VALPROMARO FROM THE EARLY 1900’S TO TODAY
For most of the towns in the countryside around Lucca, the early twentieth century represented growth and development. In small towns this allows demographic expansion, the introduction of modernization and mechanization including the first ones in small manufacturing businesses and essential public services.
At the beginning of the 1900s the population of the town increased considerably, reaching 363 inhabitants in 1905. In the space of a few years, many events followed one after another. Public fountains were installed and, after an initial verification of the quantity of water that flowed from the sources of the Mea, the diameter of the pipes was increased, augmenting the flow from 2 to 5 liters per minute. New shops and commercial activities were sprang up, also opened by people from other countries who chose Valpromaro for the greater opportunities it offered. On 6 October 1903, Giuseppe Gemignani took over the running of five gas lamps for 300 lire, pledging to replace them with oil-fired ones.
After Don Giuseppe Magnani, followed the years of Don Albino Moretti, who established the cult of the Madonnina del Canale and left a profound mark on the soul of the Valpromaresi. The dimensions reached by the village, the large and beautiful church, the strong devotional ardor shown in particular towards the Madonna, were all elements that made it necessary to transform the Cura into a Parish. This finally happened in 1914, closing a centuries-old affair that had seen the Valpromaresi repeatedly attempt to forcefully claim their autonomy.
Despite the improvement in general living conditions, many families continued to suffer hardship: as had already happened at the end of the nineteenth century, the flow of emigrations resumed. Leaving for the most varied destinations, especially Argentina, Brazil, the United States, some other European countries, and later Canada and Australia. Often one followed someone who had already emigrated. The intention for everyone was to return after a few years with some money, to be able to buy a house and a piece of land: for some this happened, but not everyone managed to fulfill this dream. Enormous difficulties were encountered during these journeys; in entering a completely different world, a different reality, but never forgetting one’s origins. The remittances from the emigrants represented a valid economic help for many families and there were few that did not have anyone somewhere in the world. This migratory flow was interrupted during Fascism, to resume again in the difficult years of the post second world war period.
The First World War saw many Valpromaresi engaged on the frontline: three fell during the fighting and several suffered injuries, some very serious. With a considerable economic effort, the veterans and the villagers commisioned a monument, which was placed on the side of the church, creating around it a small park of Remembrance. It was inaugurated on April 19, 1925 and was moved to its current location, in the square in front of the elementary school, in 1965. In that year the section of the Renipoli Canal next to the church was covered and a small square was built. During the excavation work, many bones came to light, because in that area the town, a cemetery was formerly located.
The years leading up to the Second World War saw a further development of the area, which increased its economic and commercial potential. The school was increasingly popular, as it welcomed children from neighboring villages who wanted to attend the fifth grade and complete the cycle of elementary studies. Electricity arrived in the village in 1925; the first public telephone with the connection to Lucca was installed in 1926-27 and in 1929 it was also connected with Camaiore. The Post Office, which is still present today, was also opened in 1929.
The Second World War directly affected the area, which had welcomed many families of displaced people from nearby cities, escaping the Allied bombing. In 1944 the retreating German army made much use of the Freddana road: in that summer most of the inhabitants left the village to take refuge in the woods or scattered farmhouses. Some houses and the church were damaged by pieces of aerial bombs, the bridges of the town were blown up. But the most tragic and dramatic event was the one that took place on the morning of June 30, 1944, when German troops slaughtered 12 hostages captured the previous day in in act of retaliation. The youngest, Lamberto Dati, was 17 years old and from Valpromaro, along with Angelo Cortopassi and Nello Rubinelli. The parish priest, Don Dino Chelini, tried by every means to save these lives. In memory of that heroic gesture, in the seventies he received the hour medal for civil valor. The massacre of Valpromaro represented the first in a long trail of atrocities committed by the Nazi-fascists in the summer of 1944 in Versilia and in Lucca. The violence inflicted and the displacement of the entire population, who left the village from June to September to seek shelter in scattered houses and makeshift lodgings in the woods, remained for a long time a painful memory not to be relived in the survivors’ stories. Only in the last twenty years, the historical and personal value of those memories has been brought to light, with events and initiatives that are concentrated every year in the town at the end of June.
In 1949 the Municipality of Massarosa, in the part of the town under its jurisdiction, had a wash house built on the ancient millstone which, from the intake in the Campacci area, led water to the Spada flour and oil mill. It was no longer necessary to go down to Freddana or Renipoli to rub the laundry on the big stones, going to wash under the road bridges on rainy days. In 1964-1965, given the increased amount of traffic from cars and trucks, which increasingly managed to cross the town with difficulty, work began on the construction of a bypass outside the town, the so-called “via nuova” .
From the 1950’s onwards, the population began to decline: many moved to Lucca or to other nearby cities, where there were greater job opportunities. A slow but continuous exodus, common to all the towns in the area, saw the population of Valpromaro drop from 331 in 1951, to 200 in 1978, to reach 160 at the end of the 1990s. Since then there has been a steady repopulation of the town, which has been led by new families with different origins from Valpromara, who appreciate a quality of life characterized by tranquility, proximity to essential services, direct relationship with the nature and the countryside. Today there are roughly 200 inhabitants, and the town, like many other small towns in the area, is experiencing a period of social transformation and renewed vitality.