One thousand years on the Via Francigena: the History of Tenute di Badia
The Farm of Badia Pozzeveri is crossed, North-West to Sout-East, by the via Francigena, the most ancient Pilgrim Route in Europe. The Via connects Canterbury in England to Rome, then proceeds to Apulia, where Pilgrims use to embark for the Holy Ground of Jerusalem. In the end of the X Century a.C., between the walls of the Republic of Lucca and the Spitale (Hospital) of Altopascio, a small Monastery was erected of the North Bank of the former Lake of Bientina: the Church of S. Peter, in Burgo de Poctieuli. The small town (back then referred to as “Burgo“, similar to the modern Italian word “borgo”) was first mentioned on a notarial deed from Lucca, in 952 a.C. The history of Tenute di Badia begins here, more than one thousand years ago.
During the first decade of the XIII Century, the Management of the Monastery was passed to the Ordo Camaldulensium, a monastic community founded in the mountains nearby Arezzo. Thanks to the influence and sustaintment from the wealthy nearby towns of Porcari and Lucca, the Farm around the Monastery flourished. Being placed on the fertile shores of a Lake, the Town became renown for the delicious seasonal vegetables and fruits.
War with Florence
During the XIV Century, the plane became a battleground in the war between the Ghibellines of Lucca and the Guelphs of Florence. The forces of Lucca, siding with the Emperor, found a valuable commander in Captain General Castruccio Castracani. He led the troops of Lucca to a key victory in the Battle of Altopascio, then forced their way to the plain of Prato, just outside Florence’s walls. At the time, the Monastery was turned to a hospital (“Spitale“) for the Lucchese troops, and remained as such for the next few centuries.
After the completion of the works for the impenetrable Walls of Lucca in the XVI Century, the area finally got to enjoy some decades of peace. Lucca’s countryside, devastaded by famine and poverty brought by the war, slowly came back to its natural prosperity. It was at that time that the oldest building of our Resort, la Torretta, was erected. We never managed to retrieve any document about the identity of the Founder, but world-of-mouth across the Centuries mentions an old, unmarried, wealthy lord of Lucca. He used to come to the Farm to find a little cool, whileduring Summer, in the City Center of Lucca, the stone pavement turned hot as a stove.
In the very beginning of the XVIII Century, the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte created the Principality of Lucca and Piombino. He and assigned his sister, Maria Anna known as Elisa to rule over the Principality as a Princess suo jure. Gifted with keen intellect, great taste in art and, notoriously, a sharp thongue, she’s remembered for her sagacious, forward-looking goverment methods. Her heritage is still tangible in Lucca and Tuscan culture, and she is still known by modern winemakers like us for introducting at least sixty hectares of French Grape Varieties, planted during her dominion all over the Lucca’s countriside.
During the beginning of the XIX Century, climate change and man-made river modifications in the surroundings, turned the Lake of Bientina in a swamp. Once the central factor of the well-being of the nearby town like Badia Pozzeveri (teeming with fish and providing fresh water all year around), the former lake turned swamp rendered the area almost uninhabitable.
In 1859, just two years before the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, the House of Lorraine ruling over Tuscany took action. They assigned an Engineer from Florence, Alessandro Manetti, to lead the draining and bonification of the Swamp. The operation was a complete success but it drastically changed the local climate and economy. In just a few month, local farming method were revolutionized. Grapevines and Olive Trees were introduced on the hilly areas, now very dry and well ventilated . On the very fertile and humid formed bed of the swamp, our great-grandfathers started to grow watermelons, muskmelons and other delicious vegetables.
It was by then that the Farm of Badia Pozzeveri became the very center of the social and agricoltural activities of Lucca’s countryside. When referring to the History of Tenute di Badia, we usually mention this event as the most relevant and drastic change that the Farm has seen.
In 1980 Argante Romani from the nearby town of Montecatini Terme acquired the property of the Farm, known as ”Estate of Badia (Pozzeveri)” : Tenute di Badia, indeed. Back then, it comprised two hundred hectares of land, a fully operating but not-so-up-to-date Wine Cellar and a number of different ancient buildings in different states of conservation. Our story begins here.
The ancient Church of Badia Pozzeveri and nearby burial site, located a couple of minutes of walk away from the Tenute, are now object of study. Organized by the University of Pisa, the archeologic excavation site involves researches and doctorate students from different Countries. The site can be visited during the periods of active field research. Here’s the link to the Project’s website: read more