Bridge flowers


This is the first year since we bought our apartment in Ponte a Serraglio in 2003 that I have been here for an entire summer. I usually go home to Australia to enjoy our wonderful sub tropical Brisbane winter. I am not a fan of hot weather, but Covid has changed many plans.

It is also the first year I have been here to look after the flowers I plant on the bridge in front of our apartment all summer. The plants are exposed to everything the weather can hit them with and they require quite a lot of watering, fertilising and general care. Because of the harsh conditions they don’t always do well. Even geraniums struggle to survive.

I planted geraniums and a bit later, marigolds, in late spring. The geraniums have not done well, but the marigolds have thrived. A few have recently dropped dead, but new seedlings are growing to replace them. They put on a very good show and there will be marigolds on the bridge next year.


The flowers on my balcony have finally come good after a slow start. These need watering almost daily to survive. I doubt I will plant them again even though they are very pretty.

The plant outside my bathroom window is the easiest to water. I can can reach them from my shower.

Since I will probably be here all winter I will be looking for something that will survive the cold.

Hydrangeas rule in Boveglio

Boveglio is a village clinging to the mountainside not far from Benabbio on the road towards Collodi and Pescia. It belongs to the Comune di Villa Basilica and has a population of about 150 people.

Little of the ancient village is visible from the road. I parked at the top and walked down the steep path to explore. One of the first things I noticed was the lovely gardens, many filled with hydrangeas in bloom. My visit was a little while ago, so they are probably past their best now.

Come for a walk through Boveglio…

 

 

 

 


The village was bigger than I expected. There were several narrow streets spreading up and down the incline.

I came to the piazza where I found a bar beside the statue dedicated to fallen soldiers.

 

From the terrace I had an excellent view of the village and surrounds.

 

 

Then it was back up to the top.

 

 

 

Boveglio is delightful. The gardens are beautifully cared for. Most houses are built of grey stone, so it could quite drab without the riot if colour provided by the lovely flowers. Thank you to the green fingered gardeners who made this walk through the village so joyful.

Isola Santa

When you have explored all the villages that make up Bagni di Lucca there are hundreds of interesting hamlets to visit in nearby Garfagnana.

Isola Santa is a partially submerged village not far from Castelnuovo in the Garfagnana. It was built in the Middle Ages, probably the 13th century, around a hospice for travellers and pilgrims.

The hospice was disbanded in 1575. It was brought back to life in 1608 and rebuilt as the church of St Jacopo, which still stands today. The detached bell tower was built in 1899.

In 1950 the construction of a hydroelectric station forced the inhabitants to leave. A dam was built and the old bridge and a mill were flooded. Years later some inhabitants returned and restored some of the buildings, but these days it is almost deserted.

It doesn’t take long to explore a Isola Santa…come for a walk through the village.



The best reason to come to Isola Santa is to enjoy the calm, clear water held back by the dam. It is a great place to have a picnic, eat at one of the restaurants or go fishing.



 

Isola Santa would be a lovely day trip from Bagni di Lucca.

 

 

The English past of Bagni di Lucca

The most recent guided walk I did was in La Villa, the central village of Bagni di Lucca. The walk focused on the English presence in Bagni di Lucca. In the early 1800s the area was a popular part of the Grand Tour. Many English came to visit and some stayed a while.

We began our tour at the most obvious place, the English Church in Via Evangelina Whipple.

The English community wanted their own place to worship. They had been meeting from 1829 in part of the Hotel Pellicano (now Hotel Regina). By 1838 they had a permanent pastor, Robbins, and requested permission for a church a year later. In 1840 Carlo Ludivico di Borbone granted that permission provided it did not look like a church.

Architect Giuseppe Pardini designed what was called a Palace for the English Nation. Its last activity as a church was in 1936 and in 1976 it became a library and archive centre.

We walked past the pharmacy where the English bought their tea as well as medical supplies. It still has its old interior.

The Teatro Accademico was built in 1790. It attracted famous performers and patrons from all over Italy. When the casino opened in Ponte a Serraglio in 1839 it was an important part of the social scene and took over as the place to go in the winter when the casino was closed.

In 1939 it converted to a cinema before reverting to live performance in the 1970s. It was restored in 1980 and holds regular performances, including hosting the Teatro Scuole each  spring for the last 26 years. Students come from all over Italy to take part.

Circolo dei Forestieri, Foreigners’ Club, was built to cater for the number of foreigners arriving. The French court of Elise Bonaparte came first, then the English. A young Puccini played here. It was renovated in 1928. On the first floor roulette was played under the eye of Galeazzo Ciano and his wife Edda Mussolini. These days the upstairs rooms are used for events, exhibitions and meetings. The ground floor houses a restaurant.

We walked across the passerella built in the early 1900s. To get to the English cemetery.

In 1842 the Stisted family acquired 1800 square metres of land to build the English cemetery. The last burial took place in 1953 and the cemetery was closed. It fell into disrepair, but is being beautifully restored by a group of volunteers.

Is the the final resting place for many notable people, including the Stisteds who had a lot to do with the English community in Bagni di Lucca.

Marie Louise de la Remee, known as Ouida is buried here. She was a famous writer, born in Suffolk in 1839. She was a prolific novelist and an animal lover. She lived in Bagni di Lucca for a time and died in Viareggio in 1908.

.

 

 

Rose Elizabeth Cleveland was the sister of Grover Cleveland, the 22nd president of the USA. She was his First Lady until he married. During a visit to Bagni di Lucca during WWI she met, and became close friends with, Evangelina Whipple who was a wealthy widow. Together they did philanthropic work including building an orphanage.

They volunteered for the Red Cross with their friend Erichsen. Whipple helped during the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918. Erichsen contracted the flu and died several days after the war ended. Cleveland died several days later after nursing her friend. Whipple died in 1930 and was buried beside her friend.

 

The Stisted’s, who were a vital part of the community, are buried side by side.

The renovation work continues in the cemetery.

The guided walks have been an excellent initiative in Bagni di Lucca this summer. Thank you to all involved in their organisation.

There is still one more coming up on 23rd August.

 

 

The night of the shooting stars

La Notte di San Lorenzo falls on 10th August. For a few nights around this date the Perseid meteor shower crosses the Italian sky and people like to find a quiet, dark place for some stargazing.

The celebration dates back to Roman and Etruscan times. Catholics mark this day in remembrance of the martyr, believing falling stars represent the tears of San Lorenzo and the embers of the fire that burned him.

A lovely event was organised at Villa Web, in Bagno alla Villa. Participants were invited to come along with a blanket to sit on the grass in front of the Villa and, with some luck, spot a falling star and make a wish.

To make things interesting, the terme below and the Villa were open for guided visits.

The terme looked lovely lit up at night.

Villa Web is full of treasures.

The kitchen, in particular, appeals to me.

Upstairs are several of the games that are from the Casino in Ponte a Serraglio, the first purpose built casino in Europe.

There is another excellent collection on the top floor, where I will take you another time.

I didn’t see a falling star, but no matter. It was a delight to lie back and search the sky…a special way to spend an evening.

I am very impressed with the organised events this summer. Well done to all those involved.

 

 

Crasciana and Casabasciana walk

The recent guided walk I joined was to Crasciana and Casabasciana. We concentrated mainly on some of the old churches in the towns. Many are closed so it is a treat to be able to go inside.

We arrived in the pretty piazza in Crasciana Alta.
There are some spectacular views over some of the other villages of Bagni di Lucca and the mountains behind. Even on a hazy day it looks wonderful.

 

We walked a short distance above the piazza to the first church on our list.

The interior is quite lavish. It seems that several families left the village years ago and became quite wealthy. Some returned and paid for the renovation of the church and other things in the village.

We walked up behind the church for more stunning views.

 

There is a pretty park, which is looked after by a group of motivated residents.

I visited Crasciana Alta several years ago. Here is the link to see the photos from that trip. Crasciana Alta  
Here is a link to Crasciana below. Crasciana

Next stop was Casabasciana to visit the Oratorio Murotto dating from the late 1600s.  We were joined by the very knowledgeable Bruno Micheletti, who told about the sites in an interesting and entertaining way.

The tiny oratorio is full of treasures.


 

There was a little collection of small paintings. It is amazing that some of these things manage to survive.

From here we walked down (the residents must have a bit of mountain goat in their makeup) to the Chiesa di Santa Quirico e Guilitta built in the 18th century on the site of the 16th century oratorio of San Pietro.


 

Bruno took us to the sacristy behind the altar. One of the original cupboards still exist here. Apparently, they went out of style many years ago and most were pulled apart and sold off.

 

In front of the altar in a glass case is Saint Primo surrounded by embroidered flowers. Poor little Primo was 4 years old when he was murdered. Every 5 years on the second Sunday of August Casabasciana celebrates the life of Primo when the village lights up and has an evening of fireworks.


The unusual top on the campanile is the only one like it in the area. It was done in the style of the time it was renovated.

This is a link to a very old post I wrote about Casabasciana. It is time to return. Dinner with the huntsmen of Casabasciana
Our last stop was at the Pieve di Sala, built around 918. It was the original church for the area. It is an unadorned late Roman style building and it was a delight to be able to go inside. It was abandoned when churches closer to the villages were built, which is why it hasn’t had a modern makeover.

I was particularly impressed with the stone columns with decorations at the top of each one. There are remains of a old renovation in the form of red and white paint.

The faces fascinate me…who were the models I wonder.

The floor was originally much lower and the font was dug into the floor. It was moved at some stage and half of it has been placed against the wall.

 

There is an interesting little niche in a wall.

This was originally a window. The sun would enter here first in the morning and shine on the altar.

I visited the beautiful village of Sala a few years ago, see more in the link.Sala

Thank you again to Virgilio and Antonio for showing us these wonderful villages. Antonio made a comment that Virgilio must be centuries old to be able to relate stories with such detail from the past and make it sound as though he was there. He has a gift. Bruno has the same talent.

There are still some walks to go.

 

A walk in Bagno alla Villa

On Sunday I joined a guided walk to the old houses in Bagno alla Villa, one of the older parts of La Villa, the main village of Bagni di Lucca. It was organised by the Fondazione Culturale Michel de Montaigne.

We began at the English church in Via Evangelina Whipple. To cater for the English community in Bagni di Lucca in the 19th century, in 1839 Carlo Ludovico, Duke of Lucca, granted permission to build the “Palace of the English Nation” as it was called. The building was designed by Giuseppe Pardini. The church is now a wonderful library, which is now closed because of the disruptions caused by Covid 19.

Across the road from the church is a path that takes you up to meet the road going to Bagno alla Villa.

There is a great view of the church from up here.

The view also includes La Villa and behind to San Cassiano.

The first Villa we came to was once the summer home of Elisa Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister. There were no gates in her day. People preferred there gardens to be open.

We walked on to Villa Mansi, built between 1622 and 1669 by the Mansi family, one of the families of the Lucca aristocracy.

On a wall beside the above entrance is what is believed to be an original Della Robbia. It is in excellent condition.

 

The next house is lovely.

Further on is the house where Montaigne stayed in the summer of 1571.

 

 

The highlight of the visit for me was being able to go inside the Terme

The baths have been closed for many years. It is a great pity that these wonderful establishments have not been able to be opened and used. They could be an asset to Bagni di Lucca.

 

 

Above the Terme we came to Villa Web, where Lord Byron stayed in 1822. The house is sometimes open for events and it is full of wonderful things from Bagni di Lucca’s past.

Beside it is the house where his friend Percy Shelley stayed.

From this level there is an excellent view of the top of the Terme. These structures were added to bring light and ventilation to the baths.

We walked back down towards Via Evangelina Whipple.


I particularly liked this little garden corner.

We came to the stables for the villas, now apartments.

Through the gates beside the stables is Villa Ada, which we didn’t visit. Here are photos I took a few years ago. This is another house begging to be restored and put to good use.

I am really enjoying these walks in Bagni di Lucca. Thank you to the organisers.