Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ra shtoria d’ra Piazza Anselmi

Visitors to Giusvalla may be surprised by the quiet rusticity of the little village they encounter. To reach Giusvalla from any direction, one must travel through areas of dense forest that open to areas of vast green countryside among the hills. The occasional stone farmhouses, most in various stages of dilapidation, leave no doubt about Giusvalla’s purely agrarian past. The main road by which one arrives at the tiny centro storico of Giusvalla is the strada provinciale (provincial road 542). If you enter from the west (from Dego) you are welcomed to the center of Giusvalla by the unforgettable sight of the twin rows of twisted and gnarled locust trees that line the strada .... “zû dar gazìe.” According to tradition, the trees were planted by the French who occupied Giusvalla during the first Napoleonic campaign in the late 1790s.

The tiny center of Giusvalla is composed of little more than the parish church of San Maté and the little town hall. Across from the town hall is a modern looking one-story structure that was built as the community center “la Croce Bianca” in the early 1990s. There is a small memorial with the names of the men from Giusvalla who fought in the First and Second World Wars, then just a bit further down the strada one reaches the Piazza Anselmi which boasts a small produce shop and the Cavallo Bianco restaurant. After one passes the brief outcropping of buildings that comprise the tiny “center” of Giusvalla, the strada almost immediately disappears again into the countryside as one makes their way past località Perroni and on to the town of Pontinvrea.

The “Piazza Anselmi” was so named after a Giusvalla native named Pio Felice Anselmi (1819-1869), who fought for Italian independence and unification under Giuseppe Garibaldi, and his brother Don Giovanni Battista Anselmi (1802-1885), who was the pastor of the church of San Maté in Giusvalla for many years. The Anselmi family came to Giusvalla in 1764 from a town in Piemonte called Strevi. On July 11th of that year, brothers Giuseppe and Michele Anselmi of Strevi leased the mill owned by Antonio Maria Buschiazzo at località Mulino in Giusvalla. The mill and the attached property were gradually acquired by the descendants of the Anselmi family, and remained in the family until the late 19th century when it was leased to the Zunino brothers.

A small handful of descendants of the Anselmi family remain in Giusvalla and the surrounding towns, though none carry the family name, and many descendants now live in South America and France. I am proud to be related to the Anselmi family through both of my paternal grandparents.

In the picture: View of the center of Giusvalla and the Piazza Anselmi, circa 1945

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