A Tuscany war story
Podere Patrignone, 1944
Told by Mario Campatelli on 22 September 2007. He was 16 at the time of this story.
On 29th December 1943, Poggibonsi was bombarded by the advancing Allied forces because it was a vital supply point. Fresh German troops were being sent in by train, and their tanks, vehicles and troops were gathered in the square for a day before being moved on elsewhere.
Because of the bombardment, many families were evacuated into the country, and it seems many families were taken in by the contadini (tenant farmers) at Patrignone, the Pasquini family. Patrignone’s owner, Luigi Mezzedini, lived in Poggi in a big pink house on Via Senese. By the time Carla bought Patrignone in 1985 all his sons were dead, so Carla must have bought the place from one of the sons´ wives or from a nephew.
Apparently, at this time there was a German gun stationed at Serrelle hiding from the Americans. It was placed below and behind the brow of the hill so that the Allied shells, following the usual parabolic curve, could not hit the gun. Then at night, the gun would be brought up to the top of the hill and fire before retreating back to its safe position.
On that fateful day in 1944, the Germans were clearly in some desperate need for food, and they were probably being pushed back by Allied troops. They were apparently chasing chickens around the courtyard and shooting them with Lugers. They were stealing any food they could get their hands on, wine, salumi, etc but they also caused needless damage, knocking the taps out from all the oil vats so that the wine ran out onto the cantina floor. [Apparently, Pasquini was very good at making wine, and all contadini produced a wide variety of crops and products, so that they grew corn here, they reared cows etc. Apparently, there was more rain back in those days.]
There was a second family in residence at Patrignone, a Raspolini Zelindo, his wife, father and two sons. They lived in Caminetto. Presumably, they both worked the land, or different parts of it?
Anyway, when the Germans came, all the families staying here were herded into Tinaia. However, earlier that day Mario´s dad had felt something bad was going to happen, and he took his entire family away into the woods and down through the forest [behind the Koi pond] until he reached the stream below, Borro Ceparello. They slept rough here for a couple of days before returning to the house, and only then did the 16-year-old Mario hear what had happened at the house.
Apparently, there were several young girls staying at the house, some related to the evacuated families, some to the contadini. The Germans had taken a liking to these young girls, and [this is where my Italian let me down, because I’m not sure I understood correctly here] it seems that those holed up in the Tinaia were sending the girls up to the Germans as required. Apparently one of the young girls who had been sent to the Germans knew her grandparents were up in the main house and ran to them for protection. The Grandfather wanted to protect his granddaughter and picked up a bordone della polenta (a large wooden stick used in big families to stir the large pans of polenta that were cooked up at meal times – a very Tuscan term). It seems the Germans didn’t like the grandfather standing up to them, and shot him. The bullet passed through him killing him and his unfortunate wife instantly.
When Carla bought the place in the 80´s, the bullet holes were still evident in the kitchen.
The old couple were buried in the olive field near the Villa, and stayed there until after the war, when their sons moved the bodies to consecrated ground at St.Agnese church.
After the war, there was obviously a lot of bad feeling towards the Germans, and especially so in this case. The memorial at the top of the drive was erected by the Pasquini sons immediately after the war, and the bitter tone is clear to all.
In Memory Of
Pasquini Giuseppe Of 64 Years
Mariani Elvira Of 53 Years
Killed By German Soldiers In Their Own Home,
4th Of July 1944.
Their Family And Friends
Have Erected This Memorial In Everlasting Memory
Of This Martyrdom That The
Barbarous Aggressor Has Executed On Our Native Land.
Let The Children Of This Sacred Land Never Forgive.
Post-war Patrignone, like so many farms throughout Italy, was abandoned as families moved into the towns looking for work, and the buildings fell into disuse and disrepair, lying empty for nearly 40 years. When Carla bought the place, most of the roofs had collapsed or been plundered for materials by neighbours, and animals had taken up residence in many parts. Only two rooms were habitable, and those only barely (Caminetto). It took over 20 years of hard work to get Patrignone to somewhere near its former splendour. There may be plenty of work to do, but we hope you enjoy the results thus far.