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The Territory

The territory now included within the boundaries of the Migliarino San Rossore Massaciuccoli Regional Park has undergone, over the centuries, a series of changes ascribable to anthropization. Historical evidences allowed the reconstruction of the evolution of this environment, which has always been characterized by wide lagoons alternated with woods and Maquis, typical of the delta areas. By looking at maps of the past, it is clear that in the past, the coastline was significantly shifted to the east: the action of sea currents and the instability of the rivers, determined the formation of long sand bars, blocking the outlet for water and thus creating this environment of woods and swamps that has survived until today without excessive interventions. In ancient times, the few human and urban settlements , were immersed in this wonderful landscape; on the contrary, today the environment is succumbing to urbanization. We have anyway to remember that the area now held in the Park has always been object of the care of man, and has been modified up to the current planning. The drainage interventions performed over the centuries, started by the Medici family and ended in more recent times (from 1920 to 1940) have defined the current geography of the area that today represents a perfect blend of human action and uncontaminated nature.

The great Estates, which are still present in the Park, can be traced back to the fifteenth century/beginning of the sixteenth.

The Estates of the Province of Pisa

When the Republic fell under the domination of Florence, the transition from the municipal State to the regional or noble one started with the search of the access to the sea right in this area, and Livorno was founded. The appropriation of the Pisan lands by great Florentine families created a new "management" of these areas. The Estate Salviati, the Medicean Estates of San Rossore, Coltano and Castagnolo and the farms of Vecchiano, Casabianca and Collesalvetti, overlook the reduced proprerties of the Pisan Mensa Arcivescovile (a diocesan Authority) and, in particular, the Estate of Tombolo. Thus began a slow process of urbanization, repopulation of the countryside, the gradual spread of settlements which will initially regard the areas of Pisa, Livorno and the hills of Avane; the coastal areas, characterized by the forest and marsh, will long remain almost entirely depopulated, excluding those regions where, thanks to the plumbing, the conditions for human survival will develop.

Towards the end of the seventeenth century the grand-ducal properties had increased their size to such an extent as to consider the coastal strip from the Serchio to the Maremma, as a single Medicean large landed estate.

The grand-ducal properties were organized as Estates and/or farms.

The former were governed by a minister under whom there was a number of permanent workers which were flanked by workers employed temporarily in the event of extraordinary needs. Within the territory of the estates, activities such as timber production, exploitation of grassland for grazing of the animals owned in Migliarino (cattle, horses, swines) or imported from other areas were mainly carried out, together with fishing and hunting. This was the case of San Rossore, Coltano and Castagnolo, of Migliarino – belonging to the Salviati dukes, that can be assimilated to the grand-ducal estate- and, to a lesser extent to Tombolo, where the ownership of the Mensa Arcivescovile of Pisa assumes over the time the form of "mortmain".

Unlike the estates, the farms (Vecchiano, Casabianca, Collesalvetti) based their economy on the farm running sharecropping. This kind of organization develops thanks to a slow process started with the investment of abundant resources in land reclamation operations (in particular in the areas of the marsh of Vecchiano, in the ones of Campalto and Barbaricina and in the southern plain between the hills of Livorno and the locality of Stagno). Even if partially productive, the lands were granted to farmers residents in the surrounding villages who took care of the cultivation. Through this process, then, a planning of the territory starts, on the model of the farms in central Tuscany, based on a centralized administration managed by a farmer and a series of territorial divisions - the farms running sharecropping- on which farmhouses are built. The introduction of sharecropping, which had been absent in Pisa until then, allows a progressive decrease in investment by an increasing exploitation of the workforce of the farmhouse families. Since the second half of '770, under the government of Peter Leopold, the farms are leveled off (divided into small lots and given to anyone willing to cultivate them) or sold. This is the case of Collesalvetti: once become one of the main farms in Tuscany, it will undergo a transformation process started by the granting of tenure that will lead to the transformation of the original production structures of the farm (roads, farmhouses, office district) in real Autonomous Communities (Collesalvetti and Guasticce). The farm of Vecchiano will be sold to Salviati and Casa Bianca, also granted of tenure, will lose its identity because of the expansion of Pisa in its soils.

Unlike the farms, the estates are not parceled out. They remain firmly in the hands of the Grand Duke and acquire a role of entertainment and representation, especially under the rule of Leopold II who is interested in creating wide game reserves. The end of World War will mark the passage, historically denied and countered, from holding to farm with the conveyance of the ownership to the Savoy Family and the donation of the villa of Coltano to the Opera Combattenti, then reclaimed and divided into farms.

The Estates in the Province of Lucca

In the Republic of Lucca, which remained independent since the 15th century, the situation of land and property was totally different from the one of Pisa. The territory was divided into two distinct areas:
Sei Miglia: represented by the flat regions near the city, they were divided into several farms, mostly belonging to noble merchants of Lucca, which were leased to farmers.
Vicarie: they included the hilly, mountainous and coastal areas and were organized in small private properties (mostly in the fertile and rich plain of Camaiore) and collective lands, usually for the exploitation of pastures and chestnuts. Specific crops as the one of the olive, contributed to the fragmentation of the property.

At the beginning of the 19th century the Villa Borbone was established in the scrub of Viareggio and the contiguous agricultural area.

The historical reconstruction of the Park territory, obtained through a long bibliographic study supported by the analysis of a vast cartographic documentation, is at the base of the planning structure of the Regional Coordination Plan: the subdivision of land in farms and estates, historically delimited territories, provided the basis for defining the boundaries and identifying the different areas in which the Park is organized today.

Before examining in detail the individual areas covered by the territory, we want to give a definition of the Park, which is often confused with the specific definition of the reserves. Parks are areas of special natural or historical-cultural interest, meeting certain criteria established by law. The reserves are represented by land, river, lake or marine areas which contain one or more significant species of fauna and flora, or have one or more ecosystems considered important for biodiversity or for the conservation of genetic resources. Although it may include suitable areas meant for reserves, strictly fostered and protected, a "park" is not a "nature reserve". In particular, the Migliarino San Rossore Massaciuccoli Regional Park, consisting of a vast territory by the contours seriously undermined and containing highly altered zones at anthropic level, was established with the aim to preserve those natural areas which are relict of an uncontaminated environment and samples of a territory to be considered as a "reserve". The park has therefore worked in the conservation and reconstruction of the area carrying out conservation projects in collaboration with universities and public and private authorities.
The history of these places, now surrounded by a urbanization little or no planned but straining to absorb new shares of the non-urbanized land, can be read as the history of economic exploitation, search for a surplus value that, without special cultural measures, would not have been achievable. The park can also be considered then as a condition to obtain again those benefits which, even partially, were obtained through the reclamations and other specific interventions. It should also be noted that a park is not set up to protect a particular plant and/or faunal species nor, even less, for a romantic desire for nature; a park is established for the need of planning a urbanized and metropolitan area in disarray; to control an environment plagued by increasing pollution; for the need to establish a new cultural and economic balance due to the epochal transformation we are experiencing. The challenge lies in maintaining the interest for the conservation of pristine environments and for the rehabilitation of the modified environment (the altered nature) without losing the initiative discouraged by the difficulty of this undertaking.
Villa Medicea
(foto di Archivio Parco)
Cascine Nuove
(foto di Ciampi Mario)