are fresh flowers; in winter dried flowers take their place.
During the war the farm house, owned by the Mazzarini family, was a safe, isolated base for the Italian resistance: the partigiani. With its sweeping views of any approach from lower down the mountain and its network of tracks over the hills known only to the locals, it was as reasonably secure as any such place might be.
But on May 4 1944, two thousand German soldiers, supported by armoured vehicles poured into Arcevia province. The partigiani were betrayed and in a dawn round up, the farm was surrounded. The Mazzarini family, together with some thirty others, including some Fascisti prisoners they were sheltering, were ordered out of the house and mown down where they stood against the farmhouse wall. Their number included little 6 year old Palmina Mazzarini The plaque lists all their names and their ages.
There wasn't a space in my memoir to write about the Mazzarini family. This is like my kind of tribute to them.
'Inside Out : a Life in Stages' will be published by Red Door Press on October 21. See the link below. Its also available from Amazon and Waterstones