……what a surprise!

A spontaneous visit to a long ago colleague of Antonios, Carlo Travaglini, resulted in a very kind offer to use his house in Tuscany. Well! Who could refuse an offer like that.

We scheduled in a time to visit and received the contact details. Taponecco.

Carlos Front Door

We could not find Taponecco on any of the maps, although we knew it was near the far north west border of Tuscany and around the Apennines (more mountains). Fortunately Tom Tom Ezzi knew where to go (as usual!!) and we set off in the right direction. Having no idea what to expect, a dark, grey, gloomy, raining day, we became less and less convinced of our decision the more remote we became. Arriving at Taponecco, near dark, we were ushered by neighbors to Carlos home, set the heaters and pretty well hit the hay.

The next morning was a crystal clear, blue sky, sunny day! Everything looked brighter. Carlos beautifully restored, original family home, is wonderful………….. solid, spacious and charming. It’s amazing how little we seem to carry with us in the campervan and how far it can spread when introduced to a larger space!!! We made ourselves at home.

Next we decided to explore the area and heard there was an Agritourism up the road that served quite good food. Planning to arrive at lunchtime and take pot luck we did not expect it to be open, let alone any good. Once again ………… surprise!!! The Mantagna Verde (www.montagnaverde.it) Agritourism facility is amazing, built around a restored tower dating back to 1000 AD, by a family committed to investing in and helping maintain the antiquity of the area, the Maffei family.

Lunch was not only available, it was delicious. Using local produce, biological where possible, our meal was simple, hearty and traditional. Chestnut woods are abundant in this area and as such Chestnuts are a staple of the diet.  Chestnuts and were included in our lunch in a couple of interesting ways. We met a lovely young family, Lara, Alessio and Samuele, and joined them for dinner the following night.

Taponecco is very unique and has a sister village, 15 minutes on from Montagne Verde, Apella. They are situated in Lunigiana, nestled between the coast of Cinque Terre and the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. Their history spans the ages, being one of the most welcome sights if you were crossing the mountain pass on your way to Rome, an ancient path used by pilgrims, merchants and armies, mentioned in literature, as early as 994.

The epitome of the “little hill town!!!”, virtually complete and original, untouched and tiny. We have driven past or through thousands of these towns, and now we are residents, if only for a few days.  At it’s height, Taponecco had up to 350 residents, it now has 35! Apella 10! There are more houses than residents and many of them stand empty. Still, both towns feel to be thriving. The locals are happy, busy and wonderfully proud of their home. The street lights are on every night. I wonder how the town can afford itself…….. water, electricity, gas. The locals of course, contribute to these costs, but  local Commune must be footing a big part of the bill.

Walking through the little streets of Taponecco, with dusk approaching it was quiet, residents settled in for the night.  Built on an interesting tunnel structure, I never knew what I might find around a corner, through a tunnel.  A dead end, a courtyard shared by 3 or 4 families, another tunnel with a tiny red vespa truck, defying the rules of space!  He might have got it in but I cannot see how he will get it out!  A rustle of hay, and a closer peak reveals the stable of an animal nestled in under the house.

The sweetest church, no more than 4x8 meters.

On a visit to Apella, we met two local ladies who had been into the woods to collect long bundles of skinny timber, carrying them on their backs, fuel for their stoves!  Of course, Antonio began a conversation and discovered they knew brothers and cousins and friends of Antonio’s from Melbourne!!

Unknown to us, Taponecco and Apella have a strong tie with Melbourne, Australia. We discovered this in a very small museum, that seemed to be closed.

Like most of rural Europe in this period, it was no longer easy for families to live from market gardens, a few sheep and a small amount of trade. Many men, sometimes even whole families, would leave the area after the Autumn chestnut harvest, find work in cities near and far, and return to bring in the hay. After the 2nd world war, the courageous saw immigration as an option to create a new and prosperous life. Many of the families from Taponecco chose Melbourne, Australia, and ended up in the Meat Industry, as did Carlo, Antonio’s friend, and a number of other families.

There, in this tiny museum, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, was a photo of about 35 people, set in Melbourne in the 1960’s. Antonio was blown away to see so many familiar faces, and a piece of history that could just as easily have included him, an immigrant in Melbourne at that time. A wonderful link for Antonio and one that sends shivers down my spine!



3 Comments on “Taponecco”

  1. Douglas says:

    This is moving, almost spooky. Glad to hear you are still tying good-food knots in your stomachs, and with friends from far and wide. You also seem to have a kind of symbiotic relationship with the van: won’t you be sad to leave him (I guess he’s a bloke?) behind? Cheers for now.

  2. Olga says:

    All I can say is wow! hope one day I can do a 1/4 of what you two have been doing and seeing!

  3. Birgit & Arturo says:

    I’m pleased for Antonio and for you. What an interesting encounter with the locals of Taponecco and a WONDERFUL STORY!
    These are travel experiences, so personal and so special, no guide and no friend can recommend.

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