La Colombaia, a story of many Leopoldines

An abandoned Leopoldina in Leccio, near "The Mall" outlet, visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists each year

"But he suffered so much, so much. We didn't even have a bathroom," the old woman recounts from the balcony of the new ochre-yellow house.

From the courtyard, her husband, as he approaches the Colombaia now bordered by a safety fence due to the danger of collapse, picks up the thread of the story and continues the tale: "the bathroom was that one there, look - pointing to the field with his hand - they used to leave the house and go there. There was a hole! And you want to tell me that I'm nostalgic for these things here! I'm sorry they turned out this way, but one who comes from outside cannot realize it... but one who has been there, lived there... the cold used to eat you up in winter."

We are in front of one of the many abandoned farmhouses in the Tuscan territory, in the locality of Leccio, in the province of Florence. A Leopoldina. The Leopoldina structure was so renamed because it was the result of a new rural organization enacted in the 18th century by Grand Duke of Tuscany Pietro Leopoldo, with the aim of rationalizing production and ensuring the well-being of the peasant family. But by the second half of the 1850s, it was no longer guaranteeing an adequate quality of life, in relation to the extensive changes taking place, both social and urban.

Mario, fra gli ultimi inquilini della Colombaia, trasferitosi in una nuova costruzione antistante

In this case, we are fortunate to have the direct testimony of someone who lived in that house for most of his life, with thirty other relatives as was the custom in his time. Mario T. took us inside that now vanished rural life, walking around the house, pointing out its windows, and describing the people, rooms, and events that are still very vivid. He recalled when the floor of the room where the women slept collapsed, and they fell right on top of the beasts, and his wife's aunt was left hanging by her belt from a cow's horn. Sensing the commotion, the men rushed to the rescue, "but no one was hurt, neither the beasts nor the people."

The Colombaia as it appears today, a coat of arms can still be seen on the facade

Today, the two tenants of the Colombaia live in the modern house just across the street, content with their new conveniences and happy to have raised their children there.

Perhaps wistfully from time to time they cast a glance at that imposing and wonderful nineteenth-century structure that once housed such a large family, of the kind you don't see anymore.

Sometimes it is the same rural house that, now decaying, is remembered with the sound of the collapse of some attic, ceiling, or wall, taking with it fragments of the lives of so many of Italy's farming families.