When they entered the old mill Molin di Bucchio, Claudio Bucchi and his wife Carla couldn’t believe it. The large kitchen, which had remained the same for at least a couple of centuries, with the big fireplace on the right side, the wooden table in the middle and a stone sink in the corner, was carpeted with truckdriver’s calendars. The ceiling had the first two beams covered by several kinky pin-up photos and to the next beams there were dried tomatoes hanging. The room was cluttered with magazines, objects.
Pietro Bucchi, Claudio’s uncle, died in 2000 without any children and had left the mill to his great-grandson. He had been the last miller of Molin di Bucchio, which was the first mill located on the Arno River, on the road between Stia and Londa, crossing the province of Arezzo and Florence, in an area called Casentino. For centuries, the mill passed from generation to generation within the Bucchi family we no longer know if it is the place that gave its name to the family or vice versa.
Pietro continued to grind wheat and especially chestnuts until the 60s and then brought forward the other activities that had passed from father to son since 1800: the trout farm, one of the largest in Italy, that served the ichthyogenic center of Rome and almost all central Italy.
A picture still remains of Pietro from that era with a typical Casentino wool coat, orange with fur on the neck, and a sly glaze. “He was considered a gruff – the great-grandson says – but once you got to know him a bit better, he was a generous person. They used to call him “the philosopher” and sure he had many friends, some people went even as far as coming back to Molino to recount Pietro. We have rediscovered him through them. Of course, he was also a great drinker. His motto was: “Your path shall not be fine if your mouth doesn’t taste like wine”.
In the 70s, Pietro’s brother died suddenly and, for legal reasons, he was forced to abandon his beloved trout. He watched them dying before his eyes in the big tubs that for at least a century had been in the back of the house. From that time on, he became more and more isolated, and stopped taking care of the mill. That’s why Claudio Bucchi, when he came into possession of the mill, along with his wife and daughter, had to face the remarkable job of restructuring and restoration. He restored, bringing back – as far as possible – every part to its original shape, and opened the door to those who came to visit; after a while Molin di Bucchio joined the Network of the Eco Museum of the Casentino, a project of regional significance in Tuscany.
“I used to come here as a child with my mother – Claudio says – because only men lived here: Pietro, Pietro’s father and brother. My mother came occasionally to lend a hand in doing woman things. For me it was a party every time, because it was always full of people. And then I used to go visit the trout”.
The Arno runs just behind mill. Its source is a few hundred meters away. At the time a canal used to bring water to the mill. Carla, Claudio’s wife, shows us the system. “These are called Trecine – she says, pointing out a sort of large wooden spoons – they were positioned around the pole like daisy petals and moved the pole which turned the mill thanks to a surge of water that arrived from above, so to exploit gravity”.
Everyone would drop by Molin di Bucchio. There are people who still come to search for family names in the register of the grind. The space used as waiting room is full of writing, graffiti and engravings. “Sometimes there was a long wait”, Carla says. “There wasn’t much to do about boredom”.
And then there was the chestnut harvest in the adjacent woods, always carried out by the Bucchi’s. There were always workers who stopped to sleep for the drying and peeling chestnuts. The process was done by using strange shoes with pyramidal wooden spikes. They would walk on the chestnuts and there you go, the chestnuts were peeled.
Of course, Molin di Bucchio was also the resting place for woodcutters, those who cut the mountain undergrowth and brought back the wood by donkey. They often stopped by the mill before reaching the carriage road. Inside there was a pay phone: it was a wooden cabinet in the kitchen. It was also where the mail was received, and over the weekend people from the nearby villages used to come and dance in the large kitchen, because in 1800 there were not so many other places to go.
“When we first came in – Claudio’s wife tells us – through the documents, we reassembled about 150 years of local history. For a period, for example, there has been a school here. We found the books and exercise books of some of the pupils, I made a photocopy of one of them and gave it to a lady who lives just north of here. It was her mother’s”.
Molin di Bucchio, however, is also linked to two tragic episodes of the Resistance and of the Nazi occupation. The Gothic Line passed just through Casentino and the mill was a strategic place for the supply of both partisans and Germans. Just a few meters away Pio Borri was tortured and killed. He was a law student who had formed one of the first initiatives of the Resistance on Mount Falterona. He was shot to death on November 11, 1943. A monument at the entrance of the mill is dedicated to his memory: the first partisan killed in Tuscany.
A year later, two Nazi soldiers were killed after a clash between partisans, who had come for some wheat, and the Germans who had suddenly arrived.
The next day, a platoon of 600 SS soldiers invaded the nearby village of Vallucciole and set it on fire, killing 108 civilians including women and children. It was the first massacre of this extent in Tuscany.
The latest generation of the Bucchi family still passionately honors this memory. “There is a discovery every day, digging into the past of this place – Carla says – but the best part has been finding all the letters and photographs, from 1919 through 1960. The last one: the letter from a Yugoslavian partisan writing to Francesco, Pietro’s uncle, thanking him for his hospitality during the war. There are stories coming from Albania, from Africa, from Greece. And there is also a letter from a guy born around here who writes, “I hope to bring my carcass back home …but if I find a woman I’m staying here!”
The Bucchi family is looking for the right channel to promote their common heritage. But Carla confesses: “Nothing will fulfill me more than my own firsthand experience …letters, envelopes and stamps”.