The comune of Bagni di Lucca in the Val di Lima holds the record of being the largest mountain comune in Italy. This shows in the many hill villages that surround it, all of which are well documented and described in Debra Kolkka’s post at http://bellabagnidilucca.com/2014/01/22/the-villages-of-bagni-di-lucca/.
There is a total of thirty-four comuni in Lucca province. Here is a complete list of them by descending population.
The asterisked ones are the comuni in the Mediavalle and Garfagnana areas
COMUNE POPULATION POP. PER SQ KM NO. OF FAMILIES
|11||Forte dei Marmi||7.619||846,6||3.577|
|12||Borgo a Mozzano*||7.123||98,4||2.882|
|13||Bagni di Lucca*||6.152||37,4||2.991|
|14||Castelnuovo di Garfagnana*||6.026||211,4||2.448|
|20||Piazza al Serchio*||2.463||90,9||1.000|
|24||Castiglione di Garfagnana*||1.828||37,6||770|
|26||San Romano in Garfagnana||1.432||55,0||594|
|30||Fabbriche di Vergemoli*||831||27||456|
What one immediately notices is that the mountain comunes make up the bulk of the comuni and that they are also the ones with the lowest population densities per sq. kilometre and, indeed, the ones with the lowest number of inhabitants. It’s amazing to note the difference between the most populated comune of Lucca with over eighty-seven thousand inhabitants and the least, Giuncugnano, with just four hundred and eighty five souls! (Please note I’m using the Italian convention of using a comma as a decimal point and a decimal point as a comma in the above figures)
Molazzana is one of those comuni (municipalities) of Lucca province which makes up the area known as the Garfagnana stretching north of the Mediavalle area of Bagni di Lucca. Molazzana counts just over a thousand inhabitants and has an area of thirty-one square kilometres. It, therefore, has to be counted one of the smallest of comuni in this part of the world.
Molazzana itself presents a “modern” appearance. It’s not that the houses are out of keeping with those found in more traditional villages – they are not out of scale and the rooflines are, as usual, charming – but the town seems thoroughly “reconstructed”.
I eventually found out that Molazzana’s present appearance is due to two main causes:
- Significant past landslides.
- Substantial war-time destruction
From October 1944 to January 1945 the allies were stuck behind a line which crossed Molazzana. The supply lines had been gravely stretched and a hard winter threatened. When the allies were able to move on at the start of 1945 Molazzana was in the front line and suffered severe bombing, hence that “modern” appearance today.
Despite this, there are some interesting places to visit and the town centre still preserves its original street plan with quite picturesque narrow streets.
Molazzana’s church of San Bartolomeo is in the parish of Gallicano and was renovated in 1680. It had to be rebuilt in the nineteenth century after a landslide had almost totally destroyed it and presents a very simple exterior.
The interior is more interesting with a nave, two eighteenth century side altars in plaster and, behind the high altar, a statue of the town’s patron saint, surrounded by a host of angels.
Molazzana’s castle is one of three in the comune. The other two are at Sassi and Cascio. It is in in the highest part of town and dates from the fifteenth century. There are still remains of the old surrounding walls, despite the almost entire destruction of the main keep that has taken place over time.
The upper part of the castle consists of a memorial park dedicated to the fallen and victims of fascism.
The best thing about the castle, however, are the views to be had from it which stretch over the Serchio valley and encompass the Apennines and the Apuan ranges. These photographs taken in February 2006 will give some idea of what one can see from Molazzana’s castle.
The town is livelier in the summer when, in August, it hosts a Mexican festival with traditional Mexican foods, especially tacos and tortillas, and beverages, children’s entertainment and live music. I’ve been to it once and it’s quite fun with mojitos and beer to add to the sparkle.
I still have to discover, however, why Molazzana, of all places, becomes Mexican for three day of the year!