Mario Lena, a special Ponte person

Mario Lena, poet at Ponte a Serraglio and remarkable previous Mayor of Bagni di Lucca, recently celebrated entering his 90th year. Maura Bertolozzi and Agostino Rieter organised a marble plaque to be hand carved in Pietrasanta with one of Mario’s poems. It was installed at Il Monaco, where Mario likes to have his breakfast in the morning. Our current Mayor, Dr Massimo Betti, officiated the ceremony to unveil the plaque.

Mario Lena was a respected scientist and teacher as well as a very popular mayor for 10 years from 1960.

Friends of poetry and Mario gathered for the unveiling of the poem.




Take the time to read the poem next time you are at Il Monaco and say hello if you see him. He is a very friendly and delightful man.

A few days later a second plaque was unveiled at the edge of Agostino’s property, beside a seat, where visitors are invited to rest a while, enjoy the poem and the magnificent view of Mario’s favourite place, Bagni di Lucca.








Writers from Great Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, Holland and Italy have been drawn to Bagni di Lucca for centuries…Byron, Shelley, the Barrett Brownings and many more have spent time in the beautiful villages, no doubt taking inspiration from their surroundings, just like Mario Lena.

Agostino has had the brilliant idea to establish a “Poetry Path” and connect 17 sites around Ponte a Serraglio, Bagni Caldi, Il Paretaio, Bagno alla Villa and La Villa where famous writers lived or visited. People will be invited to walk to the sites, admire the view and read about the writers.

A proposal has been put to the Foundatione Michel de Montaigne and if approval is given, anyone interested in helping to get the idea off the ground will be invited to get involved.

We are hoping the Mayor and the Council of the Comune will give full cooperation. I will keep you up to date with developments.

I think something that encourages locals and visitors alike to walk around the area and appreciate the spectacular scenery and learn something about our literary residents and visitors is a wonderful idea.

Little fish

As I walked beside the Lima River at Ponte a Serraglio I noticed a dark shadow in the water on the edge of the river.


On closer inspection I discovered a school of tiny fish, most likely trout.








I don’t suppose many of them will reach maturity, but it is encouraging to see them in the river.

Then and now…Bagni Caldi

At the Terme in Bagni Caldi I found a painting of Bagni Caldi. It is a view from Ponte a Serraglio.


The bridge in the painting isn’t in the same position as the current one, but several of the buildings still exist.

Here is a photo taken today from the spot where the artist must have stood.


The old hotel, Villa Pio X and Villa Talenti are visible, but San Giovanni baths are hidden by trees.

In the photo below you can see the restored Doccia Bassa below Villa Talenti.


I don’t know when the painting was done. Perhaps somebody out there knows. I might take another trip to Terme for more information.

Gorgeous Ghivizzano

Not far from Bagni di Lucca is the lovely hilltop town of Ghivizzano. At the gateway to the magnificent Garfagnana, the town dates back to the 900s.


The town is dominated by the castle on top of the hill. The arched entrance at lower end of town takes you through covered alleyways and through winding cobblestone streets up to the church and castle.



Of course, the views are beautiful from the high position.




We wandered slowly upwards.

We were there on the day of a festival in the courtyard in front of the castle…a perfect place to hold an archery competition in full costume.



It is possible to climb the tower at the castle, so of course we did.


Keep an eye out for festivals at Ghivizzano. The castle is a great venue and it really gives you an idea of life in different times.

A determined bird

If you look closely in the photo of the waterfall in the river at Ponte a Serraglio you will see a seagull. I watched this bird over several days and he always appeared in the same spot on a ledge in the middle of the overflow.


He is clearly standing there waiting for a fish to come hurtling through the water towards him. It must work because it is his regular place.






20140824-065112.jpgIt seems odd to see seagulls in a mountain village, but the sea is quite close as the crow, or in this case, the seagull, flies.

Our ducks seem to be disappearing slowly, but the seagulls are always on the river.

Eremo di Calomini



This beautiful white sanctuary set into the edge of a rocky cliff just past Gallicano, has been around since about 1,000AD. The church is carved into the rock and has been expanded over the centuries to include the presbytery and the sacristy. The double colonnaded facade was added in the 18th century.

The Calomini hermits took care of the sanctuary until 1868 and now it is in the care of the Lucca Capuchin Fathers. They have done a great job… take a look.




The wooden doors are beautifully carved.




The interior is beautiful.







You can clearly see that the church has been carved into the rock.




The view from the front of the hermitage is wonderful.


To get to the Hermitage, take the road to Gallicano, then look for the signs to Vergemoli and La Grotta del Vento. The sign for the Hermitage is about 1 kilometre past the end of Gallicano. It is not always open, so it is a good idea to phone ahead. 39 0583 767003.

There is a parking area beside the sanctuary. Look for the excellent restaurant just a short walk from the parking area where they serve delicious meals, especially local trout.


Local news…

There will be a celebration on Saturday 23rd August for the conclusion of the exhibition of textiles, Nodi della Memoria, at the Casino in Ponte a Serraglio. Fesivities begin at  17.00 with the opening of the exhibition; at 21.00 there will be a shop and at 22.30 there will be music and refreshments on the terrace.

To book, please phone Tina: 0583 805815 (9.00 – 12.00) or Gemma: 349 8499704


Osteria al Ritrovo del Platano

This is a great place to eat not far from Bagni di Lucca, on the way to Castelnuovo. Osteria al Ritrovo del Platano is a Slow Food restaurant at Ponte di Campio. The chef is Mauro Bertolini and he prides himself on providing delicious local food in season…special tastes of the Garfagnana. The food is both traditional and innovative.

I discovered it one wet, cold day on my way to Castelnuovo. The entrance doesn’t really give any idea of what you will find inside. The restaurant is quite large and well set out.



The workman’s lunch is one of the best in the area, and amazing value at 10 euro.


I ordered the pasta arrabbiata, fried trout and peperonata.








I didn’t leave much.


There were some very delicious looking desserts available, but I couldn’t fit anything else in, so I just had a coffee.


I have been back for dinner, which is also excellent. The prices are a little higher, but worth every centesimo.

There is a small parking area on the side of the road on the Gallicano side of the restaurant.