The Italian Almanac

ancient oak

Italian News - September 12

A centuries-old giant oak which featured in the adventures of Pinocchio is ailing, tree experts said on Monday. The famous oak, believed to be some 600 years old and included on UNESCO's World Heritage List, stands in private grounds near the Tuscan town of Lucca.

The tree first began to show signs that it was sickening a few months ago. Baffled by the cause, its 'owners' appealed to the local authorities to help them heal the tree. Over the next few days, a team of experts will take samples from the oak to see whether a fungus infection is the problem.

The local mayor's office said it would organise for the tree to be thoroughly pruned of dead and dying branches. It also said it was considering setting up a fence around the oak to prevent people damaging its roots and "weakening it even further". The local authorities also appealed to Tuscan universities for help in saving the tree, asking them to come up with ideas as to what could be troubling the oak.

The oak stands 15-metres high and two metres in diameter. It inspired the author of The Adventures of Pinocchio Carlo Collodi, who included an episode in which the wooden puppet was suspended from the Giant Oak and left to die.

Collodi, whose real name was Carlo Lorenzini (1826-90) originally wrote Pinocchio in a serialised form for a weekly children's magazine. After 17 action-packed instalments, Collodi appeared to tire of his creation and abruptly broke off the story, leaving a poor dying Pinocchio swinging from the oak tree where he has been strung up by two robbers. The grisly ending horrified the story's young readers and the protests prompted the author to resume writing.

Collodi penned a further 19 episodes, wrapping up with a classic fairy-tale happy ending in which the wooden Pinocchio finally becomes a real boy. Immediately after the publication of the last instalment in 1883, Pinocchio came out in book form. It was an instant success and by 1890, the year of Collodi's death, it had reached the fifth edition.