In the 17th century Borgo Giusto was known as Soccolognora
In 17th Century Tuscany, cities, towns and villages had names which sounded different from those used today. Thus Borgo Giusto, which was built around this time, was called Soccolognora, while Lucca was Luca, Garfagnana was Carfagnana and Versilia was Versilla. Tuscany was Tuscia, as shown on this copper engraving by Ortelius dating from 1601, which we found among maps from the time. The present-day Borgo Giusto (from the name of the Giusti family who first settled there) is a stone-by-stone reconstruction of the former Soccolognora.
In the 17th Century, when the first houses began to be built, one next to the other, a small nucleus formed, with lanes and steps running through it and opening on to a tiny square.
All around, in addition to the terraces carved out of small plots of land where the peasants grew grapes and olives, even then there were chestnut trees, brilliant green in summer and shades of yellow and brunt orange in autumn when the chestnuts in their husks have fallen. In the early years of the 20th century, the peaceful and orderly life of Borgo began to undergo the first changes, mainly due to emigration to England and Scotland and gradually the village came to be almost abandoned.
Those who stayed to the end, some fifty years ago, finally left at the time of industrialisation in search of less hard and better paid jobs than agriculture and an easier and more comfortable existence in modern homes in the nearby cities. There are few left who still remember the original layout of the village and the people who lived there. When finally every house had been restored, using the typical light-coloured stone from which they were originally built, and given the name of the last people to live there, Borgo returned to life, as if by magic. And so the simple, ancient story of Ettore Giusti, head of the family who first settled there, and of Giosy, Tosca and so many others, still continues today.
The restoration work, begun in 1995, proved an inspirational challenge: the relatively short time, for which the houses had remained uninhabited, was not enough to cause irreversible damage to the small village and the discovery of an aquifer in the woods suddenly seemed the best possible omen for the life which was returning. It was decided to create accommodation with all the comforts essential today, without changing the original interiors. Consequently, the bathrooms were one of the biggest technical problems, but, sparing no expense, in some properties they were installed in actual rooms, despite some loss of space. Another task was to restore the stone sinks, hearths and fireplaces in the houses to their original working order. The internal bare stone walls were kept intact and treated using modern processes. The foundations were reinforced using expensive techniques which left no visible sign of the work. For the heating, the principle of the fireplace was retained, with the installation of a large central wood-burning boiler controlled by computer, which checks all the data from each individual property and at the same time minimises the environmental impact.
Over the last nine years, the refurbishment work has continued to provide Borgo with every modern comfort, from the heating system to the facilities (many bathrooms with bath and hydromassage shower), to telephones, LCD satellite TV and ADSL Wi-Fi. Ecological soundness is evident in the solar panels, segregated waste disposal, the use of photovoltaic cells to produce electricity, a boiler for the heating system which burns wood from our forests, the use of many products from our Arbuolo farm company in our “zero-mile menus”.
And the story of Borgo Giusto continues…
“Celle! My dream…I see again the broom and drink in its gentle scent…” The biographers of Giacomo Puccini recall the musician’s love for Celle, his birthplace only a short distance from Partigliano. But few know, apart from our forefathers who recounted the story on winter evenings in front of the fire, that Giacomo Puccini was a daredevil and from youth a lover of hunting. Around 1876, at the age of 18, he began a close friendship with the Giusti family of Partigliano and together with a number of the seven brothers, all very close in age, Giacomo went hunting woodcock, thrushes and blackbirds, which are still plentiful in our hills. Well listen to what happened one day.
Pia Giusti, daughter of Giuseppe, one of the seven brothers who lived at Cà di Giusto, recounts how Puccini had just arrived from Lucca to spend the holidays in Celle. Keen to find his friends, he climbed the hill as usual from Celle, over the river Pedogna, to Partigliano. Giacomo Puccini was popular with everyone, so much so that the brothers generally took it in turns to lend him their gun. As well as being numerous, the young Giusti were lively and amusing: Giosuè (1841) Calebbe (1842), Giuseppe (1844), Gamatiele (1847), Noè (1849), Saulle (1851) and Giobbe (1853).
Well, on this particular morning Giobbe lent his muzzle-loader to the future maestro, but in the rush to leave with his haversack on his shoulder and while joking with the cheerful group, Puccini let off the 16 calibre muzzle-loader in his hand and luckily…this deafening shot inside the top floor of the house did no more than make a large hole in the roof tile! After more than a century, we found this tile, when we were restoring the houses, with the hole still filled with a rag (so at least to keep the rain out), because the Giusti brothers left it like that to show it everyone laughing and saying: “Look here, see what crazy Giacomo did!.!”
The performance of the great master and internationally renowned composer has remained an indelible memory in the Giusti family who bore the future great master to pass the evening with the farmers of the village.