Following the 82 year old Don Giuseppe Cola, striding at a good clip, up the needle carpeted path through a forest of pungent Douglas Fir above Piastroso, were about 100 people ranging in age from 3 years old to over 90.
They came from all over the area and had come to attend Mass at the abandoned church at Bacchionero, held for the first time after 50 years.
The day was August 10th which held special significance as it is the day of San Lorenzo, the patron saint of Bacchionero. San Lorenzo is also known as the night of the shooting stars.
Don Cola served mass regularly at Bacchionero, traveling the approximately 10 kilometers from Tiglio, by mule, on foot or eventually a small motorbike, from 1959 until 1963. There were several families who lived up there and cultivated the fertile terraces and chestnut groves and ran a chestnut flour mill. As the population dwindled Mass was served less often, eventually just once a year on San Lorenzo and then in 1963 for the last time.
The church yard is flanked by two stone buildings, both of which, along with the church itself, are in serious disrepair with their roofs caving in. The church itself is surprisingly large, tall enough to include a choir loft where an organ once stood.
In the forest, at about 25 meters behind the church there stands an enormous chestnut tree known as Il Sindaco, the Mayor, which dominates a terrace used for festivals and dancing. In the ground in front of the tree is embedded an ancient stone arrangement of the cardinal compass points.
Mass was served, on a makeshift but sturdy stone altar, constructed in the last few days by several church members, as the hot summer sun slanted through the giant firs, and afterwards most of the woodland parishioners repaired to the cool shade to what was billed as a picnic, but in reality was a sumptuous feast served on a long table which stands the wood near the chestnut mill in permanent welcome to travelers.
The remembrance of places past continues with the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Oratorio di Santa Maria dell Grazie, at Le Seggiane, beginning with the procession from Tiglio Basso at 5:30, on Sunday 11 August, and on Saturday, 17 August there will be a presentation and discussion of the history of Bacchionero at 9:15 PM at Tiglio Alto.
Article by Kerry Bell