Thursday, April 19, 2012

A visit to Stignano of Buggiano, ancestral site of large Spadoni family

One of the two doors to Stignano. Behind is
nearby Buggiano Castello.

Wednesday, April 18
Carlo Spadoni has invited me to accompany him to Stignano, in the hills above Borgo a Buggiano, the home of our common ancestors of about 600 years ago. We take his car up the steep one-way street for about a mile. When we reach the edge of this little community, he has to slow to a crawl to slip through the narrow portal that leads to the strada centrale—which, in fact, is the only street in town. I would estimate that there are around 30 homes here, with maybe 20 actually occupied, though it is hard to tell because so many houses in Italy are attached to each other.
Two landmarks stand out. One is an inscription on the exterior wall of the former home of Lino Coluccio Salutati, Stignano’s most famous citizen. He was the secretary of state for the grand duke of Tuscany in the 1300s, just a little before the first Spadoni, Francesco, moved to Stignano. The other is the 11th century Pieve di Sant’Andrea, with Romanesque adornments and well-weathered walls. We are not able to go inside today, as Carlo is not able to locate the local resident entrusted with the key, but we walk around the outside.

The church is of special significance to us because under its floor are tombs of our Spadoni ancestors. Even if we were able to go inside, we would not be able to see the names, because the floor was resurfaced after the last war—an ugly job, Carlo says. He wishes they would remove the covering to reveal the names on the old tombs, but that is unlikely, since current Italian laws don’t look favorably on changing landmarks. It’s a pity those regulations weren’t in effect when the floor was covered.

Carlo tells me that the fact that Spadonis are entombed beneath the church indicates that the family was of some significance locally, or at least faithful or wealthy enough to have contributed sufficiently to the church to be deserving of honor. Since they were farmers, they may well have grown olives, grapes, figs and other crops on the hillsides surrounding the town. Carlo believes they owned their own land; they were not tenant farmers.
This view from the edge of the village shows the surrounding hills and farms. Many of these are olive trees.

This is now the main entrance, taken from inside
looking down the hill toward Borgo a Buggiano.
At one time, the town was referred to as a castle. It had walls surrounding it, but now only two stone doors and a few short walls remain. Wars between Firenze, Pisa and other regional powers caused the destruction of the walls. Sometimes they were rebuilt, but finally the residents gave up. Though it has always been a small village, it has a clear view of the valley below and would have been of strategic importance as a vantage point over the roads below.

Once the swamps in the valley were drained, Stignano lost many of its residents, including all the Spadonis. A building in the central piazza looks like it was once a bar or a general store, but it is closed up. The church is no longer in use.

However, many of the houses have been remodeled and modernized, and the community’s proximity to other thriving cities means it is not in danger of becoming a ghost town. Some of the more isolated hilltop villages to the north are losing residents because it takes so long to commute to larger cities for jobs and services. The road up the hill is not bicycle-friendly, but if one had a car and money to buy a house, Stignano would be a very nice place to live.
Stignano's view of the valley below.

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