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Macchia Lucchese - Borbone Estate

About a thousand years ago, the land where now stands a small town, was occupied by the sea. The inland soaked in stagnant and foul-smelling water was a wide swamp infested by mosquitoes and malaria. The territory was the outlet to the sea of ​​Lucca, which, in 1171, after some disputes with the Pisans, decided to defend it building a cylindrical castle about 40 m high. It was possible to enter there by a road at all easy, which later took the name of Viam Regiam. In the name of this road, according to someone, there is the toponym of the city of Viareggio. In 1460 the inhabitants of Lucca decided to reclaim the surrounding lands offering plots of land to those who, challenging the malaria and the raids of the pirates, took part in the work of reclamation carried out by the engineer Lionello, who got, indeed, poor results.
Despite the weather conditions, the landing place slowly improved opening the way to the freight traffic which from the sea arrived in Lucca. For this reason and for fear of the neighbors in Pisa, in the mid-1500, the Senate of Lucca decreed the construction of a new fort closer to the sea, that would protect the channel. It is the tower, still perfectly preserved, known as "Torre Matilde". In early 1600, Viareggio could be considered as a real town: the houses were "of public reason, full dominions or levels of the Abundance", a market for import of wheat, especially Sicilian wheat, ordered directly by the office of Abundance.
The scrub of oak trees, Holm oaks, alders, extended far beyond the city, from the beach full of junipers inward to intermingle with the marsh. The latter stretched up to the base of the hills of Massarosa, from the Lake of Massaciuccoli and in the plain of Stiava and Camaiore, beyond the road of Montramito. Hunting and fishing represented the main activities for the livelihoods of local residents. By the mid-seventeenth century, a network of channels is drawn into the marsh from the lake to the sea, in order to regularize and limit its extent and to exploit the possibilities of transporting goods from Viareggio to the lake ports of Massaciuccoli and Piaggetta. The main communication routes, in addition to the waterways, were represented by the Via Romana of Pietrasanta and the route of Montramito. The former ran from Pisa inside the scrubs, proceeded along the coast crossing the Serchio river and the marsh; it was known for the presence of robbers. Raised among wetlands, the other one extended from Viareggio inward, up to the inn of Montramito where it connected with the via Francesca and with the richest and most populated hills of Massarosa. Documents dating back to the seventeenth century and a map of the eighteenth century reported the presence of a route "very close to the lake" which joined the two banks of the stretch of water. Here, in the closest area to the sea and not far from the border of Pisa, one of Mr. Turchi's houses stood; on the opposite side the village of Massaciuccoli (archaeological site of ancient Roman baths).
In 1740, the mathematician Bernardino Zendrini played a key role in solving problems related to population health. The first operation, indicated by the engineer from Veneto, was to put poised cataracts in Burlamacca able to close during sea storms: this would have prevented the mixing of fresh and salt waters considered responsible for the death and subsequent decomposition of the fish, cause of noxious miasmas. This solution produced significant improvements: the strong flow of water into the inland was prevented, blocking the extension of the marsh and the proliferation of the mosquito Anopheles. Once carried out this first intervention, Zendrini proposed to cut the scrubs as a further method anti-malaria, thus causing a real national debate. Preventing the evaporation of stagnant water, the forests made the air unhealthy. A deforestation was, then, proposed which initially led to the cutting of oak woods replaced by vast pine forests, and then to the parceling of land into holdings. The construction of canals and roads allowed access and practicability in the plain encouraging the development of the estates granted to the nobles of Lucca. In early 1800, during the principality Baciocchi, a fort near the beach was built, of which some ruins remain, and in order to face the withdrawal of the sea and get an effective barrier to the action of winds, the area was subjected to pine plantations: the closeness to the sea means a stronger action of the wind, a higher incidence of mists with a certain load of pollutants and the presence of movements of sand removed from the soils. In this context, the opening of the routes Comparini, Lecciona and Guidiccioni, decided by the Bourbons in 1825, access roads to the airflow, caused protests by the farmers and the demand for their closure to protect the harvests. The fact that struck the traditional collective use of the area had already occurred with the advocation in 1819 by Maria Luisa of Bourbon of the forest to the State and the subsequent creation of the estate.
Maria Luisa commissioned the architect Nottolini to plan the area: the designer's idea was to organize a complex of two buildings (a royal palace in the city and a hunting lodge near the border of Pisa) 5 km away from each other and connected through an "arboreal telescope" crossing a wide garden and the pines scrub. The whole project was however reorganized and only the hunting lodge (the present Villa Borbone) and the pinewood avenue near the villa were made. The presence of the Borboun's villa at the sea and the pinewood is crucial for the development of Viareggio, elevated to the rank of city in 1820. The path of the desires and fulfillments of the Borboun - from royal palace with a garden of wonders to seaside villa in "pinewood" - undergoes a further development in the 1850s, when the need to exploit the property in a productive way leads to parcel out the area of the estate, above the Viale dei Tigli (Lime Trees Avenue), which was given to farmers under a contract of sharecropping. This action results in a further reduction in size of the forest which, in the illustrations of the time, appears as a thin strip of land (with the advance of the coastline and thanks to further pine plantations, the scrub has acquired the size now in the maps. During the same period several homes are built in the lock areas bordering the estate of Borbone and in the center of Torre del Lago, and new villas facing the lake arise (Villa Orlando, Ginori, Puccini). In 1931 with the establishment of the Consortium of Reclamation, the first works of mechanical reclamation started in the marsh in the area of ​​Lucca. Based on the creation of a frontal and perimetric embankment of the lake and on the installation of three draining systems, the works led to the draining of about 600 hectares: 165 in the area of Portovecchio-Riaccio and 450 in the area of ​​Massarosa. Although tormented by the excavation of siliceous sands, the wetlands saved from reclamation are the only image that remains of the many marsh environments that characterized the entire coastal area: today an area of ​​enormous environmental value frequented by a large number of water birds.
The Lucchese Maquis
(foto di U. Macchia)
Villa Borbone
(foto di PR Migliarino San Rossore Massaciuccoli)
Villa Borbone
(foto di PR Migliarino San Rossore Massaciuccoli)