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When I was a young boyCatureglio was a place where boys and girls from Borgo, but also Cune and Oneta, would come to visit. One of the events was the "merendino" ("snack") of Easter Monday, when people competed to win a place on the lawn in front of the large villa, which at that point had been completely abandoned. We were always a little afraid to go there, fearing that the mysterious owner of that place would come to drive us out, because we had trespassed on his property. Villa Catureglio was for us a sort of enchanted palace, which no one could enter; it was a fairytale of secret rooms and passages, where ghosts had always lived. One of the most fascinating was that of Lucida Mansi, an attractive and libertine woman, who had lived in that manor in ancient times, who continually gazed into mirrors, obsessed with the possibility of preserving the beauty of her youth forever.

The Borgo historian Francesco Maria Pellegrini tells us a little about Catureglio history in his book, published in 1925, entitled "Borgo a Mozzano e Pescaglia nella storia e nell’arte" ("Borgo a Mozzano and Pescaglia in history and art"). The region of Catureglio – writes Pellegrini – lies between the borders of Cune, Oneta and Borgo, and was already an allodial title for the Castracani-Antelminelli. 

As early as the 3rd of November 1388, an Antelminelli was selling the assets of that location to a member of the Guinigi family. In 1428, in the church of San Jacopo in Borgo a Mozzano, in the presence of the syndicate of the communities making up the Vicariate of Coreglia, and at the request of Michele Guinigi, a judgement was issued by the biggest syndicate of Lucca. In this judgement, it was declared that the inhabitants of Catureglio were to be exempt from any effective, personal and mixed taxation. These tax exemptions were then renewed several times until that farm remained in the Guinigi family. When in 1430 Paolo Guinigi, Lord of Lucca, lost his power, Villa Catureglio escaped the confiscation of the prince's assets, and some of his descendants took refuge there. These Guinigi often came down from Catureglio to Borgo, where they owned a villa right in the village, on the left going towards the church of San Jacopo, less than 100 metres from the square in front of the present town hall; some of them were councillors of Borgo itself. As princes and citizens of Lucca, they had a lot of influence on this Municipality of Borgo a Mozzano and – as Pellegrini claims – they kept the income from fishing in the river Serchio.

The possession of Catureglio later passed to the important Lucca Mansi family and in 1925 – as Pellegrini writes in his book – it belonged to Mrs Angela Bartelloni, widow of Bendinelli, from Borgo a Mozzano. The historian also writes something rather intriguing: "In a small neighbourhood near the villa there is a portrait of the beautiful and slandered Lucida Mansi".  Where on earth could this painting have ended up?!?

Catureglio, with its villa, peasants' houses, stables, barns, huts and metati (drying houses for chestnuts), with the many cultivated lands and the numerous woods, then passed into the property of the surveyor from Borgo Renato Fazzi and, in that period, the degradation of the buildings and land worsened. In many lands, including agricultural ones, coniferous plants were planted which, in addition to being unnatural for those places, went as far as altering the landscape.

Finally, Catureglio was bought, in 1987, by the English Hopkins family who, thanks to the passion and significant investments of Sir Michael Hopkins and his wife Patricia, both architects, have now restored the place to its former glory and beauty. For the management of the complex restoration of the properties and the restoration of the cultivation of the land, the Hopkins were able to make use of the expertise of Richard Hobbs,  who moved in the late 1980s to Catureglio from England, with his family,  who live nearby and take care of every aspect of the business and the management company. The daughter of the Hopkins family, Sarah, with her husband Sir Alex Younger, also enjoys experiencing life in Catureglio and stays there often.

Gabriele Brunini, October 2020

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