Back at the end of the summer last year, we published an article (here) in which we wrote, “amongst all the brass bands and speeches at the opening of the recently restored Villa Gheradi there was another less evident opening taking place which without a doubt deserved some attention.
There was a huge amount of public money spent on restoring the Villa and turning it into what will hopefully be a youth hostel and a cultural centre for the whole area but there was also the final stone put in place on another smaller restoration project and this time one which was completed without one single Euro of public money being spent.
The entire project was brought to fruition by volunteers of the Gruppo Alpini di Barga
They had painstakingly restored the monumental fountain built in 1600 which had over the years fallen into disrepair and was one step away from being demolished.
Well, it would seem that the Alpini were not content to just sit on their laurels after restoring the fountain for the Comune but instead picked up their tools and equipment and have been working all winter (weather permitting) on another fountain in need of some work,this time for the church, in the grounds of the Vignola just below the Duomo.
As Antonio Nardini, our local historian and head of the Alpini, says in the interview below, it was difficult to date exactly the age of the fountain but it was probably built around 1600 and was in a precarious condition with the earth bank behind it gradually pushing the stone work out of perpendicular and if nothing had been done to stop the movement it would have eventually toppled the fountain completely over.[dw-post-more level=”1”]
The Alpini painstakingly removed all of the earth behind it and with the aid of hydraulic jacks gradually and gingerly moved the stonework back up to its correct vertical position.
On the day the interview was recorded there were five Alpini working on the project.
When the sum of their total ages were added together it came to an astounding 419 years of combined experience and craft, as most were in the 80’s and one, Antonio Nardini, even in his early 90s, but all quite happily swinging shovels and picks with a speed and dexterity which men many years their junior would probably envy.
As they pointed out in the interview, these men are probably the last of the Alpini as national service has now been abolished in Italy and where once upon a time many of the younger men in the city would have been sent off to join the Alpini regiment, now they only take volunteers.
The Alpini are the elite mountain warfare soldiers of the Italian Army. They are currently organized in two operational brigades, which are subordinated to the Alpini Corps Command.
Formed in 1872, they are the oldest active mountain infantry in the world. Their original mission was to protect Italy’s northern mountain border with France and Austria.
They distinguished themselves during World War I when they fought a three-year-long campaign in the Alps against Austro-Hungarian Kaiserjäger and the German Alpenkorps in what has since become known as the “War in snow and ice”. During World War II, the Alpini fought alongside Axis forces principally on the Eastern Front and in the Balkans Campaigns.
Due to the reorganization of the Italian Army after the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, three of five Alpini brigades and many support units were disbanded. Currently, the Alpini are permanently engaged in Afghanistan. – source