Inaugural Ponte a Serraglio meatball competition

Today Paul Stoker, local resident, hosted the very first Ponte a Serraglio meatball competition.

There were 14 competitors and three worthy judges.

This is the trophy awaiting the lucky winner.

Meatball comp

Here is Paul registering the competitors.

Meatball comp

Each competitor was given a numbered plate on which 2 meatballs would be presented to the judges. Here is the criteria for the judges…serious stuff.

Meatball comp

The meatballs were heated in the kitchen and placed on the plates and taken to the judges…not by the competitors, it was all anonymous.

Meatball comp

Here are the judges setting to their work.

Meatball comp

The competitors and other guests waited patiently for the judges to complete their task.

Meatball comp

Then it was time to eat the meatballs.

Finally it was time to announce the winners. Third prize, I am happy to say, came to me. Teri came second and the winner…Paul Stoker.

Meatball comp

Meatball comp

Meatball comp

Meatball comp

Meatball comp

This may seem a little unusual, but Paul’s meatballs were delicious and the judges had no idea who made them.

It was a fun afternoon…and we will all be practising to beat Paul next year.

Sarah sews

Sarah moved to Bagni di Lucca a few years ago after finding a gorgeous house in Pieve di Monti di Villa. She has made a new life for herself in the village.

In her previous life she was a teacher, but always had a love of sewing. She learned from her mother and it was an enjoyable hobby. Now she has taken the big step of setting up her own business, making and selling children’s clothing.

Her label is Lulu and Bertie and she makes colourful clothes in whimsical prints for boys and girls. She is also working on some beautiful patchwork quilts for cots.

I went to her workroom on one level of her house to see her in action and to show you some of her work.

Sarah sewing

Sarah sewing

Lulu and BertieLulu and Bertie


Lulu and Bertie

The clothes are available on line…check out her website.

Sarah will also have a space at the Chestnut Festival in the park beside Villa Fiori this Sunday (weather permitting). Say hello to her and take a look at her fun childrens’ clothes.


Goodbye pansies, hello geraniums

The pansies on the bridge in front of my apartment at Ponte a Serraglio this year have put on a fabulous show. We have had little rain or wind since they were planted and they have thrived.

pansies on the bridge

They were still looking great, but they won’t last through the summer and it is now time to plant the geraniums.

This year I have had help to plant the flowers on the bridge. It has been great. There are lots of pots and dragging the bags of soil, carrying the plants and digging up the old ones takes time, so having 2 helpers made a big difference. Thank you Paul and Sheila.

pansies on the bridge


Paul on the bridge

Sheila on the bridge

Paul also cleaned out and replanted the large pots beside Villa Fiori. (Somebody pinched one of the lavender plants almost immediately, which is a bit disappointing).

We are now thinking of buying some new hanging pots for the lampposts along the river and planting more geraniums. There is a reasonable amount of expense involved in this, so if anyone would like to contribute it would be appreciated. Please email me at if you are interested in helping out.


About the blog

I recently received a comment on a post I wrote in 2013 about Arte Barsanti, a local company that still makes plaster of paris figurines in the same way as they have been made in the area for centuries.

The comment was made by a man from USA. He says that his father was born in Riolo and went to America as a 14 year old boy and worked for people who came from Bagni di Lucca making the figurines. He later founded his own business which his sons now operate.

I started the first blog, Bagni di Lucca and Beyond, to inform our friends who came to the village about where to go and what to see. It grew to include all my travels, so I started Bella Bagni di Lucca to share only stories and photos of the villages that make up Bagni di Lucca.

An unexpected and delightful thing about writing the blogs has been comments such as the one mentioned. It is quite amazing how many people around the world have a connection with Bagni di Lucca.

I have received dozens of comments on the blogs and emails from people who have told me that their grandparents lived in one of the houses I have photographed, or that they remember playing in a tiny street in one of the villages, or they have heard their families talk about Bagni di Lucca.

People have told me that they have come to Bagni di Lucca because of what I write about the villages. Some have liked the place so much that they have returned several times. Some have even gone on to buy property in the area.

Fellow Bagni di Lucca blogger, Francis of From London to Longoio, has just done a post along the same lines.

Writing a blog takes quite a bit of time, but it is all worthwhile when we receive these wonderful comments from people with an interest in Bagni di Lucca.

Thank you to all those who follow the blog and take the time to share thoughts.

Click here to see the post on Arte Barsanti.



Sad news at Ponte a Serraglio

The news Kiosk at Ponte a Serraglio is a very important part of our little community. Olga, who owns it, is a delight. She is always smiling and has been a great help to visitors to our village.

I sadly have to report that she is leaving soon. The kiosk is for sale and it will close next week. I really hope that Olga is able to sell the business. We need it at Ponte. Is there anyone out there who would like to buy the kiosk??

Here is Olga when she took over the business a couple of years ago.

News kiosk Ponte a Serraglio

This is last week. It is great to see Graziano as well. He has been very unwell and it is good to see him back on track.

News kiosk Ponte a Serraglio

Good luck Olga on the next stage of your life. We will miss you at Ponte.

Italy Magazine is once again holding their blogger awards for blogs about Italy. I would love it if you could nominate Bella Bagni di Lucca. The blog won the “Best single travel post” last year and lots of readers came to the blog as a result. It would be fun to do well again this year.

Click here to go to the nomination page. I will let you know if the blog makes the short list.


Cider by Chris

My friend Chris Buxton has a lovely little cottage in Colle, above Ponte a Serraglio.

This is Chris…I’ll let him tell you the cider story.

Chris' cider

At a lovely late September barbecue, looking over an orchard teeming with fruit, missing my English pub and the real ales and ciders, I wondered what is done with all the apples…not much it seems…and no one makes or drinks cider…what a waste.

My friend, Super Mario, as I call him, found the owner, who said I could help myself to the apples. Others knocked on my door and Mario Morotti offered me the apples below his vineyard. If only I had known how steep and how far below!

It looked as though I had passed the point of no return. Thankfully some Ponte people offered their assistance and cider production was underway…with some extra help from Luna.

Chris' cider

Chris' cider

Chris' cider

There was a bit of research, a bit of borrowing equipment from friends and neighbours and some advice from local wine makers.

Chris' cider

Chris' cider

Chris' cider…some supervision by Luna.

Chris' cider I won’t bore you with the details, but there’s not an awful lot more to do than get the juice from the apples and let nature take its course.

The end result? Some weak, some strong, some bottled clear and fizzy, some the way traditionalists like it, natural and cloudy.

Chris' cider

It has been fun tasting it, sharing it…

Chris' cider

…but alas it is not to everyone’s taste.

Chris' cider

Thank you Chris for sharing your tale of cider. I hope there is some left when I get back to Bagni di Lucca.

The slow bells

Slow bells toll when someone dies in our village. The bells ring to announce the funeral and when the body is taken from the church for the last journey.

The bells rang slowly recently for Oriana, one of the lovely old ladies who lived in Ponte a Serraglio. I met her soon after I arrived in the village. She was always ready with a smile and a chat.

She was part of a group of oldish ladies who would gather in the morning for coffee and a good old chinwag.  Several of them are still at the bar every day and there is a cheery “Buongiorno” for me. I haven’t seen Oriana for some time and it appears that she spent the last days of her life in hospital.

There used to be quite a large group of old gentlemen at the bar every morning where they would solve the problems of the world for a few hours, before strolling off home for lunch. This group has dwindled to two or three. I find it very sad to watch them grow old and then disappear one day.

I went to the church to farewell Oriana. She will be missed.


I think it is a lovely tribute to a treasured member of the community. The slow bells allow time to think about the life that has been lived, and recall happy memories.

Flowers everywhere

On All Souls’ Day, November 2, Italians take flowers to cemeteries to honour their deceased relatives. Florists do a roaring trade and cemeteries come alive with people.

Far from being a gloomy event, it is quite festive. People dress up and stroll around looking at the graves. Cemeteries look beautiful with colourful flowers decorating the tombs. Graves are generally well kept anyway, but this is special.

All souls day

All Souls' day

All Souls' Day


All Souls' Day

All Souls' Day

All Souls's Day

All Souls' Day

This is a lovely tradition. How nice to think that someone cared enough to keep your grave clean and tidy and bring flowers sometimes.