The story of Ceru

Gombitelli is one of the eight villages that make up the Seimigia district, the hilly part of the municipality of Camaiore, in the province of Lucca. It lies on a ridge of Monte Calvario (500 m. above sea level, from which it is 12 km. as the crow flies), which is one of the last eastern ridges of the Apuan Alps. From Gombitelli you pass through Lucese, from where the paths leading into the mountains to Emilia start. The fortress of Gombitelli, destroyed in 1242 by the Commune of Lucca, is one of the oldest in Versilia. The evident strategic importance of the place is a further sign of the extraordinary view that can be enjoyed from Gombitelli, over the coast and the Emilian Apennines. At the end of the 19th century, almost a thousand people lived in Gombitelli and the village was a commune. Traces of this flourishing era can be found in the size of the village, in the stately architecture of some of the buildings and in the internal white stone road. The village currently has less than 100 inhabitants.

Ferriara Galgani, traditional handicrafts, ©

Gombitelli is a special village not only because of its unspoilt beauty and sunny serenity. Until the 1930s, the people of Gombitelli spoke a local idiom, 'forestére', as one hears people say in an interview in the 1960s, which was incomprehensible to the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages. Gombitelli is still declared a linguistic island whose dialect contains words from Lombardy, Gaulish, Emilia and Piedmont.

History tells us that around 1450 the population of the town suffered a serious decline due to the waves of pestilence in the 14th century. Paolo Guinigi, Lord of Lucca, encouraged immigration to the region to help repopulate it. Gombitelli thus became the destination of a group of Lombard armigers who, expelled from Florence, found refuge in Lucca.

Bar da Cerù 1969

The other peculiarity of the village is the famous ironworking that has sustained generations of Gombitellians. In the sixteenth century some German blacksmiths, following the Emperor Charles V decided to stop in the country on the hills of Camaiore where they started working with iron and the manufacture of typical nails gombitellesi, the "gavorchi". Square section and not well finished, the nails of Gombitelli are known throughout Italy because they were used for the shoes of Italian soldiers during the First World War. Their name is still used in the Lucchese dialect and means ugly and ungainly. Something of those techniques can be found in the last active ironworks in the area, the Carlo Gargani ironworks, presented in this documentary.

But the traditional handicraft for which Gombitelli is known far beyond its borders is pork butchery, the production of sausages renowned for the high quality of the raw materials and the traditional processing techniques, carefully handed down from father to son for generations. The structure takes its name from the Cerù family, one of the two families of Gombitelli who have kept alive for generations the techniques and knowledge of artisanal pork butchery.

1960 documentary on the local dialect, "E sem a Gombetea", Istituto Luce

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