A win for Bagni di Lucca

I am happy to let you know that Bella Bagni di Lucca was awarded Runner Up for Best Single Art and Culture Post for the post called An old tradition in Bagni di Lucca.Arte Barsanti

Arte Barsanti

The post is about Arte Barsanti, a small, family owned company that makes figurines. It has been in business for more than 100 years. I am delighted that the win will focus attention on this wonderful tradition.

I found out a couple of days ago, but the weather bomb (tornado) seemed a bit more important. This are getting back to normal. Some houses are still without power, but I hope this will soon be fixed. Many roofs will need to be repaired and the fallen trees will all need to be cleared. It will take some time.

The weather has been fine since the wind, which is good, we don’t need any rain just yet.

The village looked so calm the night after the wind, it seemed difficult to believe it happened at all.

Ponte a Serraglio


The Italy Magazine Blog Awards

I am delighted to tell you that Bella Bagni di Lucca has been shortlisted again this year for the Italy Magazine Blog Awards.

This is largely because lots of you took the time to nominate the blog, thank you very much.

Two blog posts have been shortlisted and now I would like to once again ask for your help. I would love it if you would vote for the posts. Bella Bagni di Lucca won a category last year and new readers came all year from Italy Magazine…more people who get to know about Bagni di Lucca.

An old tradition in Bagni di Lucca is shortlisted in the Best Single Art and Culture Single Post. Click here to vote for the post. Just click on the black area below the blog name.

Arte Barsanti


Arte Barsanti


Pinocchio Park is shortlisted in the Best Single Travel Post. Click here to vote for the post.

Pinocchio Park

Pinocchio Park

My other blog, Bagni di Lucca and Beyond, has also been shortlisted for a post called Massacre at Sant’Anna di Stazzema. Click here to vote for the post.

Massacre at Sant'Anna di Stazzema


Massacre at Sant'Anna di Stazzema

I have already mentioned the blog awards on Bagni di Lucca and Beyond, so if you have already seen this and have voted, thank you very much.

Voting closes on 27th February and the winners will be announced on 3rd March. I will be sure to let you know what happens.

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.



Two exhibitions at Circolo dei Forestieri


Circolo dei Forestieri in La Villa is currently hosting 2 art exhibitions.

The first is a display of Mailart. Beautifully decorated envelopes have been sent to Bagni di Lucca from far and wide and are now on show.


The second is an exhibition is called Sacred and Profane…a selection of plaster statues produced by Arte Barsanti, a local factory which has been in operation since 1900. Bagni di Lucca is well known for its production of plaster presepi, nativity scenes. Here is a chance to see some beautiful pieces. Click here to see more about Arte Barsanti.


Both exhibitions are on until 25th July. Go up the stairs beside the restaurant.

Thank you Morena and Kerry for the great photos.

An old tradition in Bagni di Lucca

Bagni di Lucca has a long history of making figurines from Plaster of Paris, or gesso, as it is called here. The tradition began in the 13th century when people from Bagni di Lucca started going to France to sell their silk and they became intrigued by the use of Plaster of Paris to make mortuary masks.

They experimented with it, as the soft alabaster, one of the main ingredients to make that type of plaster, was abundant in the area. They realised it would be possible to make inexpensive religious statues by making moulds and filling them with plaster…much cheaper than the usual carved marble or stone.

The figurines became very popular, as not everybody could afford a Della Robbia, or other original for their home or church. Presepi, or nativity scenes were big sellers and salesmen from the area would travel far and wide selling their wares.

I was very lucky to be able to see one of the last producers of figurines in Bagni di Lucca, and the only one who still makes his statues by hand. Meet Simone from Arte Barsanti.


The business was started by Simone’s great-grandfather in 1900. At its peak there were 60 people employed. Now it is just Simone with some helpful advice from his uncle Carmelo.


The little factory is a treasure trove of figurines, moulds and paraphernalia from years of work.


Simone took us through the process of making a figurine. First the mould is prepared.


The plaster powder is mixed with water until it is the consistency of yoghurt.


Then is poured into the prepared mould and shaken to get out as many air bubbles as possible.


The statue is then left to cure for about 20 minutes. If the figurines are under 30cm high they are solid plaster. If they are bigger than that they are hollow to save on plaster and to make them less heavy.

Once out of the mould, the figurines are finished by hand to remove any rough patches and fill any small imperfections.


They are then fired in the wood fired oven room.


The next step is to hand paint each figurine. The flesh coloured parts are spray painted first.


The rest is painted with brushes of varying sizes.


We were taken to the top floor where there is a little museum with some of the history of the business.





There is a photo of a recent Pope receiving a Barsanti figurine.


…and some old presepi, including one in a pumpkin.



…some old accounting equipment.


Best of all was an old suitcase which the travelling salesmen would take around the country to display their wares.


There is a delightful story that when Christopher Columbus arrived in America the first person he saw was a fellow from Lucca with a suitcase full of presepi for him to choose from.

We were given a beautiful presepio to take with us…my first…thank you Simone and Carmelo for a wonderful visit.


I really hope this wonderful tradition can be kept alive in Bagni di Lucca.



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