From My Tuscan Window

Chapter 16
History of Gioviano
The origins of Gioviano as a human settlement are lost in the mists of time, but there is little doubt in my mind that the some of the first permanent inhabitants were the Etruscans who were bent on expanding their sphere of influence northward toward the Garfagnana Valley and into the lands inhabited by the Apuanian Ligurians. Thus, that is where I will attempt to weave Gioviano into the fabric of the complex tapestry of events that constitute the history of Tuscany.

Professional historians who rely strictly on the written record, and archaeologists who rely strictly on evidence left behind by pre-literate peoples may be somewhat disturbed by my subjective assumptions. However, I have formulated these ideas over the past 32 years in a personal quest to understand the role that the Giovianini played--sometimes only as observers to the events that unfolded in miniature both on the valley floor below and on the Apennine peaks and passes on the far side of the Serchio.

I am grateful for the efforts of those who have preceded me in attempting to formulate the history of our community from the few records and oral traditions that have survived. It is surprising that these documents still exist after so many centuries of war, earthquake, famine, emigration, and the burning and discarding of thousands of historic documents by subsequent generations unaware of their importance to historians.

In 1729, Mariano Barsanti wrote Notizia del Comune di Gioviano (News of the Commune of Gioviano) from which I have adopted some of his theories about the early history of our village and the origins of the name “Gioviano”. Mansueto Lombardi Lotti’s Memorie Storiche di Gioviano (Historical Memories of Gioviano), published in 1925, has also been an important source of information. In addition, I am indebted to the more recent efforts of our dear friend, il maestro (teacher) Ermanno Paoli, to preserve our heritage, some of which was published two years after his sudden and untimely death by the Istituto Storico Lucchese in 2004. I am also grateful for the efforts of Mariella Barsanti, our friend and next-door neighbor, for her efforts to preserve remnants of documents that have survived to this day. From these and other sources, I will do my best to bring to life, what can often be a dull and erudite subject.

Let us, for this purpose, think of Gioviano and its inhabitants as spectators in a drama that unfolded before their eyes over a period of nearly 3,000 years. These residents were also participating in their own individual dramas in relation to their families, neighbors and the world at large. Because Gioviano is so strategically perched on the side of the foothills of the Apuanian Alps, the stage of events that unfolded before the eyes of the Giovianini was huge and dramatic, as viewed from my Tuscan window to this day.

Often caught between competing forces who were attempting to control the Apuanian and Apennine passes, Gioviano seems to have been spared some of the major assaults and depredations that impacted less fortunate towns and villages, thus enhancing the status of the inhabitants as observers. At times, however, they were swept into the fray as unwilling participants in events beyond their comprehension or control.

The drama of human life, in general, proceeds without a script, and it is only in hindsight that we can glimpse the events that caught up each individual soul in each generation. Every one of us marches through life, each with a unique and individual story to tell in each succeeding generation as long as humans survive on this planet.

Revised March 3, 2008
Copyright 2005-2006 George H. Russell
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