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How to save the Maremma!

by Simone Focardi – In 1700, after the extinction of the Medici who had no inheritors, many were the problems in Tuscany. In an intricate political game Tuscany was assigned to the Lorraine’s family who inherited a State in absolute decline … thanks to the ineptitude of the last Medici Grand Dukes.

The first Lorraine Grand Duke to take possession of the new State was Francis Stephen, husband of the empress Maria Theresa of Austria, who governed Tuscany through regency.

The Tuscan subjects had to wait his son Peter Leopold to have back a tenant in Palazzo Pitti. It was 1765.

The young Peter Leopold had to face a hard situation in Tuscany. As a good Austrian, grown in the rigour, he didn’t lose heart and, on the contrary, rolled up his sleeves, found a helpful team of Tuscan collaborators who knew well the problems of the region. He started then to work.

Among the first things, he understood immediately it was necessary to work out the “Maremma matter”, for the well-being of his grand dukedom.

The most southern agricultural province was in a state of real ruin and, as it were not enough, was infested by the bad air; local towns, some once beautiful and flourishing, were a sort of ghost towns: people either died or left to avoid the fevers.

The Lorraine’s took matters into their own hands. They carried out inquiries to know concretely the tragic situation; they went over there with experts in several sectors, gathered information, asked the dwellers about the real situation and then started to work actively.

They had to turn around the Maremma! But how? Where to start from? Which priorities?

Was it necessary first to allow people to cultivate and live there, or to carry out water works to drain the area? Certainly an ad hoc legislation was needed and was punctually promulgated. Consultations among experts followed one another frantically. The conclusion was that it was necessary to act in all directions at the same time. Recovering the agriculture was essential to make the society restart again, because in that area it was the only possible resource. This great turmoil set up by the Lorraine gave its result! And it was the new life of Maremma!

This cluster of measures, some traditional and some very innovating for that time, but in any case all successful, managed to make the area revive.

From a depressed and unhealthy area completely neglected by the previous governments of Medici, who leaved it aside with its issues of depopulation, under-production and paludism, the Maremma became a province that slowly and in a laboured way was re-approaching to the rest of the State. The beginning was set, the main thing was done: although slow, it was ineluctable…

Better times came for Maremma. The Lorraine saved it and, although many people don’t know it, they were the first to transform it in the marvellous jewel it is today.

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