Sewing circle

I was invited recently to visit a sewing group in Casabasciana. My friend Erica belongs to the group. Members meet roughly once a week to sew together. Luciana leads the group. She has had many years experience as a professional seamstress with tailors who worked for high end brands and later with a dance company making exquisite costumes. How wonderful that she loves to share her knowledge and experience!

Luciana is the one in the pretty floral dress. The group is fluid, people come and go.

I was fascinated to see an old Pfaff sewing machine. I thought it must be about the same vintage as my beloved Bernina that I have been sewing on for almost 60 years.

I was proved to be correct when the original docket was produced from the purchase…1962.

Each person works on their own items on various machines and help each other with their work. I think this is an excellent idea, those with experience can help people learning to sew and it is nice to work in a friendly group. What a lovely way to spend an afternoon in the company of others doing something you enjoy.

Luciana has an interesting way of cutting out a garment. The paper pattern is secured in place with an old iron and chalk is used to outline the pattern, then the garment is cut.

She showed me some of the costumes she has made over the years. She has quite a collection.

The group has a few pretty skirts to sell to a dance or school group who might need some costumes. If anyone is interested they can call Luciana on 348 3627426

Thank you for inviting me to see the sewing group. Perhaps it will inspire others to form a group of their own.

Not everyone will have an amazing view from their sewing room like this one in Casabasciana.

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.


Meet Heather from Casabasciana


Heather Jarman lives in Casabasciana, one of the gorgeous mountain villages of Bagni di Lucca. In her career as an archeologist she researched the early history of agriculture. She is passionately interested in food, from growing and production to cooking and eating.

Her knowledge of food production in the Bagni di Lucca and Garfagnana is amazing. I first met her last year when she took me along to meet a local cheese maker. We set off into the mountains and met the delightful Marzia who spent the morning showing us how to make cheese and ricotta. Click here for the full story.



On another adventure we went high in the mountains to a village called Lupinaia for their chestnut festival. It was one of the most delightful afternoons I have ever had, topped off with a walk back to the car along an old mule trail.




Click here to see more of the very beautiful Lupinaia.

This year we headed off to the Slow Food soup finals in Lucca and got to try some delicious soup and listen to some great folk music. Click here to see more.


I have learned how to make bread using traditional methods in a wood fired oven with Paolo after visiting his gorgeous farm in the Garfagnana. He grows farro and breeds beautiful cattle. Click here to see the gorgeous cows.



That’s Paolo blessing the bread as it goes in the oven.

I went with Heather to the huntsmen’s dinner in Casabasciana, where we helped the hunters eat the cinghiale (wild boar) they had caught during the season. Both the food and the company were wonderful after we had worked up our appetites with a walk around the beautiful village at sunset.






Click here to see more of Casabasciana.

We went to the Lucca Wine and Food festival and met lots of local wine makers.




And we ate some wonderful local food. Click here to see more.


Quite possibly best of all she introduced me to the delightful concerts in Lucca organised by Mattia. I became a regular visitor on Tuesday and Friday nights. Click here to find out more, or check the website




There is a never ending list of things to do in Bagni di Lucca and the nearby areas…..and Heather knows all about them. She organises tours for small groups to do things you would never find in a guide book. In her own words she is “Making tourism work to sustain the rural economy and the people. …you will encounter an endangered lifestyle which we don’t want to disappear.”

Visit her website for more information…

Dinner with the huntsmen of Casabasciana


The name Casabasciana probably comes from the Roman settler called Bassius, who built his house here. The town is perched on the side of the hill about 4 kilometres up from Fabbriche di Casabasciana on the SS12.
My friend and I were invited by Heather Jarman from Sapori e Saperi to join the dinner put on by the Squadra di Cacciatori , the hunting team from Casabasciana, an offer too good to refuse, especially since the proceeds of the evening are to be used to renovate a building in town to provide help for some of the older residents.
We went up to the village in the late afternoon to discover the delights of Casabasciana.
The streets of the village are narrow, winding and steep.




There are lots of lovely old buildings to see.









I spotted a small statue of the Madonna in an alcove opposite the main church.


She was standing on an interesting base.


We wandered to the outskirts of the town where the buildings end and some of the farming area still exists.


We met Giovanni with his tractor loaded with wood.


He has lived all his life in Casabasciana and proudly showed us the house that belonged to his grandfather which he has renovated for his daughter.


He keeps a very neat wood pile.


Spring is coming to Casabasciana.




We met Heather who showed us some of the things we missed.


The communal washing area, which is still used.


Her garden shed.


Another little shrine.


Beautiful building decoration.


The oldest, and apparently the best water supply.


The lovely little church beyond the village.

The fresco inside the old church.

We were on the edge of town to see the sunset.




We went to the main square which looked beautiful at night.


The town is tiny, but it has a bar and an excellent shop which stocks everything.


We had a cup of tea in Heather’s lovely kitchen.


Her house has lots of gorgeous rooms.


Finally it was time for dinner.


Tommaso and Anna Rosa serving the crostini.


First course.


Patiently waiting for the next delicious course.


The pasta.


The chingiale arrives.



The vegetables are served by Dalida.

Renato carving the porchetta.





My porchetta.


Alfredo enjoying his stinco (shin bone)


Pannacotta for dolce.

And as is that wasn’t enough, there were frittelle di San Giuseppe to follow.


If you get the chance to attend any of these local dinners, do so, you will love it.

Take a look at Heather’s website and blog. She knows all about the local festivals.


Casabasciana from above.