From Spedaletto (Pistoia) to Gaggio Montano. The history, the curiosities, the traditions of a earth that is not alone Emilia, but it is also Tuscany

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fortress (castle) of Sambuca Pistoiese


The high Bolognese, Pratese and Pistoiese Apennine: an ancient land, rich of tradition and history, a fascinating place that offers reasons of interest and curiosity. A mountain oasis between Emilia and Tuscany.


The village, with its castle, was an ancient episcopal feud as is shown in an Imperial certificate of Ottone III from 998. Today remain traces of the tower and walls of the fortress. The Sambuca's church is dedicated to Saint James the Elder (San Jacopo), patron saint of Pistoia. The municipal territory of Sambuca Pistoiese extends for 77,54 square kilometres.

THE UPPER VALLEY OF EASTERN LIMENTRA (Sambuca Pistoiese, Camugnano, Cantagallo, Castel di Casio)

"The upper valley of the eastern Limentra runs from its source in the peaks of the Appennine mountains to the artificially formed Lake Suviana. That is from Granducal Tuscany to the border of the Papal State of Emilia - Romagna. Its earliest human explorers were probably travellers between the two provinces; they would most likely have used the route along the western crest of the valley side. Later, along this route, was established the important abbey at Fontana Taona. As the value of the resources of the valley became known to the great cities of the plains, however, small manufacturing villages, which were able to develop those resources, grew up along the bottom of the valley and, gradually, the track which joined them supplanted the earlier route along the crest. The resources of the valley may be catagorized as: stone, trees, water and people; and the city institutions which benefitted from them as the military and the church." (B. HOMES, "Le pietre dell'Alta Limentra Orientale", Pistoia, 1996)

THE VALLEY OF WESTERN LIMENTRA (Sambuca Pistoiese, Pistoia)

"The valley of the Western Limentra is in many ways a typical example of an Appennine mountaine valley. It is stille possible to see that, until relatively recently, there existed here, as in many other of these mountains valleys, an extensive network of forest tracks which joined together not only village coomunities but also the agricultural, social and cultural systems which gave them life. Where this valley differs from many of its neighbours, and what gives it, therefore, a substantial part of its distinctive character, is that for at least a thousand years that system has interacted with and been overlaid by an important national route. The national route brought into the hearth of the tight-knit valley community a constant flow of travellers from the outside world. It witnessed major transapennine journeys of pilgrimage in the medioeval period, journeys of commerce and expansion in the age of enlightenment, and journeys displaying unprecedented military might in more recent times. But it also witnessed, far more, frequently of course, the humble journeys of common people passing trough the valley." (B. HOMES, "Tre viaggi lungo la Limentra Occidentale", Porretta Terme, 2002)


Alto Reno is easy to reach by car from Pistoia or Bologna by travelling on the State Road (SS) 64, but the most suggestive and ecological way is undoubtedly the train which connects Pistoia with Bologna by means of the famous stretch of railway called "La Porrettana". In fact, it meanders amid tunnels and stone bridges through a succession of valleys of incomparable beauty.

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The `Mays` (or Cantamaggi) are one of the oldest traditions of our mountains.The orgins of this manifestation appear common to other locations of the Tuscan- Emilian Appennines ,thats how they had festivals of spring.Of these festivals "Mays" there are many traces.Although they are reduced to games or cristian festivals.The two principal "Mays" of the zone are those of Sambuca and those of Treppio,but others in Alto Reno bolognese are Camugnano,Granaglione and Castel di Casio.During the "Mays" that they held on the nights between April 30 and May 1,a group of "Maggianti" harmonized some songs and asked owners of the houses to make an offering as usual.At Granaglione the "Mays" were able to be dramatic and made a true and actual representation cantata in verses as usual in eight rhyme.


Those who want to totally relax can visit the Thermal Baths of Porretta, already known during the Roman times and place of cure for celebrities like Lorenzo "il Magnifico" de'Medici or Louis Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother. The characteristic buildings of the XVIII and XIX centuries help to create a relaxing atmosphere.

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Dialects of the Alto Reno

Thanks to the works of Francesco Guccini it is commonly known that the dialect spoken at Pavana [a fraction of the town of Sambuca Pistoiese in Tuscany] is a hybrid made of contamination between the Bolognese and Pistoiese.Even in the territory of the "Alto Reno Emiliano" you are able to distinguish a certain grade of Tuscan influence in the dialect.In certain zones of the comunity of Granaglione it is difficult to know if you are in Emilia or have passed into Tuscany.At Porretta Terme certain words are used in the tipical Tuscan vernaculer such as "neccio",'brocciolo", "frugiata' . Guccini in the introduction of his "Dizionario del Dialetto Pavanese" [published by the group ' Nueter ' in 1998] recognizes a significant influence of the spoken Tuscan in the dialect of Lizzano in Belvedere.Regarding the zones of Badi. Bargi and Stagno it reminds you of the works of Barbara Beneforti published in 'Nueter' ,XXIV 1998 the pages 357-388. In this site you must remember that the studies are extremely difficult to verify what measure of the dialects spoken in the zone[ Badi, Bargi and Stagno ] are more Emilian or Tuscan given that components used remind you of Tuscan is notable

Montovolo: perhaps an Ancient Etruscan Oracular Centre

Folk music (la violina di Lustrola)

Porretta Soul Festival

Corno alle Scale Opening image Parco Regionale del Corno alle Scale

the city of Bologna (Emilia - Romagna)
the city of Pistoia (Tuscany)


Our language: between tuscan and emilian


(Village of Sambuca Pistoiese)

An example of dialect altorenano

The Lagacci dialect is highly interesting and undoubtedly endangered

english > italian > lagaccese

1. BEE - APE - Apa

2. DONKEY - ASINO - Ciugo

3. UGLY- BRUTTO - Ragano

4. OX - BUE - Bove

5. GOOD - BUONO - Bone

6. ROAST CHESTNUT - CALDARROSTA - Frusg(i)ada (pistoiese: frugiata)

7. HOUSE -CASA - Ca' (bolognese: ca')


9. FINGER - DITO - Dido

10. HUNGER - FAME - Famme ('io ò famme' - 'to be hungry')

11. FIG - FICO - Figo

12. CHEESE - FORMAGGIO - Casgio (pistoiese 'cascio')

13. FIRE - FUOCO - Fogo

14. PLAY - GIOCO - Giogo

15. THE- IL - Al (bolognese 'al')

16. SALAD - INSALATA - Insalada (pistoiese 'inzalata', bolognese 'insalè')

17. DUNG - LETAME - Concio (pistoiese 'cuncio', bolognese 'aldaam', treppiese 'concio')

18. LIGHT - LUCE - Lusge

18. LIZARD - LUCERTOLA - Lusgertola

19. EAT - MANGIARE - Mangiare

20. PIG - MAIALE - Maiale

21. APPLE - MELA - Mela

22. MELON - MELONE - Melone

23. HONEY - MIELE - Méle

24. BILBERRY - MIRTILLO - Pignatino

25. TODAY - OGGI - Oggi

26. BREAD - PANE - Pane

27. CHICK - PULCINO - Puseine or 'pucine' or 'pirino'

28. TOAD - ROSPO - Botta


30. SIEVE -SETACCIO - Staccio (pavanese Sdaccio, bolognese sdaaz)

31. I - IO - i' or io

32. MOLE - TALPA - Topa

33. DRUNK - UBRIACO - Briago

34. EGG - UOVO - Ovo (pistoiese 'ovo', bolognese 'oov')

35. WINE - VINO - Vine



A ritual tied to the Epiphany that upholds its most archaic form. "Donviccia" are the gifts from the Old Woman, the magical character of the Befana (benevolent Witch). On the night of January 5th in Lizzano, the youngsters of the town go begging ("la colta") from house to house accompanying the Old Man on an oxen drawn carriage to the sound of accordions singing traditional verses:

"We are poor pilgrims

Without bread, without money

We roam here and there

Benevolent are those that make

Donviccia bread and sausage."

Those who offer something are thanked with the "Abbondanza" wish that means a sure year of prosperity, to those who offer nothing the group sings:

"Pulge e bdotchi ev saltne a iotchi" (fleas and lice jump in your eyes).

The "Donviccia" ends late at night in a tavern where the beggars eat the gifts gathered

Le Fasgelle

"Fasgelle" are large trees that, through a series of particular interventions and additions of various materials, are transformed into gigantic torches that light Christmas Eve. The large trunks are cut during the pruning period before they germinate, they are then dried in drying rooms for chestnuts called "casoni" where they stay until they are used. The upper part of the trunks are opened and cut up like a giant broom where straw and faggots are added. Once lit the "fasgella" burns for a few hours. The building technique is unique and the result given by the large and intense flames is spectacular.


The oral traditions of the Italian countryside until 50 years ago* was full of elves,fairies,witches,phantoms and devilish apparitions. Wonderous lettered figures that developed around the fireplace and near animal stalls . In this corner the presence of hunger,death and the dark assumed a magical aspect of the unknown . Even in the Alto Reno the oral traditions recall evidence of latin and pagan beliefs (the fairy tales for example are manifestations of a sure descension from nymphs and water nymphs) they found fertile terrain here.For the community of Gaggio Montano a study has been published by the association Gente di Gaggio [People of Gaggio] that we warmly recomend you to read : MARCO CECCHELLI: "Una castagna sotto il cuscino"** , Gente di Gaggio,Gaggio Montano 2001. In this page we will limit a report to two depositions of Alto Reno. FAIRIES------ A deposition collected from Beatrice Bartoletti of Porretta Terme (died in 1994) talks of fairies on the banks of Madonna del Ponte washing their garments and drowning any unwary person that they saw. ANGELIC DANCE ---- A deposition collected from Annalisa Cecchini of Madognana tells of the presence at Pavana of diabolical "Ballo angelico" (angelic dancers) is a legend tipical of Tuscany.


Borda [a species of witch ]
A deposition by Francesco Guccini (Pavana Pistoiese) published in his"Cronache epafaniche" speaks of this misterious being [a species of witch] tied in some way to water: "Don`t stretch out because the Borda [Witch] will pull you under".
A forth deposition merits to be remembered.It is the infant remembrance of Luciana Cecchi of Porretta Terme.
According to her,an old women that at night was transformed into a cat.This legend of the world of the witches ,comes down from ancient myths were men transformed themselves into animals,myths that you find in lycanthropy ,rhe most notable example-the poet Virgil wrote in his ``Bucoliche [VIII,97]":
"His ego saepe lupum fieri et se condere silvis".
But many other figures and beliefs were present in Alto Reno like "The lady of the neccio" (Incarnation of hunger and death],"il biribisso" sort of a demon that carried away children [Nueter,XIV,p.4]etc.
Today all this fantastic world is dead and constitutes of an event of long ago,almost forgotten in the recent tumultious economic development in Italy and also in the Alto Reno .These traditions now are a reality that few remember.But, it is in the same sphere of magic that sinks the oldest depositions [ prehistoric] of humanity in the Alto Reno; The written stones of the Limentra between Sambuca And Cantagallo with very old symbols "phi",a coppel a "pera dij cros" only later accompanied signs of Christian symbols and marks of exorcism [see LEONARDO DE MARCHI, "I sassi scritti delle Limentre", Nueter, Porretta Terme 2000]

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