Mayor, Christian Leca

A 'sprig' of history

Neolithic settlers were definitely around the Gravona. Dwellings have been identified, and a menhir at Tavera dates from 2000 BC. In Vero itself, large rocks were used to shelter groups. Some impressive prehistoric wall fragments can be seen dotted around. More research into this would enlighten us..

During the middle ages, the economy in Corsica was based on sheep, goat and pig farming.

The ruins of the St Jean du Celavo church (Pisan era, 11th/12th centuries) found in Vero, 300m from the Route National shows signs of it being an important site of worship. The bishop's chronicles from the 16th century describe the church's roof being destroyed by a storm, and worshipful relics were transported to the village of Vero. An ancient house in Vero (A Paese) dates from this time and it may well have been the kernel from which the village grew.

During the 19th century, the farming of wheat and chestnuts was abundant enough to need three all-year-round stone mills and six other mills powered by water only in the winter. The village also boasted three oil mills (powered by the faithful donkey), which still exist. Here and there, one could find linen plantations for the production of cloth.

The train line, though a romantic site across the valley (on the territories of Ucciani and Carbuccia) brought little to the community of Vero as the nearest station is 8km away.

During WW I, the village suffered great losses. 30 were killed in combat and many were badly injured between 1914 and 1918.

During WW II, Corsica experienced food restrictions and heavy occupation by both 80,000 Germans and 10,000 Italians. The island was isolated and all the ports were bombarded.

Pierre Griffi

The radio operator PIERRE GRIFFI (member of the Pearl Harbour mission) arrived in Corsica in 1942 and stayed in hiding in VERO from February to April 1943 at the MARIANI house. It was Barberine, Line Mariani Playfair's mother who looked after him, with the  difficulties one can imagine. In April, Vero was invaded by a section of the Italian army who settled in with the Vero inhabitants. Pierre Griffi had only a few minutes to escape, evacuate his radio position in the Mariani household and to disappear into the forest. Circling the village then walking at night, he reached Mezzana station (16km), caught the train to Caldaniccia, where François Mariani met him. Both men were arrested 11th June 1943 in Ajaccio as well as the young Paul ORSONI (18 years old, François Mariani's brother in law). Judged by the tribunal of the 15th army corps, Griffi covered for all his collaborators - and was condemned to death and executed 18th August 1943 in Bastia, only a few weeks before liberation of the island.. (Ajaccio was liberated 9th September 1943,  and Bastia on 4th October 1943). VERO will always remember Pierre Griffi, and has named the village square 'Piazza Cumuna Pierre Griffi' in his honour.

Pierre Griffi

The Pearl Harbour mission was a joint US and French mission, to inform allies of the state of enemy forces on the island. It was launched by the submarine Casabianca in November 1942 and the mission was fulfilled.
Other  French honours (posthumous) to Pierre Griffi  include the 'Medal of Merit' given by decree of the President of the United States of America Harry S. Truman, on the 12th January 1946.

 VERO is an ancient village built on the flank of a grey granite mountain, at 400-600 metres of altitude. More recent constructions have increased the size of the oldest surrounding hamlets of Vignola, Fiascu, Quarcetta, Murateddu, Costeglia, Suarricchio, Squarcione, Calzatoggia and Bora. The permanent residents number around 500 though some magnificent small stone houses stand empty, after an 'ancient' leaves her large extended family to wade through the bureaucracy of 'indivision' - divided ownership. 

Keeping livestock and beekeeping occupies a few families. Handsome athletic dogs abound, often tied up on long chains in large gardens waiting excitedly for the next wild boar hunt which is never far away. Cleaning the trees and shrubs on the mountain - now a legal obligation - is essential for keeping the fires at bay. Two familiar faces are regularly seen trimming, sawing and gathering along the side of the long village road. This and the chopping of firewood keep a few young men busy. There is a stone mason and there are a few artisans, but most people are employed in Ajaccio or in Corte in the public sector, and some of the 'ancients' rely on their civil or military pensions.

There are two cafés in Vero, though opening times are haphasard. Luna Rossa (owners: Pascal and Lolotte Armani) is on the village road, and the cafe/bistro near the river is where one of the two bee keepers live, where the knife maker has his studio, and where the writer/artist/storyteller works.

There are three outdoor 'activity' businesses for younger people : Le Moto cross, Lucifair - paragliding, and Acro Branches - a forest assault course.

There is a bakery at Squarcione, a  dog dressage centre, a camping site, a few gîtes, and rental of studio appartments, and the charming and much visited Tortoise farm ( close by.

The butcher and the grocers pop by once a week each, tooting their horns, driving their small shop in a van.

The Mairie has much to do, keeping villagers informed, dealing with building permits, looking after the upkeep of the village - water services, renovation of the gites and the oldest house in the village A Paese, which has recently begun to house a small library- art books and novels donated by various donors in London (Line Mariani Playfair, L'Institut Français etc)- for the school children and villagers.

The local school has 3 classes, approximately 50 students, and a canteen with a panoramic view of the valley. (tel.04 95 52 85 84 ). The school is closed Wednesday and between 12-2h on school days. Their headmistress is Mlle Pascale Martelli.

The village has the honour of being home to a handful of artists, Youri Gautier the cellist, Francette Orsoni the artist/writer/storyteller, Didier the jazz trombonist. The Mayor Christian Leca is also the President of the Corsican Rallye association and the Tour Historique de Corse, drives through Vero during the first weekend of October!

A fire station and an observation point at Tartavello insure that the valley is secure from the very real risk of fire.

The Vero territory is marked in the  south by the Gravone river, whose source is at Renoso. La Gravone has four affluents, and the village boasts ten natural fountains. To the north, a long line of peaks start with Punta San Eliseo (1271m) and Punta Pecoracia (1044m). Beyond the col de Tartavello (895m), the D4 road leads to the villages of the Cruzini, dominated by Punta U Cerbellu (1624m) and U Trettore (1502m).

The vegetation in the area is mainly forests of oak and pine and a MAQUIS (scrub) of arbutus, thyme, rosemary, and other highly scented herbs. Fires are a real danger, and the forest and chestnut plantations have all suffered at one time or another. Less frequent visitors to Vero drive up the steep winding road full of anticipation, not only of catching sight of the church around the last corner, but in anticipation of the more heartbreaking possibility of a new stretch of singed and blackened forest having appeared since their last visit. Some olive groves are still being cultivated and new groves are regularly planted. The entrance  of one part of the Vero forest belongs to the National Park, which has contributed to its up keep and protection. Without this and the to and fro of the hunters, the forest would be impenetrable. Before dawn, in Vero as in many parts of Corsica, the distant sound of excited hounds is heard as they follow the scent of wild boar.

The graveyard is the most peaceful and profound part of the village. Though very simple, it is set to one side and has unparalleled views of the valley and mountains. A pathway lined with scented pine trees leads to the clearing. The creaking gate immediately takes us back in time. We hear the voices of the ancients and the river's sympathetic dialogue - a rare opportunity to allow emotion to surface, to remember and to reflect.

Thank you Charles and Marie France Mariani for your invaluable help with this chapter.