Fiano is a village in the comune of Pescaglia that lies half way, in a beautifully scenic position, on the road going from Val Pedogna to Val Freddana.
I’d visited Fiano before during its delightful Christmas market (one of the best in the area – well worth going to) and found it an attractive, if not especially notable, place stretching into three well-defined sections with a height differential of over three hundred feet from upper to lower “frazioni”.
Fiano has a big church (probably too big for today’s needs) built by the efforts of the then parish priest Don Quilici between 1912 and 1923, and replacing the original one which was collapsing. I have been unable to find out more information about the original church but the present building, although not exactly to my taste, built in a pseudo-Romanesque style, has, at least, a fantastic panoramic position over the whole area.
The church has a single nave with a transept.
The bell tower is much older and one can spot medieval stone work in its lower section.
In the church, a victim of Nazi-fascism, Don Aldo Mei (parish priest here from 1935 to 1944) is buried. This is his tomb.
In a nearby glass case, are displayed the glasses and clothes (stained with blood) Don Mei wore when he was executed by the Nazis in 1944.
But who was Don Mei?
I managed to get his story as follows: On August 2 1944, shortly after celebrating Mass in Fiano’s parish church, Don Mei was arrested by the SS on the charge that he had given refuge to Jews, fascist regime deserters and partisans. He was taken to Lucca and sentenced to death. Lucca’s archbishop, Monsignor Torrini, was unable to save him and on August 4th Don Mei was taken by the walls of Lucca just outside Porta Elisa.
“I’m dying because of hate’s dark storm, I, who only wanted to live for love”, he declared . Don Mei was forced to dig his own grave and then killed with twenty-eight gunshots by the SS firing squad. Poignantly, before the execution he forgave and blessed his murderers.
Here is Don Mei’s memorial on the spot in Lucca he was executed:
This is the last view Don Mei saw before he died:
Fiano’s parishioners did not forget Don Mei’s heroic action and they have unveiled a memorial to him opposite the parish church.
I only discovered the story of Don Mei because I finally decided to stop at the statue I’d spotted. It’s a good thing if one decides to stop and look instead of saying, “Ah well, next time”, or declaring, “It’s not important enough for me to stop.”
In 1997 I visited various war cemeteries and was completely overwhelmed by the numbers of young men fallen. In particular, at Verdun, where the majority of victims remain unknown by name, I met a nice English lady who said she was doing her “holocaust” tour. I feel there is enough around Lucca province to merit a similar kind of tour.
After all, through the strong socialist leanings of such workers as the marble quarries of Massa and Carrara and the independent spirit of the people of this region, there has always been a strong opposition to fascism, even during the period when it was most rampant. Indeed, the area of Carrara was awarded the Cross of Valour of the Italian republic, much like the inhabitants of Malta were awarded the George Cross, the highest honour for civilian valour.
Lucca is not only about wonderful olive oil, great wines, fine dining, courteous people, amazing heritage, seductive music and beautiful scenery; it is also about strength and determination in the face of overwhelming odds and a robust stand against oppression an inhumanity. This is, I feel, fully personified in such people as Don Mei who was killed when he was just thirty-two, but whose altruistic life is remembered today by those who care about life’s greatest values.