Liberation Day

Giorno della Liberazione or Festa della Resistenza is celebrated in Italy on 25th April. It recognises the end of the Italian Civil War and the end of Nazi occupation of Italy in WWII in April 1945.

The liberation led to a referendum on June 2nd which resulted in the end of the monarchy and the creation of the Italian Republic.

April 25th was designated a national holiday in 1949 by Alcide De Gaspari, the last Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Italy.

There are celebrations all over Italy to mark the day. There are marching bands, parades and political rallies.

We attended an event in Vergemoli in Garfagnana. It seems difficult to believe that this tiny town with a population of about 100 people was caught up in the conflict, but the most northern of the fortifications the German army built across Italy, the Gothic Line, went right through the area.

Old army vehicles assembled in front of the comune.

Inside there was a collection of old photos. The tiny village saw lots of action and the village itself was bombed.

The photos are by Attilio Viziano.

Here you can see Vergemoli being bombed.

The people in front of this air raid shelter look remarkably cheerful.

Vergemoli

This is a photo of Vergemoli. It is interesting to note that there are no forests around the town as there are today. All the land was cultivated in those days. The hills were planted with wheat, grape vines and vegetables. No doubt this helped the people survive the horrors of war.

I can’t imagine having to live through what these people did. What a pity we don’t seem to learn enough from past conflicts.

A book has been put together by Andrea Giannasi and Moreno Maffucci about the Gothic Line in Garfagnana where these photos and more have been included.

We bought it even though it is in Italian. It will be good practice to try to read it.

Castiglione di Garfagnana

After I left Pieve Fosciana I drove a little further on to Castiglione di Garfagnana which sits at 545 metres above the Esarulo River, a tributary of the Serchio River.

Castiglione di Garfagnana

The town dates back to a Roman Castra, called Castrum Leonis (Lion’s Castle), built to oversee the valley that leads to the San Pelligrino Pass. The castle was built between1170 and 1227. It became Lucca’s most important garrison in the Serchio valley. In 1390 the “Rocca” or castle was extended and towers were built.

Some of the Rocca remains and you can walk through the narrow streets of the town to the top.

There is a road around the edge of the town outside the wall, offering excellent views of the castle and the surrounding countryside.Castiglione di Garfagnan

I entered the town through the Porta del Ponte Levatoio. It was mid afternoon and the town was deserted, leaving me to wander alone.

Castiglione di Garfagnana

I went up into the old castle for some gorgeous views over the town.

Castiglione di Garfagnana

Coming down from the top I came across the Church of San Pietro which was built in 723 by 2 Lombard brothers, but was rebuilt in the 12th century by Bishop Guido of Lucca.

Castiglione di Garfagnana

Castiglione di Garfagnana

I walked on through the pretty streets as it began to rain.

Castiglione di Garfagnana

Castiglione di Garfagnana

I will return when the town is a bit busier, I am sure there is more to discover.

 

 

Il Pozzo

Bagni di Lucca is on the edge of the Garfagnana. The area lies between the Apennine and Apuan Alps in the upper valley of the Serchio river. It is almost entirely mountainous and heavily wooded.

It is also dotted with pretty villages, which will take years to discover. I recently visited Pieve Fosciana. It is tiny, with a cluster of houses around the church of St John Battista, one of the most ancient in Garfagnana.

Come for a little walk through Pieve Fosciana…

There are lots of narrow cobble stone laneways and pretty gardens, the usual interesting doorways and building decorations.

Pieve Fosciana

Pieve Fosciana

I was impressed with this house in particular. The residents have gone to some trouble with the facade.

Pieve Fosciana

Pieve Fosciana

The main reason for my visit to Pieve Fosciana was to try restaurant Il Pozzo. I have heard it is one of the best in Garfagnana.

Il Pozzo Pieve Fosciana

They have an indoor dining area and a very big terrace. I was the first there for lunch, but it soon filled up, mostly with local workers. You know a restaurant is good when the locals arrive in number.

Il Pozzo Pieve Fosciana

Il Pozzo Pieve Fosciana

Il Pozzo Pieve FoscianaThe restaurant prides itself on using fresh, local ingredients served in a traditional way, with a slightly modern twist.

Il Pozzo Pieve Fosciana

I ordered the pasta with lobster.

Il Pozzo Pieve Fosciana

Followed by guinea fowl with truffles…they were both excellent.

Il Pozzo Pieve Fosciana

The service was very friendly and I could see that most of the other patrons were regulars. They also do a workmans’ lunch for a set price…I will try that next time.

If you can drag yourself away from the very good restaurants in Bagni di Lucca, try Il Pozzo, I’m sure you will like it.

Cascio and chestnuts

October and November are great months for autumn festivals in the mountains. I attended several this year and one of my favourites was the one in Cascio.

Cascio is a tiny village in the Garfagnana. It is of early medieval origin situated on the ancient road linking Modena and Lucca. These days it is a sleepy village basking in the Tuscan sun. It has some wonderful ancient building and they are well preserved.

Cascio chestnut festival

Hundreds of people descended on the village on the day of the chestnut festival. The little square was full of stalls selling all sorts of interesting things.

People gathered on the grassy field waiting for the chestnuts to be roasted and the food prepared.

Below the village there was another area for food preparation…and eating. The cooks were kept very busy making the pancakes and putting the plates together.

Above the village beside the castle sweets were served. I stopped on the way to admire the view.

Cascio chestnut festival

The old castle looks wonderful. I will go back one day to explore further.

Cascio chestnut festival

Cascio chestnut festival

As I was about to leave a group of musicians and dancers put on a fine show and I stayed to watch.


The Cascio festival is one of the best I have attended. It was a perfect sunny autumn day and everyone had a great time.Look out for it next year. I’m sure you will love it.

Cascio chestnut festival

Cascio chestnut festival

Eat well at Trattoria Bonini

Trattoria Bonini  is to be found along the old pilgrim road to Castelnuovo at Monteperpoli. The place has been in the same family for a very long time, and it became their main activity from the 1950s.

Trattoria Bonini

The interior is very charming and there are shady outdoor tables.

Trattoria Bonini

Trattoria Bonini

Bonini is well known for its good food, especially mushrooms gathered in the area. In the 1990s the family decided to upgrade the restaurant and have sought to provide quality meals using the best produce. They do an excellent workmans’ lunch, but I really like their A la Carte Menu.

I have been a couple of times, and intend to return to work my way through the menu.

My primo piatto of anchovies was delicious…served with buttered bread and sweet peppers.

Trattoria Bonini

On another visit I had the porcini mushrooms with fried polenta.

Trattoria Bonini

The trout with pistachio sauce and fried asparagus was excellent.

Trattoria Bonini

I had seen the ravioli stuffed with burrata on a previous visit, so I had to try that. The photo was taken outside under a coloured umbrella, which has reflected on the ravioli, giving it an unnatural colour. I can assure you, it was heavenly and may become a regular choice.

Trattoria Bonini

My ricotta and pear tart was light and delicate…and absolutely wonderful.

Trattoria Bonini

Trattoria Bonini has been voted the best restaurant in the area by many and I am not surprised.

Trattoria Bonini,

Via Monteperpoli 147.

Phone (39) 0583 639425

www.trattoriabonini.it

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.