Castelvecchio Pascoli Rules Scottish Academia 18


The lady on the right in the less elaborate hat is my grandmother, Valentina Coletti. The gentleman next to her is her brother Leonardo Coletti. They look pretty exotic for Edinburgh, as they were immigrants from Castelvecchio Pascoli in Italy.

I am Rector of Dundee University. At a recent meeting of Rectors I was speaking with Kevin Dunnion, the Rector of neighbouring St Andrews University. We were astonished to discover that his grandparents also came from Castelvecchio Pascoli.

Perhaps it explains our amazement if I tell you that Castelvecchio has a population of 509. For this tiny Tuscan hilltop village to produce Rectors of two of Scotland’s finest universities – at the same time – is pretty mind-boggling.

Castelvecchio is in the municipal district of Barga. There was a mass exodus from Barga to the central belt of Scotland around the start of the twentieth century. A recent study of Scots Italians was entitled Barga No More. I recall some years back an exhibition in Chambers Street Museum which suggested that some 20% of modern Scots are at least a quarter Italian.

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18 thoughts on “Castelvecchio Pascoli Rules Scottish Academia

  • JimmyGiro

    My Dad ‘liberated’ my Mum during the 8th Army’s move through southern Italy. It is worrying to think how young she might have been in those fraught days, but just like Romeo to Juliet, my Dad would have been judged a paedophile by modern standards, and my family would not have existed in today’s standardised world.

    The irony of that generation fighting fascism, only to encourage us by their victory, to be self righteous, and by that hubris, to become fascist as an inevitable consequence. Was it for this the clay stood tall?

  • Hugh Kerr

    Molte Bene Craig so that is where you get your flamboyant style from! by the way there is another Scots connection to Barga John Bellany the great Scots painter lives in Barga.

  • JIm Jackson

    I have heard it said that if you visit Barga the residents who speak English do so with broad Scots accents.

    Caio Hen

  • nobody

    Hullo Craig,

    Did you ever consider that they might have fled Castelvecchio Pascoli on account it being such a mouthful to pronounce? Imagine the relief of being able to answer the question of where one lived with a simple ‘Dundee’. Such whimsical emigrants, ha!

    Otherwise, for some mad reason, the phrase, “We are all Castelvecchio Pascolians now” seems appropriate.

  • craig


    Yes. Mind you I think I am right in saying that when they lived there it was just called Castelvecchio. The Pascoli bit was tacked on in honour of the great Italian writer who lived there. Whether he was originally from there too, I am afraid I don’t know.

  • Carlo Zambonini

    On account of the length of the name, the locals call Castelvecchio Pascoli cp pronounced chee pee. So was born the name of the fast food outlets they opened in Scotland. That’s sorta plausible eh. My family are from Barga and had a chee pee in Bellshill

    What a cracker of a picture, they were all so happy in those days.

  • craig


    Is that an old joke or did you make it up? Yes, Uncle Naldo (Leonardo) had chippies too. Poor Valentina married my grandfather and had thirteen (yes thirteen) kids.

    Something went very wrong. If you look at the photo, it is obvious from the clothes that these are not the Sunday best of working people, there is real wealth there. But by the time I came along they were living on the West Pilton estate. Edinburgh people will know what that means – and I think the fall to serious poverty actually happened shortly after this photo was taken.

    All families have their mythologies, and we have dark tales relating to second marriages, stepmothers and disinheritances, with the villains being our relatives the Brattesanis. But I don’t really know the truth of it and I am not sure this particular bit of history is recoverable.

  • Bridget

    “The road crawls along by the stony river Serchio, then soars up through the pines and crags of the Apuan Alps. In a lay-by, a poster advertises the legend: La Sagra del Pesce e Patate – Fish and Chip Festival.

    Hang on… a fish and chip festival, in the remote Garfagnana region of northern Tuscany? Some joke, surely? Not at all. The clue comes in the next sign: Barga. The most Scottish place in Italy.”

  • nobody

    Thanks to those folks providing the links. What a marvellous trip. Should I ever make it back to my favourite country in the world, I shall definitely stop in.

    As for deep fried mars bars – to the ICJ with whoever invented that particular horror! Um, not one of the Italian diaspora I hope…

  • Mary

    You must speak to Remo Pedreschi at Edinburgh University – he still has relatives at Castelvecchio too!

  • Daz

    Russia Ukraine Gas cut off

    Craig instead of bashing Russia as all do in the west, and those in countries that have so called freedom, let’s look at the real reason why Russia has reduced gas flows into the Ukraine, and stop looking at just the one side of the political argument to push our own agenda.

    The real reason, let’s face it, is that the Ukraine government has been paying subsidised gas prices from the Soviet days, and still does to this day.

    Russia is now asking them to pay market prices, as any other capitalist country would such as the United States. More so, if the Ukraine wishes to be a part of the so called West, then they should in all fairness expect to pay full Western prices. I am sure US loving governments and the US itself would expect a full market price to be paid if it was their gas, more so if that country wished to join the so called “other side”.

    So let’s take our head out of the sand and stop the Putin-bashing just for the sake of Putin-bashing.

    Having worked in Central Asia, most notably Uzbekistan and Russia for the past 9 years, I can only agree with some of the writers to this forum, who state that much of these countries are pro Russia, and not pro US and the west.

    Those in western media love to play on the fact that Putin was once part of the KGB, let’s not forget that George Bush snr, was once part of the CIA, but of course that’s different, ones on the side of evil, the other goodness ?” try telling that to those in Afghanistan / Iraq, to name just two.

    Let’s not get like those in Georgia, where all the ills of that country is blamed on Putin and Russia, all but the weather that is. And let’s be honest, that recent war was backed by American power brokers.

    Nothing is as sad as a sighted person who cannot see, and sorry Graig you have lost the plot.

  • Jamie Stanton

    Hi Craig, you and I are distantly related it seems! Leonardo there is my great x 3 grandfather. My mother is compiling a detailed genaeology if you are interested. Just pop me an email.

  • Jamie Stanton

    Hi Craig, you and I are distantly related it seems! Leonardo there is my great x 3 grandfather (although the spelling we have is Quilietti). My mother is compiling a detailed genealogy, if you are interested please email me.

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