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The Medieval Ghost Village of Toiano

(by Eduardo Lubrano). Toiano: a tiny, almost abandoned medieval village, overlooking the rolling Tuscan hills between Pisa and Volterra, a hamlet in the municipality of Palaia, located a few kilometers from both the capital and the Etruscan; Volterra.

Isolated from the rest of the world, the medieval village was abandoned at the end of the 1980s, after twenty years of departures induced by the economic boom of the 1960s. And so, as in so many other cases, the attraction of larger urban centers, where the multiplication of factories, offices and shops offered better job opportunities, made Toiano an “almost” ghost town. Why almost? Because three families still live there today, for a total of five hardy souls.

Disputed for centuries between Pisa, Lucca, and Florence, the village is mentioned as early as the 11th century AD, but its origins are certainly earlier. Toiano has always been a small agricultural centre, of no particular importance, and certainly not situated in a strategic area. Perched on a tuffaceous hillock, the village is surrounded as far as the eye can see by hills and gullies. In addition to the marvelous view, the visitor feels the suggestion of silence mixed with the crumbling of the buildings. Abandonment and the wear and tear of time are crumbling this remote corner of Tuscany, where the five inhabitants who live there act as witnesses to a millenary era.

The village is accessed by a stone bridge that replaced the original drawbridge in the past. A single small road of just 50 metres, Via del Castello, crosses the entire village. Here you come across the ruins of the church of San Giovanni Battista, now deconsecrated. Then come to the houses, also in ruins. At the end is the cemetery, as if to symbolically conclude the visitor’s journey through the history of the small village.

What enraptures the soul is the contrast between the spaciousness and lush green of the surrounding landscape and the sense of resignation to oblivion that dominates among the ruins. A poignant charm that did not escape the eye of one of Italy’s greatest photographers, Oliviero Toscani, who organised a photography course here years ago. On the one hand, the aim was to show the beauty of the place, and on the other, to promote a possible repopulation and rebirth of the village.

Photo. By LigaDue – Opera propria, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53513252