the falcon of the Maremma

The Last Guillotine of the Maremma


Book cover

The Last Guillotine of the Maremma

(The book, written in Italian and found in major university libraries)

by Giotto Minucci

The events narrated in the book happened in Tuscany during the regency of the Hapsburg-Lorena. The book tells of the tragic slaughter of members of the Tacchia family, natives of Norcia and the owners of a food store. The massacre took place in the woods near Montepescali on the morning of June 16, 1821. It was the work of a gang of brigands, many of whom were unfortunate themselves and guilty of having stolen a loaf of bread!

The tragic and bloody incident has been reconstructed through an accurate examination of laws exemplified in the criminal trial that followed. The reader is presented with a fascinating judicial chronicle from the “gusyo romanzesco”, an unusual, authentic, and historical part of social life in the ancient and bitter “land of confinement” – the “terra di confino” – the Maremma of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

The death penalty had been abolished in Tuscany on November 30, 1786, when the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo approved the most famous law to come from Italy and the most modern penal code existing in the Europe of the 1700s. The reform abolished for the first time the death penalty, torture, and the crime of “les maesta” (les majeste). It imposed on judges the duty to act with the maximum possible diligence in trials. The reform also provided a basis for indemnifying people who were unjustly tried.

The death penalty was restored in 1790, but only for crimes involving political revolt against the state. The death penalty was then reconfirmed for all municipal crimes by Grand Duke Ferdinand III after the fall of Napoleon.

The famous trial in Grosseto in 1821-22 called 180 witnesses to confront the accused “alla americana” – in the American way. Five of those sentenced were condemned to death by means of the guillotine, which was introduced to Tuscany by order of Grand Duke Ferdinand III on August 29, 1817.

Aafter the Hapsburg-Lorena were driven from Tuscany in 1859, at the dawn of Italian unity, the Tuscany’s Provisional Government definitively abolished capital punishment. Thus, Tuscany confirmed its choice – “Among our people, civilization was always stronger than the executioner’s ax”.

The places where the misdeeds described in the book occurred still exist, so that even today it is possible to reconstruct what happened on that sad morning of June 16, 1821.

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