In the 1941 - 1942 the publishing house DISTAPTUR of Tirana had planned to publish a book by the great albanologist Father Giuseppe Valentini S.
J. who collected the articles published in the Albanian tourism magazine "DRINI". This is the first article, From Tirana to the Matja.Tirana is located at the southeastern end of a narrow and fertile plain which, turning northwards, almost north-west to a cornucopia profile, being limited to the east by the high Dajti-Bërrari chain, altitude 1269, Mali i Krus - Monti di Kurbini - Montagna d'Alessio, and to the west of the long system of hills that separates it from the Durazzo plain, it goes largely to the Gulf of Drin between Alessio and Capo Rodoni. all the southernmost, narrowest part of the plain to the north of the parallel of Croia is called the Plain of Tirana (Tyranna Planities del Barlezio) (1 - Note by Franco Tagliarini), beyond in plain and then shore of the Matja (the Aemathiae fields of Barlazio).
The panorama that can be enjoyed from Tirana is truly delightful among the varied appearance of the tree-lined hills on the left and the well-cultivated plain on the right which overlooks the grandiose mountains, suffused in the afternoon with a pearly light full of nostalgia. But the historical interest begins after the episode that takes place in the hills at the crossroads of Vora.
From there a beautiful chain of pleasant hills of olive trees accompanies us on the left, dominated by an old tower gracelessly streaked with a sort of tin extinguisher in the last days of Zog: it is Preza, an ancient castle that Barlazio called Oppidum Parthinorum in the supposition that there the ancient Illyrian people had its center.
He also tells us that it would have been ruined at the time of the civil war between Cesare and Pompeo. Our interest in the aerial castle would increase if we could somehow verify the assertion here and there repeated that the Roman Senate refugee came with Pompey from Thessalonica to Durres and too threatened in the city when Caesar cut off his rival: then in the current toponym of Preza (read Presa) with a little good will we could trace a Roman "Praesidium". Certainly it is suggestive to think of those beards and limping remains of Roman parliamentarianism that overlook the battlements of the castrum to spy on if those who move forward with us on our way are not the horrid legionnaires of the nascent empire.
But coming to more famous epic, we cross here that field where insistently and fiercely the inexhaustible strength of the Roman East was measured with the intrepid value of the Albanian and Venetian West.
As we came from Tirana we rebuilt the way that already traveled Skanderbeg when from its nest of Croia marched to the invaders that penetrated from Ochrida to Sfetigrado and Petrela, so here we are in the heart of that Tyranna Planities, open field to the mobile tactics of the chosen knights 600 del Castriota.
Preza, a small castle with four good corner towers, from the top of its keep - the one that still towers up there - corresponded by way of signs and fires with the keep of Croia, which we already see well white on the coast of its formidable mountain on our right. Perhaps up there in Preza, while the bells were singing in flocks and the warriors behind the slits lowered their visors, in the little church they raised anxious litanies the Poor Clares of which there is memory that there was a convent in these surroundings.
His feet, the 6 Settembre 1477, were fought between Venetians and Albanians on one side and Turks on the other the ominous battle that decided the fate of Kruja: he commanded the Pietro Vitturi square and had under his command the constable Giuliano da San Scorbaro and the voivode Vuk Curani (read: Tzurani); the army that came to the rescue was divided into two bodies: one on the plain towards the sea under the command of Francesco Contarini with the payer Giacomo da Mosto: the other, stronger than 2.000 men, came from Scutari and Alessio with Antonazzo Deci and Lodovico da Castello of Tiferno connestabili who led 500 Italian cavalry, Carolino with Leone Illirico who led the Italian infantry, and Nicolò Dukagjini who led the Albanian auxiliaries.
The Turk, strong of 8.000 men, was encamped almost to Zeze. The battle took place at noon between Luzë and Zezë. The Venetian-Albanians probably joined in the morning, kept the cavalry in square: to the Turkish knights who advanced and retreated in incessant attacks and retreats, ours opposed the infantry that came out from the square, struck the horses at the side and immediately retreated to safety within the square; in fact even arquebusiers and crossbowmen massacred the barbarians, until at sunset they took flight towards Tirana, leaving the encampments to the looting of the winners; then the besieged also make a sortie and take possession of two well-stocked forts that the besiegers had placed as knight of the road leading from Zezë to Croia. But while, at nightfall, the commanders consult one another whether or not to stay overnight in the Turkish camp, and, according to the stradiotic custom, the Albanians give themselves to looting, the Turks return and find them so inept at the resistance to make them flee by striking friends and enemies; the infantry remained surrounded, the cavalry put to flight to Ishmi and the woods and swamps, losing more than a thousand men, Commander Contarini himself and several constables. At the end of the year the city was lost.
Let us proceed now along the way, making us right the positions; then we will pause for a while to reconstruct the events of the sieges of Kruja and the lively battles that were fought there around the time of Skanderbeg.
On our right, south of Zezë, on the meridian of altitude 198, an almost isolated hill is the last bastion of the mountain right in front of Preza: it is Mënikli (rectius: Mëndikli) the Munticleus or Monticlus del Barlezio, which served as the Skanderbeg of advanced spy and springboard for its lightning raids on Turkish camps.
We are already heading in the direction of the crossroads for Croia: well outstretched on the green olive curtain of the coast in front of us, we see the scattered flock of the houses of today's Croia guarded by the tower; but whoever went up from the crossroads would see that they are arranged around the boulder of the Castle, steep from the ridge of the mountain due to a frightening split.
Passed Luzë, between the road and the Ishmi's elbow, we can well see that it must not have been a convenient undertaking for the Turkish armies, constantly harassed by the descent of horses of the elusive Skanderbeg, the passage through this outlet of the plain of Tirana, if the significant name of Dervendi (the Parade) has remained in the town.
And it added dangers to the now devastated forest of Mamuras, where we enter. The Inag Society has ruthlessly razed it to the ground; but still in the 1924 it was very luxuriant; too flourishing indeed, because Ahmet Zogu, resigning minister, faced with the opposing parliamentary offensive, found it a good game to prove the inability of the succeeding government by sending his assassins, who, having cut down some logs on the way, stopped the car of the American Red Cross and massacred representatives at gunpoint.
Note 1: Marino Barlezio, Albanian humanist. (Scutari 1450 approximately - Rome 1512 approximately). Catholic priest, companion of Giorgio Castriota Skanderbeg and his biographer (Historia de vita et gestis Skanderbegi, Epirotarum principis. He participated in the defense of Scutari during the siege of the Turks in the 1478, of which he gave the narration in the work "De obsidione Scodrensi".
The article by Father Giuseppe Valentini S.
J. has been published in N. 1 - Year II of DRINI - Monthly Bulletin of Albanian Tourism - Tirana, Saturday 1 March 1941.
The original photographs come from the Archive of Franco Tagliarini
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