My heart is burning,
melting snows of winters past:
tears of Our Lady.
Brucia il cuor mio,
scioglie la neve d’inverni passati:
lacrime della Nostra Signora.
My heart is burning,
melting snows of winters past:
tears of Our Lady.
Brucia il cuor mio,
scioglie la neve d’inverni passati:
lacrime della Nostra Signora.
Let’s look at some of the activities and events which will take place in and around Bagni di Lucca during the coming days. At least they’ll help to take our minds off what’s happening at a certain place by the Thames…
I’m definitely not going to miss Moliere’s comedy ‘Tartuffe’ this Friday 29th March at 9 PM at the Teatro Academico. It’s about a religious hypocrite that unctuously uses his sanctimonious self to dupe a gullible family; a theme still somewhat relevant today. If your Italian is not that brilliant then it might be worth swotting up on the plot at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartuffe#Plot. There’s no problem about that: I always have to do the same with opera plots, even if they’re sung in English!
On Sunday in Villa’s market place there’s another favourite event: the antiques market – something else not to be missed! Look out for that Botticelli disguised as a copy. (If you don’t believe me see https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2019/mar/28/botticelli-copy-found-to-be-rare-original-from-artists-workshop
On Sunday 7th April there’s a truly great event : the 43rd Giro dei Colli termali or walk/run around the thermal hills of Bagni di Lucca. Depending on your stamina/inclination you can choose a variety of routes starting from 2 to 4 kilometres through 10, 18, 20 kilometres. It’s a very ‘Italian’ event with families joining in and I regret I’ve only done it once so far. Turn up in the morning at the stadium.
The longest route goes through our village of Longoio and I did a little of the route, now blue-spot marked, yesterday with two feline competitors who need no introduction to readers of my blog.
There are refreshment points en route and the weather is set fair. Sandra and I have also done the equally entertaining romp called ‘Marcia delle Ville’. For an account of that one see my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/04/25/the-marathon-lucca-style/
Again, on Sunday 7th April at 6 pm in Bagni di Lucca’s Library, there’s the Spring Jazz concert organised by the De Montaigne foundation. It’s now in its seventh year and this time stars the world renowned singer from Livorno, Chiara Pellegrini and members of her highly jazzed-up family, Andrea and Nino.
To savour a little of Chiara’s ensemble here’s an excerpt from YouTube:
The concert is free but don’t forget to book!
Of course, there’s loads more happening but one can’t be everywhere at the same time unless one has been cloned!
Viareggio isn’t just sea, sun, sand and ice-cream. It’s also history with beautiful mansions ranging from classical to art nouveau. It’s a major luxury yacht building and service area. It’s a great fishing and sea food centre and it has a considerable artists’ colony. Together with its nearest English equivalent, Brighton, Viareggio has been the holiday haunt of the rich, the famous and the princely. Within its boundaries there are no less than two regal residences: the Villa Borbona on the Viale dei Tigli (‘Lime Tree Avenue’) and the Villa Paolina by the square which has a monument to Shelley, who unfortunately met his briny death in 1822, aged 29, off the Viareggio coast in a violent storm.
For last week’s fish Friday, I couldn’t miss my cod and chips. What better place to have it fresh from the sea of Viareggio with crispest batter but no soggy chips, and mayonnaise instead of vinegar…. mind you, I did miss my mushy peas… but not the rain!
P.S. The cat below is Ettore – a favourite of fishermen – sadly no longer with us on this planet since 2016 but in spirit with his statue. (Still miss my beloved cat Napoleone badly…..)
Other must-see places in Viareggio are the stunning art nouveau Villa Argentina (see my post on that at
and Puccini’s residences. (For more on them see my posts at
Recently, as part of international women’s week, at Bagni di Lucca’s casinò, Renata Frediani gave a fascinating talk on Paolina Bonaparte Borghese and her times. (See my post on this at https://longoio3.wordpress.com/2019/03/13/dont-miss-out-on-pontes-casino-this-week/).
Renata mentioned that she had helped to refurbish the princess’s rooms in the Villa Paolina. Last Friday I visited the villa and was certainly not disappointed!
The exhibition is set up in the stately rooms of the ‘piano nobile’ of the emperor Napoleon’s sister, Paolina Borghese. It has been refurbished with furniture and artistic items of the Napoleonic age, all curated by Renata Frediani who is an antiques collector from Lucca and an expert on ‘style empire’. Most of the precious furnishings, including the entire collection of exquisite dresses on display, were supplied from Renata’s own collection.
The exhibition is further enriched with evening dresses, also from Renata’s collection. They are of special interest as they are by the famous fashion stylist from Lucca, Dina Bigongiari Santini who died in 2004 aged 89. If you’ve never heard of Bigongiari, you should know she was Giorgio Armani’s favourite designer as well as of the Royal House of Montecarlo. Dina was much appreciated for her novel dress designs which have a truly refined, aristocratic quality. She opened her atelier during the post-war period in the historic centre of Lucca and also created the silk museum, (upon which textile Lucca founded its fame and fortune).
Dina Bigongiari ’s styling was innovative and of the highest quality. For me a definition of beauty would be to meet a lady wearing one of her dresses…
Set in the exquisite ambience of Princess Borghese’s pleasure palace with its delightful frescoed rooms, the Villa Paolina’s collection is certainly something to seduce one away from the esplanade and the ozone-laden air of Viareggio’s seafront.
These are the villa’s current opening times.
1 September to 14 June: Wednesday to Saturday 3.30 PM to 7.30 PM, Sunday 9.30 to 1.30 PM, 3.30 PM to 7.30 PM.
There’s more information on the villa at https://www.visittuscany.com/en/attractions/villa-paolina-civic-museum-in-viareggio/
If your thing isn’t fashion then the villa Paolina houses no less than three other museums:
Museo Archeologico e dell’Uomo A.C. Blanc (local prehistoric and Etruscan finds.)
Museo degli Strumenti Musicali C. Ciuffreda (Musical instruments collection, including items from Tibet).
Atelier A. Catarsini: an artist’s studio and contemporary art exhibitions including paintings by one of my favourite local artists, the brilliant Fornaciari who lives round the corner from the villa.
To sum up do look at this leaflet about Viareggio’s civic museums:
If you were unable to make it to the exhibition in celebration of International Women’s day at Bagni di Lucca’s casino here are photographs of the works of art in the main ‘salone dei gigli’ (Salon of the Lilies).
I make no pretence of placing my critique on what was displayed except to state that the variety of techniques, styles, subjects, visual interpretations displayed in the artistic talent and genius, in our area is quite stunning.
This is a list of the artists exhibiting.
This is a list of the works displayed as a slide-show going anti-clockwise round the beautiful hall. If you are familiar with the artists then I’m quite sure you’ll be able to recognize what’s whose. Otherwise, just sit back and admire! (I regret the non-anti-reflecting glass in some exhibits).
Bagni di Lucca Ponte’s exhibition at the casinò celebrating International Women’s day also includes several events. On Facebook I publicised the inaugural concert at the casinò given by Eleonora Tirrito and Valentina Bartoli, who performed classic songs ranging from Modugno to Nina Simone and Carole King (and their own too). Here are a few snippets from it:
It’s amazing that, given its quality, this was the first concert the two artistes gave. They were naturally a little nervous and my main criticism would have been that there should have been less introductory chat but I’m quite sure that they’ll have realised this by now.
The technical backup for sound and light show, incidentally, was excellent.
Another event which I had publicised was the evening dedicated to Napoleon’s sister, Paolina Borghese.
This was another fascinating occasion with some excellent contributions.
Paolina’s bodyguard also made a special appearance at Bagni di Lucca:
The short documentary on Paolina was beautifully produced and included locations in Elba and Rome associated with a person who was truly a precursor of ‘women’s lib’. ‘I’m still waiting for a 14th July for women’ said Paolina and instead of posing as Diana for the sculptor Canova, (‘what me as a chaste goddess?’) decided on being the Venus Victrix in that well-known statue at Rome’s Villa Borghese.
Bruno Micheletti, head of the local historical society, followed with a clear talk on Paolina’s sister Elisa, better known by the Lucchesi since she was princess of Lucca. Bruno mentioned Elisa’s efforts in town planning in Lucca, which did not go too well with the locals, especially as a church, famed for its miraculous picture, was demolished to give way to today’s Piazza Napoleone. Indeed, the Lucchesi don’t like to name the place with the Emperor’s name but rather as the ‘Piazza Grande’. Bruno also stated that few Lucchesi lamented Elisa’s departure from their city when the Napoleonic Empire collapsed.
You can read more about Elisa’s town planning at Lucca in my post at:
Parenthetically, Elisa is buried in Bologna’s San Petronio church as I have described in my facebook entry at
Regarding Paolina, a find by our local historical association revealed that she visited Bagni di Lucca as late as 1824, the year before she died.
A nephew of Elisa, incidentally, was the Emperor Napoleon III who, exiled after his defeat in the Franco-Prussian war, was buried at Farnborough. You can read all about this fascinating link between Lucca and Farnborough in my facebook entry at
The captivating evening on Paolina Borghese was concluded by an account of the supremely elegant ‘Empire style’ in furniture by Renata Frediani. Such classic items as the lyre chair:
and the boat bed
are from this era.
Renata emphasised the fact that the Empire style was also regarded as a male ‘military’ style and was a direct reaction against the floral frivolity and elaboration of the feminine grace of the ‘ancien regime’s’ Louis XVI chic.
Paolina’s seaside villa in Viareggio has been beautifully restored with the help of Renata Frediani with original Empire furniture. It’s definately a place to go and visit. For more information see:
My next event for women’s week at Bagni di Lucca’s casino’ will be this evening’s presentation of ‘Women in music and art’ by Francesca Rafanelli Maffucci.
Incidentally, Francesca is the wife of Samuele Maffucci (see https://www.facebook.com/samuele.maffucciorganaro.3) who works with our local San Cassiano lad Enrico Barsanti, well-known for his organ playing skills. It’s another event not to be missed.
Despite the fact that Lent has now officially started and that, traditionally, we’re supposed to give up something, there’s no excuse for missing out on some very worthwhile events at Bagni di Lucca:
This Friday at 6 pm you are invited for a free aperitif and olive oil tasting at the Hotel delle Terme (that’s the one next to the thermal baths).
One could then have a pizza in town before moving to the Casino for the free inaugural concert starring singers, Eleonora Tirrito and Valentina Bartoli, celebrating the start of women’s week.
On Saturday the art exhibition opens at 10 am.
At 5.30 pm in Bagni di Lucca’s Library (ex Anglican church) there will be a seminar entitled ‘Homage to Paolina Borghese Bonaparte’. It will include a documentary film Napoleon’s sister.
Incidentally, did anyone listen to that amazing concert on Radio 3 last night in which Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque played the following pieces by renaissance and classical women composers which I doubt most men know anything about?
Francesca Caccini: Selections from Il primo libro delle musiche: ‘Romanesca’ No 4 Madrigal ‘Maria, dolce Maria’; No 34 Canzonatta ‘Fresche aurette’;No 28 Canzonatta ‘Non sò se quel sorriso’
Isabella Leonarda: Sonata duodecima, Op 16
Francesca Caccini: Ciaccona from Il primo libro delle musiche, ‘O chiome belle’ from Il primo libro delle musiche
Élisabeth-Claude Jacquet de La Guerre: Violin Sonata No 2 in D Les Sommeil d’Ulisse from Cantates françoises, No. 3
(You can hear pieces from the concert for a few more days at
The fact is that only in recent years have ‘hidden’ women composers and artists come out of the cupboards power-freaked men have placed them in for too long.
Some women still ask why there’s an international woman’s day anyway and why there isn’t an equivalent men’s day. The problem is that for too long women and men have been treated un-equivalently. ‘Mendelssohn’, for example, brings to mind Felix and not his brilliant composer sister, Fanny from which he borrowed several of his themes and even passed off quite a few of her works as his own! To say nothing of ‘Schumann’ when Robert springs to attention and Clara, his wife, with her equally fine compositions is neglected. Indeed, Clara was brainwashed by the conventions of the time to give up composition when she married Robert and devote instead to caring for and nurturing her husband’s obviously ‘superior’ talent.
(Recognize some of the hidden women composers of the past?)
Fortunately, such absurd views are now ever more being dispelled in the modern world. Well, in many places. I read today that Google is refusing to remove a Saudi government app that lets men track and control women. Through this imprisoning technology men are given power to grant and withdraw travel permission and set up SMS alerts when passports are being used by (their…) women.
Just for that situation there’s reason enough to continue to celebrate an international women’s day.
Recently I received the following idea from Sergio Garbari.
In case you didn’t know who he is, Sergio is a professional photographer who has worked for the Uffizi gallery in Florence and is well-known through his remarkable pictures. One of Sergio’s exhibitions was a highlight in the season of shows that were held in our much lamented Shelley House at Bagni di Lucca, Villa.
You can read about Sergio’s experiments with infra-red photography in that exhibition at:
More recently, and in honour of the fallen on the hundredth anniversary of the Great War, Sergio went around our villages in the Lima valley photographing, both lyrically and tragically, their war memorials. You can see some of his results in my post at:
Sergio has proposed the following project:
Despite the untimely end of the ‘Borgo degli Artisti’ the members of the former cultural association have stated that they will present an exhibition at the Casino on the occasion of ‘Women’s week’ which opens on the 8th of March. Sergio has in mind to put together a small series of black-and-white photographs, similar to what was done last year, and presenting portraits of English women who reside, either part or full-time, in the comune of Bagni di Lucca.
Sergio is looking for twelve ladies (it is, after all, going to be women’s week!) who have come to stay in our area. I can think of several ladies who fit the bill perfectly . I will not mention their names here but I know them through their contribution to the arts and in entrepreneurship.
Realising Sergio’s brilliant photography I am quite sure that there will be many ‘signore’ who will be interested. All they have to do is to contact me via my email address at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will then relay the information to Sergio who will arrange a photography session. Incidentally, this is similar to Kevan Halson’s photographic and interview project. The main difference is that Sergio’s project specifically concentrates on women and will be presented as part of Bagni di Lucca’s women’s week celebration at the casino of Ponte a Serraglio.
I am sure, ladies, you will agree that this is a very worth-while project and that you will be happy to take part in it.
In my post on my father at https://longoio3.wordpress.com/2018/11/02/happy-birthday-papa/ I included the following paragraph:
Serving in the Eighth army under Monty in WWII, and at the battle of El Alamein, my father was then transferred to the Italian peninsula. It was here in the closing days of 1945 that he met my mother who was a nurse in the Tyrol. He was immediately infatuated by her with her amazing looks and her long Veronica Lake-like hair. I remember the sketch Harvey did of the mountain refuge restaurant where they would meet. (My dad was a brilliant amateur artist and, if given more time off from work, could have done a lot more in this art). Many years later Harvey and Vera returned to the place; the owners were still the same and it was truly a touching re-union.
I have since been contacted by a cousin who, quite by chance, mentioned she possessed some drawings which might have included something by my father. My cousin sent me photocopies of the drawings and I instantly recognised my father’s signature in one of them and, indeed, his style of drawing.
Subsequently, my cousin very kindly sent me the original drawing and here it is!
Although it’s not (as I remember the sketch) of the restaurant terrace of the hotel, it remains the ‘Albergo Bella Vista Monte Bullacia, Alpe de Suisi’, in the region of Sud Tirol, Italy. (The nearest big town to the hotel is Cortina d’Ampezzo).
The date next to my father’s signature shows 1945.
This is the albergo Bella Vista today.
I don’t have very much belonging to my dad in my possession (except, of course half of my genes) so this is truly a valuable possession.
Coincidentally, on the day this January that I received the photocopy of the drawings., I was waiting for the train at Bagni di Lucca railway station when I met an artist friend and his friend.
I mentioned to them about the possibility that I might receive the original of my father’s picture and showed them the photocopy. On the train the artist’s friend showed me on his cell-phone a photo of a war-time sketch his father had made. It was almost certainly of mountains in the Südtirol area and was drawn with the same fine-black-pen technique that my father used. (A copy of this other drawing is being sent to me)
I believe in intentional coincidences, if such an oxymoron can exist.
(I could add that my wife’s mum was born in the adjoining region just south of the hotel…)
Our lives are as gigantic jigsaw puzzles made up of myriads of tiny pieces which, in providential cases, fit together. Only find and only connect………
So was this the place
where thoughts of my life began:
I return to Bagni di Lucca with some sadness at two events that have recently hit it during my absence in London.
One is the devastating fire last Sunday that burnt down the Mirafiume, tennis club. We are clearly not only talking just about the structure but its equipment, which included rafting that is used in the highly successful white water courses on our Lima River.
The other is the closing down of the ‘Borgo degli Artisti’, a cultural association founded in 2005 in Ponte a Serraglio. This, too, is quite devastating. The Borgo was responsible for two major events in Bagni di Lucca: the extempore painting competition in the summer and the women’s week in the spring.
The events for the women’s week will continue, but in all likelihood ‘Colori e Sapori’ – the extemporaneous painting competition, attracting artists from all over Italy in the summer – will be no more.
“It has been decided with regret to close on January 15th”, states 76 year old Pilade Togneri, president for eleven years of the ‘Borgo degli artisti’, “since there were no positive answers from other associations we had asked to collaborate to ensure the continuation of the ‘Borgo’. The board was composed of eight people, while its members were more than sixty. It is with great regret that we are closing but organizing the events is difficult and tiring”.
The association’s honorary president was Mario Lena the former mayor and wonderful poet, and the Borgo was based in via Serraglia at the start of the bridge that crosses the Lima stream. Its founders included Damiano Marino Merlo, hotelier, Candido Martinelli, photographer, Morena Guarnaschelli, painter and several volunteers. The vice-president was the writer and local historian, Natalia Sereni.
Clearly, the real reason, in my opinion, for the Borgo’s demise was the fact that there were insufficient younger people willing to take over its running. A volunteer is worth ten pressed persons and sadly there weren’t enough of them.
It is incredibly sad to re-read my posts on the extempore painting competition, in which Alexandra Cipriani, my wife, was a keen participant.
Here are my main posts to show what Bagni di Lucca has lost:
If you are interested do buy and read my poems and Alexandra’s paintings done at the extempore competition. The publication is available at https://www.amazon.it/Septet-Francis-Pettitt/dp/8869700526, at https://www.ibs.it/septet-libro-francis-pettitt/e/9788869700521 and at https://www.libraccio.it/libro/9788869700521/francis-pettitt/septet.html
All things must pass. Last year, among other things, we lost ‘Shelley House’, that exceptional bookshop and meeting place for writers and artists at Bagni di Lucca Villa. This year has started badly with the loss of two prestigious and loved centres.
Like the phoenix from the ashes let us truly believe that Bagni di Lucca will have new, good things happening to it this year.
Meanwhile let me regale you with the magical snowfall we have recently had over our valley.
Candelora in Italy, Imbolc among the Celts, Saint Brigid in Ireland, Candlemas in England, Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau (Festival of Mary of the candles) in Wales, are all connected with the promise of the arrival of spring and the celebration of longer days and more light. As Shelley, who stayed in Bagni Di Lucca just over two hundred years ago, famously wrote in his ‘Ode to the West Wind: ‘If winter comes can spring be far behind?’
We’ve certainly had the wind and the rain, and my journey this morning to Penny supermarket at Borgo a Mozzano was cut short when I was informed that the road leading to the Ponte della Maddalena was underwater since the river Serchio had flooded through its banks.
Here is a video taken by a brave journalist from our local paper last night:
Christianity has adopted many pagan festivals and Candlemas refers liturgically to a passage in Saint Luke’s gospel when Jesus was presented at the temple after his mother Mary had received ritual purification according to Jewish custom, forty days after his nativity,
The text relating to this incident is worth quoting in full:
And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord” and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.”
And his father and his mother marvelled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Have you lit your candle for today? For as the Italian rhyme goes:
Quando vien la Candelora
de l’inverno semo fora;
ma se piove o tira vento
de l’inverno semo dentro.
When Candlemas comes
we’re out of winter ;
but if it is raining or windy
we’re still in winter .