Autumn is a beautiful time to drive to Montefegatesi,the highest of the Bagni di Lucca villages. The mountain road is lined with trees in full autumn colour right now.
I went to the car park in Villa Fiori almost in time to see the huge tree that fell a few weeks ago lifted off the roof. Heavy equipment has been moved in. I’m sorry I missed the man in the cherry picker attaching ropes to the tree for the lift off.
Wouldn’t it be great to see someone buy Villa Fiori and bring it back to its former glory? Anyone out there???
It looks as if some of the other trees are being trimmed too.
It is interesting to see how newcomers to Bagni di Lucca see our lovely town. Mark and his wife Katrina have recently bought a property here and he has taken some excellent photos of Ponte a Serraglio and La Villa.
I hope Mark and Katrina enjoy their new lives in Bagni di Lucca. It is always great to welcome new people to the area.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On Sunday I joined another of the guided walks to some of the villages that make up Bagni di Lucca. This time the walk took us to Cocciglia and nearby Pallegio.
We began at the bottom of Cocciglia.
First there was a small detour to Ponte Nero, the old bridge that crosses the Lima River at Strette di Cocciglia.
From the bridge you can see the stunning Strette di Cocciglia, a beautiful part of the river, now the home of Canyon Park adventures.
We were able to see inside the Oratorio di San Rocco, the little church dating from 1532, at the beginning of the bridge.
Then it was back to the path towards Cocciglia. The village was named after a late Roman settler called Caucilius or Cocilius. Along the way we saw some well kept farm plots and this very stylish little shrine.
Just before the path that takes you up the hill to Cocciglia is the Oratorio San Michele, dating from the 13th century, with its well kept cemetery.
Across from the Oratorio is the path to the village. This was the only way to the village before the road was built in the not too distant past.
From the path there is a good view of Pallegio, the village we visited next.
We walked along a tiny laneway where the wall was covered with caper plants.
Cocciglia is a maze of tiny streets with archways and tunnels, the remnants of old defence gateways into the town. Houses are tucked inside these structures. The doors to keep enemies out are long gone, but you can see where they were.
This wall of a house is ancient. It could tell some stories.
We kept going up towards the parish church dedicated to San Bartolommeo.
Some of the construction is Roman with additions in medieval times.
You can see the repairs and additions in this wall at the base of the church.
We arrived at the top of Cocciglia.
In the church is a cross depicting the crucifixion.
From the top we walked down the road to drive to Pallegio. Before the town is the Oratorio di Santa Maria della Quercia, with a stunning interior. These precious churches have to be firmly locked to prevent theft of the treasures inside.
From here we walked down a leafy path to the Ponte Vecchio, the old bridge, part of the ancient path between Cocciglia and Pallegio.
Just past the bridge is a remnant of the Roman path.
On one of the stones is the mark of the man who placed it all those years ago. It is amazing to me that I can stand on a path that has existed for 2000 years or more.
Further up the hill is the tiny town of Pallegio.
Very few people now live in the village and the parish church is now closed. We stopped for refreshments and spoke to some of the friendly people from the town. It would be sad to see these villages become empty. Let’s hope some people come to buy the old houses and bring new life.
On the walk back to the car there were excellent views of Cocciglia and Casoli in the distance.
…a last look at Pallegio.
Once again the walk was great fun and very informative. Thank you to Antonio and Virgilio for sharing their love and knowledge of these beautiful villages. We are so lucky to have these intact, authentic places to explore in Bagni di Lucca.
There are more walks to come.
I joined the first walk of the season in Bagni di Lucca in Vico Pancellorum. A small group, together with our guides, gathered and began our walk at the base of the village near the church. It is covered in scaffolding now…here is a photo I took on an earlier visit in winter.
We were first taken to an old fountain, now a bit lost in the forest. Vico Pancellorum is well supplied with water, there are fountains all over the village. At one time 1400 people lived here.
We walked uphill past lovely old houses with pretty gardens.
We walked past the old Hotel Roma, home of one of three dance halls that once graced the village. It would have been wonderful to see the thriving village full of people dancing the night away.
We came to a small square with a war memorial.
From here there were excellent views of the Rocca above Lucchio on a distant mountain.
And Vico Pancellorum from half way up to the top.
This pretty little terrace caught my attention.
This is a helpful weather barometer.
The old bishop’s house sits just outside the original wall of the village.
Look up the see the old wooden structure under the eaves.
Here is the entrance to what was the original village.
The drainage system would have come in handy in the winter storms that hit the area.
This is what is left of one of the tower houses that would have been impressively tall.
Near here is the tiny Chiesina del SS Crocifisso. The tinted windows cast interesting colours inside the church.
Above the altar is the patron saint of pregnant women.
Views across to other Bagni di Lucca villages pop up between houses.
We came upon pretty Piazza San Paolo near the top of Vico Pancellorum. What a great place to sit in the cool shade of the tree, or to admire the view.
Narrow streets are everywhere, some full of flowers.
This colourful garden marked the end of our walk through the village.
All through Vico Pancellorum works of art are to be found on ancient walls and ledges. It is worth a walk through the winding streets just to see these. Here are just some of the delights I spotted along the way.
There are more great views from the top of the village.
This is a linen flower growing wild on the side of the road. The stems become the linen thread used to weave the beautiful cloth hand made by local women in the past.
We walked past a waterfall with an interesting fountain beside it.
On the way home we visited an old mill beside a stream below the village, now overgrown.
There are several more walks coming up. I recommend that you do at least a couple. Even if you know the area is it a fun thing to do. I had a great day. Thank you to everyone involved. I will definitely join other walks.
This morning I planted the geraniums on the bridge at Ponte a Serraglio. I was happy to see Bar Italia open for takeaway. The fresh food shop next door was open and busy. The pharmacy had a well spaced queue in front and the Tabacchi was open. Life is beginning to return to the piazza.
It was a beautiful spring morning.