A wine tasting, with food paired to the wines, opened the new Boston branch of the Lucchesi nel Mondo association last month. The food was prepared by Vice President Franca Richard, Giuseppina Barsanti and Michela Matelli. This was also the occasion to meet George Matelli, new President of the Lucchesi club in the capital of Massachusetts.
Mr. Matelli, tell us about your roots.
My parents and I moved to the United States in 1954 and most of our immigrant friends came at about the same time. Lucca and the surrounding countryside could not provide job opportunities for all its citizens. You know, after the Second World War the oppressive system of mezzadria, that had dominated agricultural life for centuries, was still in force and kept the tenant farmers – i contadini– bound to the farm and unable to move up in society. So people left in droves. They immigrated to nations such as the United States, Australia, Germany, Switzerland and France, countries that offered the hope of better opportunities than Italy could provide.
Has anything changed, in your opinion?
Of course. But we were already in Boston. In Lucca, in the meanwhile, motorised traffic was eliminated from the road that circles the city on top of the Walls. Thus, the road became an avenue for the sole enjoyment of pedestrians, cyclists, joggers and parents who bring their babies or children for a stroll in complete safety and tranquility. Inside the Walls, many of the chambers and tall passageways that in medieval times were used for the storage of arms and the assembly of soldiers, were cleaned and renewed and are now open to the public as relics of the Middle Ages. Almost overnight the system of mezzadria disappeared. Lucca became so nice! And although this development caused many farms to be abandoned, it tended to erase the boundaries between social classes and allowed the children of the under-classes to pursue higher education and join an expanding and affluent middle class. Fortunately some of the abandoned farms were revitalised when the Agriturismo program went into effect in the 1980s.
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