Marina di Campo and Campo nell'Elba Town Council
Article from 2011 Elbaper2 magazine. Written by Giorgio Giusti, a history lover
Like many other villages scattered around the Island known as the "Marine of...", Marina di Campo is the marine 'counterpart' of a village found on the surrounding hills. Where is the 'mountain' village of Campo though? Reading through antique manuscripts of Elba Island, we know that there was a place called Campo, today known as San Piero - probably called San Pietro originally - where legend tells us that there was a small temple dedicated to the God Glauco, a Boeotia divinity. When was the Marina di Campo founded? According to Florentine cartographer and geographer Zuccagni Orlandini, "Marina di Campo is a borough of very recent origins, established by a few fishermen on the slopes of the hill where the village of San Piero is found. From the few initial dwellings, it then developed because of its vicinity to the fruitful, ample bay. So, a patrol tower, health care structures and a church soon saw light...".
Between the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, the number of houses multiplied, stretching from the Tower area to the present main Square. It was not so much fishing activities, but agricultural (mainly viticulture) fervor and the extraction of precious granite that determined urban expansion and the construction of a secure harbor for the numerous mercantile boats heading for or coming from the mainland. The little church of Saint Gaetano was also enlarged, probably on the will of the Bourbon soldiers that patrolled the harbor from the Tower. Beside the Saint Gaetano church, another church existed before 1909. This was dedicated to Our Lady of the Abandoned, the patron saint of the city of Valencia in Spain, and its construction is probably ascribable to the presence of a few Spanish soldiers. If you step into the little church, you cannot but admire the estimable painting hanging above the side altar, where the sweet glance of the Holy Virgin contemplates her blond curly haired Son: on her sides are Saint Rita and Saint Antonio. This painting is said to have been a gift of the Grand Duke of Tuscany Leopold II to the Tower garrison. Its author is a famous 16th century painter from Siena, A. Casolani, whose works are found in many churches around Tuscany and further afield. Outside, on the right side of the church, a wide granite staircase leads to the Tower, which offers an unparalleled view over the bay and its golden sandy beach.
Remains of more ancient epochs than those of Marina di Campo can only be found further up in the mountains, notably the hillside boroughs of San Piero and Sant'Ilario. Testimony to their ancient origins are the fortresses built around the year 1400 to protect the respective churches of San Niccolò and Sant'Ilario. Halfway up the steep road toward Mount Perone rises the majestic Tower of San Giovanni, built on a large granite rock, to watch over the portion of sea below that was too often witness to the raids of the terrible Saracen corsairs. A little further up we find one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches on the Island, dedicated to Saint John, made entirely of local granite blocks. Unfortunately, its roof is so badly damaged that its bearing structure is doomed to merciless ruin. Along the back slopes of the hills and mountains, traces of semi-nomad sheepherders are still visible, the first to inhabit this amazing Tyrrhenian Island.
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